Gay UK News & Reports 2010 Jan-Jul

1 Homeless gay Muslims flee marriages 1/10

2 Isle of Man to consider civil partnerships for gay couples 2/10

3 Gordon Brown promises gay people they ‘will not have to walk alone’ 2/10

4 Liverpool policeman James Parkes ties the knot 2/10

4a Gay Asians reveal racism problems 3/10

5 iPhone app created for gay London tourists 3/10

6 Comment: Iraq is the most dangerous place on earth for gays 3/10

7 Guernsey equalises gay age of consent 3/10

8 Gay wedding in U.K. Parliament 3/10

9 Equality Bill passes through parliament 4/10

10 Lesbian filmmaker "faces death" in Iran 5/10

11 Met police arrest six in raids for homophobic hate crime 5/10

12 BBC praised over documentary on homophobia in sport 5/10

13 EM Forster ‘turned against novels after losing his virginity’ 6/10

13a Gay journalist receives award nod for ‘gay cure’ expose 6/10

14 Children of gay parents ‘proud, but need schools to tackle issues’ 6/10

15 Kiana Firouz Granted Leave to Remain in the UK 6/10

16 New gay Tory MP pays tribute to Alan Turing 6/10

17 More gay men being forced into marriage by their families 7/10

18 London Gay Pride Hosts A Million Revelers 7/10

19 Gay asylum seekers from Iran and Cameroon win appeal 7/10

20 North Wales to get first Mardi Gras festival 7/10

21 Sark will equalise age of consent for gay men 7/10

22 Peter Tatchell to receive honorary doctorate 7/10

23 One in seven men on London gay scene thought to have HIV 7/10

11 January 2010 – BBC News

Homeless gay Muslims flee marriages

by Poonam Taneja, BBC Asian Network
A UK charity is dealing with an increasing number of young gay Muslims becoming homeless after fleeing forced marriages and so-called honour violence. During a weekly drop-in group held by the Albert Kennedy Trust in London, Suni, a 20-year-old London student, helps himself to a warm mince pie and a steaming cup of coffee. In 2008, during a holiday to Pakistan to visit relatives, his parents suspected the truth about his sexuality. They believed marriage would "cure" him of what they considered to be a psychological disorder.

Name ‘blackened’
"They told me I’m going to be forced into marriage and they’re looking for a girl and I’ll be married in two to three months and I won’t be able to come back to London," Suni said. When he refused, he was imprisoned in his family’s ancestral home in a remote village of Pakistan and subjected to regular beatings and abuse as he had brought "shame" on the strict Muslim family. “ I think I’d be vulnerable if people knew about me – I’ve heard a lot of remarks in the past about people saying that gay people should die for religious reasons ”

Ali, East London
"I stayed there for three months and he was always beating me. He was telling me I had blackened our family name and he was saying it’s a sin. I know it was just for honour." Suni managed to escape and return to the UK, penniless and homeless. Relatives and friends were reluctant to help him due to fear of violent reprisals from his family.
After a night spent in a police cell, he was put in touch with the trust, which helped find him safe accommodation.

‘Gay demons’
Trust worker Annie Southerst said in the past six months there has been an increase in the number of Muslims coming to them for help. "They face threats of physical violence, actual violence and restriction of liberties," she said.
"We’ve had people chased out of the house with knives and we have had issues around young people who had exorcisms planned to get rid of the gay demons, I suppose.

"They come to us because they’re homeless, or in danger of being homeless imminently. We sort out emergency accommodation for them. But the biggest loss they face is the loss of their families. I can’t imagine what it must be like to suddenly in your late teens, early 20s suddenly not to have a family anymore."

Using laws introduced by the government in November 2008, the charity has taken out four Forced Marriage Protection orders in the past few months. “ I’m proud to be a Muslim… and I’m proud to be gay as well – unfortunately a lot of parents don’t see that ”

Fazal Mahmood
The orders were introduced after ministers dropped plans to make forcing someone to marry a crime. More than 80 have been imposed so far. Breaching one is contempt of court and can carry a two-year jail term. Fazal Mahmood runs a support group for South Asian and Middle Eastern gay men, called Himat, which means strength in Urdu.

"I’ve got about 150 people on my mail out list. About 80%… have been coerced into marriage or been forced into marriage or are being forced into marriage," he said. Mr Mahmood says homosexuality is considered a taboo issue within close-knit Muslim communities in areas such as London, Bradford and Manchester.

"I’m proud to be a Muslim, I’m proud to be South Asian, Pakistani and I’m proud to be gay as well. Unfortunately a lot of parents don’t see that. All they see is ‘what is my community going to feel like when they find out my son or daughter is gay?’."

Read Article HERE

February 22, 2010 – PinkNews

Isle of Man to consider civil partnerships for gay couples

by Jessica Geen
The Isle of Man’s House of Keys will debate whether to introduce civil partnerships for gay couples on the island. The Civil Partnerships Bill will have its first reading tomorrow and, if passed into law, will give gay and lesbian couples the same rights afforded to straight married couples. Treasury minister Allan Bell said he hoped the bill would change perceptions of the island.

According to the BBC, he said: "I think we have a far more tolerant and understanding community on the Isle of Man. Gay relationships are considered as quite acceptable to most people.

"I think the other changes to legislation we have brought in, in relation to the gay issue, have brought the Isle of Man in line with the United Kingdom and indeed the rest of Europe. The stigma which we suffered very badly from in the early days has largely gone now and we can hold our head up high and claim we treat all our citizens as equal."

Homosexuality was illegal on the island until 1992 and the age of consent was equalised in 2006. Currently, the Isle of Man partially recognises UK civil partnerships.

February 25, 2010 – PinkNews

Gordon Brown promises gay people they ‘will not have to walk alone’

by Jessica Geen
Prime minister Gordon Brown paid tribute last night to gay and lesbian members of the armed forces at a reception to mark the contribution of the LGBT community for Britain.
He told guests at 10 Downing Street, including a number of gay servicemembers, that there was a “debt of gratitude we can never fully repay”. He said that the pride they felt was “nothing compared to the pride we feel in them”.

Mr Brown cited the current struggle in the US to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, saying he knew debate on the issue continued. In 2009, for the first LGBT reception at Downing Street, Mr Brown said that the ban on gay marriage in California was “unacceptable”. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the British military allowing out gay soldiers.

Mr Brown said: “I promise you that no one need walk the road to equality alone again.” He also listed the achievements made for gay equality in the last ten years, such as gay adoption and fertility rights for lesbians, saying people had warned these things could not be done. In the short speech, Mr Brown mentioned Liverpool policeman James Parkes, who was seriously injured last year in a homophobic attack.

Mr Parkes, who has recovered, was at the event with his new husband Tom. Mr Brown’s wife Sarah spent several hours speaking to guests. Others there included Paul O’Grady, Dr Christian Jessen and artist Maggi Hambling. Author Jeanette Winterson also turned up with partner Susie Orbach.

February 25, 2010 – PinkNews

Liverpool policeman James Parkes ties the knot

by Jessica Geen
James Downey-Parkes, the Liverpool policeman who was beaten in a homophobic assault in October, has had a civil partnership. Mr Downey-Parkes, 22, spent weeks recovering from his injuries after he was attacked in Liverpool’s gay village while off-duty. He and his new husband Tom, who works in healthcare, attended a reception at Downing Street last night to mark the contribution of LGBT people to Britain.

Mr Downey-Parkes told that the couple had their civil partnership on February 6th in Liverpool and a reception with 250 guests. He said they had kept the news quiet until now. The couple were congratulated by Gordon Brown in a speech and were able to meet the prime minister and his wife.

Mr Downey-Parkes said he was “shocked” at being mentioned by the prime minister and being able to meet him. He added: “We’ve never been to anything like this before.” He was able to return to work several months after the attack, in which he suffered a fractured skull and cheekbone. Thirteen boys between the ages of 13 and 17 have been arrested and bailed in connection with the assault.

8 March 2010 – BBC News

Gay Asians reveal racism problems

by Sanjiv Buttoo
Gay Asian men living in Yorkshire say they are facing increasing racial abuse from within the gay community. They claim the problem means that some of them are fearing for their own safety and have decided to stay at home or just suffer in silence. Naz from Wakefield explained that when he goes out on to the gay scene in Leeds and Bradford he always sees or suffers from racial abuse.
"I have a fear now when I go out that there will be racism directed towards me and my friends," he told BBC Asian Network. "It makes us feel very insecure and I don’t think its worth going out because of the problems we face."

Ali from Bradford is a regular on the gay scene in the North of England. He goes out every week and tries to ignore the insults but says, inevitably, the racism does get to him. “ We don’t get served in bars unless we protest and we get called Paki or have to deal with comments like ‘here come the suicide bombers’ ”
Ali from Bradford
"If I go out then I don’t like to go on my own," he said. "I always go with friends.

"We get looked at in a funny way. We don’t get served in bars unless we protest and we get called Paki or have to deal with comments like ‘here come the suicide bombers’." Both Ali and Naz go to get help and advice from a group called ABC in Bradford who provide a support network for Asian and black gay men in West Yorkshire.

Double life
Arshad Khan runs the group and he said: "Being gay and Asian means we suffer from many more problems than other gay men do and it takes great courage for us to go out on the scene and mix in public. "Why should we always get stopped going in to a bar or club and searched? We even get asked to take our trousers down to see if we are carrying any weapons. Racism is alive and well but its far worse in Yorkshire than in cities like London and Manchester ”

"We don’t want to be accused of being drug dealers or carrying guns. White gay men do not have to endure this. We just want to go out and relax in what should be a safe environment for us." Satnam from Leeds believes most gay Asian men still lead a double life as most do not tell their families, while many are married. "Gay people always say they’re more sensitive to other peoples’ needs, so it’s ironic that I get more racism from gay men than any other community," he said.

"If you want to get away from the problem, sadly, you have to go to Asian gay bars and clubs where there’s no racism." One of England’s oldest gay support groups for Asians is the Naz Project in London, where Asif Quareshi works with south Asian men. "Racism is alive and well but it’s far worse in Yorkshire than in cities like London and Manchester," he explained.

Test kiss
Kam moved from London to Leeds a few years ago and agrees that if you want to avoid suffering racism you either do not go out or go to Asian-only bars and clubs. "In big cities the gay community is segregated with white, black and Asian clubs and bars and, where they all meet, is where there are big problems.
Before we can go into a club bouncers ask us to kiss other men to prove we are really gay. White men are not asked to do this so I just don’t bother going out anymore, it’s not worth it."

The Gay Helpline UK says they are not aware of any such problems but agree that racism towards Asians may be happening. They have urged anyone with concerns to contact them to see how they can offer any help. Mr Khan concluded: "We get rejected in many of these bars and clubs and the gay community need to work together and get rid of racism."

March 19, 2010 – PinkNews

iPhone app created for gay London tourists

by Staff Writer,
London’s tourism board has launched the first gay travel application for smart phones users visiting the city. Visit London’s ‘Gay London‘ application currently has 131 listings of bars, restaurants, hotels and attractions for gay visitors. It also features a blog that will be continuously updated to provide information on news and events of interest to those visiting the city, along with videos to give an insider’s view of gay life in the capital.

Martine Ainsworth-Wells, marketing director at Visit London, said :“London is an exciting destination with much to offer LGBT travellers. We invite the community to take in our city’s unique cultural and nightlife options and enjoy our shopping, restaurants and wide range of hotels. Only in London can you shop to your heart’s content in shopping districts like Oxford Street, Carnaby Street or Saville Row and end the day in Soho, home to our city’s gay community.”

The app works on iPhone and iPod Touch and is free to download.

March 24, 2010 – PinkNews

Comment: Iraq is the most dangerous place on earth for gays

by Paul Canning
It often shocks people to hear this but talk to Iraqi gays who’ve made it out and they’ll tell you – life was better under Saddam.
Baghdad played the role that Beirut does now as a sanctuary for Middle Eastern gay life with clubs which men from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia flocked to.

In sharp contrast, for the past six years Iraq has been the worst place in the entire world to be gay. Far, far worse than Uganda or even Iran. Hundreds of gays, lesbians and trans people have been hunted down and killed in the most vile ways imaginable – and imagination is the right word. Doctors have confirmed reports of men have had their anuses glued shut by militia forces and others have accused the government of being involved.

No one has been prosecuted and the Iraqi government has failed to do anything to stop it. So Iraqi gays have helped themselves. They have created safe houses, although many have been discovered and become a new killing field. Many have fled but they have faced a cold wall of indifference and they have needed friends and luck to actually make it to sanctuary. Our government, the British government, has turned its back on those who have arrived here. All have initially been refused asylum. The system instead has told them that Iraq is safe and they should go home.

I am not making this up. Faceless bureaucrats in Alan Johnson‘s department (and Jacqui Smith‘s and John Reid‘s before him) have had the front to write "Iraq is safe" on gay asylum letters. Why? How? Because they can. Because no one, no gay MP, no LGBT group, no one has pressured them, forced them, to do otherwise. It gets worse. Because of an "unfit for purpose" system, their claims take years to resolve, wasting untold amounts of taxpayers’ money as other bureaucrats and Johnson’s hired gun lawyers fight them to the bitter end despite the mountain of evidence that Iraq is a deathzone for gays.

In the meantime they survive on handouts as they’re not allowed to work. They are stressed out in ways those of us lucky enough to be born in the ‘west’ cannot begin to imagine, fearing that Johnson’s agents will pick them up and put them on a plane to Baghdad. Of course there are people helping Iraqi gays who make it here, though they are few. Most of all Iraqi gays are helping themselves. Chief amongst them is Ali Hili, the leader of organised group Iraqi LGBT. It is he who first brought the world’s attention to the pogrom against gays in Iraq. He has had the balls to be the public face and has paid the price in death threats and a fatwa against him.

But he is stuck in what John Reid described as an "unfit" system. This incredibly brave gay leader is just another number and the failure to grant him asylum is affecting the ability of Iraqi gays to draw the world’s attention to their plight. He cannot go visit the US Congress. He cannot visit the European parliament. In both places there are Very Important People, those who can practically help, who want to hear firsthand of the situation.

He has already told the Foreign Office. This other branch of the same government, whose gay minister Chris Bryant proudly touts its work on supporting gays around the world. The Foreign Office is extremely keen to take Ali’s evidence, write it up in their Human Rights Report and use that to sell the caring-and-sharing face of the UK government, especially to gay voters. So when you read the letter from some minion in the UK Border Agency saying that his case is not "compelling", that his case cannot be expedited so he can go visit Washington and New York and Brussels, what do you think? Does it make you angry?

Yes? Do something. Ask your MP – you can find them on this website – to ask the Home Secretary Alan Johnson to intervene.

Johnson can do it. Remember Mehdi Kazemi? The young gay Iranian who Jacqui Smith insisted could be safely sent back despite all the evidence including the execution of Mehdi’s teenage boyfriend? Well, she intervened and Mehdi is now safe. But it took an enormous effort to make that happen so – please – don’t just read this and be angry. Write your MP, write Johnson and the Prime Minister. Tell everyone you know what’s going on and ask them to do something as well.

The Ali campaign can be found here

Paul Canning is a gay rights activist and the webmaster for LGBT Asylum News.

March 25, 2010 – PinkNews

Guernsey equalises gay age of consent

by Staff Writer,
Guernsey politicians have agreed to lower the age of consent for gay men to 16. They voted unanimously today to equalise the law and bring it into line with the law for heterosexuals and lesbians. Previously, the gay age of consent was 18.

BBC News reports that home minister Geoff Mahy said: "No modern government should support legislation that allows discrimination because of age, race, sex or sexual orientation. These are not choices that people make, but are part of who they are."

The British Crown Dependency also agreed to lift the ban on more than two gay men having sex at the same time. In 1999, the age of consent for gays was lowered from 21 to 18. Homosexuality was illegal on the island until 18 years ago.

March 28, 2010 – The Hindu

Gay wedding in U.K. Parliament

by Hasan Suroor
The Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament, was on Saturday the venue of an unprecedented event: its first gay wedding. The groom was Europe Minister Christ Bryant who married his partner Jared Cranney, a company secretary, in a ceremony attended among others by the Commons Speaker John Bercow. Until now, gay MPs were not allowed to hold weddings within Parliament building but Mr. Bercow obtained a special licence from the Westminster City council to break that tradition paving the way for gay members of the general public also to hold similar ceremonies there.

The couple said they had “never thought this day would come”.

“It’s amazing how much things have changed in such a short time. Only a few years ago there was a different gay age of consent, you could sack people or refuse to serve them just because of their sexuality and gays were banned from the military, from adopting or getting married. Parliament is special because it has made it possible. We are delighted that everyone in the U.K. can now share in a privilege that used to be available just to straight MPs,” they said in a statement.

After the ceremony, held in the members’ dining room with a scenic view of the Thames, Mr. Bercow hosted a drinks party followed by a reception. Mr. Bryant is the second Minister, after Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, to enter into a civil partnership since gay marriages became legal six years ago under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

April 7, 2010 – PinkNews

Equality Bill passes through parliament

by Jessica Geen
The Equality Bill has passed through its final stages in parliament and will now become law after receiving royal assent. The bill, which gives new protections to gay people, was sent for royal assent last night. It is designed to consolidate and simplify existing equality laws, encompassing characteristics such as race, gender and sexual orientation.
A flagship feature of the bill is equality duty on all public bodies, which will require institutions such as schools, councils and the NHS to actively promote equality.

Employers will be permitted to use positive action to select candidates from under-represented groups when two people applying for a job have the same qualifications. The bill will also prohibit private members’ clubs from discriminating against members or guests based on their sexual orientation or gender reassignment and introduce the concept of “dual discrimination”, where people can show they were discriminated because, for example, they are both gay and of an ethnic minority.

An amendment added last month will allow gay couples to have their civil partnerships in church. However, the bill has been criticised by gay groups, opposition politicians and secular groups for a number of "grey areas". One contentious issue is harassment protection for gay people, which critics say does not exist in the bill. The government has said gay people are already protected from harassment due to direct discrimination laws and that there was a duty for schools to continue the existing ban on discrimination.

Trans campaigners argue that there is not enough protection for the many people who live as the opposite gender but have chosen not to seek medical treatment. The government said last month it would not continue to fight the House of Lords over an amendment clarifying who churches can refuse employment to.

Provisions in the bill would have clarified the law requiring churches only to discriminate in terms of sexual orientation when hiring those who will teach doctrine or lead worship. But after the Pope publicly criticised the bill, equality minister Harriet Harman backed down. She is thought to have made the climbdown to avoid a continuing dispute with church leaders. The new laws will begin to take effect in the autumn. The public sector equality duty will be introduced in April 2011, while provisions to ban age discrimination and force companies to reveal pay packets will come into force in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

14th May, 2010 – SameSame

Lesbian filmmaker "faces death" in Iran

by Matt Akersten
Out lesbian filmmaker, actress and LGBT activist Kiana Firouz has been refused asylum in the UK and fears she’ll face the death penalty when sent back to her homeland.
Respected alternative culture magazine Coilhouse tells Firouz’ story: “When clips of her video documentary work featuring the struggle and persecution of gays and lesbians in her country were acquired by Iranian intelligence, agents began to follow Firouz around Tehran, harassing and intimidating her. She fled for England where she could safely continue her work and studies.”

But the 27-year-old has been denied asylum in the UK, and may now be forced to return to Iran. The ultimate punishment for lesbian sex in Iran is death by hanging, following three sentences of ‘100 lashes’. The trailer for Firouz’ film documentary Cul De Sac appears here, and click here for an online petition aiming to save her from deportation.

May 19, 2010 – PinkNews

Met police arrest six in raids for homophobic hate crime

by Jessica Geen
A police crackdown on hate crime across London has resulted in 221 arrests, with six of these being for homophobic and transphobic crime. The midnight raids were carried out on Tuesday, following International Day Against Homophobia. The 221 people were arrested for a range of offences including serious assault and harassment.

Det Supt Darren Williams said that the six people were arrested for crimes where there was a clear homophobic or transphobic element. He said he believed under-reporting of homophobic offences was to blame for the small proportion of suspects arrested, compared to 187 for domestic violence offences. He said: "It is so under-reported, the number of arrests is lower than we perceive it should be. Both myself and the Met understand there is under-reporting."

Det Supt Williams urged people who felt they could not contact police to use third-party reporting systems, saying: "The key message is, if you can’t tell police, at least tell someone."

May 25, 2010 – PinkNews

BBC praised over documentary on homophobia in sport

by Christopher Brocklebank
Last night’s BBC documentary on homophobia in the sporting world, called Inside Sport – The Last Taboo, has been praised by the Justin Campaign.
BBC sports commentator Mark Chapman said he had been called, among other things, "naive, stupid and brave" for making the programme which featured out gay sports stars including tennis legend Martina Navratilova, former Wales Rugby Union International and now rugby league player Gareth Thomas, British former basketball player John Amaechi and All-Ireland hurler Donal Og Cusack.

Gay football club London Titans were also featured playing a GFSN friendly match against Nottingham Ballbois. The Justin Campaign, which works to tackle homophobia in football, is named in honour of Justin Fashanu, the only professional football league player to have come out in the UK, back in 1990. He took his own life in an east London lock-up in 1998. The campaign’s director, Darren Ollerton, told the BBC: "The programme raised some very valid points around the support a professional player can expect on coming out."

On the question of whether or not the titular taboo can ever be broken, Chapman said: "It is down to all of us connected to the game to help with the answer."

7 June 2010 – Fridae

EM Forster ‘turned against novels after losing his virginity’

by The Telegraph
EM Forster never wrote a novel after A Passage To India because his first homosexual experience at the age of 38 sapped his creativity, according to a new biography.

The following is an extract from The Telegraph of UK. Click on the link below for the full story:
The author published a host of acclaimed works including A Room with a View, Howard’s End and Where Angels Fear to Tread in his 20s, but did not complete a single novel in the second half of his life. The sharp decline in Forster’s output has always mystified historians, but now a dossier of his private papers has revealed how growing personal contentment stunted his literary drive.

After suppressing his sexuality as a young man, Forster, who was known to his friends as Morgan, lost his virginity to a wounded soldier in 1917 while working for the Red Cross in Egypt. That sexual awakening in his late 30s led to a series of romances with working class men including a tram conductor and two policemen. After publishing A Passage to India, arguably his greatest work, in 1924, Forster spurned the novel and most creative endeavours for the rest of his life, publishing only occasional short stories, essays and plays.

Full story in The Times

June 7, 2010 – PinkNews

Gay journalist receives award nod for ‘gay cure’ expose

by Jessica Geen
A gay journalist who underwent ‘gay cure’ therapy to expose the therapists who practise it has been nominated for a mental health’s charity’s media awards. Patrick Strudwick, whose work appeared in the Independent in February, is one of six writers shortlisted for the Mind Journalist of the Year Award 2010. The charity’s award, now in its 17th year, rewards excellence in reporting on mental health issues.
Mr Strudwick went undercover for the article, telling two therapists he was struggling to cope with attraction to men and wanted to be straight.

One therapist, named only as Linda, tried to convince him he must have been sexually abused as a child by a member of his family. The other, who later revealed was homophobic former Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson’s advisor, tried to make Mr Strudwick sexually aroused during his therapy. Mainstream health experts say such therapy is usless at best and at worst can seriously damage mental health.

Mr Strudwick told he saw it as "extremely encouraging" that Mind was recognising work on gay issues.

He said: "Given that the British government did not strike homosexuality off its list of psychiatric disorders until 1993, the fact that Mind, Britain’s biggest, most respected and highest profile mental health charity is, in 2010, recognising my work exposing the scandalous practices of British psychiatrists and psychotherapists who claim they can make you heterosexual shows just how far the medical establishment has come in such a short space of time. I am thrilled and honoured to be shortlisted for this award. Mind do exceptionally important work on very limited means. I hope that their recognition of the abuses and lies inherent in attempts to ‘cure’ people of their sexuality makes everyone – the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatry and all psychotherapy organisations – take all necessary steps to stamp out these malevolent practices once and for all."

Since writing the article, Mr Strudwick has become a campaigner against so-called reparative therapy and has organised protests at religious conventions which recommended the treatment. He is also calling on the government to tighten regulations on gay cure therapists. He said: "I call on the new coalition government to do three things: a) introduce regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists as quickly as possible; b) introduce new NHS guidelines stating that anyone found to be attempting to alter someone’s sexual orientation will be sacked and c) give all those in the NHS working with patients LGBT specific training.”

Mind’s head of media Alison Kerry said: “Issues covered by this years’ shortlist range from mental health at work to debate around regulating counselors and psychotherapists and it is heartening to see that so many journalists recognise that mental health encompasses many facets of life and is not just as a ‘health’ issue.” The Mind Journalist of the Year will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday July 8th.

June 9, 2010 – PinkNews

Children of gay parents ‘proud, but need schools to tackle issues’

by Jessica Geen
Gay equality charity Stonewall has published its first research into the children of gay parents. The qualitative research follows the publication of a 17-year study on children brought up by lesbian couples, which found they were happier and had fewer behavioural problems than children brought up by straight parents. Stonewall’s paper, titled Different Families, was based on interviews conducted by the University of Cambridge with over 80 children and young people from the age of four, all of whom have lesbian and gay parents.

In the study, children reported that they were proud of their parents and felt their families were special, but often faced prejudice at school. They complained that homophobic language was not treated as seriously as racism and said teachers tended to shy away from tackling the issue. Many were comfortable being open about their family situation and said teasing and bullying often stopped once they had spoken out. However, they said they had to explain all over again when moving schools or classes because teachers did not.

Children frequently said they experienced rudeness and teasing about having gay parents, although some reported that understanding friends and school groups had worked hard to discourage this and statements such as "that’s so gay".

Sacha, 19, said: "I would get people coming up to me and saying, your mum’s gay. And I was like – it started to get to me because I realised then it wasn’t normal, it was different. I sort of felt picked on and the amount of times I went to see the teachers and they said, just ignore them, they’ll get bored. They never did get bored."

Hannah, 19, said: "If a teacher had come up to me and said, look, we understand your parents are gay, fine. If you ever get any problems from it, or anyone saying anything negative then
come and tell us. That makes me feel it’s absolutely fine, no one is really bothered. But if there is someone who is bothered, I have someone to talk to."

William, 15, said: "Normally people just say like … ‘gay dad’ … and stuff like that. Normally I try and say something back because it like makes me feel better. Or I just try and ignore it. That’s harder obviously … The teachers tell them off but … secretly they always carry on."

Previous Stonewall research found that nine in ten secondary school teachers hear homophobic bullying in schools but few said their felt equipped to deal with it. Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said: "For the children of lesbian and gay parents their families look remarkably like everyone else’s. This research highlights how it’s the prejudices of others which often causes them far more distress than their own personal or family characteristics – and is further evidence of the urgent need to tackle homophobia in our schools."

The report recommended that schools should start early when teaching children about homophobic bullying, avoid making assumptions about typical families and respond robustly to homophobic language.

The full study can be viewed here

June 16, 2010 – Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees

Kiana Firouz Granted Leave to Remain in the UK

by Arsham Parsi, Executive Director IRQR
Kiana Frouz, an Iranian lesbian and filmmaker who left Iran to the UK in 2008 on basis of her sexual orientation has been granted asylum in the UK today. She is the lead actress in the film Cul-de-Sac, a drama-documentary based on Kiana’s experiences as an Iranian lesbian, released in London in May 20, 2010.

Kiana’s claim was rejected by British Home Office even though they believed her being persecuted for her homosexuality. Now, after all international support, Kiana can stay in the UK and enjoys her freedom.

The Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees appreciates all official elected, groups, organizations, activists and individuals who supported Kiana Firouz for her battle. We, Iranian queers, are proud that we are not alone anymore and there are millions of people who are well-aware about our situation and they support us whenever we need them. The IRQR is working with more than 250 Iranian queer asylum seekers worldwide and still about 140 of them are waiting desperately for their asylum or resettlement process.

If you want to get involved more and help Iranian queer refugees please visit IRQR website for more information.

June 25, 2010 – PinkNews

New gay Tory MP pays tribute to Alan Turing

by Jessica Geen
Newly-elected Tory MP for Milton Keynes South, Iain Stewart, made his first speech in the House of Commons last night in which he spoke of the heroic life and tragic early death of gay mathematician and wartime code-breaker Alan Turing. Mr Stewart also paid tribute to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his public apology over the persecution of Mr Turing, who was driven to suicide in 1954 at the age of only 41. Fittingly, Mr Stewart’s constituency covers Bletchley Park, site of Britain’s code-breaking opertions during World War II, and Mr Turing’s workplace.

Mr Stewart said, "I also wish to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath [Mr Brown], for what he did to right the wrong against the brilliant code breaker and mathematician, Alan Turing, a national hero who was so persecuted for being gay that he ultimately took his own life. While the Right Honourable Gentleman and I share little political agreement – although, in the interests of full disclosure, I should declare that I was christened by his father – I pay tribute to him for making that national apology for the wrong done to Alan Turing."

Matthew Sephton, Chairman of LGBTory, the Conservative LGBT group, said he was "delighted" by his colleague’s speech and his tribute a "national hero". He added, "The Conservatives in the House of Commons now have more openly-LGBT MPs than in any other party and I look forward to working with them all, as well as with the new government, in the coming months and years." Mr Sephton added that his party felt it was "vital" to ensure that issues which affect LGBT people in the UK and around the world were "highlighted at the heart of government". He also said that Mr Stewart’s speech "has been a good start to this work in the new Parliament."

July 1, 2010 – PinkNews

More gay men being forced into marriage by their families

by Jessica Geen
The government has released figures which suggest a rise in the number of men being forced into marriage because their families know or suspect they are gay. The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) says it received over 220 reports of men being forced into marriages last year, up from 134 in 2008, an increase of 65 per cent. According to the FMU, such incidents traditionally increase during the summer, when holidays abroad are taken.
Most victims are aged between 15 and 24 and the majority of cases involving men are linked to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

While the vast majority (86 per cent) of victims are female, the FMU says that men are forced into marriage for reasons such as controlling behaviour, protecting family reputations and securing visas. It says it has received over 80 reports of men being forced into marriage so far this year with a number of cases linked to sexuality.However, these cases are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as it is estimated many incidents go unreported.

Equality minister Lynne Featherstone said: "When young men are forced into marrying women it can be because they are gay or bisexual, or their families suspect that they are. This kind of abuse must not be tolerated. Adults working with young people need to be alert to young men who may be vulnerable to forced marriage, as well as women, and report any concerns to the Forced Marriage Unit.”

Tim Sigsworth, chief executive of the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity for homeless LGBT youth, recently reported a rise in the numbers of young gay Muslims contacting it for help. He said: “The impact for many young gay and bisexual men facing a forced marriage is twofold. They not only experience a sense of loss from the rejection or ejection by their family and possibly community, but they may also be struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation without the love, support and guidance which parents may have offered them in other areas of their lives.”

Male and female victims of forced marriage, or others acting on their behalf, can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. An order can be used to prevent someone being forced into marriage or to protect a person where a marriage has already taken place. People can be arrested if they do not comply with the orders. Since coming into force in November 2008, over 150 orders have been taken out.

July 03, 2010 – OnTopMagazine

London Gay Pride Hosts A Million Revelers

by On Top Magazine Staff
An estimated one million revelers took part in London’s gay pride parade Saturday, the BBC reported. About 150 floats wound their way from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square, where the party will keep humming well into the night. A float titled Gay Liberation Front at 40, celebrating the accomplishments of the gay rights group that organized the city’s first gay pride parade, led the parade through the city’s crowded streets.

London Mayor Boris Johnson called the party “one of the most highly anticipated events of the year.” Johnson, who attended the parade, said that he was proud of his city’s reputation “as a place where you can be yourself.” The organizing committee of the 2012 Olympic Games inaugurated their gay pride pin badge at the parade. The pins, which feature the rainbow flag and the London 2012 Olympic logo, are also being sold at London 2012’s online shop for £5 (about $7.60).

Gareth Thomas, the Welsh rugby player who came out gay last December, urged people to “wear their pin badge with pride” to help the committee “achieve greater inclusion in sport.” Also among the crowd were openly gay Conservative policing minister Nick Herbert and Liberal Democrat equality minister Lynne Featherstone. London is the host city of 2012 WorldPride, a two-week long touring gay pride festival taking place ahead of the Olympic Games.

7 July 2010 – BBC

Gay asylum seekers from Iran and Cameroon win appeal

Lord Hope said that homosexual acts may be punishable by death in Iran Two gay men who said they faced persecution in their home countries have the right to asylum in the UK, the Supreme Court has ruled. The panel of judges said it had agreed "unanimously" to allow the appeals from the men, from Cameroon and Iran. They had earlier been refused asylum on the grounds they could hide their sexuality by behaving discreetly. Home Secretary Theresa May said the judgement vindicated the coalition government’s stance. Under the previous government the Home Office had contested the case, saying it had taken sexuality into account when making its decisions.

Fundamental right
The five Supreme Court justices were asked to decide whether a gay applicant could be refused asylum on the grounds that he could avoid ill treatment by concealing his sexuality. Previous attempts by the men to stay in the UK had been rejected by judges at the Court of Appeal who ruled that if the men could conceal their sexuality, their situation could have been regarded as "reasonably tolerable". But the applicants said this tolerability test was contrary to the Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a party. Today’s decision marks a complete change in the approach that will be taken by tribunals and courts to applications for asylum by gay people.

The Supreme Court has unanimously and unequivocally demolished the previous approach, whereby it was acceptable to return gay asylum seekers if it was considered that by being discreet about their sexuality, they could lead a life that was "reasonably tolerable". The Supreme Court has made clear that to compel a homosexual person to pretend that their sexuality does not exist, or to require them to suppress the manifestation of it, is to deny them their fundamental identity. Gay people should be entitled to the same rights of freedom of association and expression as straight people. All future applications in the UK, which relate to countries that sponsor or condone the persecution of homosexuals, will have to apply the Supreme Court’s guidance.

The Supreme Court agreed and ruled that the men’s cases could be reconsidered. Lord Hope, who read out the judgement, said: "To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is. "Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight." The court said it would be passing detailed guidance to the lower courts about how to treat such cases in the future.

The applicant from Cameroon, who is only identified as HT, had been told he should relocate elsewhere in his country and be "more discreet" in future. He had been attacked by an angry mob at home after being seen kissing his partner. He has been fighting removal from the UK for the past four years. "Some people stopped me and said ‘we know you are a gay man’," HT earlier told the BBC. "I cannot go back and hide who I am or lie about my sexuality."

The other application was from a 31-year-old Iranian gay man, who was attacked and expelled from school when his homosexuality was discovered. Like HT, he had been told he could be "reasonably expected to tolerate" conditions back home that would require him to be discreet and avoid persecution. Punishment for homosexual acts ranges from public flogging to execution in Iran, and in Cameroon jail sentences for homosexuality range from six months to five years. Gay asylum seeker HT: ‘If I go back I will live my life in fear’

Mrs May said she welcomed the ruling, adding that it was unacceptable to send people home and expect them to hide their sexuality. She said: "We have already promised to stop the removal of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution. From today, asylum decisions will be considered under the new rules and the judgement gives an immediate legal basis for us to reframe our guidance for assessing claims based on sexuality, taking into account relevant country guidance and the merits of each individual case. We will of course take any decisions on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of gay lobby group Stonewall said it was delighted and offered to help the government deal with such cases. Its recent No Going Back report had suggested that between 2005 and 2009, the Home Office had initially refused 98% of all gay or lesbian asylum claims. Mr Summerskill said: "Demanding that lesbian or gay people return home to conceal their sexuality bears no resemblance to the reality of gay life in many countries." Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council agreed and said: "It is about time refugees fleeing their countries because of persecution over their sexuality are acknowledged as being legitimately in need of safety here, in line with those fleeing other human rights abuses."

The charity Refugee Action called for UK Border Agency staff to receive further training about issues that could affect gay people in their home countries. Its chief executive Jill Roberts said: "It is crucial that the right decision is made first time so that people are not returned to danger."

July 7, 2010 – PinkNews

North Wales to get first Mardi Gras festival

by Staff Writer,
North Wales will get its first LGBT Mardi Gras festival next April. The two-day carnival is being organised by gay group Mesmac and will be held at the Mona showground on Anglesey. It will have stalls and music, while Mesmac volunteers will collect funds for the charity.

Cardiff holds an annual Mardi Gras but Keith Parry from Mesmac said there was a need for a gay event in north Wales.. He told the BBC: "When the Three Crowns in Bangor became a gay pub seven years ago people said it would never last, but it’s still going strong. "With the Mardi Gras we aren’t quite sure how many people will come along, but we expect it will be around 1,000." Along with the festival, three drag queens hope to raise funds for Mesmac with a sponsored hike up Snowdon in August.

July 8, 2010 – PinkNews

Sark will equalise age of consent for gay men

by Staff Writer,
Sark, in the Channel Isles, is to equalise the age of consent for gay men. The island is following advice that the current age, 21, breaks international human rights laws. According to BBC News, Richard McMahon, HM Comptroller, said the current law could lead someone to "claim a violation of his rights".

Legislation has not yet been drawn up to change the law. In March, Guernsey politicians agreed to equalise laws around the age of consent, bringing the age for gay men down to 16, in line with the law for heterosexuals and lesbians.

More information on Sark

July 20, 2010 – PinkNews

Peter Tatchell to receive honorary doctorate

by Jessica Geen
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is to be given an honorary doctorate by Sussex University. Mr Tatchell, who has campaigned for equality worldwide for more than 40 years, will receive the honour for services to human rights. The award will be made by university chancellor Sanjeev Bhaskar at a graduation ceremony at Brighton Dome on Friday. The Australian-born activist began campaigning at the age of 15, moving to London in 1971. Unusually for a veteran campaigner, he has never been offered a royal honour and has declared he will never accept one.

In a statement, he said: "I was hesitant about accepting this honour. After all, my contribution to human rights is very modest. I am a long way from being a brave and effective campaigner. Many others are much more deserving than me. "I would never agree to a royal honour but this award is different. My decision to accept was partly because the initiative for this honorary doctorate was a grassroots one, from the staff and students. I am honoured by their recognition of my human rights work."

Although the doctorate is honorary, rather than academic, Mr Tatchell may use the title Doctor if he wishes. However, he told "Since it is an honorary doctorate, I don’t think it would be appropriate to call myself a doctor. I think it would devalue the efforts of those who have studied for doctorates. "More worryingly, it might prompt some people who are not up to speed to think I have had a change of career. I guess my mother will be happy though. When I was young she wanted me to be a doctor, which has finally come true. Although perhaps not in the medical sense she had hoped for."

University of Sussex vice-chancellor Professor Michael Farthing said: "The degree is awarded in recognition of his 40 years’ human rights campaigning and his devotion to issues of democracy, civil liberties, social equality, environmental protection, peace and global justice. "Peter Tatchell’s championing of such causes is very much in the Sussex tradition of radical thought and commitment to social change."

July 21, 2010 – PinkNews

One in seven men on London gay scene thought to have HIV

by Staff Writer
One in seven men on the capital’s gay scene are thought to be infected with HIV – markedly higher than the rate for the general gay male population. Although Health Protection Agency figures estimate that one in 20 gay men nationally and one in ten in London are living with HIV, a recent sample of 1,251 men in gay bars and clubs found that 15.2 per cent were carrying the virus. Health experts believe that up to a quarter of gay men with HIV do not know they are carrying the virus and suggests that many wrongly think HIV-positive men can be identified through their appearances or how they act.

Alan Wardle, head of health promotion at sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Men who have seen the campaign in focus groups have been genuinely shocked by the one in seven figure. Yet the reality is that, after Brighton, London has the highest HIV prevalence of any city in the UK. “Many gay men wrongly believe that you can tell someone’s HIV status by what they look like, how they act, or who they’re friends with. But you can’t tell whether someone has HIV by looking at them, and with a quarter of gay men who have HIV currently undiagnosed, he may not even know himself. The assumption that HIV is visible is almost certainly affecting whether men use condoms or not. Forty-seven per cent of gay men surveyed reported having unprotected anal sex with at least one partner, and a quarter reported doing this with more than one casual partner. With this in mind, it’s vital this campaign reminds men that the best way to protect themselves and others is to use condoms.”

To highlight the figure and encourage men on the scene to use condoms, THT is running an advertising campaign in London gay magazines, bars, clubs and sexual health clinics over the next three months.