Gay UK News & Reports 2009

1 Victorian Moral Still Criminalizing Gay People 1/09

2 Britons ‘More Homophobic than Racist’ 1/09

3 Four banned from football grounds for homophobic chants 1/09

4 Elton John raises millions for AIDS foundation at Oscars party 2/09

5 Director receives death threats over documentary – gay Muslims 3/09

6 British Prime Minister declares Prop 8 gay marriage ban "unacceptable" 3/09

7 Conference highlights the forces encouraging risk behaviour in gay men 3/09

8 Homophobia: the forgotten hate crime 3/09

9 "Gay cure" therapies still used by few in UK: study 3/009

10 French Senate votes to recognise British civil partnerships 3/09

11 Peterson Toscano speaks about his experiences with ex-gay therapy 4/09

12 Comment: Can Lord Alli save the Equality Bill? 4/09

13 LGBT asylum seekers ‘facing high homelessness and discrimination’ 5/09

14 100 arrested in hate crime raids across London 5/09

15 Homosexuality in Britain: Legal but Accepted? 6/09

16 Gay rights hero Peter Tatchell named Campaigner of the Year 6/09

17 Gordon Brown’s reshuffle results in three openly gay cabinet figures 6/09

18 The march of gay politics 6/09

19 Gordon and Sarah Brown host Pride reception 7/09

20 Sarah Brown marches in Pride parade 7/09

21 Rise in homophobic hate crime in London 7/09

22 Vatican heaps praise on Oscar Wilde.. who it once condemned as immoral 7/09

23 Pride of the army: Soldier magazine honours gay servicemen and women 7/09

24 Quakers ‘to allow gay marriages’ 7/09

25 What’s it like being a gay Muslim? 7/09

26 Lost generation: Are modern HIV campaigns failing younger gays? 8/09

27 London Group Spent £60,000 Last Year to Aid Gay and Transgender Iraqis 8/09

28 Lesbians given equal birth rights 8/09

29 Gordon Brown apologises for treatment of gay war hero Alan Turing 9/09

30 London opens gay tourist information center 10/09

31 Thousands expected to attend candle lit vigil in Trafalgar Square 10/09

32 Vigil at scene of anti-gay attack 11/09

33 Survey to find out more about over-50s and HIV 11/09

34 Gay policeman James Parkes expected to return to work soon 11/09

35 Letter from Trinidad 11/09

36 Black, gay … and invisible 11/09

37 Gay soldier Ben Rakestrow comes out on return from Afghanistan 12/09

January 14, 2009 –

Victorian Moral Still Criminalizing Gay People Via Colonial Sodomy Laws

by Daily Queer News…Felicity Baker | Pink News
A law that criminalises homosexuality in several countries was originally implemented by British colonists in India, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.

The Alien Legacy: The Origins of Sodomy Law in British Colonialism, states that Section 377, introduced under the Indian penal code in 1860, is responsible for the persecution of homosexual people that still occurs in more than 35 countries, from Uganda and Nigeria to Papua New Guinea.

It punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and was introduced because the British felt the new colonies needed a code of behaviour in order to “reform”, as well as a fear that the new colonies could “corrupt” some of their own. Today homosexuality is still a crime in many countries. Seven nations retain the death penalty, including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iran.

Read more

January 16, 2009 –

Britons ‘More Homophobic than Racist’

by Daily Queer News
Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent | Telegraph
More than one third of people have hostile feelings towards homosexuals, according to a new study. Around a quarter dislike people of other races, particularly those from Asian backgrounds, the findings show.
Dr Pete Jones, who led the research, said: “Without detracting from the seriousness of the prejudice that still exists against people because of their ethnic origin, the results of our study suggest that being gay or lesbian could be ‘the new black’ when it comes to being a victim of prejudice.”

The study found that while seven per cent of volunteers were “strongly” anti-gay, 35 per cent had underlying prejudices against homosexual men and 41 per cent against homosexual women.

Read more

January 21, 2009 – PinkNews

Four banned from football grounds for homophobic chants at Tottenham game

by Staff Writer,
Eleven people have appeared at Portsmouth Magistrate’s Court on charges of indecent chanting. The three accused under the age of 16 pleaded not guilty, along with four others. Four men pleaded guilty. Sol Campbell, a Portsmouth player, was subjected to racial and homophobic abuse at a game in Portsmouth on September 28th. The magistrate placed reporting restrictions on a 13-year-old defendant but said the two 15-year-olds on trail deserved to be treated like adults.
The court was told that chants of "gay boy" and "You are a Judas **** with HIV" were directed towards Campbell, who left Tottenham for north London rivals Arsenal in 2001.

Four men, Stuart Turner, 34, of Telford, Keith Stevens, 54, of Hailsham, Oliver Sylvester, 28, of Southampton and Richard Gibbs, 36, of Wokingham, pleaded guilty. They were fined £500 each and banned from football grounds for three years. The seven defendants who pleaded not guilty will be tried on May 13th. Indecent or racist chanting is an offence under the Football Offences Act 1991 and carries a fine of up to £1,000 and a football banning order.

"They were charged with indecent chanting at a football match using words which were essentially swearwords," a police spokesperson said. "They weren’t appropriate to be used at all, especially where there were children and we received a number of complaints." Last month Hampshire police published pictures of 16 people wanted in connected with the incident at Fratton Park. Five men are still being sought.

February 23, 2009 – PinkNews

Elton John raises millions for AIDS foundation at Oscars party

by Staff Writer,
Singer Sir Elton John and has partner David Furnish hosted their annual fundraiser for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in Los Angeles last night. The Academy Awards viewing party was one of the night’s best attended parties and raised nearly $4 million (£2.75m). The annual gala is the leading fundraising event in Hollywood on Oscar night. This year there was a live performance by Sir Elton John and special guest Raphael Saadiq, as well as a emotional first-hand account by Kerrel McKay who spoke about her experiences as an HIV/AIDS activist in her home country of Jamaica.

This year’s guests included the event’s co-chairs Victoria Beckham and John Walters in addition to Hollywood luminaries such as Sir Ben Kingsley, Quincy Jones, Keifer Sutherland, Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone, Chace Crawford, Gordon Ramsey, Eric McCormack, Tim Allen, Taye Diggs and Ricki Lake. Items auctioned included the opportunity to dance with Ellen DeGeneres on her Emmy Award winning talk show, which sold for $20,000; two jewel encrusted 10th Anniversary Elton John AIDS Foundation collection watches designed by Chopard went for $250,000 each; a one-hour tennis lesson by tennis champion Andy Roddick sold at auction for $31, 000. The Elton John AIDS Foundation was established in the United States in 1992 and in the United Kingdom in 1993 and has raised more than $150 million to support HIV/AIDS prevention and service programmes in 55 countries around the globe.

March 3, 2009 – PinkNews

Director receives death threats over Channel 4 documentary about gay Muslims

by Jessica Geen
Executives at Channel 4 are bracing themselves for a backlash against a programme showing gay and lesbian Muslims. A Jihad for Love will be aired tonight on More 4 and shows gay Muslims kissing, holding hands and discussing getting married. Its director, Parvez Sharma, said: "I have had death threats on my blog after making this film. Some countries have even banned it.
I’ve been called an apostate because Muslims think I have insulted Islam but I think it will open up a debate."

Islamic leaders in the UK have called the documentary offensive, adding it will anger Muslims. An Imam from Europe’s largest mosque, the Baitul Futuh in Surrey, condemned the film last night. "These people should not be confessing their sins to the television cameras," he told the Daily Star. "They should be doing it in private to God and seeking forgiveness."

Channel 4 has defended the programme. A spokeswoman said: "This is a sensitively made documentary that has played to critical acclaim at film festivals internationally and is a legitimate area for a documentary film-maker to explore." Channel 4 have broadcast a number of films addressing the issues of homosexuality and Islam. In September, it screened the Dispatches documentary Undercover Mosque: The Return.

It featured a female reporter attending prayer meetings at an important British mosque which claims to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths. She secretly filmed sermons given to the women-only congregation in which female preachers recited extremist and intolerant beliefs. One preacher called for adulterers, homosexuals, women who act like men and Muslim converts to other faiths to be killed, saying: "Kill him, kill him. You have to kill him, you understand. This is Islam."

The original January 2007 Undercover Mosque documentary showed preacher Abu Usamah at Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham calling for gay people to be executed. "If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech, isn’t it?" he told followers. A scene also showed a preacher calling for people to "take that homosexual and throw him off a mountain."

March 5, 2009 – PinkNews

Exclusive: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declares Prop 8 gay marriage ban "unacceptable"

by Staff Writer,
The first-ever reception at No10 Downing St for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community was hosted by the Prime Minister and his wife this evening. Gordon Brown described the passing of Proposition 8 in California as "unacceptable". Mr Brown, who returned from a visit to the United States early this morning, paid tribute to the campaigning work of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and spoke of his pride that the UK has civil partnerships. He jokingly apologised to his LGBT guests that he had not brought US President Barack Obama back home with him, which prompted one lady to shout: "What about Michelle?"

The Prime Minister then commented on the passing of Proposition 8 in California last November. Prop 8 overturned a state Supreme Court ruling in May 2008 that legalised gay marriage in California. The court heard legal arguments about the validity of the ballot measure earlier today.

"What I saw in America tells me what we have got to do," Mr Brown said. "This Proposition 8 in California, this attempt to undo good that has been done, this attempt to create divorces for 18,000 people who were perfectly legally brought together in partnerships. This is unacceptable and this shows why we have always got to be vigilant, always got to fight homophobic behaviour and any form of discrimination. I want to say to you all, you have broken new ground, you have shown what can be done, you have shown how you can change opinion in our country, you have shown how the legislative process, by your pressure, can respond."

The reception was held to mark LGBT History Month, which is celebrated every February. It was due to be held last week but was postponed out of respect for the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, whose six-year-old son Ivan died last Wednesday. Gay celebrities including Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, Erasure singer Andy Bell, artist Maggie Hambling and East Enders star turned Labour MEP Michael Cashman attended. Comedian Amy Lamé was there with her girlfriend Jenny, celebrating their Hen Night. The Prime Minister congratulated them on their civil partnership, which will be held tomorrow.

LGBT Labour praised Gordon Brown’s comments about Prop 8. "I am so proud that our Labour Prime Minister is the first world leader to come out passionately against Prop 8," said Richard Angell, the group’s national secretary. "Tonight’s event embodied the wholesale change that has taken place over the last 12 years."

March 13, 2009 –

Conference highlights the forces encouraging risk behaviour in gay men

by Roger Pebody & Michael Carter
The forces encouraging sexual risk behaviour are large and widespread, but the forces for precautionary behaviour are meagre and narrowly focussed, argued Ford Hickson of Sigma Research at the CHAPS conference of gay men’s health promoters in Brighton last week. Rather than describe HIV prevention in the UK as failing, he suggested it would be more accurate to say that it is inadequate.

Other sessions at the conference included one of the first qualitative studies of the experiences of gay men co-infected with hepatitis C and HIV, and an examination of how HIV-positive men have adjusted their behaviour in the light of prosecutions of HIV transmission.

In the plenary, Ford Hickson outlined the forces encouraging risk behaviour:

* The power of sexual pleasure. "If you do not understand sexual risk," he commented, "it is probably because you don’t appreciate sexual desire".

* The rapid expansion of the gay scene into "a large business sector supplying services for sexual contact and locations to have sex".

* The continued denigration of homosexuality in society, and the associated emotional isolation and low mood of many gay men.

* Men’s self-medication with alcohol and drugs, which is problematic in a culture which excuses risk-taking while under the influence.

* The widespread belief that ‘real sex’ is anal sex.

* The commodification and fetishisation of barebacking as a transgressive behaviour. "Gay sub-culture has long legitimised the eroticisation of unacceptable thoughts," Hickson suggested, and barebacking porn is one manifestation of this.

* Individualistic cultural norms that reject notions of responsibility. "The idea that you would sacrifice something yourself in order to protect or care for someone else seems, at the moment, to be deeply alien to gay culture and HIV prevention approaches," he said.
* Optimistic biases in our thinking: telling ourselves that risks are smaller than they really are.

Reviewing the forces towards precautionary behaviours, he rejected the notion that in the age of combination therapy, gay men no longer see HIV as something worth the effort of avoiding. Hickson reminded the conference that the majority of uninfected men support criminal prosecutions for HIV transmission, would decline any sexual contact with a man they knew had HIV, and if anything, have an excessive fear of HIV.

However he suggested that many of the other precautionary forces were misdirected. He criticised behavioural approaches that are too narrowly focussed on identifying and treating ‘high-risk’ individuals, and denounced public discussions of the epidemic that give the impression that "straight Africans moving to the UK with HIV are actually young straight Britons acquiring HIV".

Moreover he suggested that the forces for precaution have become reduced to NHS services provided by a few charities. "As the amount of money has contracted, competition for these meagre resources has become a major preoccupation," he said. "Leadership has been replaced by salesmanship and collaboration has been replaced by competition".

Hepatitis co-infection
Sam de Croy, on behalf of the principal researcher Jan Mojsa, presented findings from a qualitative study of the lived experience of hepatitis C and HIV co-infection. The presentation reflected the experiences of gay men attending a co-infection support group at Body Positive North West.

A common thread was that co-infection encouraged men to reflect on their life so far, re-evaluate patterns of behaviour, and make changes. This was particularly clear in terms of sex and relationships. The participants tended to describe their pre-hepatitis sex lives as ‘full’ or ‘promiscuous’. Most had acquired hepatitis at a sex party, and part of their sense of identity was connected with being good sexual performers.

One man commented: “I only ever put energy into two things and that was sex and work you know, and I thought there was a point when I was doing both things very well…” However hepatitis had put a stop to both: “You can’t work properly. You don’t feel like you want to have sex and shouldn’t put anyone else at risk and physically you’re so frail from the interferon…”

All the men were now looking for relationships that were more characterised by emotional intimacy and companionship.

Another theme was a sense of being isolated. The men tended to ‘get on with things’ on their own, and were reluctant to ask friends for help when dealing with illness and treatment side-effects. Isolation could also be a symptom of depression, and all the men had previous experience of depression (before co-infection). Interferon treatment exacerbated this, and despair, suicidal thoughts and perceptions of personality changes were common.

However the participants did not always feel that clinic staff had given enough support before they started hepatitis treatment, or had fully involved them in decisions. They were not always emotionally prepared for the side-effects and the impact on employment.

Criminal HIV transmission
Only a minority of HIV-positive gay men who recently engaged in unprotected anal intercourse have even a basic understanding of criminal HIV transmission, Dr Catherine Dodds of Sigma Research told the conference.

Sigma Research recently published Relative Safety II, a study examining the behaviour of 42 HIV-positive gay men who had engaged in unprotected anal intercourse. As part of the study, the men were asked a number of questions to establish their understanding of criminal HIV transmission.

Their answers showed that only a minority of men (approximately one-third) knew that HIV-positive individuals in the UK had been convicted for ‘reckless’ HIV transmission, with similar proportions knowing that the convictions had been for grievous bodily harm, that the cases had hinged on the complainant’s lack of consent because the accused had not disclosed his or her HIV status, and that this was a ‘serious’ issue.

Some men reported that they took care to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners. One individual even went so far as to save web logs of internet chat to prove that he had disclosed his HIV status in the event of a criminal complaint being made.

However, other men had adopted the opposite strategy, and told the investigators that they were taking additional precautions to conceal their HIV status to protect themselves from the risk of prosecution. This suggested to Dr Dodds that the prosecutions were not increasing the likelihood that HIV-positive individuals would disclose to potential sexual partners.

March 22, 2009 – The Independent – UK

Homophobia: the forgotten hate crime

by Andrew Johnson
New report says that the abuse and violence suffered by lesbians and gay men is on the rise Michael Causer’s only crime was to be openly gay. For this the trainee hairdresser was dragged from his bed last July and viciously beaten. His piercings were forcibly removed with a knife, according to some witnesses. He died nine days later in hospital from brain injuries. Tomorrow James O’Connor, 19, will be sentenced after admitting the murder of the 18-year-old in Liverpool, in a case which, campaigners say, illustrates a rising and little-reported tide of homophobia in Britain.

New research to be published next week reveals widespread anecdotal evidence that gay and lesbian people experience severe daily harassment and abuse which they do not report to the police. The survey shows that, although society’s attitude towards gay and lesbian people appears to be more tolerant, bubbling beneath the surface, and often unreported, is a stream of abuse and harassment. Earlier this month, Gerald Edwards, 59, was stabbed to death in the home in Bromley, Kent, that he shared with his partner, Chris Bevan, who was seriously injured in what police believe was a homophobic attack.

Next week’s report, published by the charity Galop, the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence and Policing Group and the Metropolitan Police, found that homophobic hate crime is seriously under-reported, partly because of out-of-date contact numbers and addresses, but also because of fears of reprisals and a belief that the police don’t take them seriously. But those incidents that are reported to lesbian and gay groups can take place in daylight, often feature casual violence and verbal abuse, and frequently take the form of persistent bullying from neighbours. Researchers found that nearly half of all victims reporting to lesbian and gay organisations knew their aggressor.

Over a quarter of all incidents involved physical violence. Figures from the Met show that in the last year reported homophobic hate crime in London has risen by more than 5 per cent, from 1,008 to 1,062 incidents. London’s gay and lesbian population is thought to stand at around 750,000. National figures on homophobic incidents are not collected by the Home Office, however. A survey by Stonewall, the gay rights charity, published last year found that one in five gay people had been the victim of a hate crime in the last three years.

Stonewall also published a report earlier this month which revealed a "deeply alarming" amount of homophobia in schools. The report is the largest survey of both primary and secondary schoolteachers on the issue of homophobic bullying. Called The Teachers’ Report, it showed that around 150,000 pupils are affected by anti-gay bullying. Not only are children who are thought to be gay victims of name-calling and abuse, but pupils are picked out because they are boys who work hard or girls who play sport or because they have gay parents.

Nine in 10 secondary school teachers and two in five primary school teachers said pupils experience homophobic bullying, even if they are not gay. Deborah Gold, chief executive of Galop, said: "Homophobic and transphobic crime is certainly not going down. Whether it’s going up or whether there’s increased reporting is hard to say. But it is as significant a problem as it always has been.

"On the face of it there’s increased acceptance [of gay people], but when you look at homophobic bullying in schools or the abuse people face when they are leaving their homes from neighbours or kids shouting at them, it’s a significant problem."

March 25, 2009 – Reuters

"Gay cure" therapies still used by few in UK: study

by Nick Vinocur
London (Reuters Life!) – A sixth of British therapists said they had tried to help gay, bisexual and lesbian patients become heterosexual, even though evidence suggests such therapies can be harmful, according to a survey released on Thursday.
Michael King of University College London, who published his findings in the journal BMC Pyschiatry, said the number of therapists who said they had tried to help a person change their sexual orientation was surprising.

"There is very little evidence to show that attempting to treat a person’s homosexual feelings is effective and in fact it can actually be harmful," King said in a telephone interview. Such an approach could provoke greater anxiety and confusion. The survey showed that 17 percent of therapists and psychiatrists working in Britain had sought to help their patients reduce "gay or lesbian feelings" through therapy, the researchers said.

Treating homosexuality as a mental illness was more common in the United States and Britain during the 1970s and 1980s, when so-called "aversion" therapy was in vogue, he added. These treatments involved tactics such as pairing homosexual imagery with electric shocks to induce feelings of revulsion, King said. The World Health Organization only removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1992, he added

"There was a huge fashion for these treatments in the 1970s and 80s," he said. "Now we are talking more about helping patients control their thoughts, to reduce their homosexual feelings." King’s study showed that some therapists now use more subtle strategies aimed at getting patients to "control" their homosexual feelings, and eventually change their sexual orientation. King and colleagues asked more than 1,400 therapists if they would try to change a patient’s sexual orientation if asked to do so.

Only 4 percent declared that they would. However, in response to further questions, one in six said that they had already tried to help patients control or change their sexual orientation through a range of therapies. Reasons provided by therapists in the anonymous study ranged from their own religious and moral views about homosexuality to patients’ anxiety over discrimination, the researchers said.

(Reporting by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

March 26, 2009 – PinkNews

French Senate votes to recognise British civil partnerships

by Staff Writer,
France may soon recognise British civil partnerships if an amendment to the law is passed. Currently, British recognises French partnerships, known as Pacs (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) but France does not reciprocate this recognition. The English-language newspaper The Connexion reports that the proposal to amend the law was made by Green Party senator Alima Boumediene-Thiery. It was jointly supported by Green and Socialist senators and has now been agreed by the whole upper house.

It will be heard in the National Assembly, where supporters believe it will be passed. As it stands, the law means British couples in civil partnerships who live in France have to pay heavy inheritance taxes of 60 per cent if one of them dies. French couples in Pacs do not have to pay such duties. Jerry Lea, who owned a holiday home in France with his partner Geoff Page is facing a large inheritance tax bill after Mr Page died in the country last April.

The couple, who were in a civil partnership, jointly owned a property in France but Mr Lea has been told he may have to pay a 60 per cent rate of inheritance tax on Mr Page’s half of the home. France has suggested that British civil partners can divorce and then get a Pacs, which will be valid in both countries. However, legal experts have suggested that this would convene the European Convention on human rights and would be unworkable as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or a separation of two years would have to be proved

April 20, 2009 – PinkNews

Inteview: Peterson Toscano speaks about his experiences with ex-gay therapy

by Omar Hassan
A recent study by the British Medical Journal found that one in six therapists and psychiatrists have attempted to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Next week, a convention featuring notorious ex-gay advocates such as Joseph Nicolosi is to be held in London. Despite all scientific evidence which states sexuality cannot be changed, it is clear that the use of such techniques continues.

In light of recent news around ex-gay therapies and my own personal battle with my family over changing my sexual orientation, I thought it would be an opportune time to speak to Peterson Toscano, a performer who survived over 17 years of ex-gay programmes including the well-known live-in treatment facility, Love In Action. Toscano has subsequently founded an online community called Beyond Ex Gay, for those who have endured reparative therapy who wish to share their experiences and speaks regularly about his struggle with the Ex Gay movement.

In the following interview, he details his own experiences and the reasons why he first sought treatment. He uncovers the truth about a bigoted community, which refuses to accept the equal protection and rights of homosexuals. In the end, he raises important questions about society’s responsibilities towards the LGBTQ community, as well as the future of the Ex Gay supporters.

Did you find reparative therapy useful? Why or why not?
I found that reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry caused me more harm than good. When someone elects to go into one of these programs or treatments, typically they have lots of stuff going on in their lives that needs attention – depression, addiction issues, low self-esteem, family problems, unresolved abuse or trauma. None of these things have to do with being gay, but in our society, and particularly in many churches, they teach that being gay is the cause of all these things. They are wrong, but still this is powerful message to a young impressionable mind.

Overall, I found reparative therapy to be destructive to my psyche, my spirituality, my career, relationships within my family, my finances and even my physical health. It is no surprise that extreme lower back problems ultimately resulting in a herniated disc began at the same time when I initiated to de-gay myself. Once I came out of the closet and began to undo the damage of the ex-gay treatment, the lower back problems went away.

Why were you trying to rid yourself of homosexual tendencies?Was it because of personal, social, religious or cultural beliefs?
There was a strong mix of reasons that compelled me to pursue reparative therapy. I believed that my primary motivation was religion. As a Christian I did not then see how I could also be gay. As I have explored my reasons further, I discovered many
factors that influenced and pressured me to de-gay myself. I had many reasons why I went ex-gay. These included a desire to marry and have children, fear of loneliness, pressure from society, fear of AIDS and other STDs, low self-esteem and many others.

Did you believe that homosexuality should be frowned upon, or was it something that you simply did not want to be a part of?

At the time when I pursued treatment I believed that it was wrong to be gay and normal to be heterosexual. Of course I received this message in nearly every TV show, pop song, advert, religious ceremony, and book I read. I had an aversion to being gay because of the aversion I experienced in the world around me. Now I see that a gay orientation and gender diversity are normal phenomena in the natural world and throughout human history.

Has the therapy altered your sexual orientation in anyway? If so, have you ever been in a relationship with a female?
Gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries did not alter my sexual orientation in the least. In fact, most ex-gay therapists today will tell you that a change in orientation is not a realistic goal. At the time, the message was not so honest. Instead therapists and ex-gay proponents filled my head with myths promising me the impossible – transformation from gay to straight. As a result of these promises and my quest to be heterosexual, I married a woman back in 1990.

We were together for five years before the marriage ended in flames. I loved her as a person, but sadly never desired her as a lover. What did alter was my emotional well-being. It was during this marriage that I became more and more discouraged and depressed over my sexuality to the point where I seriously considered taking my life.

Can you divulge some of the therapeutic practices that were used on you?
I spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to de-gay myself. I attended weekly support groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, conferences, and even two years at a residential facility. In addition I purchased and read over 20 books about reparative therapy and the ex-gay process. Each programme and practitioner offers a different method. This is not a regulated industry and typically most ex-gay therapists have no formal training in mental health, psychology or counselling. I had been in programmes and with counsellors in the UK, US and South America.

Some use pastoral counselling, using the Bible and traditional Christian teachings as a means of correcting what they see as transgressive behaviours and desires. One programme used an altered version of the 12-Steps traditionally used in Alcoholics Anonymous. Often therapists tried to correct gender variance instructing me to be more gender conforming. They taught me how to play football, change the oil in my car, walk, sit and dress in a more straight-acting masculine way.

Many counsellors target parents as the culprits for why someone is gay and drag family into the "therapy." I spent two years at a residential facility in Memphis, Tennessee and this program convinced my parents that they had failed me and were to blame for problems I faced with my sexuality. These programs often offer up their own template of how someone becomes gay. It is a mish-mash of debunked Freudian theory, Bible lessons and development models attempting to explain how someone became gay. They then want the client to create a new mythology about they’re past to adhere to their template. At times the "treatments" became outright bizarre including three exorcisms I endured, one of which was is Kidderminster, England.

Why did you spent so many years in ex-gay programs?
As I mentioned before, I had many reasons for pursuing a change in orientation. Added to that mix were fear and shame, toxic emotions that keep people from thinking clearly. I felt terrified that I would piss off God, get AIDS and die, and I lived in the shame that society heaped on me about being gay. I also lived in a country (the USA) that stressed that one could be whatever one wanted to be. I ceded my brain over to our oppressors and let them give me the weapons and tools to go to war against myself. Bottom line I was a coward – afraid of what would happen if I chose to be authentic. Little did I know that I would experience a fullness of life and health I had never dreamed was possible.

Peterson Toscano is a theatrical performance activist who travels internationally with original one-person shows that address LGBT concerns as well as issues of race, gender, environment and faith. He will be in the UK from 23 April speaking about reparative therapy. For a full schedule please see:

Omar is a writer and freelance journalist. He has also been involved with a range of TV production companies, working predominantly in the area of factual programming. Born in Cairo, Egypt, he has lived in the USA and Saudi Arabia and currently resides in the United Kingdom

April 24, 2009 – PinkNews

Comment: Can Lord Alli save the Equality Bill?

by Tom Hewitson
Last week one of only three openly gay peers in the House of Lords launched a bold attempt to prevent history repeating itself.
Waheed Alli is collecting and marshalling public opinion in the hope of forcing the House of Lords, known as the place equality legislation goes to die, to pass the government’s upcoming Equality Bill. However he may be in for a bigger battle than he expects. Opponents of the bill, organising themselves under the banner of economic competitiveness, are claiming that now is not the time to put further burdens on business. Troublingly, this argument could hold some sway, especially amongst those who know little of the issues, despite the fact it is glaringly false.

For a start, these opponents will claim that the additional costs of equality will force companies to go bust. However, the only real expense is the long term equalising of the gender pay gap by stopping companies from preventing workers discussing their pay. This effect will be spread out over several years and therefore will have little impact on the recession. They will then continue by arguing that if the government only buys from companies that have equality policies that some businesses will lose their profitable contracts leading to redundancies. However, the bill isn’t reducing the £175bn the government spends every year in the private sector, it will just mean that only those who promote diversity will be able to get a slice of it. Any jobs lost will be compensated by growth in those companies that do support equality, after all the government will still need the same products and services as before.

However the economic arguments are just a smokescreen allowing the opponents of the bill to attack the thing they actually have a problem with, the single equality duty. The duty simply states that all public bodies have to think about the needs of minorities to prevent rather than react to problems, bringing the rules for anti-gay discrimination into line with those used for race, disability and gender. Currently a quarter of lesbian and gay people believe they would be treated worse by the police than any other victim if they reported a homophobic hate crime. Under the new rules the police would actively have to tackle this perception and ensure that people feel comfortable revealing their orientation.

So far so harmless? Unfortunately not. Applied to another example, say a faith school, and the single equality duty could become explosive. Imagine anti-gay teachers being forced to deal with homophobia and lead frank discussions about sexuality in the classroom. The opponents will claim that doctors, teachers, police officers will be fired unless they betray their faith. Sadly there is little way of avoiding this clash of gay and religious rights. To appease the opponents the single equality duty would have to be watered down to the point of becoming largely ineffective. The bill, originally designed to unify and harmonise all existing equality laws, would need so many loopholes and caveats as to defeat its own purpose.

The bill is a huge step towards full equality in this country and this may be our only chance of passing it. We will just have to hope that Lord Alli can succeed in his mission to defeat these enemies of equality. To support Lord Alli’s efforts go to:

Tom Hewitson is a freelance journalist who has written for various gay publications. For more info go to

May 13, 2009 – PinkNews

LGBT asylum seekers ‘facing high levels of homelessness and discrimination’

by Staff Writer,
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans asylum seekers are suffering from high levels of discrimination, homelessness and exploitation, a report has claimed. The Over Not Out report, from Refugee Support, the refugee services arm of Metropolitan Support Trust (MST), suggests that support services for LGBT asylum seekers are frequently poor, resulting in individuals facing harassment or discrimination in their accommodation. It was found that mental ill-health and prostitution were particular problems, and that many LGBT asylum seekers do not report instances of hate crime.

A gay Iranian man in his thirties told researchers: "I’m gay and these kinds of problems happen to me all the time in any shared accommodation where I go. If I want to avoid trouble I just have to go to my room, just lock myself in. And it’s not a life… Yesterday I saw a guy who has been on Section 4 support for nine years. I don’t know, it might happen to me. I cannot lock myself into my room for nine years…" The report, launched yesterday in Westminster, recommended further training and funding for LGBT voluntary and community organisations in regards to asylum seekers, along with new requirements for landlords to protect them harassment. It also recommended that third-party centres for reporting hate crime should develop support programmes for LGBT asylum seekers.

Paul Birtill, MST Director of Investment and Development, said: “LGBT asylum seekers are an over-looked group and little is known about them and their experiences. They can often experience added persecution and isolation due to their sexual orientation. He added: Our research highlights the need to create tailored services, training for staff and support for this otherwise under-represented group. We sincerely hope that this report and its recommendations increase the knowledge and understanding of the issues and barriers that LGBT asylum seekers face.” Stonewall Housing says it has seen the number of asylum seekers and refugees approaching it for advice double in the last year.

May 20, 2009 – PinkNews

100 arrested in hate crime raids across London

by Jessica Geen
One hundred people were arrested today as part of a police swoop on hate crimes in London. The Metropolitan Police Service began a series of raids on addresses across the capital this morning to crack down on domestic, homophobic, transphobic, race and other forms of hate crime. A police spokesman confirmed that as of 1.30pm, 100 arrests had been made relating to domestic violence and hate crimes such as homophobia and transphobia. He added that police had focused on offenders who were known to them or who had evaded arrest. It is not yet known how many properties were searched in the raids, which are continuing today.

Operation Athena is being carried out to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which was held on Sunday. The operation involves targeting "dangerous and prolific" offenders, along with high-visibility patrols and measures to encourage hate crime victims to come forward.

Acting Detective Superintendent Gerry Campbell, who is heading Operation Athena, said: "Athena is now in its ninth year, and we retain a relentless commitment to tackling all forms of domestic violence, homophobic, transphobic and other forms of hate crime, whilst continually improving our services to victims and potential victims. Today’s operation sends out a clear message: violence in any form is unacceptable. We will continue to proactively identify, arrest and seek the prosecution of violent people.

“We now have public protection groups in every London borough, dedicated to proactively investigating a wide range of domestic violence, hate and sexual crimes perpetrated by violent and dangerous offenders. We remain concerned that such crimes remain unreported, which we understand can be for a number of different reasons. However, we would like to urge any victims of such crimes to come forward and speak with us. We have access to dedicated, specialist care to support you and keep you safe. I want to personally appeal to victims to report these hurtful, sensitive and insidious crimes directly to police or through a third party or non-police reporting site.”

It is not yet clear how many properties have been searched or how many arrests have been made. Between April 2008 and March 2009, homophobic offences rose by 3.7 per cent in London.

June 2, 2009 – ABC News

Homosexuality in Britain: Legal but Accepted?

Legally Speaking, the U.K. Is a Gay-Tolerant Country but Social Acceptance Is Slow in Coming

by Gabriel O’Rorke
London – Britain is among the countries that are most tolerant of gays and lesbians and the U.K. scores highly on legal protection as attitudes shift on homosexuality and legislation varies widely across the globe. But Lucy Horn, a student at St. Andrews University in Scotand, said she and her girlfriend know better than to lower their radar, even in an area she described as tolerant. "Whenever we and another party are interested in a property, it’s always the others who get it, despite both me and my girlfriend having really good references," she said. "This has happened about four times now. It might just be chance, but I read more into it than that."

And no matter how many anti-discrimination laws the country adopts, she said, some people, "whatever their reasons, seem to be increasingly scathing of gays being awarded equal or similar rights to heterosexual couples." Still, when in comes to legal protections, gay Londoner Fabio Palmero, who works in advertising, said, "I’m grateful for the laws. They create a moral code. Even if you don’t act on it, the fact that you have rights protects you and gives a message to other people." It is a criminal offense in Britain to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, or what may be perceived as their sexual orientation. The law covers workplace issues such as recruitment, terms and conditions, pay and benefits, training, promotion and transfers, as well as redundancy and dismissal.

The law also protects against harassment and victimization, which applies to intentional or unintentional bullying, and general disrespect, such as homophobic jokes. Such harassment is unacceptable in any work-related environment, including an office party or a work excursion, as well as in the office itself.

Legal protection against homophobia covers associations, too, which means a person can file a lawsuit against someone who makes a homophobic comment behind the back of a friend or colleague. It is also illegal to treat a person less favorably after he or she complains or is involved in a complaint. The only exception to sexual-orientation discrimination is if the employer can show that a job has to be done by someone of a particular orientation. An organization promoting gay rights, for example, might require its company ambassador to be gay. One is not, however, legally required to disclose his or her sexual orientation to a British employer, either for monitoring purposes or for an equal opportunities questionnaire.

The British army once played a role in sexual-orientation discrimination. It was not until the European Court of Human Rights raised awareness in the year 2000 to what it called a "grave interference" into the private lives of individuals that the ban on gays and lesbians in the armed forces was lifted. It took eight more years for the army to actively recruit gays and lesbians. In October 2008, Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt spoke at the army-sponsored Fourth Joint Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Matters to publicly welcome them to serve in the army.

Such recognition was a long way from the time when the special investigation branch of the Royal Military Police tracked down gay and lesbian service personnel to either discipline them, or to discharge them for breach of military law. The United States still abides by former President Clinton’s "Don’t ask, Don’t tell" policy, which prohibits gays and lesbians from speaking about their sexual orientation while serving in the United States armed forces.

Same Sex Marriage vs. Civil Partnerships
The real controversy in the U.K. boils down to marriage. Since December 2005, same-sex couples have been given the right to register a civil partnership.
The Civil Partnership Act includes "dissolution" in the place of divorce, and preregistration agreements instead of prenuptials. There are multiple financial advantages to entering into a civil partnership, especially when it comes taxes.

Same-sex couples who do not have a civil union certificate can suffer severe hardship because the tax code fails to recognize their relationships. For example, if one partner dies, leaving everything to his or her partner, the survivor may have to sell the couple’s home in order to pay the inheritance tax bill. With the civil partnership law, however, couples avoid inheritance taxes and enjoy the same benefits as married couples. In legal terms, a civil partnership is the same as marriage: It is the same package but with a different label.

The question is whether the name matters. Some people believe that denial of the matrimonial terminology undermines the union. After all, "marriage" is the traditional term, a title accepted by society. Some argue that people who’re opposed to same-sex marriages, whether driven by religion, traditional values or prejudice, are placated by the law because it distances heterosexual and homosexual unions through terminology. Six countries worldwide (Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa and Spain) and two U.S. states (Connecticut and Massachusetts) call same-sex marriage "marriage," while Britain opted to legalize "civil unions."

But Londoner Palmero said he bears no grudge. "I don’t think this a need cross religious boundaries. In my eyes, marriage is a religious union," Palmero told ABC News. "Gay people shouldn’t use the Christian terminology, but the state needs an equivalent, so we have civil unions. It is the same. I think people who fight the name are just stirring; we have the benefits."

Protected by the Law … but What About Social Acceptance?
It is clear that the law protects gay and lesbian rights. But whether legislation brings acceptance is another matter. "It depends on the situation," Palmero said. "I have been raised in an educated, liberal environment in London, so, in my situation, yes, but I’m sure that large swathes of the country are not accepting."

Palmero said it is a different story for lesbians. "The fact that there are multiple gay icons in the media really helps people to identify and accept gay men, but lesbians don’t have that," he said. Student Horn cited a case that’s consistent with Palmero’s view. "Two female friends of mine were walking down the street at night in a town in Scotland, holding hands, and a group of young teenage boys started shouting at them, calling them ‘dykes’ and whatnot, and throwing stones at them."

But Horn stressed that the legal protections provide some sense of security. "I worked with two guys last summer, and I knew they were just itching to call me a dyke or something, but if they had, I would have had the police onto them so d— fast." There’s evidence that Britian is serious about gay rights. An anti-gay U.S. cleric was recently banned from the country; and almost $90,000 was granted in compensation to a gay airport guard after a female colleague "wobbled" her breasts at him.

The Kansas pastor, Fred Phelps, who runs a Web site called God Hates Fags, was planning to bring his daughter to Britain to view the play "The Laramie Project," which depicts the murder of gay U.S. teenager Matthew Shepard. But he was was banned from entering the country for engaging in unacceptable behavior by inciting hatred against a number of communities. In retaliation to the ban, he turned to his other Web site, God Hates the World, where he wrote: "God hates England. Your Queen is a whore. You’re going to hell." In the case of the airport guard, Allwyn Rondeau, an employment tribunal granted the $90,000 payout on the grounds that the traumatized Rondeau suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation.

A Comparison between the U.K. and the U.S.
According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 71 percent of Britons say that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 20 percent it should not be. The U.S. statistics are 49 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

"The fact that the law acknowledges equal rights and legal protection for homosexuals makes the U.K. streets ahead of the U.S., where many states have introduced special laws to ban gay marriage completely and maintain discriminating laws to perpetuate institutional bigotry," a British architect living in New York told ABC News.

There are, however, groups like the Human Rights Campaign, which is fighting the proposal to divorce all same-sex couples who legally married in California between April and November last year. "How accepting the general population is of gay marriage in either country is probably the same," the gay architect said, "but at least in the U.K. homosexuals are sanctioned and protected under the law."

June 4, 2009 – PinkNews

Gay rights hero Peter Tatchell named Campaigner of the Year

by Staff Writer,
Human rights campaigner and Green Party Parliamentary candidate Peter Tatchell, has won Campaigner of the Year at the fourth Observer Ethical Awards in London last night.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Tatchell paid tribute to "the many human rights campaigners worldwide who risk their lives and freedom, in countries like Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Iraq and China. It is an honour to work with and support them." Mr Tatchell was arrested in Moscow last month as he marched with the banned Slavic Pride. Two years earlier he was brutally attacked by police at the same event.

Speaking after the event Mr Tatchell said: "During the 1980s and 1990s I was often demonised by the popular press, lambasted by the political establishment and targeted for violent attack by neo-Nazis. Undeterred, I carried on campaigning. After more than 40 years of activism for gay rights and for other human rights causes, it is immensely gratifying to receive this accolade. My transition from public enemy number one to campaign award winner has been extraordinary.

"I want to thank everyone who supported me through the difficult, turbulent years when I was a minority voice and frequently reviled. Their kindness and solidarity is treasured. It gave me the strength to carry on the fight for justice and has helped bring me the recognition I have won today. During the last year, my campaign schedule has included arrest at the recent Gay Pride parade in Moscow, support for persecuted ethnic minorities in Iran and Pakistan, publicising the murder of LGBT Iraqis by Islamist death squads, challenging homophobia in football, assisting asylum seekers fleeing persecution, lobbying against the ban on same-sex marriage and helping secure the acquittal of two Baluch human rights campaigners who were framed on terrorism charges in London."

"I do my bit for human rights, as do many others. Together, we make the change," he added, Fellow Green Party politician, leader Caroline Lucas MEP won Politician of the Year. In April, Southwark Council placed a prestigious blue plaque outside Mr Tatchell’s South London flat.

You can support Peter’s work by visiting

June 5, 2009 – PinkNews

Gordon Brown’s reshuffle results in three openly gay cabinet figures

by Jessica Geen
Openly gay MP Ben Bradshaw has been appointed as the new culture secretary, replacing Andy Burnham, who is to take over his role as health secretary. The latest reshuffle means that there will be three openly gay figures in the cabinet, as Peter Mandelson is currently the business secretary and Nick Brown is the chief whip. Mandelson has been offered enhanced responsibilities, taking on skills, innovation and science, along with the new title of first secretary of state. He has long wanted the position of foreign secretary, a role once held by his grandfather Herbert Morrison, but current foreign secretary David Miliband has kept his title.

Former BBC journalist Bradshaw will have only days to decide the fate of Channel 4, as the Digital Britain report is set to be published on June 16th. Other issues at hand include how the digital switchover licence fee surplus should be used, preserving regional news provision on ITV and handling plans for universal broadband. He was caught up in the expenses scandal but accused the Daily Telegraph of being "homophobic" in the way it exposed his claims. Announcing the reshuffle at a press conference today, Gordon Brown vowed to press ahead "further and faster" to "finish the work" he had begun as prime minister.

"If I didn’t think I was the right person leading the right team, I wouldn’t be standing here. No one could forgive a Labour government if we walked away from our duties … I have the determination to continue," he said. "I will not waiver, I will not walk away, I will finish the work."

Minister for Europe Caroline Flint, who last week gave an interview to, resigned in the middle of the prime minister’s press conference. Glenys Kinnock is to be appointed in her stead. Flint launched a scathing attack on Brown in her resignation letter, saying he had "strained every sinew" of her loyalty to the government. She added that he had created a "two-tier government" in which women ministers were treated as "little more than female window dressing".

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon and employment secretary Tony McNulty also resigned during Brown’s speech. In other moves, universities secretary John Denham is to succeed Hazel Blears as communities secretary, while Yvette Cooper replaces James Purnell as work and pensions secretary. Liam Byrne will replace her as chief secretary to the treasury. Bob Ainsworth is to replace John Hutton as defence secretary after Hutton quit earlier this week. Alan Johnson has replaced Jacqui Smith as home secretary.

30 June 2009 – BBC News

The march of gay politics

by Jon Kelly, Political reporter, BBC News
New York’s Stonewall riot in 1969 is credited with launching the gay rights movement – and 40 years on, its impact is still being felt by politicians in the UK. It seems a world away from modern-day Westminster, where openly gay MPs and peers sit around the cabinet and shadow cabinet tables while politicians on all sides of the House profess their tolerance. On 28 June 1969, following a campaign of police harassment, patrons of Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn – mostly gay men, lesbians and transvestites – fought back following a raid.

The event prompted the first gay pride marches, inspired a new wave of the equality movement and eventually gave its name to the campaign group Stonewall. The impact of this movement can be witnessed during the past dozen years when the age of consent was equalised, civil partnerships were permitted and the ban on gays in the military was overturned. And another legacy has been to allow gay and lesbian politicians into the mainstream – not just demanding equal rights, but as representatives of the wider community.

MP David Borrow recalls reading about the riots in 1969, the same year that he became involved with politics by joining the Labour party – and concluded he would not be able to make any progress within its ranks. Sexual relations between men had been decriminalised in England and Wales just two years previously, gay and bisexual politicians – like Labour MP Tom Driberg and Tory peer Lord Boothby – stayed firmly inside the closet for the sake of their careers.

"Coming to terms with my own sexuality involved deciding not to pursue a political career – the idea of someone who was gay being an MP seemed very strange," Mr Borrow remembers. But this was to change. After he began serving as a councillor in Preston from 1987 and as MP for South Ribble a decade later, he says he was "not out in a conventional sense" – his sexuality was not a closely-guarded secret, but nor was it much of an issue to his constituents.

In 1998, after consulting with his partner, he made the decision to "clear the air" and come out publicly so he could talk frankly about the bill to equalise the age of consent. The reaction, he says, in his "middle England, fairly Catholic, marginal constituency", was relaxed. "By the mid-1990s, the public was ahead of the House of Commons," he adds.

Path to office
And indeed, at the time of Mr Borrow’s declaration, gay politics and gay people in politics were already becoming familiar and respectable. Chris Smith – who in 1984 became the first MP to come out by telling an audience: "I’m Chris Smith, I’m the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury and I’m gay" – had been elevated to the cabinet.
The campaign group Stonewall UK, named after the riot, had been formed in 1989 by household names like Sir Ian McKellen and EastEnders actor Michael Cashman, and its then director Angela Mason quickly became well known. Its moderate tone may have attracted criticism from more radical veterans of the gay rights movement, but lent its advocates greater media respectability and a hearing from government ministers.

So for a next-generation politician like shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert – at 46, a decade younger than Mr Borrow – the path to office appeared clearer. Mr Herbert insists he has never experienced discrimination in his political career. When he sought the Conservative nomination for the safe Tory seat of Arundel and South Downs, he brought his partner Jason Eades to the selection meeting – and was chosen as the candidate without any fuss.

"In a true-blue area, that happening is a sign of things changing," Mr Herbert insists. "I don’t think it would have happened 10 years ago. "There’s been a fairly rapid change in attitudes over the past decade – some of the legislative changes have had something to do with that. But in other ways politics has been behind the rest of the public."

Derek Munn of Stonewall agrees. He traces the upswing of the gay rights movement to the battle against Section 28 – the clause of the 1988 Local Government Act forbidding the teaching of homosexual relations as "a pretended family relationship" – which led to his organisation’s formation and brought the campaign into the mainstream. According to Mr Munn, the forthcoming Equality Bill will offer more or less equal treatment before the law, but social issues like homophobic bullying will remain as pertinent as ever.

With the government’s own estimates suggesting around 6% of the population is gay, he says, there should be 39 gay, lesbian or bisexual MPs. Yet Stonewall says instead just 11 are out – only one of whom, Angela Eagle, is a woman. "There is still work to be done, and much of it is about increased visibility," he says.

Although they span the political divide, both Mr Borrow and Mr Herbert agree that equality will truly have arrived when they are no longer seen as gay MPs, but as MPs who simply happen to be gay. "When no-one writes another article about gay people in politics, then we’ll know we’ve got somewhere," Mr Herbert says.

July 4, 2009 – PinkNews

Gordon and Sarah Brown host Pride reception

by Staff Writer,
Gordon and Sarah Brown hosted an intimate reception in Downing Street’s gardens this morning for organisers of London Pride and the pink press. Those in attendance included gay MPs such as Chris Bryant and Nick Brown, organisers of Pride, Stonewall chair Ben Summerskill and MEP Michael Cashman, along with Attitude editor Matthew Todd, newly-installed Gay Times editor Tris Reid-Smith and Although the prime minister and his wife did not make any speeches, they spent around ten minutes talking to each attendee. publisher and Channel 4 business and technology correspondent Benjamin Cohen described the event as "very private". He said: "I was really surprised as the door swung open to see Gordon Brown’s son playing with a toy car. The prime minister told me there was still much to do for gay rights, despite everything Labour has achieved. He pointed to cultural change, especially in schools and sports. He mentioned one technological advance at Millwall Football club, which allows fans who are being targeted with racial abuse to text their seat number in order to report it. He said that things like this should be widespread and should also be used to tackle homophobia. We also talked about religion and about my own experiences of being at a Jewish faith school. He said it was difficult to reconcile religious problems and sexuality. He also spoke about advances in IVF for lesbians, saying it was very important."

"Sarah Brown said this was not the first time she had attended a Pride march, having attended before as individual rather than as the prime minister’s wife. She also confirmed there were still issues to be tackled in terms of gay rights." Cohen continued: "There was no issue of politics in discussion but it wasn’t neutral either. Many of those there had worked with Labour to bring about legislative change.

"There was some discussion about Peter Tatchell not being invited but this wasn’t an event for everyone under the sun, it was a very small event for Gordon Brown to thank people involved with Pride and to discuss the issues with the pink press. As I left, the prime minister and I briefly discussed the roll-out of broadband for everyone, in my capacity as a technology reporter."

Matthew Todd, the editor of Attitude magazine, told "I thought it was great. It was great to see people like Chris Smith and Michael Cashman who have done solid, hard work [for gay rights] and are still doing so. Ten years ago, this reception would never have happened. "Gordon and Sarah Brown were really engaging, they knew what they were talking about on issues such as schools. It was inspiring to be there."

Nearly one million people are expected to attend London Pride today. Boy George is expected to make his first appearance following his release from jail last month, while organisers have said there will be a surprise special guest appearing later tonight.

July 4, 2009 – PinkNews

Sarah Brown marches in Pride parade

by Jessica Geen
The prime minister’s wife Sarah Brown today made history by marching in London’s Pride parade. Fresh from hosting a reception for Pride organisers and the pink press, she was flanked by Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill and gay MEP Michael Cashman as she waved a pink Union flag. Marching without bodyguards at her side, she looked contented and was happy to talk to gay rights campaigners.
Her popularity was proved by the number of marchers shouting "Go Sarah!" publisher Benjamin Cohen marched alongside Mrs Brown. He said: "She seemed extremely excited to be there. I did spot two discreetly-placed bodyguards around her. She didn’t speak to people who were lining the streets but she spoke to a number of campaigners and ordinary people and told me how much fun having people at the reception had been."

July 17, 2009 – PinkNews

Vatican heaps praise on Oscar Wilde.. who it once condemned as immoral

by Jessica Geen
The Vatican has praised the work of bisexual playwright Oscar Wilde, despite previously regarding him as an immoral degenerate.
The newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which is seen as the official mouthpiece of Pope Benedict XVI, described him as "always looking for the beautiful and the good, but also for a God". Wilde, who served two years’ hard labour for "gross indecency", converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.

He was married with two children but was arrested in 1895 for his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas and subsequently jailed in Reading, where he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The review added: "Wilde was a fortunate man, as more than 100 years after his death his works had not been forgotten and continue to fly off the shelves."

The turn-around has been met with surprise from Italian newspapers and commentators. In December last year, Pope Benedict XVI said the existence of gay people threatens humanity as much as the destruction of the rainforests does, and that "blurring" genders through acceptance of transgender people would kill off the human race. He also said man must be protected "from the destruction of himself" and urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman."

"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less," he said.

July 27, 2009 – PinkNews

Pride of the army: Soldier magazine honours gay servicemen and women

by Ramsey Dehani
Soldier – the magazine of the British army – has featured a gay serviceman on its cover for the first time, honouring ten years of gay and lesbian soldiers serving openly in the army. Trooper James Wharton, of the Household Cavalry Regiment, is shown wearing dress uniform complete with an Iraq medal. He appears on the cover next to the slogan ‘Pride’. The magazine said it was "celebrating diversity in the British Army".

It represents a huge advancement in the army’s policies, where just ten years ago homosexuality in the army was illegal. This was overturned in January 2000 by the European Court of Human Rights after a two-year legal battle involving three gay men and a lesbian, who had been discharged from the Royal Navy and RAF. In 1999 alone, 298 people were discharged from the army on the grounds of sexual orientation.

But Tpr Wharton told Soldier: "It’s 1,000 times better than ten years ago. Obviously there are people who are set in their ways and aren’t in favour of the changed policy, but the whole attitude is different.” Wharton also challenged ideas of gay stereotypes, saying: "The idea of a ‘pansy’ serving in a conflict zone is a flawed one. I would say whoever goes on a tour to a place like Iraq can’t really be described as a pansy."

When questioned about the US army’s continuing policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell", he said: "I still can’t get my head round [it] . . . there will be gay soldiers in the US Army who are not being themselves." Since the inception of the rule 16 years ago, 12,500 members of the US army have been discharged for being gay. While Wharton was keen to dispel notions that gay men aren’t manly, he still feels free to express himself and who he is. “I can’t be late," he commented, "I’m off to see Britney tonight”.

Soldier magazine is out now. To read the full interview, visit

30 July 2009 – BBC News

Quakers ‘to allow gay marriages’

One of the UK’s oldest Christian denominations – the Quakers – looks set to extend marriage services to same-sex couples at their yearly meeting later. The society has already held religious blessings for same-sex couples who have had a civil partnership ceremony. But agreeing to perform gay marriages, which are currently not allowed under civil law, could bring the Quakers into conflict with the government. The issue of active homosexuality has bitterly divided Churches. But the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the Quakers had been more prepared than other groups to reinterpret the Bible in the light of contemporary life.

Religious commitment
The Quakers – also known as The Religious Society of Friends – are likely to reach consensus on the issue of gay marriage without a vote at their annual gathering in York on Friday. They will also formally ask the government to change the law to allow gay people to marry. Quaker registrars, like rabbis and Church of England priests, have the authority to marry heterosexual couples on behalf of the state.

But many British Quakers feel it is wrong to exclude a religious commitment from civil partnerships and want the right to marriage extended to same-sex couples too. The Quakers has welcomed same-sex unions for more than two decades, allowing local groups to celebrate same-sex commitments through special acts of worship. But within Britain’s Christian community more widely, the issue of homosexuality has caused major confrontations.

Most recently, the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, told a newspaper that homosexuals should "repent and be changed".

29 July 2009 –

What’s it like being a gay Muslim?

EastEnders’ current romantic storyline featuring a gay Muslim character has caused a stir. But what is it really like to be gay within Britain’s Muslim communities?

by Homa Khaleeli, The Guardian

Pav Akhtar is not usually a fan of soaps. But the 30-year-old local councillor and Unison worker has been paying special attention since EastEnders introduced its first gay Muslim character. Akhtar, the chair of Imaan, an organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims, advised the BBC on the storyline in the hope that the character of Syed Masood would help tackle the double discrimination of homophobia and Islamophobia that many gay Muslims face.

The Muslim theologian Amanullah De Sondy said recently that the vast majority of Muslims were "deeply homophobic", and a survey carried out this summer among British Muslims reported that 0% of those questioned thought homosexuality was "morally acceptable". Yet, so far, the taboo-busting EastEnders storyline has not sparked the expected deluge of complaints – in fact, the soap’s first gay Muslim kiss attracted a healthy 7.9 million viewers. But what is it like being gay and Muslim in the UK today?

Javaid, 34
It’s good that a soap opera is tackling this. The EastEnders storyline may cause a bit of outrage, but anything that gets people talking can only be a good thing. I don’t think we should sweep everything under the carpet – people should be challenged. My family are liberal Muslims and I think coming out to them has been no different than if I was Jewish or Christian. But although I am out to my immediate family, I’m not out to my community, so I don’t want to identify myself fully. I couldn’t reconcile my sexuality with their teachings, and so I lost my faith.

I was religious up to my mid-teens, but once I started to understand my sexuality, I became confused. My understanding was that in Islam homosexuality was seen in the same way as adultery. That sends a message that being gay is something to be ashamed of and not socially acceptable. It was really upsetting and I would pray to Allah to turn me straight. At that point, if I could have done anything to make myself straight I would have done.

When my parents found out, my father did not really understand. But he tried hard to learn. The debate about lowering the age of consent was going on at the time, and he would cut out articles and videotape TV programmes to show me when I came home. He even went to a gay bookshop and bought a book about being the parent of a gay son. It really meant a lot to me. My mum was very different. She is a practising Muslim and has been to hajj twice. She cried for about three days when I told her. That was 15 years ago and I still can’t talk to her openly about it. I want to, but I can’t do it yet.

Farzana Fiaz, 37 Journalist
I don’t know about this report that said 0% of British Muslims believed being gay was acceptable. That has not been my experience or the experience of my friends. But I think Muslims do find the concept of having an identity based around sexuality an alien concept. I’m out to all of my friends and most people who know me, but despite being chair of an organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims, I have never identified myself in interviews before because I have tried to be respectful of my family’s religious and cultural sensibilities. But recently I was outed by a relative to family members both in the UK and in Pakistan. Now I realise I don’t want to give anyone that kind of power over me again.

I was brought up with a narrow interpretation of Islam from a traditional, working-class Pakistani perspective and believed, like everyone else, that being gay was wrong. I suppose this is still the dominant Muslim interpretation, but it’s not the only one. It was a very difficult time when I realised I was mostly gay in my early 20s; that it wasn’t just a passing phase. I had something of a nervous breakdown: I couldn’t stop crying for days, I had nightmares, I couldn’t sleep alone, I thought I was going to hell for feeling the way I did. I didn’t know any gay Muslims, or gay Asians even, so I couldn’t discuss the religious side with anyone.

Eventually I saw a meeting advertised in the Pink Paper looking for gay Muslims for a support group. Through Imaan, I listened to scholars and open-minded imams, and discovered that, like many things in the Qu’ran, there can be different interpretations about homosexuality.

When an Arabic paper picked up the story of our first conference, an extremist group issued a fatwa against us. The police sent 40 riot officers to protect us. After 9/11, we experienced Islamophobia including from within the gay community – at Gay Pride, some of the crowd heckled us, and even a Pride steward referred to us as terrorists. True, most of the threats we had at Imaan came from Muslims, but they were also more generally from men.

I started telling my mum I was gay about 10 years ago. It took her about 10 years to accept and I’d have to reiterate it when the issue of marriage came up. When I told her the truth, she told me to pray and ask God to forgive me, but she would never disown me. Now she says maybe I know more about it – she left school at 16 in Pakistan, while I studied Arabic at university and researched the subject a lot, so she does take my opinion seriously.

Ibrahim, 40s Charity worker
I think things are getting worse for gay Muslims because of the more extreme interpretations of Islam around today. The Muslim community is more homophobic – at least towards those who are out and comfortable. People have become brainwashed and no longer want to think about the true meaning of Islam.

I’ve seen Muslim men sent to the US for electric shock treatment to "cure" them of their homosexuality; I know of gay men who have been murdered in "honour killings" – in fact, the police often contact our sexual health organisation if there is an unexplained death of a young Muslim man to check if he is on our database. I have even heard parents tell their children they would rather they were suicide bombers than gay.

Because of this attitude there are lots of men who outwardly lead an Islamic lifestyle, who are married and go to prayers on a Friday, but then go and pick up men for sex. They don’t see that they’re gay. I’ve worked with rabbis and imams and the one thing they agree on is that gay men should either marry women or abstain. But abstinence is not an option to most human beings and I always ask, "Would you marry your daughter to someone you knew was gay? Do you think they would be happy with him?" The nikah (Islamic marriage service) is not gender-specific, so why not just let gay Muslim men marry each other?

Many Muslims think gay culture is about promiscuous sex, drugs and drinking. But being a gay Muslim can mean committing to one relationship. If gay Muslims marry each other, it would discourage double lives and promiscuity. The imams I have said this to agree with me, but say they can’t say that in public.

My family know I’m gay; we don’t talk about it, but they have always known – probably before I did. My mother told me to be myself. But I was bullied very badly at school. It was continuous – homophobic and racist – and it stopped me completing my education. I used to pray to Allah to ask him to make me straight; I even visited the shrines of Sufi saints. Then I spoke to scholars, imams and academics and I learned that there’s no word for homosexuality in the Qur’an, but it does teach you to respect the diversity in the world and be honest – which is what I am doing. So now I’m looking for a partner for life, who will accept me and my religion.

Pav Akhtar, 30, Union worker and local councillor
I really welcome the gay character in EastEnders because I want people to engage in the discussion. The Masoods are brilliant – even if they are caricatures, like all other soap opera characters.

I grew up in a household where no sexuality was discussed – it didn’t exist. That’s true of many British Asian families. You feel like you’re not supposed to have any sexual feelings – we had to switch channels if anyone was kissing on TV. It was a working-class Asian family, and I went to the mosque five times a week and was very attached to my faith.

My sisters and brothers are very supportive – I took my partner to Pakistan to visit my family there last year, and that was fine. My mother knows, but I have never actually discussed it with her, although I have introduced her to my "friends". With parents it’s not just a cultural taboo, but their concern that without marriage and a family you will be alone.

August 6, 2009 – PinkNews

Lost generation: Are modern HIV campaigns failing younger gays?

by Ramsey Dehani
As someone reminded me recently, people born in the early nineties are now reaching adulthood. It is safe to say that these younger gays will not remember the images of the AIDS scare in the 1980s and 1990s.
With modern HIV advertising focusing less on condom use, are the younger generation being ill-advised on the dangers of unsafe sex?

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), Britain’s largest sexual health charity, has recently launched a campaign called ‘THIVK’ aimed at knowing your HIV status and getting tested. It is the first ‘testing’ campaign in ten years. Advertising advocating condom use has become harder to find, with many gay magazines containing none at all. THT itself has come under scrutiny over its refusal to use hard-hitting campaigns because it does not want to "demonise" HIV sufferers.

The modern promotions are a world apart from the infamous ‘tombstone’ and ‘iceberg’ ads of the 1980s. But it appears many people still "die of ignorance". With infection rates among gay men climbing 110 per cent between 1999-2007 (1,450 cases to 3,050), there is an argument for more hard-hitting campaigns. I spoke to a 20-year-old gay student about his views on safe sex. He said: "Condoms are really important. I always try to use them." But he added: "Sometimes I forget though, especially when I’m drunk." This highlights a growing trend among young gay men who, while knowing the importance of condoms, don’t see it as a priority.

Spike Rhodes, an HIV activist who is HIV-positive, spoke to about HIV advertising and raising awareness among younger gays. "Across the scene there is a general relaxing to attitudes towards condom-only sex. Especially with the increase in ‘bareback’ films. . . which are everywhere." In regards to more hard-hitting advertising, he said: "I don’t think scaring [people] will help. It will just cause people to turn off and ignore it. The only way forward is . . . to wake up the entire gay community."

On ‘THIVK’, he said: "It’s great. The ad is very strong but there is fear attached to it [knowing your status]." Rhodes suggests going further, saying that one shock tactic should be to make HIV tests part of STI screenings, as people have been given the chance to "be adult" about their choices but some are still endangering others. "When someone comes in with something like gonorrhoea then they’ve been having unprotected sex and chances are they could be infected with HIV."

"If you know [your status]," he said, then help is available. "If you don’t know and are too scared to take the test. . .then one day you’ll get very ill, and suddenly find yourself in hospital with pneumonia and have no immune system left and then it may be too late for the pills. Then you could die. People do still die from this". While Rhodes does make a point for knowing your status, shouldn’t there also be a move to break the blasé attitude that has developed towards condoms?

His arguments suggest mandatory testing would mean people could no longer have "their heads in the sand" and could maybe have a more positive effect on attitudes than shock advertising that people can ignore. Paul Burston, author of ‘The Gay Divorcee’ also spoke to about HIV charities.

Burston said: "On the whole I don’t think they are meeting the needs of the people they’re targeting." He attacked modern campaigning, aimed more at those who are regularly unsafe, as giving mixed messages that "bare-backing is [apparently] normal". "It’s one thing to say ‘don’t demonise them’ [HIV sufferers], which is right, but it’s another thing to not demonise the images that show bare-backing is normal."

When I suggested that anti-smoking ads do not demonise cancer sufferers, Burston said "That is a really good argument." "For those of us who are 40-plus. . .we didn’t need ‘icebergs’, we saw friends die in hospital. The younger generation, thankfully, haven’t witnessed this, and only get these mixed messages from the campaigns." He revealed that he had seen a senior HIV policy officer admit gays had been let down. Burston also noted how, at an event in Liverpool, a 22-year-old told him he was more worried about catching gonorrhoea than HIV.

"What we need is a much more clear campaign aimed at the [gay] general population saying ‘use a condom"," he said. Campaigns that "target the majority of men, who use a condom but occasionally slip up" would be more effective, Burston said, as "the message would seep through to" those who are regularly unsafe. "Bare-backing is just the nice term we use for unsafe sex," he added.

Burston recalled a campaign in San Francisco a few years ago which coincided with a huge rise in HIV infections. It showed HIV sufferers talking about the realities of combination therapy and how they couldn’t have a normal life. Subsequently, he said, the infection rates went "right down". So while we see some praise for HIV charities moving to get people to know their status, both agree that more needs to be done.

Yusef Azad, the director of policy and campaigns for the National AIDS Trust said: "The sector as a whole needs to constantly look at what we’re doing along the lines of HIV prevention." On previous campaigns, such as one which advocating pulling out and ejaculating on a partner’s back, he said there is a need for "targeting particular groups of gay men who engage in a lot of high risk sex" but also a need to "reiterate and reinforce key messages about condom use". He added: "There is not much value in beating ourselves up about the past but to look to the future and what we can do."

Marc Thompson, deputy head of health promotion at THT, said that it was about giving gay men information to make their own choices. "Condom use is very important," he said, citing THT’s ‘Get it On’ campaign which focused on condom use, "but knowing your status is equally important". Citing undiagnosed HIV cases, he added: "We identified other issues that need to be dealt with."

"One third of people with HIV don’t know they have it," he said. "We also know that some men choose not to use condoms. We know that about 80 per cent of gay men use condoms nearly all the time. What we try to say is ‘it’s your choice’. Here is the information to make it safer for you. It’s about giving out information. . .so that people can make informed, educated decisions for themselves."

On bareback porn, Thompson added: "I don’t think there is any evidence that the rise in barebacking is a direct result of the rise in bareback porn." He went on to say: "With some people its a case of ‘monkey-see-monkey-do’ but most don’t [take away that message]". So we see that, while many people defend the modern campaigning used, many are calling for more to be done to bring to light the importance of condom use and it seems this point remains a contentious issue.

August 7, 2009 – UK Gay News

London Group Spent £60,000 Last Year to Aid Gay and Transgender Iraqis…
£24,000 donated by public, Iraqi LGBT accounts to 31 May shows

London – Iraqi LGBT, the London-based group that support gay, lesbian and transgender Iraqis, received just over £60,000 in donations in the year to May 2009, the accounts published this morning show. And in the same period, all but £15 was sent to the Middle East to provide ‘safe houses’ in Iraq and Syria. Currently, the group runs two ‘safe houses’ in Syria and one in Iraq. Of the donations received, £35,550 came a grants from two organisations, the Heartland Alliance (HA) in Chicago (£11,236) and Hivos (£24,313), a human rights group in the Netherlands that is mainly financed by the Dutch government.

The remaining £24,773 in donations came from individuals. The costs incurred in the UK of running group was 9 per cent of the total expenditure (almost £5,450, which included £1,340 for special accounting for Hivos). Largest expenditure was almost £1,400 which was spent on costs of the group’s weekly meetings during the financial year. In a bid to save cash, this has now been reduced to a meeting every two weeks, with a current proposal for the 19-strong group to meet monthly, the report says.

The report highlights the considerable difficulties in transferring cash to Iraq and Syria from the Iraqi LGBT bank account in London. “We have realised that we sometimes need to trust our local people at face value and when we transfer funds to them, we have to believe that they will distribute these funds to the refugees who rely on this,” the report says.

“We have subsequently found out through making certain checks that our local administrator in Syria has not always passed on the funds. This is the same person who has been deported back to Iraq and for whom we put in a significant effort to keep him out the hands of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. As a result of this episode we have decided to pay each refugee in Syria individually to circumvent this problem. We have had no other problems, neither in Iraq , nor Turkey nor Jordan .”

While there was just £15 surplus at the end of the financial year, Iraqi LGBT is to get an increased contribution from Hivos – this year the Dutch organisation has allocated 50,000 Euros, the report says. During the last financial year, the group realised that in order for their activities to survive, the organisational part has to remain secretive.

“Given the risks and dangers to which our local members are exposed, we must inform them on a need to know basis,” the report says . “We are aware that this has caused confusion but if these local activists know how our whole operation works then they could disclose this to the Iraqi authorities under interrogation.

“We have learned that there is a lot more to just providing shelter for refugees. There is not just the physical but also the psychological aspects which impact the refugees. It has been just as much a learning curve for us as it is for them.” Iraqi LGBT is currently in the process of registering as a charity. A previous attempt to get charitable status failed, the report reveals.

“When we have previously applied, we were told that our current constitution does not allow us to be registered as a charity as it contained clauses which have a political motive,” the report says. The report also points out that they are working to register gay Iraqi refugees with The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This is being done with the help of Brian Soucek of Yale University in the USA.

To read the full report and accounts, click here

31 August 2009 – BBC News

Lesbians given equal birth rights

Women in same-sex relationships can now register both their names on the birth certificate of a child conceived as a result of fertility treatment. Female couples not in a civil partnership but receiving fertility treatment may also both be registered. The law change applies to female couples in England and Wales who were having fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009. However critics say the change would be detrimental to family values. Previously, the mother’s female partner could not be registered as a parent. But the change in the law confers legal parenthood on the mother’s female partner.

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, there were 728 lesbians who underwent in vitro fertilisation (IVF) between 1999 and 2006. And in the same period, there were 5,211 lesbian females who received donor insemination (DI) treatment. “ Now lesbian couples in the UK who make a considered decision to start a loving family will finally be afforded equal access to services they help fund as taxpayers ” Ruth Hunt, Stonewall

The changes to the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987 were approved by Registrar General James Hall earlier this year, following Royal Assent for new parenthood provisions contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that there will be provision for a birth certificate to be used that will have two "parent" sections, rather than mother and father. Also, sperm donors will continue to be able to opt in or out of having their name on the birth certificate, but if both mothers wish to have their name on the document, the donor cannot be registered in that way.

‘Fair treatment’
Home Office Minister Lord Brett said: "This positive change means that, for the first time, female couples who have a child using fertility treatment have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to be shown as parents in the birth registration.
It is vital that we afford equality wherever we can in society, especially as family circumstances continue to change. This is an important step forward in that process."

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries told the BBC that the move undermined the traditional family model. She said: "If we want to build a stable society, a mother and father and children works as the best model. We should be striving towards repairing and reinforcing marriage. I think this move sends out the exact opposite message."

‘Legal fiction’
Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, criticised the move, telling the Daily Mail that the change would "create a legal fiction around the parentage of the children" which would then result in a "legal minefield" when it came to issues of maintenance and inheritance.
He was supported by Labour MP Geraldine Smith, who said: ‘To have a birth certificate with two mothers and no father is just madness."

Stonewall’s Head of Policy and Research Ruth Hunt said that as a result of the law change, life for lesbian families "isn’t only fairer, it’s also much easier". She added: "As the law improves to provide further equality, knowing your new rights will help people make full use of the services they’re entitled to. And, if discrimination occurs, the same knowledge can help them demand fair treatment. Now lesbian couples in the UK who make a considered decision to start a loving family will finally be afforded equal access to services they help fund as taxpayers."

September 11, 2009 – PinkNews

Gordon Brown apologises for treatment of gay war hero Alan Turing

by Benjamin Cohen
Following a petition signed by 30,805 people, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apologised on behalf of the British Government for the treatment of gay World War Two hero Alan Turing, who was forced by the courts to undergo castration to rid him of his homosexuality. Turing famously invented the Turing machine and helped crack the German Enigma code during World War Two, ultimately helping the Allies to win the war. But he killed himself in 1954 aged 41 after being convicted of having a sexual relationship with another man.

A British court gave him the choice of going either to prison or undergoing chemical castration. He opted for the latter. A campaign supported by major public figures including Professor Richard Dawkins, writer Ian McEwan, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and celebrity Twitterer Stephen Fry is the fourth most signed petition on the Downing Street website.

In a moving and emotional response, Mr Brown reflects on the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two and says that Turing’s treatment was "utterly unfair" that he was convicted under "homophobic laws" and "deserved so much better." Mr Brown’s wife Sarah posted on Twitter: "Just back to hear from Gordon that he has rightly issued apology to codebreaker and hero Alan Turing."

Peter Tatchell called the apology "welcome and commendable" but said an apology was also due to the estimated 100,000 British men convicted of similar offences. He said: “Singling out Turing just because he is famous is wrong. Unlike Turing, many thousands of ordinary gay and bisexual men were never given the option of hormone treatment. They were sent to prison. All these men were criminalised for behaviour that was not a crime between heterosexual men and women."

Mr Brown’s response is below:
"2009 has been a year of deep reflection – a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience.

"Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

"Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison – was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

"Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

"I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

"But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate – by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices – that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

"So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better."

Gordon Brown

October 23, 2009 –

London opens gay tourist information center

by Troy Petenbrink
The UK’s first tourism center catering specifically to gay visitors has opened in London.
The center, which began operations yesterday, is designed to be a "hub for all things Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender" in London and across the UK. "We want to show that Lonson’s exciting LGBT life is the best in the world," explains the center’s director Shaun Newport in the Daily Mail. "We will show off what our city has to offer to local, national and international visitors, as well as to Londoners old and new."

Additional information about London’s new LGBT Tourist Information Office is available here

Last month, a similar type of center was opened in Amsterdam. Details on the Amsterdam Gay Tourist Information Centre is available here



October 30, 2009 – PinkNews

Thousands expected to attend candle lit vigil in Trafalgar Square

by Adam Lake
Up to 10,000 people are expected to take part in a silent candle-lit vigil against Hate-Crime this evening in Trafalgar Square. The event, organised by the facebook group 17-24-30, is being held to commemorate the homophobic murder of Ian Baynham.

Organiser Mark Healey told "We have been inundated with support from people all around the world. This is the first ever international day of remembrance for the victims of hate crime." There will also be vigils this evening in Brighton and San Francisco. A number of high profile speakers will speak at the vigil, which has received support from Stuart Milk, nephew of prominent gay rights campainger Harvey Milk who was murdered in a homophobic attack.

"After the two minutes silence there will be a roll call of all the victims of homphobic hate crime from the last 10 years," Healey told

"We are asking everyone to come straight to Trafalgar Square for the Vigil, please do not bring banners and placards – we want to see a sea of candles and faces. We have been in contact with some of Ian’s friends, to start establishing what needs they have, what ideas they would like us to include. Unfortunately it may be a long time before Ian’s body is released, the family have indicated that they would like a private service, with ideas for an event for Ian to be staged at a later date. Friends and members of the family are planning to attend the Vigil, as well friends and families of other victims of Hate-crime."

The event, which is being organised by volunteers, is seeking donations to assist with running costs. If you would like to donate via paypal visit or alternatively you can pay directly to the 17-24-30 groups donation account, sort code 40-03-22, account number 41446843.

1 November 2009 – BBC

Vigil at scene of anti-gay attack

A candlelit vigil against homophobia is to take place in Liverpool later, at the scene of an attack which left a trainee policeman seriously injured. James Parkes, 22, was off duty when he was attacked by up to 20 youths as he left Superstar Boudoir in Stanley Street with his partner last Sunday. His partner has helped organise the vigil, calling it a chance for people to take a stand against homophobia.

Mr Parkes’ skull was fractured but he was released from hospital on Friday. Twelve boys have been arrested and bailed over the attack. “We are pleased to see people are as outraged by this attack as we are ” Tom Downey, victim’s partner

Merseyside Police said Mr Parkes was discharged from hospital on Friday after treatment to multiple skull and face fractures and is recovering at home. His partner Tom Downey said: "We have been amazed at the amount of support and best wishes that Jay and our families have received this week.

"We would like to thank everyone again particularly the gay community, the people of Merseyside and the police for all their support and good wishes. We are pleased to see people are as outraged by this attack as we are. The candlelit vigil is a great opportunity for everyone to come together and stand against this horrible type of homophobic attack."

The vigil is due to start at 2000 GMT in Stanley Street, the scene of the attack.

November 10, 2009 – PinkNews

Survey to find out more about over-50s and HIV

by Staff Writer
Sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust and Age Concern are carrying out a survey into the experiences of people with HIV who are over 50. Results from the research, titled 50Plus, will be used to help develop support services for both older people and those with HIV. The survey is open until January 4th, and volunteers can complete questionnaires on paper or online.

The anonymous questionnaire asks a series of questions about the participant’s life, hopes and concerns. There is a random prize draw for two people, who will each get £100 of shopping vouchers.

Lisa Power, head of policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Currently, we know we could be doing more for people over 50 with HIV, whether someone is newly diagnosed or has been living with the virus for decades. People need support in various ways and we want to ensure that service changes are based on the genuine needs of people over 50 with HIV, not on someone’s best guess. We hope to get as many people as possible filling the survey in.”

To take part, click here

November 17, 2009 – PinkNews

Gay policeman James Parkes expected to return to work soon

by Staff Writer,
James Parkes, the gay trainee policeman who was beaten in a homophobic attack, is expected to return to work in a matter of weeks.
Parkes has been recovering from a fractured skull and cheekbone since he was attacked by up to 20 youths in Liverpool’s gay village last month.

According to the Liverpool Daily Post, the 22-year-old hopes to return to work after Christmas. He has six weeks of training left before he begins a two-year training period but will not graduate with his class. Parkes was well enough to attend a football march held in remembrance of local gay teenager Michael Causer last weekend.

Thirteen boys between the ages of 13 and 17 have been arrested and bailed in connection with the attack.

25 November 2009 – Fridae

Letter from Trinidad

by Alex Au
Ahead of the biennial 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit to be held Nov 27-29, representatives of gay groups from ten countries including Singapore, Malaysia and India are attending a parallel conference called the Commonwealth People’s Forum with the aim of campaigning for the repeal of sodomy laws – a very common feature of ex-British colonies. Alex Au writes from Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.

When I told people that I was going to the Caribbean island of Trinidad, most people envied me for the chance to go to an island paradse. I laughed. Firstly, I’ve been there before, and to be brutally honest, I thought it was a boring place. It was not on my Revisit List. Now, having been here two days so far, I can assure you little has changed. Virtually all shops close by six; no one walks on the streets at night for fear of muggings and I could barely find a restaurant open for lunch on the first Sunday. Secondly, I’m here for a conference, and if you think conferences are junkets, think again. When the aim is to try to get state leaders to pay attention to the gay issue, it’s hard work and uphill all the way.

Trinidad is the venue for the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit. The Commonwealth is a grouping of 53 countries, most of which are ex-British colonies, though more recently, Mozambique (ex-Portuguese colony) and Cameroun (ex-French colony) have joined. One very common feature of ex-British colonies is that they share a nasty inheritance from victorian England – sodomy laws. It is therefore felt that if one wanted to try lobbying governments at an international level, the Commonwealth may be a good focal point.

Representatives of gay groups from ten countries are here. Including other gay activists from other countries who do not represent groups, we have a gay caucus of nearly 20 persons. I’m representing People Like Us from Singapore. There is Siddharth Narrain from India and Thilaga Sulathireh from Malaysia – the other two Asian countries in the caucus. Naturally, we don’t get to attend the summit itself, but there is a parallel conference called the Commonwealth People’s Forum running from Nov 22-26. At this conference, to which 500 people registered, but I think only about 300 showed up, we draft a statement expressing civil society’s chief concerns, and this statement is submitted to the heads of government.

What happens next is not guaranteed. Mostly, civil society statements are ignored by political leaders, but persistence over many years will pay off. Even if the backward countries take no notice of civil society concerns, such as the one we wish to make – gay rights – the more developed countries, e.g. Britain, Australia and Canada may, and may go on to encourage their fellow Commonwealth members to do something about the issues raised. No doubt, we keep our expectations low, but as activists we take the view that unless we try, we’d never know how far we can go.

Just being able to gain entry is a victory of sorts. At the previous summit, held in 2007 in Kampala, Uganda, a local LGBTI group was forced out of the publicly-accessible People’s Space (a part of the People’s Forum) and were beaten with sticks by plain-clothed police officers. Foreign visitors to the summit and the People’s Space, including committed Commonwealth activists who attemped to intervene, were also excluded from the Space. At this 2009 conference, Uganda once again is the bad boy of the class, even though we’re in Trinidad. Raising the ire of many human rights activists here – not just the gay ones – is a proposed law winding its way through that country’s legislative process, that increases penalties for homosexual sex.

A leaflet distributed here in Trinidad explains that just about everybody, not just gay people, will be affected by this proposal, driven by extreme homophobia. To quote the leaflet, the bill puts at risk.

– any parent who does not denounce his lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities; failure to do so will incur a fine of Ugandan Shillings 5 million, or a jail term of three years;

– any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours; failure to do so will incur a similar penalty as above;

– any landlord who gives housing to a suspected homosexual; seven years’ imprisonment;

– any religious leader who seeks to provide guidance and counselling to people who are unsure of their sexuality; he would be regarded as promoting homosexuality and punished accordingly;

– any NGO activist or academic, if their organisation or institution seeks to have a comprehensive position on sexual and reproductive health; their organisation risks being closed down.

But most egregious of all is the increase in the penalty for homosexual sex to life imprisonment; death penalty if HIV-positive. There’s an article in the Autumn 2009 issue of the Newsletter of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative that also mentions Uganda. First, however, it refers to the many countries which still criminalise ‘unnatural sex’: "With sodomy laws still in place, judges and public figures have, in recent decades, defended them as citadels of nationhood and cultural authenticity while at the same time complaining that homosexuality comes from the colonising West. They forget that it was the West that introduced the first laws enabling governments to forbid and repress it."

But memories are short, and the article tells of a different kind of horror just over a century ago: "The overlapping relationship of colonial and post-colonial identity formation is perhaps best illustrated from within the Commonwealth African nations. In Buganda (the former kingdom of Uganda) in 1886, the Kabaka (King) Mwanga executed more than 30 of his pages within his royal court, apparently for refusing sex with him following their conversion to Christianity."

The irony would be funny if not for people being killed over all that.

Alex Au has been a gay activist and social commentator for over 10 years and is the co-founder of People Like Us, Singapore. Alex is the author of the well-known Yawning Bread web site.


8 November 2009 – The Guardian

Black, gay … and invisible

It’s time for black communities to wake up – and stop ostracising those of us who happen

by Topher Campbell
Black people need to stop treating homosexuality as if it’s a white man’s disease. We need to embrace the vibrant presence of gays and lesbians in our community and stop siding with bigots and racists.
Over the past few weeks the homophobic murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square and the assault on PC James Parkes in Liverpool have shocked the gay community. Every anti-gay opinion adds strength to their attackers and supports other gay bashers.

Whenever the subject of homosexuality is raised in the black community there is hysteria and denial. We who are black and lesbian or gay are considered at best a joke and at worst just plain wrong, weird or dirty. Many think we are somehow infected with a western decadent ifestyle and are undermining our race. This thinking is fuelled by a combination of ignorance, fear, hatred, Christian and Islamic-based homophobic religious beliefs, and perversely racial pride. This deadly combination of prejudice forces us to be invisible in our own communities. Being black and lesbian or gay makes it harder for many of us to come out. The fear of losing our families in a racist society, and therefore our connection with our culture, is very real. Also having to negotiate through a white gay scene makes it doubly difficult to forge an identity or gain support from our peers.

The knee-jerk reaction of many African or African Caribbean parents is to either throw their lesbian and gay children out of the house at 16 or 17 or disown them. The wider community is hostile, too. I know of one teenager who was chased out of his school in East London by a group of 40 armed youths with dogs. An alternative to coming out for many young people and even adults is to live invisible lives. Through disguise and deceit many black lesbians and gay men establish friendships, networks and lovers and never tell their families. The stress on themselves and their relationships can be unbearable.

The underlying problem we are faced with is to choose between our sexual identity and our race. The reality is that we cannot choose because both are intrinsic to us. One cannot be hidden while the other cannot be denied. Sadly, in today’s world, for black people who are "flamboyant" whether gay or straight or just more bookish or more sensitive or even academic (or for girls more sporty) we cannot escape the "accusation" that we are gay. Homosexuality is as natural as eyesight. It is not a choice. It cannot be denied or made subject to one’s race no more than you can change your place of birth.

Over the past 10 years the confidence and presence of black lesbians and gay men has been growing steadily. There have been a number of long-running clubs (Queer Nation, Caribana, Bootylicious), publications (MOC) and websites that have struggled against the odds to exist and reflect our lives. Also there have been two Black Pride events (UK Black Pride and Outburst) every year for the past three years. Meanwhile, organisations like my own – rukus! Federation – are attempting to raise the visibility of black lesbians and gays in the UK through archives. However, the mainstream press and black press have largely ignored this and in the case of the black press actively derided it.

On the Friday that Ian Baynham’s vigil took place, OutburstUK hosted the only black gay event in Black History Month – attended by more than 200 black lesbians and gays. It would benefit all of us if more such events happened next year because visibility is the key to overturning ignorance. In many ways black people are the last people to celebrate prejudice against homosexuality and for this we should be ashamed. We are systematically harming our own. If you are black and reading this you probably assume there is no lesbian, gay or bisexual person in your family. Has it occurred to you that your mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, son or daughter might be "one of them"?

If we don’t look out for our own we cannot complain when others lecture us about our prejudices. I do not agree with Peter Tatchell telling the black communities what to do as he did in the Guardian recently, but our own silence around sexuality only allows others to fill the vacuum and to lead the debate in our absence. It’s time to wake up. The wider black communities should beware. There are too many black people in prison or under mental health supervision. Meanwhile black boys are killing each other wantonly. We should not be adding to disadvantage by persecuting or ostracising even more black people because of who they are compelled to love.

December 12, 2009 – PinkNews

Gay soldier Ben Rakestrow comes out on return from Afghanistan

by Staff Writer,
A 21-year-old member of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment (2RTR) has become one of the first British openly gay soldiers serving in a major conflict. Trooper Ben Rakestrow, who yesterday completed his operational tour of service in Helmand province, Afghanistan spoke to the press about coming out to his colleagues. "It was difficult to start with," he said. "I didn’t know how they’d react," he is quoted as saying.

Mr Rakestrow came out to his colleagues while on a training exercise on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. He arrived late for exercises one morning after going out to a nightclub with a friend who knew he was gay. When Mr Rakestrow arrived, he said: "The lads all asked if we’d had any luck, then at least our late arrival would have been worth it. I just said, ‘His name was Ryan’. Some of their faces dropped, and asked if I was serious. They couldn’t believe it."

Until 1999, it was illegal to be gay within the British armed forces. The Government was forced to change the law as a result the European Convention on Human Rights. Last year, General Sir Richard Dannatt, then head of the British Army told an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) conference: "One of the Army’s six Core Values is ‘Respect for Others’ and it is therefore our absolute duty to treat our fellow soldiers as we would wish to be treated ourselves," he said.

"Discrimination against those in the Army who are lesbian, gay and bisexual does not give them a chance to contribute or to play a full part in the teams that are vital for our success on operations. Respecting others is therefore part of the trust that has to exist between soldiers, and the nation’s values of tolerance, decency and quality must be reflected in the Army." Mr Rakestrow who adorns his sleeping area with pictures of Hollywood actor Zac Efronis said:"I get banter from them [fellow soldiers] all the time, but it’s good banter. They all want to know about my life, they ask a lot of questions, you can imagine. I don’t find it hard to talk about it."

His advice to fellow gay soldiers who have yet to come out: "If you’re confident tell your mates. But the important thing is to tell them when it feels right." But he said he’d rather not date any of his fellow soldiers: "I’ve got to work with these guys every day."

The press have greeted Mr Rakestrow’s decision to speak openly about his sexuality with acclaim. The Daily Mirror in a leader opinion article said: "Our brave forces in Afghanistan include soldiers who are gay and we applaud Trooper Ben Rakestrow’s honesty. "His military comrades have no problem with the serviceman’s sexuality and nor should we. What counts is ability and courage, and Rakestrow has proved he has that in spades. The military is a unit that relies on everyone working together. Trooper Rakestrow is an honourable member of that team."

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Times: "There are still pockets of homophobia but on the whole acceptance and support of lesbians and gays has been phenomenal and commendable. The military have gone way beyond merely lifting the ban. All three services now send large contingents to march in uniform at gay pride parades. None of the predicted dissention has occurred.”