Gay UK News & Reports 2007 Jan-Jun

1 "Gay Life and Culture" Book Review 1/07

2 Sir Ian to launch LGBT History Month 1/07

3 Gay Marriage – Where Lesbians Go On Honeymoons 1/07

4 London’s Metro Police named as gay friendliest employer 1/07

5 Britain: No Gay Adoption Exemption for Catholics 1/07

6 Sir Ian McKellen Launches UK Gay History Month 2/07

7 Gay Christians march against Church homophobia 2/07

8 “Massive Coverage” of London Protest of Moscow Gay Pride Ban 3/07

9 Last-ditch effort to defeat gay agenda 3/07

10 Cardinal questions loyalty of Catholic church to Britain 3/07

10a Rural life still grim for many gays 4/07

10b London Muslims overwhelmingly oppose gays 4/07

11 Polish homophobia reminiscent of Thatcher years, MEP say 4/07

12 Smoking ban comes into force 4/07

13 Gay rights. Job done? 4/07

14 Five suspected dealers charged after raid on Fire 5/07

15 44% of HIV+ men in London undiagnosed 5/07

16 Dawn raids target gay bashers 5/07

16a Shoreditch, London–Where the Club Boys Are By Aric Chen 5/07

17 Gay Britons Serve in Military With Little Fuss 5/07

18 Survey reveals extent of homophobia at work 5/07

19 Trans mayor and mayoress take office in Cambridge 5/07

20 Tatchell and Right Said Fred star battered by anti-gay thugs in Moscow 5/07

21 Gay switchboard’s Royal recognition 6/07

22 Play about homophobia to tour schools 9/07

23 Politicians welcome homophobic bullying guidance 9/07

24 British teams fly the flag at gay World Cup 9/07

Times Online,,25549-2529473,,00.html

Gay Life and Culture

A world history
384pp. Thames and Hudson. £24.95.
0 500 25130 4
US: Universe. $49.95. 0 7893 1511 4

Robert Aldrich, editor
It is twenty years since Max Beloff, at the height of the convulsion caused by the refusal of Oxford dons to award an honorary degree to Margaret Thatcher, publicly scorned the classicist Sir Kenneth Dover for having published a book entitled Greek Homosexuality. It was a subject, Beloff seemed to think, not to be named among historians. The supremacy of homosexual love in Greek imagination was indeed a topic from which even Wilamowitz and Burckhardt had shied away; but in 1978 Dover confronted the entrenched prejudice and prudery which had denied paiderastia as a vital component of ancient Greece. His methodology was immaculate, and his cast of mind exceptionally wise; but few of the flood of subsequent books on the history of homosexuality have matched his pioneering work. It is indeed a polymorphous literature that can include the sociological earnestness of Jeffrey Weeks, the hectic slapstick of Rictor Norton, the cheerful narrative histories by Charles Kaiser and Hugh David, the moving study of British campaigns for legal reform by Antony Grey, Michael Rocke’s study of forbidden friendships in Renaissance Florence, George Chauncey’s superb study of the making of the New York gay milieu before 1944, and Gary Leupp’s restrained, intensely researched and intriguing Male Colors: The construction of homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan (1995).

Dover wrote in 1978 that he knew of no other topic "on which a scholar’s normal ability to perceive differences and draw inferences is so easily impaired". All too many of the historically orientated books on gender and queer studies have proven his point. Too often they baulk at any testing, evaluating or balancing of evidence, and blur the distinctions between opinion, assertion and fact. They combine an almost delinquent antipathy to any form of institutional authority with a complacent assurance that the ethical standards, sexual tolerance, social fluidity and cultural certainties of a twenty-first- century graduate seminar represent the acme of human progress.

Foucault insisted that the homosexual man was invented around 1870 as the result of a single medical article – an article which, as Graham Robb has argued in his excellent Strangers: Homosexual love in the nineteenth century (2003), it is doubtful that Foucault bothered to read. Foucault concocted the spurious idea that "the sodomite had been a sinner" until the 1870s, but then became "a species". His version devalued all same-sex experience before 1870, and arrogantly abbreviated or denied any cultural heritage or emotional continuities for gay or lesbian people before that date. His bluster, though, has been finally discredited by Louis Crompton’s Homosexuality and Civilization (2003). Marshalling a wide array of evidence from (inter alia) ancient Graeco-Roman culture, medieval Islam, feudal Japan, and early modern Europe, Crompton argued that "sodomites" had long possessed a distinct and minatory identity, and judged cultures outside the Judaeo Christian traditions to have been less cruelly oppressive than, say, those of early modern Europe or of the Western Enlightenment.

Robert Aldrich, who is Professor of European History at the University of Sydney, has conceived the bold idea of a truly international synthesis of all this recent research. He has recruited historians from eight different countries – France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA – to contribute surveys which summarize the evidence and historical orthodoxies on same-sex relations and cognate themes in classical antiquity, medieval and early modern Europe, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and colonial America. Individual chapters "illustrate" , Aldrich writes, "romantic attachments and carnal pleasures through the ages: the paiderastia of ancient Greece, the friendships of medieval monks, the multifaceted sexual world of Renaissance humanists, the mignons of Louis XVI’s court, women who passed as men to emancipate themselves from social expectations" , the sexual customs of the Antipodes and the Pacific, the impact of gay militancy in the 1960s, and much else. There are two discrete chapters on lesbians in early modern Europe and in the modern world, and a necessarily rather generalized final chapter on "The Gay World" since 1980.

Aldrich’s contributors generally try to take the Dover road. They argue against glib parallels "between historical instances of same-sex behaviour and contemporary gay and lesbian identities", and seem displeased with recent queer studies which, rather than seeking, understanding and respecting the experience and conduct of homosexuality in remote cultures, have angrily focused on hetero- normative frameworks that supposedly, after 1870, narrowed "sexual possibilities . . . into the governing binary system of heterosexuality and homosexuality" . They are indeed less insular and less self-satisfied than most practitioners of gender studies. Altogether there are admirably few invocations of Foucault’s theories, although some mentions of him as a sexual tourist.

It is inevitable that such a diligent and even-handed collection of essays should sometimes seem staid, but the fairness of this book is compensation for its dryness. Though there is much about homosexuality drawn from philosophy, anthropology and the arts, there is rather less about the role of homosexuality in comedy or indeed the role of comedy in homosexuality. One longs, at times, for the humane irony with which Kenneth Dover handled his subject: "if we could ask ancient Greeks why homosexual eros, once invented, caught on so quickly, widely and deeply, practically all of them . . . would reply rather as if we had asked them the same question about wine: enjoyment of both females and males affords a richer and happier life than enjoyment of either females or males". Aldrich’s contributors must be applauded for treating boy-love in so unfashionably calm a manner: Gert Hekma bravely utters some unsayable truths – "in general young people suffer no negative consequences from intergenerational sex unless it happens inside the family or unless violence is used against them" – and intelligently contextualizes the prevalent Western hysteria about the sexual abuse of children. Sexual desire, which in Western societies used to be based on differences of gender, age and class, must now be founded (according to the bien pensants) on equality: "power relations have become unacceptable, and this is especially true for intergenerational contact". Several contributors agree with Crompton that the oppression of same-sex conduct was most rigorous inside the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and confirm for other cultures and periods Dover’s conclusion about Greece between the eighth and second centuries bc: "The Greeks neither inherited nor developed a belief that a divine power had revealed to mankind a code of laws for the regulation of sexual behaviour", and therefore "felt free to select, adapt, develop and – above all – innovate. Fragmented as they were into tiny political units, they were constantly aware of the extent to which morals and manners are local".

Two densely informative and subtly suggestive chapters contain material that will be unfamiliar to many readers: Vincenzo Patanè on "Homosexuality in the Middle East and North Africa", and Adrian Carton on "Desire and Same-Sex Intimacies in Asia". One of the sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad – "Whenever a male mounts upon a male, the throne of God trembles" – sets the mood for Patanè’s story. Penetration is "the crucial act around which Arab eroticism revolves", he writes, and the speed at which ejaculation is attained is considered "a sign of virility". Passivity is thought irreversibly to damage virility: the passive partner is "an inferior completely stripped out of the status of `man’", "a ghostly figure wandering in the margins of society, with no chance of planning a life outside society’s unbreakable laws". Dover identified homosexuality as satisfying a special need in classical Greek society, "the need . . . for personal relationships of an intensity not commonly found within marriage or in the relations between parents and children or in those between the individual and the community as a whole". This observation is supported by Carton’s account of same-sex relations in China and Japan. The bonding of scholars with their pupils, rulers with their favourites, monks with their acolytes, and samurais with their apprentices is well attested. More than half of the shogun who ruled Japan between 1338 and 1837 had same-sex relations, Carton reports, and the sexual affairs of the samurai were crucial in maintaining a sense of loyalty.

The pictorial richness of this book is a delight: there are over 250 illustrations – half of them in colour – and they are always pertinent. They are variously graceful, erotic, ribald, sad and sordid: a few (including a photograph of fifty-one young men, arrested in Egypt in 2001, packed together in a cage during their trial) are very upsetting. Overall, they splendidly enhance the text of this well-designed book. They were selected by Wendy Gay, an elegant, vivacious figure who enhanced the lives of those who noticed her at work in the London Library and other haunts of picture researchers. She was killed last summer in an accident outside the British Library: these pictures serve as a reminder of her taste and wit.

Richard Davenport-Hines is the author of Sex, Death and Punishment, 1990, and of A Night at the Majestic, published last year. He is writing a biography of Lady Desborough.

16 January 2007

Sir Ian to launch LGBT History Month

by Tony Grew
Actor and activist Sir Ian McKellen will be the featured speaker at the launch of LGBT History Month next month. The launch will form part of the annual Schools Out conference, on Saturday 3rd February at the Drill Hall theatre in London. Schools Out is one of the oldest gay campaigning groups in the UK. It was founded in 1974 to campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality in education.

In 2005, they launched LGBT History Month, their first major project after the repeal of Section 28. The History Month seeks to reclaim the position of LGBT people in the curriculum and in wider society. Schools Out co-chair Paul Patrick was delighted that the Lord of the Rings star had agreed to appear.

"Sir Ian is already a major figure in LGBT history and we’re honoured that he can join us at the launch of History Month," he told The conference is open to all. Other speakers include Tim Sigsworth (Albert Kennedy Trust), Claire Anderson (NUS), Persia West (trans activist), Robert Beattie (DfES), a panel of trade unionists and many more. Entertainment will be provided by the UK’s first out lesbian singer/rapper Mz Fontaine.

The conference fees are on a scale from £28 to £45, including lunch. Booking details are available on, or by phoning Sue Sanders on 020 7635 0476.


January 20, 2007

Gay Marriage – Where Lesbians Go On Honeymoons

As lesbians and gay men move to centre stage as attractive consumers to an increasing number of industries, new gay market research reveals where lesbians go on honeymoon, and where they marry. Some of the results are quite surprising. Lesbians are marrying in increasing numbers in the UK under the country’s Civil Partnership laws, and new research reveals that these women are often being highly imaginative when deciding where to marry, and where to go to celebrate afterwards.

The research is the result of extensive market analysis by pogoplum, a gay weddings business established to provide services to lesbians and gay men entering the growing market for gay weddings and honeymoons. Civil Partnerships became possible in the UK in December 2005. As more than 15,500 gay and lesbian couples entered into Civil Partnerships during the first nine months these new marriages were allowed, an increasing number of lesbians now choose to get married to celebrate their unions.

Lesbians have proved to be decidedly inventive when deciding where to tie the knot. From deep underground at the Dudley Limestone Caverns, near Birmingham, to the world famous Blackpool Tower – lesbians seem to have reinvented the spectrum of places to get hitched. One place proving popular with UK lesbians is Bristol Zoo, where the Garden Room near the lion’s enclosure is seeing an increasing number of lesbian same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The Royal Society of Arts have even thrown open their subterranean catacombs known as ‘The Vaults’ for gay weddings, and lesbians have discovered the solemn peace and tranquility that envelops them when they say “I do” so far from the noise and distractions of London’s streets. According to the co-founder of pogoplum, Christina Harrison-Flynn, lesbians are embracing the planning stages of their weddings and honeymoons creatively in ways that often make them special and quite unique.

“Many of our lesbian clients have grown up not always feeling a part of the mainstream, so when it comes to celebrating their weddings and honeymoons they ask us to be fairly imaginative for them,” said Harrison-Flynn. “Of course every couple wants their special day to be memorable but many lesbians in the UK are showing us that they really like to splash out with their ceremonies and honeymoons to make a totally individual statement. This new research reveals the spirit of adventure many lesbians have shown when they marry.”

When it comes time for the honeymoon, several places are vying for top spot on the lesbian honeymoon hitlist. One common theme in the top lesbian honeymoon destinations is the sun. Los Almendros in Gran Canaria tops the list, followed closely by Provence in southern France. Laguna Beach Island in the Maldives is a particularly romantic honeymoon setting being visited by UK lesbians to celebrate their marriage.

Lesbians are certainly not limited by geography when it comes to their honeymoon choices with Palm Springs, California and Durban, South Africa both making it onto the Top 5 list of honeymoon destinations. Harrison-Flynn said that while many women are opting for exotic weddings and honeymoons, there are also women who prefer to go down the road of tradition: “Of course many women also like more traditional marriage ceremonies and honeymoons, and that is great too. We are just delighted at pogoplum to see so many women now taking advantage of the UK’s new laws that allow them to celebrate their relationships together with family and friends.”

The February 2007 issue of UK Diva magazine, Europe’s leading lesbian publication carries a feature article about this new pogoplum research.

The UK is home to an estimated 1.5 million lesbians.

Top 5 Lesbian Places To Marry in 2007

1. Blackpool Tower
2. Limestone Caverns, Dudley
3. The Vaults @ The Royal Society of Arts
4. Bristol Zoo
5. Lost Village of Dode, Kent

Top 5 Lesbian Honeymoon Destinations for 2007

1. Los Alemendros, Gran Canaria
2. Provence region, France
3. Laguna Beach Island, Maldives
4. Palm Springs, California
5. Durban, South Africa

Information for editors:

pogoplum is a gay weddings business that provides lesbians and gay men with the information they need to enter into their Civil Partnerships. Providing a range of services and information – from practical matters to legal issues while also addressing the romantic and fun aspects of gay marriage – pogoplum has quickly established a reputation as a leading UK source of knowledge and assistance with Civil Partnerships for gays and lesbians.

6% of the UK adult population is estimated to be lesbian or gay. Source: Official Whitehall figure, Nov 2005

To view the Diva magazine article in its original form, visit

For further information, please contact:

Christina Harrison-Flynn, Managing Director
Telephone: +44-(0)7748 94 1111

Ian Johnson, Managing Director
Out Now Consulting
Telephone: +44-(0)20-8123 5288

This is Hertfordshire

January 28, 2007

London’s Metropolitan Police named as friendliest employer for gay workers

by Cara Lee
A gay police liaison officer from Lambeth has praised the Met for recognising the benefits of having a diverse workforce, after it was named as the friendliest employer for gay, bisexual and transsexual people. Graham Alldus, who joined the force six years ago, described the announcement as a great development for the force. "It’s a fantastic recognition of how quickly the Met responds to changes in society and legislation," he said.

Mr Alldus, 37, who is Lambeth’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) liaison officer decided to enrol after reading about an HIV-positive officer working in Lambeth in Positive Nation magazine. "I thought it showed how much attitudes within the police had progressed," he said. "My father was a police officer for 30 years until 1977 and for two-thirds of that time it was illegal just to be gay. "My gay friends were surprised I wanted to join. I wanted to change the force from the inside and make a difference – I thought I had skills to bring."

He admits there is a perception of a macho culture within the Met, which women and LGBT people fight. "I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a gay officer," he said. "I saw there was a need for a LGBT liaison officer because while the police were fine at reacting to
crime, they needed to proactively engage with LGBT people."

He estimates that the level of LGBT hate crime has fallen by 25 per cent in the last year, due to better communication with the community and improved facilities to report crime. Mr Alldus said he has never faced discrimination because of his sexuality at work. "One of the police’s strength is that it recognises the benefits of diversity, employing people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds," he said. "Sexual orientation is very personal. Unlike gender and race, it is a hidden aspect of the self but a very important one. If you choose to reveal your sexuality, colleagues within the police are very supportive.

There is equality across all transdiversity. "I love being part of the police, especially being on the street and mixing with the public. Even if it’s just helping someone by telling them what the time is, it’s wonderful to be able to make a difference."

The New York Times/Associated Press,

January 30, 2007

Britain: No Gay Adoption Exemption for Catholics

British religion-based agencies will not be exempt from regulations compelling them to consider gay couples in adoption cases, Prime Minister Tony Blair said. But he said that while the new law, which forbids the refusal of services to gay people, goes into effect in April, it will not come fully into force until the end of 2008. Until then, religious-based groups may refer gay couples to other adoption agencies. Religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church, oppose the new law.

February 5, 2007

Sir Ian McKellen Launches UK Gay History Month

London – Box office star Sir Ian McKellen took to the stage at the Drill Hall theatre in London at the weekend as a guest speaker at the launch of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans History Month. Now in its third year, the month has quickly become a major event in both the LGBT and education worlds.

Sir Ian praised the conference for its strong panel and dynamic audience – a diverse range of teachers, artists, academics and activists all committed to the cause of LGBT equality in education. The speakers’ panel consisted of Judy Moorhouse (NUT president and GTC chair), Dr Steve Wharton (UCU joint president), and Mark Chater (QCA curriculum adviser). A Q&A session with Robert Beattie of the DfES followed.

The atmosphere buzzed as Mz Fontaine, the UK’s first out lesbian rapper, performed songs throughout the conference. She is shortly to embark on a tour of America. The conference had major input this year from LGBT youth, showing that it is grounded in the feedback and opinions of the constituent groups it seeks to help.

The Trans youth group Sci:dentity, Lik:T (lesbians in performance), the Albert Kennedy Trust and an audience of enthusiastic and bright young people joined forces with LGBT heroes such as Ian Mckellen, Mz Fontaine, and Persia West.

“The conference just gets better every year,” commented Sue Sanders, the co-chair of Schools Out, the group that organises LGBT History Month. “The young people – in the audience and on the stage – were awesome and inspiring,” she said. “We were honoured that Sir Ian could join us, and it was so sweet of him to stay and chat to everyone afterwards.

16 February 2007

Gay Christians march against Church homophobia

by Rachel Charman
LGBT History Month will be marked in Canterbury this weekend with a protest against homophobia in the church. The "End Christian Homophobia" demo will take place in Longmarket in the city centre on Saturday 17th February, 10am-12pm.
The protestors will demand that the Archbishop of Canterbury provide equality for gay and lesbian Anglican Christians worldwide, and for the Catholic church to end homophobia, particularly in the light of the recent gay adoption row.

Organisers also hope to influence the current row about Canterbury Christchurch University’s ban on gay partnership ceremonies on their premises. They call on the university to "apologise for the existing and covert ban recently revealed, and henceforth openly welcome gay couples seeking partnership ceremonies in its chapels." The demonstration calls upon Christians of any sexual orientation, as well as members of other faiths, to speak out against homophobia within religion and work towards reconciling faith and sexuality.

The Archbishop Rowan Williams attending a conference of bishops in Tanzania, which started on Wednesday 14th February, in order to try to patch up the bitter dispute over homosexuality within the Anglican church. Many feel, however, that not enough has been done for gay rights. The protestors demand that: "The Archbishop of Canterbury must stop appeasing Anglican homophobes in the UK and worldwide, such as Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria and heed Archbishop Desmond Tutu who recently re-iterated that the church should stop worrying about gays and deal with the world’s real issues."

This year’s History Month sees a wave of interest in faith and homosexuality, with similar events such as the first ever Faith and Homophobia conference taking place on 17th February in Bethnal Green.

March 03, 2007

Russian Media Gives “Massive Coverage” of London Protest of Moscow Gay Pride Ban

Russian gay leader threatened: “we will get you” Russian gay leader Nikolai Alekseev spoke last night of his “delight” at the “massive coverage in the Russian media” of Wednesday’s London protest against Moscow’s notoriously homophobic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. And he also revealed that while in London he had received threatening and anonymous phone calls. Mr. Alekseev joined the protest outside City Hall, alongside the openly gay Green Party member of the London Assembly, Darren Johnson, and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The Mayor of Moscow was in London for a summit with the mayors of Paris, London, Berlin and Beijing. Mr. Luzhkov recently denounced gay pride celebrations as “satanic.” He has also condemned same-sex relationships as “unnatural”, “licentiousness”, deviations”, “blasphemy” and “deadly moral poison.” “Russian media reporting of the protest has been very beneficial. It has put gay rights on the political agenda in Moscow,” said Mr Alekseev. “The TV and press coverage has generated a big public debate. It is helping to break down homophobic attitudes.

“The demonstration was very important and effective. It helped keep the pressure on the Moscow Mayor. The protest was widely shown on Russian TV [and] the issue of gay rights got through to millions of Russians. This is a very positive achievement. The protests are working,” he continued. “We saw Luzhkov’s position change for the better during his visit to London. Contrary to his usually strident homophobic outbursts, he did not condemn homosexuality as unnatural, satanic or against religion. His criticisms were relatively mild. This time he said only that homosexuality is ‘wrong and unusual.’ Very significantly, Luzhkov told the post-summit press conference at City Hall that if the courts decide a gay pride march should be allowed in Moscow then he will not block it. But I wonder whether this was just said to satisfy a western audience. Will he say the same thing back in Russia? I am not sure,” added Mr Alekseev.

Peter Tatchell of Outrage!, which organised the City Hall protest, echoed a similar view. "The fact that Mayor Luzhkov is now saying less vicious things about gay people shows he is feeling the heat. He seems less confident in his homophobic stance,” said Mr Tatchell. “He has been unnerved by the criticisms and protests. He seems to realise that his extreme homophobia is creating problems. “Mr Luzhkov is concerned about his negative public image in the West and how this might affect western investment, tourism and cultural relations with Moscow. He is vulnerable to pressure,” concluded Mr Tatchell.

Immediately after the press conference at City Hall ended, Mr Alekseev incurred the wrath of Luzhkov’s minders. He unfurled a rainbow flag with the Moscow Gay Pride logo, as Mr Luzhkov was giving an interview to the Russian media.

“I was about two or three metres behind Luzhkov,” recalled Mr Alekseev. “This infuriated his staff. Luzhkov’s press secretary, Sergei Tsoi, who is well-known for his homophobic remarks, ordered me to put away the flag. When I refused, he tried to grab it from me by force. Tsoi threatened me. He said they will not leave it like that. I interpreted this as an implied threat. I later received two phone calls that seem to have been from someone in Mayor Luzhkov’s entourage. The calls threatened that ‘we will get you.’ It is quite worrying,” confided Mr Alekseev.

Mayor Luzhkov had only recently announced that he was banning the 2007 Moscow Gay Pride parade, scheduled for 27 May. Last year’s march was also banned and some marchers were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested by the Moscow riot police, the OMON. Mr Alekseev is currently appealing to the European Court of Human Rights against Mayor Luzhkov’s ban on last year’s Moscow Gay Pride. He is also suing the Mayor of Moscow for libel after the Mayor in January this year labeled Moscow Gay Pride as “satanic”.

“Whatever the stance of the Moscow Mayor, we are going ahead with plans for a second Moscow Gay Pride on 27 May,” said Mr Alekseev. On behalf of Russian gays and lesbians, I would like to thank OutRage!, particularly Peter Tatchell and Brett Lock, for organising the protest. My thanks also to everyone who attended, despite the appalling weather and transport problems,” said Mr Alekseev.

March 20, 2007

Last-ditch effort to defeat gay agenda
, Christians, Jews, and Muslims have criticized a new bill in the British parliament, arguing that if passed the new law would discriminate heavily against those who oppose acceptance of homosexual acts as traditional marriage.

by CNA
Several religious groups of various professions are hoping that a last-ditch effort on Wednesday to stop the passage of a controversial gay-rights law that could result in discrimination against religions will work.
Several Christian groups will hold a prayer vigil outside Parliament tomorrow morning to coincide with the Lords debate of the Sexual Orientation Regulations, reported The Telegraph.

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders have criticized the new bill, arguing that that it would "discriminate heavily" against anyone who expresses the view that gay sexual acts are not equal to the conjugal love of heterosexual married couples. The Catholic bishops have said that the regulations could force the closure of their 13 adoption agencies, which will lose government funding if they refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

Baroness O’Cathain will propose a motion against the regulations when they come before the House of Lords on Wednesday. Her motion notes “the widespread concerns that the draft regulations compromise religious liberty and will result in litigation over the content of classroom teaching.” However, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said the debate on Wednesday is not enough considering the social importance of the issue. “Profound public concern about aspects of these Regulations has not been heard. The debate on Wednesday in the House of Lords, although important in itself, will hardly compensate for the lack of a full debate in the House of Commons,” he said in a statement issued on behalf of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.

The cardinal expressed the bishops’ concern about the impact of the regulations on the “cooperation between faith-based voluntary agencies and public authorities in public funded services.”

“The truth is these new laws will prevent Christians acting in accordance with their conscience, whether they are running an adoption agency or a business," Andrea Williams, spokeswoman for the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship, told The Telegraph. "Vulnerable people will suffer. And, most worrying of all, Ministers have admitted that the laws will apply to the delivery of education in schools,” she was quoted as saying. "This suggests that teachers in schools (whether faith based or not) will no longer be able to teach established Christian doctrine about marriage and relationships for fear of being sued by gay rights campaigners," she reportedly said.

A House of Commons committee approved the regulations last week, but the procedure was heavily criticized by all the main parties because the government gave the 16 members just 17 hours notice of the hearing.

“It is, surely, an abuse of Parliamentary democracy that these regulations are being considered by Parliament only through a hurriedly arranged and very brief meeting of 16 appointed MPs, and a short debate in the House of Lords,” the cardinal also criticized. “During the House of Commons Committee meeting opportunity for serious debate was denied.”

29 March 2007

Cardinal questions loyalty of Catholic church to Britain

by Tony Grew
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has claimed that religion is under attack in this country. In his strongest condemnation yet of legislation designed to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people from discrimination, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor last night became the first Catholic leader in nearly 200 years to question whether the policy of the government is at odds with practising the Roman faith.
He accused the British government of creating, "a different version of our democracy, one in which diversity and equality are held to be at odds with religion."

In a lecture in London, the Cardinal said that Roman Catholics and other Christians and faith groups were going to demand their rights to continue to discriminate against gay couples when providing adoption services. The Roman Catholic church had lobbied the government for an exemption for their state-funded adoption agencies from the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which come into force on 30th April. The regulations outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, including adoption.

"My fear is that, under the guise of legislating for what is said to be tolerance, we are legislating for intolerance. "Once this begins, it is hard to see where it ends," the Cardinal told an audience in Westminster last night, according to the Daily Mail. My fear is that in an attempt to clear the public square of what are seen as unacceptable intrusions, we weaken the pillars on which that public square is erected, and we will discover that the pillars of pluralism may not survive.

"The question is whether the threads holding together pluralist democracy have begun to unravel. That is why I have sounded this note of alarm. I am conscious that when an essential core of our democratic freedom risks being undermined, subsequent generations will hold to account those who were able to raise their voices yet stayed silent." The Cardinal said he feared that Britain was becoming a country where faith-based charity work will not be welcomed.

"When Christians stand by their beliefs, they are intolerant dogmatists. When they sin, they are hypocrites. "When they take the side of the poor, they are soft-headed liberals. When they seek to defend the family, they are right wing reactionaries," he said. The Cardinal gave his strongest indication yet that the church would close their nine adoption agencies rather than take an estimated £10m of government money to run them in compliance with the new law.

Earlier this month he accused Tony Blair of abusing Parliament by not allowing MPs more time to debate the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

16th April 2007

Rural life still grim for many gays

by writer
Despite the recent visibility of gay men and civil partnerships on country soap opera The Archers, new academic research reveals that the reality is very different. Professor Ann Jacoby of Liverpool University says her research shows small villages are awash with homophobia and sexist attitudes. Professor Jacoby, a social scientist, said: "The rural idyll is very nice so long as you fit into certain categories, but problematic if you don’t.
You should be married, have children, and live in this conservative family unit," she told the Daily Mail.

As part of the study, a researcher spent some time living in an un-named English village. She found that gay men and single women face prejudice from the married majority. The manager of the local pub spoke to the researcher about being gay in a small settlement of 450 people. "In a village you feel like a freak. You don’t come across gay people, and you never come across people talking about it. I was in a very bad way, really depressed, not outwardly but inwardly," he told the researcher.

Nicholas Schoon, a spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, attacked the research as flawed: "It seems a bit absurd to draw conclusions about the whole of rural life from a study of a single village. You are going to find unfortunate prejudices and human nastiness and unkindness in suburbia and inner cities as well. There is good and bad everywhere and a great deal of good in the countryside, which has a lot of nice, decent, considerate and caring people."

17th April 2007

London Muslims overwhelmingly oppose gays

by writer
An in-depth survey into the attitudes of Muslims living in London has revealed that less than 5% think homosexual acts are "acceptable," compared with over 65% of the general population The Gallup poll, reported in The Times, found that Muslims differed significantly with the rest of the capital’s population in their attitudes to a range of social questions. More than 80% of the public think sex outside marriage is acceptable, with only 10% of Muslims agreeing.
There were similar wide discrepancies on abortion and pornography.

The survey also found that the vast majority of Muslims questioned condemned violence. 74% said they are loyal to Britain and 82% said they have respect for other religions. 69% of Muslims said they identified very or extremely strongly with their religion, and only 13% think it is necessary to remove the face veil (niqab). 55% of non-Muslims think the niqab needs to be removed to improve integration into British society. Muslim leaders have been outspoken in their attacks on the rights of LGBT people in British society.

Last year Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, was investigated by police over comments he made on BBC radio. He called homosexuality, "a practice that in terms of health, in terms of the moral issues that comes along in a society, it is not acceptable. Each of our faiths tells us that it is harmful and, I think, if you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the forms of various illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that where homosexuality is practised there is a greater concern in that area.”

MPs reacted with fury to his comments, which today’s survey show are in line with the vast majority of Muslim opinion. Alan Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP said: “This is an absurd medieval view. One should separate the religious from the secular. Such general condemnation is no longer acceptable in a civilised modern world.” Stephen Pound, the Labour MP for Ealing North, said: “It’s a cruel and vicious blow to strike against people who are born the way they are. We are living in 21st-century northern Europe, not 7th-century Arabia. It may come as a shock to Mr Sacranie, but I know many gay Muslims who are living perfectly normal, decent lives.”

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on human rights, said: "To imply that homosexuality itself was unacceptable is a form of intolerance that’s deplorable."

25 April 2007

Polish homophobia reminiscent of Thatcher years, MEP says

by Lucia Kubosova
Euobserver / Strasbourg – British labour MEP Michael Cashman says he moved into politics after Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s expressed similar views on homosexuality as the current political leaders in Poland. While enjoying equality as a gay citizen in his own country, he argues that pressure from Europe can help Polish gays and lesbians to achieve the same. Mr Cashman heads the European Parliament’s inter-party group on gay and lesbian rights, which gathers around 60 deputies from all groups except the far-right ITS and monitors European developments in the area.

It has been involved in the most recent calls for a statement on homophobia from the European Commission and EU presidency to be presented on Wednesday (25 April), along with a parliamentary debate and resolution on the issue. MEPs adopted two resolutions on homophobia over the past year – in June and January 2006, with Poland being highlighted as a country sparking most serious concern. Mr Cashman told EUobserver he thinks the main goal of such resolutions is "to signal not only to Poland but also other countries that we will keep up the pressure" until the EU institutions take legal action against national measures that go contrary to European anti-discrimination rules.

"Sadly, it is not only statements on the part of the Polish government but also concrete moves," he said, referring to previous attempts to ban gay parades, the education ministry’s plan to punish ‘homosexual propaganda’ and the intention of the Polish Ombudsman for Children to list jobs for which homosexuals are unfit. The parliament’s legal services have confirmed that Poland is currently not in breach of any EU laws on anti-discrimination, but the new Vienna-based fundamental rights agency has been tasked by MEPs to continue research.

Mr Cashman says that hateful statements from leading politicians are harmful to the everyday life of homosexuals as they are echoed on the ground and create a feeling that it is alright to attack gays and lesbians. "What Poland should know better than other countries – as it had lived under the oppression of the Soviet domination – is that if you deny with hate speak somebody else’s right, eventually someone will come and take away your right."

"I know Poland is a very conservative country. But Poland also stood next to the UK fighting for peace during WWII. I now ask for the same principles to be given to men and women – the peace to live their lives offending none, imposing upon none. Is that such a hard and difficult thing for a national government to deliver? I don’t think so."

Proud to be in gay lobby
Some deputies argue the issue of discrimination against homosexuals in Europe has been overblown by their strong lobby in the EU legislature.
Mr Cashman says "if we are a lobby standing up for people despised and discriminated against, I’m proud to be part of that lobby. The defence of human rights you can either choose or it chooses you. I went into politics because in my own country, in 1987, the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher attempted do exactly what Giertych [Polish education minister] and his mates are attempting now. They were using virtually the same words as the Poles now about ending ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ even though they never defined what ‘promote’ means. At the moment in the UK as a gay man I have absolute equality. But in politics I have to imagine that when there’s discrimination allowed against another person, then it could be me."

Mr Cashman argues that EU human rights legislation is not complete and left-leaning groups in the European Parliament are still pressing for broadening the scope of the so called ‘race directive’ so as to protect citizens against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

"This would in practice mean that you couldn’t be discriminated against when applying for public housing with your partner, or in other services where we can experience barriers in everyday life." However, he is pessimistic about such progress soon as these provisions would require unanimous agreement by all member states. "But what I’d like from all these initiatives is that we wouldn’t have to take them. That we would have achieved the equality and we can trust politicians to respect the rights of others. That day is a long way away so the work goes on."

Smoking ban comes into force

30th April 2007

by Tony Grew
Belfast’s gay bars will become the latest to go smoke-free today, as Northern Ireland becomes the second part of the UK to enforce a smoking ban. Bans are already in place in the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
Only England remains, where LGBT people only have until the end of June to continue to smoke in enclosed public places like bars and clubs.A study carried out amongst gay and bisexual men for the NHS Smoking Helpline found that 41% of gay and bisexual men are smokers, rising to 60%for 25 to 34 year olds, well in excess of the national average of 25%.

While health risk messages seem to be getting through loud and clear – 91% of respondents know that quitting will improve their health – nearly a third have never tried to give up, the research found.It also seems that the vast majority don’t actually enjoy their habit, overwhelmingly confirming that they "dislike stale tobacco breath" (77%) and "dislike the smell of tobacco on clothes" (74%).When it comes to choosing a partner, smoking also proves to be a big turn off – even for other smokers.Nearly two thirds confirm that smoking makes people look less attractive, with nearly half actually preferring not to kiss a smoker.The NHS estimate that 12,000 gay men die from smoking related diseases every year, vastly more than die from HIV/AIDS.

To help gay smokers in England and Wales kick the habit in time for the June 30th ban, Ben and Ian from NiQuitin have provided these Top 10 tips to quitting smoking.

1. Take one day at a time.

How long do you think you’ll last without a cigarette? Forget about tomorrow and the next day. Keep it immediate – no fags TODAY, that’s it. Your expectations won’t be too high and you’ll be WELL chuffed at the end of each and every day.

2. Increased lung capacity.

SERIOUSLY underrated that fresh air stuff, we found. Every single smoke free day, your lungs are saying cheers. The difference is amazing even after a couple of weeks, your lungs have started to clear.

You’ll notice the difference as soon as you run for a bus or to the bar. Give your body time to clear itself out – it’s the coolest thing in the WORLD that it does.

3. More loose change!

Kerching! Put aside the money you would have spent on cigarettes. Watch it mount up and your smile grow. Then spend it on something that’s a real treat.

The thought that treat came from money you would normally have spent on shortening your life-span should make you smile wider than front row seats at a Kylie concert. We spent it on new cars. OK, so we didn’t save THAT much THAT quickly, but we were thinking of the future…

4. Peer pleasure (or more like friendly support).

Tell your friends you’re quitting and MAKE SURE THEY ARE ON YOUR SIDE – especially the ones that still smoke. They will be there for you. They’ll enjoy some of the funniest ("Oh you ARE a comic genius") jokes known to man at your expense first, but they will get there, some of them might even join you in quitting (one of ours did).

Here’s some tips for the little loves:

– Don’t offer them any fags!
– Understand why they’ve quit. If temptation gets in their way, remind them why they decided to quit
– Take your mate shopping after a week or two. They can buy something nice with the money saved by not smoking. No, not for you…
– Join them in their quit. If not then try not to smoke as much as you would around them
– Answer the phone calls whatever time, they might just need to hear that smoking is NOT the next best thing…

5. Love.

Obviously, your loved ones should be helping here. Ian’s wife didn’t smoke anyway, so that was a good start. The fact that she mentioned that she was inclined to kiss him more often as he no longer tasted like an ashtray, swayed opinion somewhat.

Tell your parents, relatives, girlfriends, boyfriends, the postman and the strange guy at the bus stop. People WILL be there to help you.

6. Friendship – It takes two.

Quitting with a friend is a top of the class idea. The fact that we work together as well as drink and smoke(d) together was a big plus.

It meant that we were there for each other to moan at / shout at / hit at most times – coffee break cigarette, after lunch cigarette, end of the day cigarette, down the pub cigarettes, hanging from the chandelier cigarettes.

On more than one occasion, we phoned or texted each other at stupid hours to offload about our cravings.

7. Throwing ourselves in the deep end?

We threw ourselves in at the deep end. Ian’s main time for smoking was the pub. Any pub. Didn’t matter. Ben wasn’t exactly nonchalant about having a fag down the pub either. The thought of taking away cigarettes was bad.

The thought of taking away the other thing we loved in life was frankly down-right tragic. So on our quit day, we went to the pub after work. We’d read all about the fact that for the first week or so of a quit attempt you should stay away from smoky places.

However, our theory was that we might as well find out early if our willpower was strong enough to take kicking cigarettes. It was. It was one of the hardest nights we’d had. But we egged each other on and talked about the first, second and third things that came into our minds – ANYTHING.

Once we’d got through that, we knew that anything else was going to be a walk in the park. A walk littered with big holes and large obstacles, but nonetheless…

8. Online quitting support with

We followed the 10 week Click2Quit support plan program that was tailored for us and provided us with another outlet of support.

The plan is also clinically proven to increase a smokers chances of stopping smoking* – that’s gotta be alright! Although we had each other to nag, it was great to talk to others about their quitting experiences and good to see we weren’t the only ones who felt like we’d lost a best mate.

The site was full of hints and tips that were invaluable and simply added to what we’re finding out ourselves.

9. Healthy eating.

Fairly tempting to buy the contents of your newsagent’s choccy shelf when you’ve knocked the fags on the head we can tell you. It took a bit of getting used to, but we started by chopping up pieces of carrot and celery every morning and munching our way through them whenever a craving arose.

We swiftly cleared out the supermarket in the surrounding area. Handy really all that veg, because now we can see in the dark and are completely rehydrated…

10. Office support.

There’s a lot to be said for anger management. It’s pretty important that you tell your work colleagues you’re quitting smoking as you MIGHT get a bit of leeway after telling them to stuff their Excel spreadsheet where the sun doesn’t shine around about the mid-morning fag break time. We left NiQuitin Lozenges everywhere. Our desks, Phil’s desk, Al’s desk, Nicky’s desk. Everywhere. Members of the team even started carrying Lozenges FOR us lest we forget them – unlikely, as there were even Lozenges in the toilet at one point. But, if you’re using NiQuitin Lozenges store them EVERYWHERE you are likely to need them (all coats, jeans, bags…) And if you don’t get asked to lunch anymore it might be time to stop screaming at people. NiQuitin Lozenges are a stop smoking aid. Contains nicotine. Requires willpower. Always read the label.

April 30, 2007

Gay rights. Job done?

By Tom Geoghegan , BBC News Magazine
New equality laws mark another major step in protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. Coming after a series of landmark reforms, is the job now done for gay rights campaigners? It is not as photogenic as its predecessor, which was hailed with showers of confetti and kisses on town hall steps. But the Equality Act, coming 16 months after civil partnerships made the headlines, could later be judged as equally significant, at least in its symbolism. It is not a piece of legislation welcomed by all and it was bitterly opposed by parts of the Catholic Church. But it marks the last of a series of major legal reforms which have transformed the treatment of homosexuality by the state.

The Equality Act
bans discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief or sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, the management of premises, education and the exercise of public functions establishes the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to replace existing commissions governing race, disability and equal opportunities
As well as civil partnerships, there has been a lowering of the age of consent and the repeal of Section 28, which prevented councils and schools from intentionally promoting homosexuality.
Although gay rights campaigning is older than we thought – a document discovered last week reveals written protests as early as 1749 – the speed of change in the last 10 years is unprecedented.

And last year Sir Ian McKellen remarked that the EuroPride march, once a strong political statement urging equality, had instead become a "celebration". So does this act mark the end of the road for gay rights campaigning? "It’s one of the final jigsaw pieces to put in place," says Angela Eagle, one of the few openly lesbian MPs. But there are a few reforms required "round the edges", she adds, such as harsher sentences for violence targeting homosexuals and women.

Sexual ‘apartheid’

The journey of the gay rights movement from fringe to political mainstream is neatly reflected by the career of Peter Tatchell, who began protesting in the UK in 1971 and is now preparing to stand as parliamentary candidate for the Green Party. "We’ve overturned nearly all the homophobic legal discrimination in the last decade," he says. "The gay rights movement has been one of the most successful law reform movements of all time." More than 30 years ago, the focus was on police harassment, the medical classification of homosexuality as a disease and pubs that refused to serve gays and lesbians.

Landmark Laws
1999: Ban lifted on serving in Armed Forces
2001: Age of consent made 16
2002: Same-sex couples can adopt
2003: Repeal of Section 28
2005: Civil partnerships
2007: Equality laws

Things have moved quickly since but there’s still plenty to do, says Mr Tatchell, not least fixing the "sexual apartheid" which stops gay people from getting married and heterosexual couples from civil partnerships. Other outstanding issues include addressing injustice for asylum seekers fleeing homophobic persecution and punishing homophobic reggae singers and Muslim clerics who openly advocate the murder of gay people but escape prosecution, he says. But changing the law isn’t everything, he says, because there are still bastions of homophobia such as sport and business.

Michael Cashman MEP, who co-founded Stonewall in 1988 with Ian McKellen and Douglas Slater, says: "Just because we have achieved equality doesn’t mean we pack up and go home." Laws can be changed suddenly, he says, and there is still homophobia within religious organisations and a rising tide of prejudice in eastern Europe. Twenty years ago, Mr Cashman’s on-screen gay kiss as Colin in EastEnders caused a storm and he believes that storyline began the social change which happened alongside the legal reform. And the way the Pride events have become less political as a result is something to celebrate and not regret, he says.

"I think young gay people recognise that if you don’t have time to party, you don’t have time to live. Equality is absolutely about getting on with your life and the difference being taken out of the equation. What I love about Pride is seeing our Armed Forces and our police and fire service and ambulance service marching in their uniform, feeling proud and not feeling under threat."

"There’s a creeping apathy and complacency within the lesbian and gay community " Peter Tatchell

But Mr Tatchell says young gay people should be more aware of the battles of the past. "Since most of the institutional homophobia has been overturned, there’s a creeping apathy and complacency within the lesbian and gay community. Most people no longer see the need to campaign. They take all the recent recognition for granted and assume that the battle for equality is over."

Ian Burford and Alex Cannell, partners for 45 years, remember the time when attending a gay pub could provoke a police raid and arrest. "We were criminals and anyone eminent was open to blackmail," says Ian, 74. "But we were lucky our circle of friends were tolerant people living in a city."


They were the first couple to sign the London Partnerships Register in 2001 and say the speed of change has surprised them. But novelist Jake Arnott, creator of iconic gay gangster Harry Sparks in The Long Firm, hopes the legal reform is just the beginning.

"In the 70s there was a much stronger notion of liberation. It’s good there’s a sense of a level playing field but I think what needs to happen is a sort of return to that idea that there needs to be a whole sense of liberation about sexuality and gender. The problem is that it [this act] means everything is parcelled up and everyone gets their own slice of things, but there’s still a huge problem in the way people express themselves or are allowed to express themselves in their emotional and sexual lives."

A selection of your comments appears below.

Clearly as many of the responses have shown, whilst laws have moved on, many peoples outdated attitudes have not. As wonderful as legal equality is, this does not necessarily transmit to everyday queer experiences. If we look at attitudes towards homosexuality (and transgenderism) in our schools we see how little attitudes towards queer people have really moved on. Moreover covert heterosexism that is the staple of most work environments makes the reality of that ‘equality’ hard to accept. Legal equality is great, now lets have social equality.
Debbie Clements, Manchester

The greatest tragedy is that since we’ve gained more equality in the UK, the concept of the political gay pride movement has died out. Try taking your civil partnership certificate outside Europe and see how equal you are. There are gay people in the world whose relationships are illegal, as they were here 40 years ago. We need gay pride marches which demand worldwide equality, not parades of drag queens. Whatever happened to campaigning?
Steve, Coventry, UK

Look at the picture globally and tell me the job is done!! There are many, many countries where a woman doesn’t even have a voice, let alone a vote or the ‘right’ to be gay. we are born as we are there are many , many who still wake up afraid.
R Orson

If I still get people yelling anti-gay abuse at me when I walk past my local pub, how can the job be done for gay rights campaigners? If you’re straight you never get heterophobic abuse thrown at you – in that respect, you will always be "more equal".
Jon, London UK

Why is everyone who is against the practice of homosexuality called ‘homophobic’? The dictionary defines a phobia as: ‘a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it’. I’m against the practice of homosexuality, but I’m not afraid of gays or lesbians – I treat them with the same respect as everyone else. I just don’t agree with their lifestyle. Please don’t apply words that are not true or correct. My last boss of four years was a gay man and we got on fine and worked very well together – I just didn’t agree with his lifestyle.
Leo Donaghy , London

No, everything isn’t done. The comments from Leo Donaghy prove it.. the use of the words practice and lifestyle are deeply offensive… look up the term practice and tell me that relates to day-to-day life as a gay or lesbian living in the 21st Century.. This government and the EU have done some amazing things to repeal laws that discriminated against gay and lesbian people living in Britain but until people understand you don’t practise, choose to be gay or live it as a lifestyle, the battle is not over. As for getting on well with us but not agreeing with our lifestyle, aren’t we a lucky bunch?!
Justin, Greenwich, London

I think as far as gay marriages go, the job has indeed been done. Gay people can obtain the same rights as a married couple which I think was one of the major reasons for it being introduced. I don’t really see what else there is to achieve with this issue apart from perhaps religious ceremonies allowing gay marriage but that can only be down to the church’s discretion.
Andrew Harvey, Portsmouth

Life’s a lot better for gay people, agreed. But the UK is only one country and we don’t have to go too far to find open discrimination or worse. And how can it be offensive to children seeing two people kissing whilst there are children being exposed daily to bombs, murder, rape, starvation and 100 other horrible things and all you have to do is watch the news to see it? The only sick thing here is this obsession some adults have of who falls in love with whom and who has sex with whom.
Michael, Glasgow

The majority of insurers will require gay men to take an HIV test, when sexuality is disclosed on life insurance applications. Outrageous! As Angela Eagle says, there are still lots of bits-and-pieces that need to be done. Three cheers for the Labour government remaining true to its socially liberal traditions and encouraging – even enforcing – equality.
Chris, Worcester

Having read the bill, I think the legislation passed is sound. Changing the law doesn’t change attitudes though. Even living in such a socio-liberal city as Brighton there are areas we don’t feel safe in at night. This doesn’t apply just to gay people however, it applies to all those who could be deemed different. Until our children, and indeed some of us who are much older (who can be conditioned by prejudice) are taught (at home and at school) that there are good folk and bad folk and no other factors for assessment, we cannot truly move forward
Reuben Fennell, Brighton

Whilst I support gay equality perhaps it is now time to stop all the hassle and complaints. They don’t have to be "more equal" than others now do they?
Oli, Edinburgh

We have certainly made strides, leaps and bounds over the last 10 years towards full equality, and I for one will always be grateful to this Labour government. But until gay people can get married like straight people then we will remain unequal in the law. Meanwhile the battles against homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools and colleges continue, and here we have such a long way to go.
David Holder-Twomlow, Birmingham UK

I am old fashioned. I believe in Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. However, I appreciate people have their rights, no matter how odd they appear in my eyes. But I also think this is another example of the state bowing to the wishes of a noisy and aggressive minority. At the same time, how about a promotion of values which research has shown would improve society? Marriage, family, etc. They do this in the States and records show an improvement on un-wanted pregnancies and also divorce rates have dropped. Isn’t this the sort of society we want as well?
Anon, Cheshire

The past 10 years have been amazing, and I am now in a civil partnership which is recognised by the law. But being gay is just as unremarkable as being straight. No issue can be constantly in the headlines, but the ubiquity of gay people and the everyday lives they are seen to lead feeds the growing acceptance by the general public. Yes, there are zealots out there who will always hate us, but the law is now on our side to protect us.
Tim, North Yorkshire

As a transplanted Brit living in the USA, I commend the UK for taking the bold steps to grant some degree of equality to its gay and lesbian citizens. However, until civil partnerships are accorded legal marriage recognition. They are a step in the right direction, but anyone who truly believes in equality should not settle for second best. Why would anyone want to settle for second-class citizenship which is what civil partnerships are all about, separate but "equal"?? The UK should have followed the lead of Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada and S. Africa, the only countries that believe in true democracy and equality for all.
Robert W. Pierce, New York, USA

Please do not make the mistake of assuming that we all approve of gay rights, or even the legalisation of homosexuality for under-21s. In particular, the picture of two men kissing is particularly offensive to many people, especially on a website read by children.
Clothilde Simon, Leeds

I myself am straight, but have no problem accepting homosexuals. It is this ‘fear’ of various things that provokes all the gun crime and other things that the government is desperate to eradicate. Do you think the various black gangs would carry guns if they were not being discriminated against? I think that this is the best thing that has happened in a long time for homosexual couples everywhere. And as for people who feel that the picture of two gay men kissing will offend and ’emotionally scar’ children, are you simply saying that the act of showing love between to people will scar children? Hardly, as many people argue that the lack of affection being shown around children is what leads to the yob culture.
A Cousins, Bath

I don’t like the way ‘religious homophobia’ is mentioned in every one of these debates. Established and moderate religious organisations in this country are not ‘phobic’ of gay people – ie. they don’t condone abuse against something they feel threatened by. It’s just as much the right of the religious to simply incorporate a disapproval for homosexual acts into their practices as it is for gay people to be allowed to carry out homosexual acts.

It’s a bit like being black. You can be told that it’s ok to be black although it never changes that you are…black, but what is relevant is how you are treated within society which cannot be legislated. People will always have their fears, misconceptions and prejudices. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit mine as a gay black male. I think we have a way to go as it relates to empathy for those who are different from us or hold different beliefs. I feel human rights is a more comprehensive goal for all people not just one group, although if it happens one group at a time, so much the better than not at all.
Kevin Spellman, London, UK

Whilst I wish gay couples no harm, I really do think this has been done to death. After all gay and living sexually with the same sex is not normal or they would be just one sex, it is a fact that men and women mate to reproduce same sex cannot for just this reason. But let’s give it a rest now and not shout it from the roof tops.
Marina Dormer, Croydon

Marina, as a straight man I can assure you I have never mated to reproduce. Observing human and primate interaction shows that sex quite clearly isn’t for the sole purpose of reproduction.
Craig, London

Ms Dormer remarks – ‘it is a fact that men and women mate to reproduce’. I assume she herself only engages in such acts when she is attempting to become pregnant then.
KL, London

I fully understand the need behind legislation to promote the rights of our community for all. If two people are paying for a house it’s only right that they should own half each, or whatever proportion equivalent to their input. That’s not gay/straight/race rights, that’s just plain fairness. My one thought is that in light of the recent raft of legislation, if gay activists keep up the same rate of public pressure, opinions will start to reverse in society itself. The legislation might be in place but public attitudes will regress, akin to the charity giving fatigue. The public, that includes the non-activist gays, will get tired. I’m a straight man and I can bet you I won’t get a fair deal in a divorce court. Legislation never gets it all right. Ps. I still think that any man who fights for the right to get married is of his head 😉
Actvj, Glasgow

This is fantastic news for the gay community, it’s another step in the right direction but we’re still not totally there. For example gay men are still not allowed to give blood, is this not one of the most blatant discriminations of gay men ?
S.Hedgley, Belfast

1st May 2007

Five suspected dealers charged after raid on Fire

by writer
Five people have appeared in court on drugs charges following a raid by police on the gay nightclub Fire in the early hours of Saturday morning. 57 charges of supplying and possessing Class A drugs were laid before Camberwell Magistrates Court yesterday. Officers with a search warrant raided the club in Vauxhall at 2:15 am on Saturday. Suspects were held in a central London police station. Nine people were arrested in the raid, which followed a three-month long intelligence-led operation into Class A drugs, codenamed Pivot.

The South London Press reports that the five accused are: Fulvio Bertoldi, 29, of Urlwin Walk, Stockwell; Antonio Carlo Lima, 38, of Sussex Gardens, Paddington; Nourredine Goumiri, 37, of the Peabody Estate, Camberwell; Karim Mohamed Abselam, 25, of Hendre Road, Eltham; and Muah Heng, 39, of Trafalgar Avenue, Peckham. Witnesses claim hundreds of police were involved in the raid. There has been criticism of the police for taking photographs of clubbers but not taking their names.

Chief Inspector Clive Wakeley, who is responsible for operation Pivot said:

"This type of operation shows our commitment to stopping those who push drugs on the borough. The intelligence that we received led us to mount this operation. Our work will continue not only to crackdown on drug dealing but on all crime to make Lambeth a safer place for all those who live, work and visit." Fire, which hosts A:M (taking place during the raid), Orange, Juicy and Rudeboyz, was temporarily shut down under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It will re-open on 21st May.

1st May 2007

44% of HIV+ men in London undiagnosed

by Amy Bourke
More than one in three HIV positive gay men say they have unprotected sex, a survey reveals. The surveys were carried out at 90 gay bars, clubs and saunas in London, Manchester and Brighton. Over 2,000 men provided saliva samples. Of these, one in three of the men with HIV did not know they had the virus. The figure was much higher in London, where 44% of HIV positive men were undiagnosed. Over 37% of HIV positive men have had unprotected sex with more than one partner in the past year, says the survey in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. And figures show that almost one in five men without HIV do the same.

Will Nutland, Head of Health Promotion at Terrence Higgins Trust said: "Although the number of HIV positive gay men having unprotected sex appears high, it’s important to look behind the headlines. "The Gay Men’s Sex Survey shows that these men are more likely to have unprotected sex with other HIV positive men, rather than with those who don’t have the virus. He added: "The new research also backs up other evidence which demonstrates the need for ongoing, targeted HIV prevention work with gay and bisexual men in the UK."

The rate of HIV infection was highest in Brighton, at almost 14%, and lowest in Manchester at 8.6%. Mr Nutland said: "The number of gay men with undiagnosed HIV infection is not reducing. Large numbers, especially in the UK’s major cities, have HIV and don’t know it." This was despite the fact that over two thirds of these men said they had been to a sexual health clinic within the past year.

17th May 2007

Dawn raids target gay bashers

by writer
A series of raids by police across London has led to the arrest of 32 people suspected of a range of hate crimes. The Metropolitan Police said the operation, which involved over 200 officers, might encourage victims of such crimes to report them. Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, of the Met’s Violent Crime Directorate, said: "Last year we arrested and held to account more hate crime perpetrators than ever.

"We need the help and support of LGBT people and other hate crime victims through the reporting of hate crime incidents, as victims or witnesses, to enable us to identify, arrest, prosecute and take on even more hate crime perpetrators." People suspected of domestic and racist were also targeted in the raids.

On Tuesday a report by the independent Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Group (LGBT IAG) found that police detectives investigating murders and violent crimes in the gay community influenced by institutional homophobia. The report looked at 10 homophobic murders between 1990 and 2002, including five murders by serial killer Colin Ireland. Four of the cases investigated remain unsolved.

The review found that many investigations were marred by lack of knowledge, reliance on stereotypes and prejudice by police. It claims that although the situation at Scotland Yard has improved since the 1990s, more still needs to be done. The report says: "If we borrow the terminology of the Macpherson report, historical police practice amounted to ‘institutional’ homophobia and transphobia. "There were several investigations where we have deep reservations about the way in which the identity of the victim informed investigative decisions at the time. We also found evidence of inappropriate attitudes to the circumstances of some murders."

The Macpherson report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1997 labelled the police "institutionally racist" and led to an overhaul of police procedure, including the way ethnic minorities are recruited. The LGBT IAG suggested that better intelligence is needed to keep track of violent homophobes. The report advises that the gay community should better warned when police consider certain areas to be dangerous, and that there is a need for more cohesion in the way the police deal with the gay community.

The New York Times

May 20, 2007

Shoreditch, London–Where the Club Boys Are By Aric Chen

IT was Friday night, and a petite writer named Caroline was the only woman in sight at the Joiner’s Arms, a crowded bar in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch that was recently immortalized in a song by the band Bloc Party. But that’s not to say she was the only person in a dress. “Ten years ago, the only regulars here were a three-legged dog and a one-armed man playing pool,” said Caroline, who did not want her last name used, screaming over a song by the British pop star Mika. “But now, it’s fashion designers, filmmakers, artists — ”

“ — Caroline!” said Nikos Nicholaou, a co-founder of the cult sneaker label Acupuncture. He lifted his T-shirt and spun around. “I just got a tattoo on my back!” “See?” she continued. “Now you run into everyone.”

Soho and Vauxhall may be the heart of London’s “Queer as Folk”-watching, muscle-boy scene. But Shoreditch — fueled by the creative energy of the city’s East End — has emerged as a grittier, fashion-forward and often outrageous hotbed of gay night life.

The epicenter is the George and Dragon (2-4 Hackney Road; 44-20-7012-1100;, a topsy-turvy pub where an animatronic horse head shares wall space with cowboy hats and a sequined guitar. Boy George and Butt magazine, the risqué quarterly, have been hosts to events there. The fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Hedi Slimane have been known to drop by, too. Indeed, the pub has become such a subcultural phenomenon that in 2005 it was recreated in the galleries of London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts.

“But there are fewer trannies here than there used to be,” said Ian Stallard, half of the hot London design duo Fredrikson Stallard. He was at the bar with his partner, Patrik Fredrikson, and Richard Sorger, an edgy-glam fashion designer. That’s because the drag queens were over at On the Rocks (25 Kingsland Road), which has a steamy Friday night party called Trailer Trash (, where you’ll find aggressively asymmetric haircuts and new New Romantics bobbing to electro disco music.

For even more extreme looks and freak-show antics, head to Foreign, a new Saturday night party at Bar Music Hall (134-146 Curtain Road, 44-20-7613-5951), or, on Sunday night, the fashionable club-of-the-moment, BoomBox (Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, 2-4 Hoxton Square, 44-20-7613 0709).

Meanwhile, this spring and summer, Wednesdays belong to Bistrotheque (23-27 Wadeson Street, 44-208-983-7900;, an ultrahip restaurant and cabaret that has resurrected Tranny Talent, a gender-bending show presided over by Jonny Woo, a drag performer with a fondness for body paint, tar-and-feathering and pyrotechnics.

Mr. Woo, whose real name is Jonathan Wooster, might be considered Shoreditch’s ringmaster. That was the impression, anyway, when he made a cameo at the Joiner’s Arms (116-118 Hackney Road), looking unusually toned-down in a red scarf and black trench coat with astrakhan collar. Having lain low for most of the winter, Mr. Woo was staging a comeback. In addition to Tranny Talent, he has revived his naughty Gay Bingo night, on the third Sunday of each month, at Corbet Place (Ely’s Yard at 15 Hanbury Street, 44-20-7770-6028). “It’s great fun,” he said. “I’m always naked by the end.”

New York Times

May 21, 2007

Gay Britons Serve in Military With Little Fuss, as Predicted Discord Does Not Occur

by Sarah Lyall
London, May 20 – The officer, a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, felt he had no choice. So he stood up in front of his squad of 30 to 40 people.
“I said, ‘Right, I’ve got something to tell you,’ ” he said. “ ‘I believe that for us to be able to work closely together and have faith in each other, we have to be honest and open and frank. And it has to be a two-way process, and it starts with me baring my soul. You may have heard some rumors, and yes, I have a long-term partner who is a he, not a she.’ ” Far from causing problems, he said, he found that coming out to his troops actually increased the unit’s strength and cohesion. He had felt uneasy keeping the secret “that their boss was a poof,” as he put it, from people he worked with so closely.

Since the British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of its fears — about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness — have come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue. The Ministry of Defense does not compile figures on how many gay men and lesbians are openly serving, and it says that the number of people who have come out publicly in the past seven years is still relatively low. But it is clearly proud of how smoothly homosexuals have been integrated and is trying to make life easier for them.

“What we’re hoping to do is to, over a period of time, reinforce the message that people who are gay, lesbian and the like are welcomed in the armed forces and we don’t discriminate against them in any way,” a Defense Ministry official said in an interview, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with the ministry’s practice. Nonetheless, the issue is extremely delicate now. The military does not want to be seen bragging about the success of its policy when the issue can still cause so much anguished debate in the United States. This is particularly true in light of tensions between the allies after a British coroner ruled in March that a British soldier who died four years ago was unlawfully killed by an American pilot. For this article, the Defense Ministry refused to give permission for any member of the forces to be interviewed, either on or off the record. Those who spoke did so before the ministry made its position clear.

“We’re not looking to have quotes taken out of context in a way to imply that we’re trying to influence the debate in the United States,” the British official said. “There are some sensitivities over the timing of this. We have had communications from our counterparts in the United States, and they have asked us questions about how we’ve handled it and how it’s gone on the ground. There does seem to be some debate going on over how long the current policy will be sustainable.” The debate in the United States was rekindled in March when Gen. Peter Pace, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the country’s top-ranking military official, told The Chicago Tribune that he believed that homosexuality was immoral.

In January, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who until his retirement in 1997 held the same post in the Clinton years, when the Pentagon adopted its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, said in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times that he now believed that the military was ready to accept gay men and lesbians. A military already stretched thin, he said, “must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.”

At least 24 countries — many of them allies of the United States, and some of them members of the coalition forces fighting alongside Americans — now allow gay soldiers to serve openly in their armed forces. It is hard to avoid comparing the British and American systems, gay soldiers in the British forces say. One major, an openly gay liaison officer in the British Territorial Army, told of an exchange he had in the southern Iraq city of Basra with an American staff sergeant, far from home and eager to confide.

“He privately let me know he was gay,” the major said in an interview. “Not in a romantic way, but in a matter-of-fact way. He found it difficult, because he clearly had a whole part of his private life that he had to keep separate and distinct and couldn’t discuss with people. He was in his mid-30s, with no girlfriend and no wife, and he had to use all these white lies.”

Some Britons said they could not understand why the United States had not changed its policy.

“I find it strange, coming from the land of the free and freedom of speech and democracy, given the changes in the world attitude,” said the gay squadron leader, who recently returned from Afghanistan. “It’s just not the issue it used to be.” Until its policy changed, the British military had deep misgivings about allowing homosexuals to serve openly in its armed forces. But it had no choice. It was forced to by a European court, which ruled that its policy of excluding homosexuals violated the European Convention on Human Rights. “There was a lot of apprehension among some senior personnel that there would be an increase in things like bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and some of them were almost predicting that the world was going to come to an end,” the Defense Ministry official said.

Similar concerns were raised when, bowing to national antidiscrimination laws, the military began allowing gay personnel who had registered for civil partnerships to live in military housing with their same-sex partners. “But all the problems the services thought were going to come to pass really haven’t materialized,” the official said. To the extent it becomes an issue, it is usually within the context of the relentlessly rough give-and-take that characterizes military life, particularly at the lower ranks, said Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has studied the British experience.

“The military is a proving ground, and the first thing people do is find your weakness and exploit it,” Mr. Frank said in an e-mail interview. “If you’re gay, that’s your weakness, and guys will latch on to that. But frequently this is no more significant a weakness than any other based on your accent, body type, race, religion, etc.” The British military actively recruits gay men and lesbians and punishes any instance of intolerance or bullying. The Royal Navy advertises for recruits in gay magazines and has allowed gay sailors to hold civil partnership ceremonies on board ships and, last summer, to march in full naval uniform at a gay pride rally in London. (British Army and Royal Air Force personnel could march but had to wear civilian clothes.) Speaking at a conference sponsored by the gay advocacy group Stonewall last year, Vice Adm. Adrian Johns, the second sea lord, said that homosexuals had always served in the military but in the past had had to do it secretly.

“That’s an unhealthy way to be, to try and keep a secret life in the armed services,” said Admiral Johns, who as the Royal Navy’s principal personnel officer is responsible for about 39,000 sailors. His speech was titled “Reaping the Rewards of a Gay-Friendly Workplace. Those individuals need nurturing, so that they give of their best and are, in turn, rewarded for their effort,” he said of the Royal Navy’s gay men and lesbians. “Nurture includes the freedom to be themselves. Our mission is to break down barriers of discrimination, prejudice, fear and misunderstanding.”

Once the news is out there, the gay Royal Air Force squadron leader said, the issue gets subsumed by the job at hand and by the relentless immediacy of war. At one point, his squad was working with a British Army unit. “I wouldn’t go into a briefing room and face them and say, ‘By the way, I’m gay,’ ” he said of his British Army counterparts. “Frankly, I don’t think they were worried, because we were all focused on doing a very, very hard job.” He recalled something his commander had said, when advising him to come out to his squad: “The boss said, ‘I think you will be surprised that in this day and age it will be a complete anticlimax, because as far as I’m concerned, homosexuals in the military are yesterday’s news.’ ”

21st May 2007

Survey reveals extent of homophobia at work

by writer
A poll of more than 2,000 people across the UK has found that while nine of ten of them support laws protecting LGB people in the workplace, homophobia is rife. The Stonewall survey, conducted by YouGov, found that one in six people in the UK had witnessed verbal or physical bullying of gay people at work. Since 2003, LGB people have been protected against harassment in the workplace by legislation, but there have been relatively few tribunals brought in the last four years. In July last year Jonah Ditton was awarded £1033 in lost wages by an employment tribunal in Glasgow.

Mr Ditton said that he suffered 8 days of humiliation before he was finally fired by CP Publishing, who produce entertainment guides. He told the tribunal that he had not mentioned that he was gay at his interview with the publishing company, because he felt that he would be less likely to get the £25, 000 a year job. Yet once he started work at the Glasgow firm, he said that he felt his sexuality immediately became an issue. The tribunal ruled that director Warren Paul created a "degrading, humiliating and offensive environment" for Mr Ditton.

The former police officer allegedly threatened to send “some police friends to visit” if Mr Ditton contacted the office again after he had been fired for being “psychologically unbalanced”. The tribunal found CP Publishing guilty of harassment and a breach of equality laws, and said that it was "understandable" that Mr Ditton was "appalled and upset" by the discrimination and abuse that he had experienced. Alan Wardle, Stonewall’s director of public affairs, said: "We need strong messages from managers that homophobia will not be tolerated."

The full details of the survey of attitudes in the UK towards LGB people will be published later this week.

24th May 2007 13:00

Trans mayor and mayoress take office in Cambridge

by writer
A woman who has transitioned sex has been elected to the largely ceremonial role of Mayor of Cambridge. Jenny Bailey, 45, is a Liberal Democrat councillor. She chose her partner Jennifer Liddle, 49, who also underwent gender reassignment surgery, to serve as Mayoress. The couple have both served as councillors on Cambridge City Council. Ms Bailey is the first transgender mayor in the UK. She took up office today. She has served continuously on the Council since 2002 when she was elected to represent East Chesterton ward. She was appointed Executive Councillor for Planning and Transportation in 2004, a post she held until May 2006 when she became Deputy Mayor. Her career background is in radio engineering and she worked for Pye Telecom which later became part of Philips. She has subsequently worked as a telecommunications engineer for a number of companies many of which have been based in Cambridge. She was proposed as Mayor at the annual meeting by her fellow ward councillor, Cllr Marian Holness.

The nomination was be seconded by Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Labour Group. Jenny said: "I entered local politics because I believe in public service and because I wanted to make a contribution to the wonderful city we live in.

"I am honoured that my fellow councillors have now chosen me to be Mayor. I want my mayoral year to be about celebrating the unsung heroes of our city. There are many of them." Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: "I am looking forward to supporting Jenny as she takes the leading role in Cambridge’s civic life for the coming year.

"Jenny has fulfilled the role of Deputy Mayor in the past year with great distinction and we already know that she will make a really great Mayor." So many more things define me than being transgender, a medical condition I had 15 years ago which I have now recovered from," she told the Daily Mail. "I’m proud that I managed to get through something which was quite difficult and managed to come out of it a better person. I certainly do not want it to eclipse being mayor."

She had previously been married and had two sons, now aged 18 and 20. Her sons share a home with her and Ms Liddle, who stood down from the council at the elections earlier this month. Her former wife spoke of her pride at Ms Bailey’s election:

"She is a totally selfless person who wants to help others and make a positive impact on the community," she told the Mail. "I think she will make an excellent mayor."

May 27, 2007

Tatchell and Right Said Fred star battered by anti-gay thugs in Moscow

Police stood and watched as two British gay rights campaigners were kicked and punched by neo-Nazis at a demonstration in Moscow. Former politician Peter Tatchell and pop singer Richard Fairbrass had travelled to the city to join a protest demanding the right to hold a Gay Pride parade there. Mr Fairbrass, 53, the Right Said Fred singer, was being interviewed on TV during the Moscow march when an anti-gay activist, dressed all in black, surged forward and began raining blows on his head and punched him full in the face. The attack left him with blood dripping from cuts around his eyes and nose. Mr Tatchell, 55, was repeatedly beaten and kicked before being taken away by two riot policemen.

In an unrelated incident, a senior British diplomat was also beaten up during a midnight walk in a remote Siberian city. Nigel Gould-Davies, first secretary at the British embassy in Moscow, was attacked while on his way to a nightclub and restaurant complex in Chita, some 3,760 miles east of Moscow, said Russian police. He was treated in hospital for facial injuries after being attacked by two unidentified men and was able to return to Moscow yesterday. As many as 30 other gay rights protesters were also detained at the Moscow march. They included two European parliamentarians trying to present a petition asking Mayor Yuri Luzhkov – who has called gay marches Satanic acts – to lift a ban on the parade.

Nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox anti-gay protesters held icons and denounced homosexuality as "evil". Others wore surgeon’s masks, which they said would protect them from the "gay disease". Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 but tolerance is not widespread.

"We believe these perverts should not be allowed to march on the streets of Moscow," said Igor Miroshnichenko, who said he was an Orthodox believer who had come to support the riot police. "Homosexuality is Satanic." Mr Tatchell, once a Labour parliamentary candidate, revealed last September that he received 20 death threats in the street, on the telephone or by e-mail after declaring war on reggae musicians who advocate the killing of homosexuals. Mr Tatchell, who is also a committed human rights campaigner, also attempted to make a citizen’s arrest on Robert Mugabe outside Harrods in 2003. Every window in his London home has been smashed, and he is said to sleep with a bucket of water next to the bed in case he is firebombed.

15th June 2007

Gay switchboard’s Royal recognition

by Seth Ewin
London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard (LLGS) has been recognised for its 33-year commitment to the LGBT community with the 2007 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. It is the only LGBT organisation to be honoured this way in 2007 and is only the second since the award was set up. LGBT helpline Oxford Friend won the award last year.
LLGS, the UK’s biggest helpline dealing with LGBT issues, received the award in recognition of its history of providing confidential and non-judgemental listening, support, information and referrals for people across the UK.

"We are delighted to be chosen for the Queen’s Award." said Steve Wilkinson, co-chair of London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. "Since our inception in March 1974, we’ve provided a vital service for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, as well as their friends and families. Receiving this accolade is a recognition of our volunteers’ hard work and our ongoing place in the LGBT community." The award also recognises the work that LLGS has been doing on the Turing Project, a network to share information with other gay organisations across the country.

The Turing Project website at provides a web-based database of venues, organisation and services for the LGBT community. The award began in 2002 to mark The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and emphasises the importance of continuing recognition of voluntary and community work. There were 71 winners in 2007. Winning groups receive a certificate signed by The Queen and a commemorative piece of crystal for display at the group’s main place of operation. The Awards are presented on behalf of The Queen by the local Lord-Lieutenant or Lieutenant-Governor.

17th September 2007

Play about homophobia to tour schools

by Tony Grew
Gay equality organisation Stonewall has teamed up with a well-known writer/director to raise awareness of the problem of homophobic bulling in schools. Fit, a new play aimed at tackling the problem and raising awareness amongst young people, is set to begin a tour of schools and theatres across the country. Co-produced by Stonewall and queerupnorth international festival,Fit is written and directed by acclaimed writer/director Rikki Beadle-Blair, whose credits include Bashment at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Stonewall for BBC Films and Metrosexuality for Channel 4.

Earlier this year research published by Stonewall found that almost two thirds (65%) of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils had experienced homophobic bullying in schools. The survey, entitled The School Report, also found that 97% of young gay people had heard insulting homophobic language used in schools and half did not feel comfortable to be open about their sexual orientation. 30% of pupils reported that it was the adults in their schools who were carrying out the bullying. Fit has been created with pupils aged between 11-14 years (Key Stage 3) in mind and is designed to meet National Curriculum Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship requirements.

Chris Gibbons, Stonewall’s senior education officer, said:

"Fit is a fun and energetic play which provides an intelligent and thought-provoking exploration of the homophobic bullying that causes misery for thousands of children in schools across Britain. We hope that Fit will give teachers the tools to address this serious issue with their pupils and would encourage them to book a performance for their school."

Set against the background of a college trip to a dance contest, Fit aims to engage and entertain young people and adults alike with its use of snappy dialogue, comedy, energetic hip-hop dance and original music. Fit has been supported by JP Morgan, Arts Council England and John Lyon’s Charity. The show will be performed in selected schools, theatres and gay arts festivals across Manchester, London, Bournemouth, Glasgow and Liverpool from September until December.

Schools who would like to host a performance of Fit can do so by contacting Jonathan Best or Adam Pushkin on 0161 234 2942 or by emailing

21st September 2007

Politicians welcome homophobic bullying guidance

by writer
The three main political parties in the UK have welcomed today’s publication by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) of groundbreaking new guidance for teachers on homophobic bullying in schools. The pioneering guidance, commissioned from gay equality organisation Stonewall by the DCSF, provides school governors, heads, teachers and other staff with practical information about how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying.

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, said: "Homophobic insults should be viewed as seriously as racism. Even casual use of homophobic language in schools can create an atmosphere that isolates young people and can be the forerunner of more serious forms of bullying."

Michael Gove, Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families committed his party to helping the government beat bullying. He told "There should be zero tolerance of bullying in schools. Homophobic and racial bullying is particularly despicable as it is the combination of prejudice and victimisation which is toxic. Teachers need stronger powers to deal with this menace. We will do all we can to help the government beat this. We will give heads absolute powers to exclude the worst offenders. We hope these proposals will be adopted as all bullying is unacceptable."

Liberal Democrat MP and spokesperson on education Stephen Williams has highlighted the issue of homophobic bullying on many occasions. At this week’s Lib Dem party conference his proposal that "bullying mentors" in each school should be introduced to help deal with the consequences of bullying was overwhelmingly approved. "These guidelines are welcome and long overdue," he told "It is essential that they are taken on board by every school and as long as they are followed to the letter they will make a huge difference to the lives of thousand of young gay men and women."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said the organisation was proud to have been commissioned by the DCSF to produce the guidance for schools. "The life chances of children bullied at school are often permanently diminished," he said. "This tool represents an essential and much welcome step forward in the development of joined-up thinking that will help schools and teachers address all forms of bullying effectively."

21st September 2007

British teams fly the flag at gay World Cup

by Georgina Roberts
This weekend four British football clubs will head to the 2007 International Gay and Lesbian Football Association World Soccer Championship in Argentina. It is the first time Latin American country has hosted the event.
British teams Stonewall FC and Village Manchester will play in the competitive league while the two London rivals, Leftfooters and London Titans, will compete in the recreational division.

Chris Basiurski, the Football Association Liaison and Campaigns Officer for the Gay Football Supporters Network and defender for Leftfooters, told "We are very excited about taking part in a tournament for the first time in Argentina. We are looking forward to meeting many new people from across the world and reacquainting ourselves with old friends from previous tournaments. We know that Argentina will be fantastic hosts. As the only South American country where civil partnerships are permitted, it is fitting that the tournament be held there this year."

The tournament at Buenos Aires’ Sarmiento Park, hosted by the Argentina Soccer Association, kicks off with a ceremony at Amerika disco on Sunday 23 September. The final takes place a week later on Saturday 29. The annual tournament, which has been running for 16 years, will be coming to London next year, hosted by the Leftfooters FC. The teams will play in Regents Park for the 2008 title. The event will be supported by the FA, following the launch of the Football For All Campaign, which aims to stamp out homophobia in the sport.

Mr Basiurski commented: "We are greatly looking forward to welcoming everyone to London next year, for what we believe will be the biggest gay sporting event ever held in the UK. It will be a chance to build on the strength of this year’s tournament to ensure that we continue to promote the participation of gay men and women in football within a safe and tolerant environment."