Gay UK News & Reports 2000-02

1 Gay Age of Consent (16) bill to become law 11/00

2 Britain to legalize gay sex in Caribbean colonies 11/00

3 Gays in the British Military: Ask, Tell and Then Move On 2/01

4 Gay consent case is finally settled 3/01

5 Straights and gays take to same lifestyle 5/01

6 Homosexuality is divinely ordered, says catechism 6/01

7 British Gay Muslims Denounce Fatwa 7/01

8 Study: "Wellbeing of gay, lesbian, and bisexual doctors" 2/01

9 Couple use first gay partners register 8/01

10 Gay forum to advise Welsh Assembly 8/01

11 Widespread bias against gays in Northern Ireland (UK) 8/01

12 Armed forces are set to give spouse rights to gay partners 8/01

13 Gays More Than Lesbians Believe They Were Born Homosexual 11/01

14 Obituary: Sheila Farmer (1919-2001) defender of Wilde’s lover 12/01

15 Gay sex law that convicted Wilde will be overturned 1/02

16 Northern Ireland: The Good Friday Agreement and Gays 1/02

17 Northern Ireland: Irish, Queer and Equal? 1/02

18 Don’t tell me who I am: Interview with Scottish black lesbian poet 1/02

19 Yes, Ministers Partnership Bill deserves support (editorial) 1/02

20 Britons less homophic than a decade ago says survey 2/02

21 Gay MPs Get Pension Rights 2/02

22 Family victory for Scottish lesbian couple 4/02

23 Transsexuals ‘win right to marry in England’ 12/02

BBC Online News, (

November 24, 2000

Gay consent bill to become law

The controversial bill to lower the gay age of consent from 18 to 16 is to become law next week. The government is to steamroll the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill onto the statute books by invoking the Parliament Act. The law will make it legal for 16 and 17 year-olds to have anal sex. The Bill has been thrown out of the Lords on three occasions and opponents have reacted angrily to the news that it is to become law. The government’s decision means MPs will not be asked to vote on amendments to the Bill put forward by peers last week.

Former Tory minister Baroness Young, who spearheaded the successful defence of Section 28 banning the intentional "promotion" of homosexuality by councils in England and Wales, expressed concern at the decision. "This is a matter of great concern to a lot of people in this House, in the Commons and outside. This is a very serious issue," she said. ‘Fundamental incompatibility’ Leader of the Lords, Baroness Jay of Paddington said the government had made the decision on the grounds that the issue had been discussed enough.

"I think that that decision has been made on the basis that, clearly, this is a subject that has been discussed very much regularly between the two Houses — I believe, on three separate occasions." She said discussions on different versions of the Bill had totalled 48 hours. Lady Jay added: "The Government have taken the view that there has been very ample opportunity for the discussion of these issues in both Houses, and what seems to have been demonstrated is a fundamental incompatibility. "The position, as is always the case, is that the elected House must be pre-eminent." ‘Indignation across the country’

Former Tory Lords leader Lord Waddington attacked the decision. "Do you not realise the indignation that will be felt in the country that the Parliament Acts should be used to railroad through a Bill that does nothing to help young people but merely grants a licence to older people to abuse them?" Many peers criticised the decision to put the Bill on the statute books before MPs had been given an opportunity to consider the Lords’ amendments. But Lady Jay said a lack of parliamentary time meant the Commons was not in a position to examine peers’ amendments. However, she added that Home Secretary Jack Straw would allow "some of the considerations" that had been raised in Lords’ amendments to be incorporated in the legislation.

The Independent, London, England (

12 November 2000

Britain to legalise gay sex in Caribbean colonies

by Jo Dillon, Political Correspondent
Britain is set to enrage its Caribbean territories by forcing through legal changes decriminalising gay sex. Following a year-long row with politicians and religious leaders in the Overseas Territories, hostile to legalising homosexuality, ministers have vowed to act. An Order in Council is expected before Christmas which will push through measures to legalise private, consensual gay sex between adults in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Baroness Scotland, the Foreign Office minister responsible, said in a recent letter to an MP that she had tried to encourage each territory to pass the necessary legislation themselves, anxious that the British government did not "impose" laws on the territories against the spirit of partnership.

The minister held a series of discussions with politicians, church leaders, the local press and many ordinary residents living in the Caribbean territories. But when asked to enact the law, they refused. Lady Scotland said in the letter: "We said that in the event of formal notification that they were unwilling to pass the necessary measures, we would have to consider making an Order in Council." She added: "I expect to do this before Christmas."

Jenny Tonge, the Liberal Democrat MP who has been campaigning for a change in the law, said last night: "The Government gave the Overseas Territories the chance to change the law themselves but they have not. It is vital we keep up pressure to ensure the government proceeds with the Order as a matter of urgency." The Government’s decision to act was also welcomed by gay rights group Stonewall. Executive director Angela Mason said yesterday: "This is a very welcome initiative. Equality before the law is a basic human right wherever you live. We are delighted the Government is taking these rights seriously."

But the Government must tomorrow fight to defend equal rights for homosexuals closer to home. Ministers face a challenge from members of the House of Lords over moves to lower the age of consent. Baroness Young, the Conservative peer who has led opposition to the plan, has said she will now accept the principle of equality in age, but will try to outlaw anal sex for boys and girls under 18. Peers will be given a free vote on the issue.

Since Labour came to office, the Lords have thrown out the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, which would lower the age of consent for homosexuals from 18 to 16, three times despite overwhelming support in the House of Commons. But the Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, has insisted the measure will become law "one way or the other" by the end of this Parliamentary session. The Government intends to use the Parliament Act to force through the Bill, even if it is rejected again by peers.

New York Times, New York, NY ( )

February 10, 2001

Gays in the British Military: Ask, Tell and Then Move On

by Sarah Lyall Plymouth, England
For the last year it has been perfectly legal for Chief Petty Officer Rob Nunn, who is openly gay, to serve in the Royal Navy. But there have inevitably been awkward moments, like the time someone jokingly asked, using slang for homosexual, why he was "standing around like a poof."

"The senior guy who was there said, ‘That’s probably because he is one,’" recalled Petty Officer Nunn, 45, who in 1992 was discharged from the navy for being gay, but who re-enlisted last year after the military lifted its ban on gays. "I didn’t mind — I’m not at all P.C. — but the guy was mortified. He spent the next month apologizing."

For many of the submariners stationed at his base in Cornwall, near Plymouth, Petty Officer Nunn is the first gay person they have ever knowingly met, and certainly the first in a navy uniform. But what is perhaps most surprising about his presence here is how little disruption it has caused, even among the aggressively heterosexual men he serves with.

"When you’re locked in a tin for months and months at a time, you have to really get along, and it’s easy to think gays would disrupt that," said Chief Petty Officer Andrew Reid, a friend of Petty Officer Nunn’s. "We thought Bob would be a catalyst for trouble and discord. But since I met Bob, my whole outlook’s changed. He’s just a bloke like the rest of us." I

t would be hard to overstate how surprising such a response has been in the British military, whose rationale until last year was much the same as that of the uneasy American "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy adopted under President Bill Clinton. The existence of openly gay personnel in the ranks, the argument went, would weaken morale and foment division by leading to gay cliques and provoking antigay prejudice and violence from heterosexuals.

"Homosexual behavior can cause offense, polarize relationships, induce ill discipline and, as a consequence, damage morale and unit effectiveness," the British Defense Ministry said then in its guidelines on the subject. But contrary to most expectations, Petty Officer Nunn’s experience seems to be the rule rather than the exception in Britain’s newly inclusive military. Even the Defense Ministry, which fought hard to keep gays out, has acknowledged an unexpectedly smooth transition. In a report last fall, it said there had been "widespread acceptance of the new policy" and "no reported difficulties of note concerning homophobic behavior" among service personnel.

"Before the lifting of the ban, many senior officials predicted that military performance would suffer," said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which recently published a report about the British experience. "But we found that there has been no problem in terms of morale or discipline or recruitment."

Interviews with current and former members of the armed forces and with military officials and academic experts tell a similar story: at least so far, the presence of openly gay personnel has caused minimal disruption. "At a personal level it’s been absolutely fine," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Griffiths, 37, a Royal Navy warfare officer who is gay. "Among the people I’m living and working with, it does not appear to have caused any problem at all." And Claire Clarke, an air force electronics technician who is straight, said the presence of an openly gay man in her unit had not been an issue, except perhaps to stifle traditional military jokes about the feebleness of others.

"People think they have to be a little more careful with jokes, with ribbing someone by saying, ‘Oh, you big girl’s blouse,’" Technician Clarke said, using a British term for wimp. "For the first week or so people edited what they said around Andy, but then it became obvious that he didn’t mind if we said, ‘Oh, you great big girl,’" she added. "I would lift things and say, ‘I’m more of a man than you are.’ He’d take them as the lighthearted jokes they were."

The government never kept count of how many people were discharged when its ban was in place, but campaigners for gay rights estimate that as many as 4,000 people have been forced to leave over the years. (There are now about 205,000 people serving in the British armed forces.) Before the policy changed, people suspected of being gay were often investigated in elaborate operations that could include surveillance, interviews with friends and acquaintances, interrogations and searches of personal items.

"Targeting and uncovering homosexuality was a large part of what the military did," said Edmund Hall, a broadcaster who wrote "We Can’t Even March Straight: Homosexuality in the British Armed Forces," after being discharged from the navy in 1988 for saying he was gay. Despite the hard-line stance — and despite a 1996 survey in which a majority of personnel said they did not want to serve with gays — it was clear by the mid-1990’s that change was in the air. In 1998, four highly decorated gays who had sued the government after being discharged won their case when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the antigay policy violated the fundamental right to privacy.

The government officially scrapped the ban in January 2000, bringing its policy on gays in line with that of most NATO countries, including France, Germany and Canada.

In contrast, the policy fashioned for the American military under President Clinton was not so much a lifting of the ban as a studied and often stilted avoidance of the issue. Gays are allowed to serve, as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret and do not engage in homosexual acts. In practice, the policy has been confusing and difficult to enforce. Advocates for gay men and lesbians in uniform have complained that there is still widespread harassment in the ranks and, in the worst cases, violence. In response to the 1999 bludgeoning death of an Army private suspected of being gay, the American military ordered new training to explain the policy more clearly to personnel.

Since Britain lifted the ban, its military says, there have been no reported incidents of harassment. In announcing the changes here, the military issued a new code of conduct that applies to heterosexual as well as homosexual relationships. It stresses that harassment will not be tolerated, but also emphasizes that sexuality is a private matter and that offensive or overly demonstrative behavior is inappropriate in the armed forces.

The new code is meant to make it clear that the service role is all important, said a senior military official. "The criterion we use is, has the behavior of the person brought the service into disrepute?" he said. As far as gays go, "our policy is that it’s not an issue," he said, adding: "Officially, whatever side a person bats for, it’s all the same. But people have to respect other people’s orientation and be discreet." If the United States policy is "don’t ask, don’t tell," said Christopher Dandeker, who heads the war studies department at Kings College London, Britain’s can be described as "don’t fear it, don’t flaunt it." "The crucial thing for gay personnel is that they have to be service personnel first and gay second," said Professor Dandeker, who teaches military sociology. "The team comes first. They are not to let their own sexual identity undermine the service identity."

The real test, he said, will come when more people enter the service and undergo training as openly gay personnel, and when gays come out in army combat units and other traditionally macho areas. "Just because there are no problems now does not mean there are none to come," he said.

And even in the newly relaxed climate, it seems that relatively few gays have publicly come out so far. Others have come out only to select groups of friends. "Even though the ban’s been lifted, some people aren’t entirely happy about it," said a lesbian who is a captain in the Royal Army and who asked that her name not be used because she has not come out fully at work. She has some 100 people under her command, she said, but has revealed her sexuality only to a handful of people she trusts — including, recently, her commanding officer.

"The other day, she asked me what my boyfriend does," the captain said. "I said, ‘I don’t exactly have a boyfriend, but I’ve been seeing someone for four years now.’ She was very polite about it, not nasty or overly inquisitive, and she said, ‘Well, whatever makes you happy.’" It helps, experts say, that people who have come out so far are already well established in their careers and respected by their colleagues. Petty Officer Nunn, who has spent more than 20 years in the navy — during which he got married, had a child and left his wife after he realized he was gay — certainly fits that description. But even he takes care not to flaunt his sexuality, and has not yet introduced his partner to his friends.

"My private life has never been embroiled in my working life," he said. "If I’m asked, I’ll answer, but I don’t walk around with a big flag saying, ‘I’m gay.’" That’s not to say that his friends don’t tease him mercilessly — and that he doesn’t tease them back — in classic naval humor that involves homing in on one another’s vulnerable spots and pounding them into the ground. At Christmas, for instance, each person in the mess gives a gift, after drawing the recipient’s name out of a hat. This year, Petty Officer Nunn got a tiara and a fairy wand. "The mess was determined to get me to say ‘fairy lights,’" he recalled, using the usual British term for Christmas lights. "But I kept saying ‘sparkly lights’ and ‘bright lights.’"

By the same token, his friend Petty Officer Reid, whose wife recently left him, got a pack of condoms and a book of pickup lines. Petty Officer Nunn’s friends ask him questions about what it is like to be gay, of course. But mostly they marvel that a gay man can be so similar to them, joining so enthusiastically in their pointed humor and hard-drinking weekend social life. "Most people would think of a homosexual as an effete person," said Chief Petty Officer Nigel Crocker. "But he’s not, and that’s why he’s so accepted." Some people on the base still don’t know about Petty Officer Nunn’s sexuality. But when they ask questions, his friends are the first to defend him. "We’re quite a close-knit group, so nobody would be able to say anything negative to us," said Petty Office Reid. "If we were out and someone said, ‘Bob Nunn’s a big poof,’ we’d say, ‘He is, but so what?’"

British Medical Journal, ( )

February 16, 2001

Study: "Wellbeing of gay, lesbian, and bisexual doctors" The medical profession should face up to its own homophobia

(Abridged commentary)
by Daniel Saunders, secretary, Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists
Authors Burke and White provide a welcome US perspective on the hostile attitudes and behaviours experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual doctors. Such homophobia has also been documented in a qualitative study of Canadian doctors in training.

In Britain the Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists (GLADD) regularly receives requests for advice from doctors, dentists, and students who are concerned about discrimination at work because of their sexuality. What can we say about the nature of homophobia in Britain, and how can we work towards its eradication?

The nature of homophobia is more complex than is suggested in Burke and White’s article, and the factors affecting wellbeing are more wide ranging. As lesbian, gay, and bisexual health professionals and students, we do not just experience overt homophobia but also more subtle hostility from our colleagues. In addition, some of us have to deal with our own internalised homophobia — we have to reconcile our sexual identities with societal expectations that heterosexuality is the norm. Some of us may choose never to disclose our sexuality for fear of the consequences of revelation to families, peers, or patients. Further, we are not afforded legal protection from discrimination nor equal partnership rights. Battling with all of these issues is unpleasant and exhausting, particularly in the early years of a career when job changes are frequent.

The Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists held a workshop recently on challenging workplace bullying and homophobia in the NHS [National Health Service]. The workshop addressed the need for a national guideline to make it clear that homophobia in the healthcare professions is unethical and unacceptable. Those who discriminate against others on the grounds of their sexuality cannot be effective team members nor can they provide a professional service to all their patients. The workshop identified a lack of empowerment to deal with homophobia within the workplace and a lack of confidence that unambiguous support from authorities would be forthcoming if homophobia were challenged.

The workshop identified two main approaches to addressing this situation. Firstly, support must be provided for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. There is currently a wide regional variation in such support. Secondly, all members of the profession need effective opportunities to learn about issues relevant to lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients and colleagues. It is not surprising that homophobia exists in medicine since doctors and students share similar attitudes to those of the general population. This is why they need specific opportunities to foster an awareness of, and to deal with, their own homophobic attitudes. Unfortunately, many medical schools do not yet offer such opportunities.

We urge the General Medical Council and deans of medical schools to work with those responsible for curricular development to provide effective learning opportunities to help students face up to their own homophobia and challenge and eradicate it. We urge the royal colleges and postgraduate deans to ensure that appropriate learning opportunities are provided as part of general and specialty training programmes and continuing professional development. We are planning a further workshop to draw up guidelines for best practice for medical schools, NHS trusts, and general practice partnerships.

The Scotsman, Edinburgh EH1 1YT Scotland ( )

March 29, 2001

Gay consent case is finally settled

byTanya Thompson
At the age of 17 he made legal history. As a gay teenager, he began legal action which would force the British government to lower the age of consent for gay men. Six years on, Euan Sutherland’s ground-breaking legal challenge was finally settled at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg yesterday. Mr Sutherland, 23, claimed fixing the age of consent between gay men at 18, rather than 16 (the age limit for women) violated his human rights.

He first became involved in the campaign after responding to a questionnaire in a magazine published by the gay rights group, Stonewall, which backed the case. "I was only 17 when I started the legal action and we’ve come a long way since then. The law needed to be changed, it was ridiculous. It was insulting for them to say that at the age of 16 you can’t make a choice about your sexuality. It was a huge step for me, but I hope that in some way I’ve helped put an end to discrimination of gays and lesbians in Britain."

Although sexually active at the age of 16, both he and his partner were worried that under the law they were committing an offence. In 1990, there were more than 300 convictions against gay men breaking the age of consent laws. Mr Sutherland, a training manager for a communications company in London, believes that by launching the case at the European Court he embarrassed the government into changing the law.

In December, the Prime Minister steamrollered legislation through to lower the age of consent for gay sex to 16 despite concerted opposition. He brushed aside appeals to reconsider from MPs, peers and religious leaders, insisting the Bill had to become law in the interests of equality. Critics argued the higher age of consent protected young people from homosexual activities which their lack of maturity might later cause them to regret.

Mr Sutherland disagrees. He believes sexuality is "set" long before the age of 16. He was 12 when he realised he was gay. It was four years before he told his parents, Norman, who works as an education administrator and his mother Catriona, a nurse. His family, originally from the Isle of Muck, is now based in London although his 82-year-old granny still lives there.

"It wasn’t until I was 16 that I plucked up the courage to speak to my folks," he said. "They were enormously supportive and not at all surprised. When I told my brother, he just laughed and said he had known for years. "Even my grandmother knows I’m gay. It just wasn’t an issue for her. We often go back to Muck for a big clan gathering. She enjoys having her grandchildren around her. We’re all very different and I think she likes that."

While the Government’s decision to change the law fulfills a pre-election pledge, the impetus was provided by Mr Sutherland. His lawyers argued the decision in 1994 to lower the age of consent from 21 to 18 breached his right to privacy and the right not to be discriminated against in his private life.

The Government was advised that it would lose the case if it went to court and ministers realised they would have to act.

Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights finally halted the case following the change to the law in Britain and the government agreed to pay undisclosed costs to Mr Sutherland. Debbie Gupta, director of policy for Stonewall, said the Sutherland case had improved the status of thousands of gay people in Britain: "The old age of consent law enshrined the principle of second class citizenship for gays. Thanks to Euan’s case, parliament has passed a law that equalises issues between straight and gay people throughout our society."

The Observer, (

May 27, 2001

Straights and gays take to same lifestyle

by John Arlidge
Are you gay, or does it just look as if you are? New research has revealed that gay and ‘straight’ lifestyles are becoming more alike. The most detailed study of gay consumers reveals that heterosexuals are increasingly embracing gay culture, while homosexuals are emerging from gay ghettos to enjoy ‘straight’ lifestyles. More than 10% of people who go to gay festivals such as Mardi Gras — Europe’s largest gay festival, which takes place in London next month — are now heterosexual. And one in five drinkers, diners and clubbers who visit the so-called ‘gay villages’ in London, Manchester and Brighton are straight.

Only one-third of gays say they enjoy mixing with other gays in exclusively gay pubs and clubs. One in two prefers mixed venues. Three-quarters of gays reject holidays designed to cater for gays and choose mixed resorts and destinations. Mintel, Britain’s largest market research group, asked specialist market analysts ID Research to interview a representative sample of 1,000 people who attended the Mardi Gras festival last year. Researchers found that hit gay shows such as Channel Four’s Queer as Folk and Ellen and the success of gay celebrities including Michael Barrymore, Graham Norton, and Anna Nolan in Big Brother, have broken down hostility towards homosexuals and popularised gay culture.

Jackie Robson, the report’s author, said: ‘There is a lot more tolerance towards gay lifestyles. It’s normal to see gay characters on television or in the cinema and it is much easier to be openly gay in urban areas, especially London and Manchester, where the gay villages have developed. As these gay areas have grown and become fashionable they have become more popular with everyone — gay, straight or whatever.’

After years of proclaiming they were ‘out and proud’, the report says, gay people are embracing mainstream culture. ‘Gays, especially the young, do not want to be seen as different any more. They want to be treated just like anyone else.’ David Pinson, head of ID research, says the findings confirm how attitudes to homosexuality have changed. ‘Go back 10 or 20 years and being gay was difficult. You would segregate yourself not only so you could meet other gay people, but also to feel safe. But the world has changed. Gays have won important battles for equality and many now aspire to have their sexuality taken for granted. ‘People like to be accepted as a member of the larger tribe. It is not hard. Gay people are fully aware of what a heterosexual lifestyle is because the whole social world continually creates and promotes it.’

In the pubs and bars of London’s Soho last week, gay and straight drinkers backed the study’s findings. Catherine, 38, who has been living with her girlfriend, Sara, for 10 years, said: ‘I went away for a year in 1993 and when I came back, Soho was gay. Now it’s full of straight people who cannot hold their drink and look messy. It’s a nightmare when friends of mine go out on the pull.’ Tom, 28, drinking with his boyfriend Simon, said: ‘Homophobia is still out there but at least gay pubs are more open. We’ve moved on from the clandestine gay bars of old, down side streets. Although there are still those who would rather keep the areas exclusively gay, I like the fact that straight people want to come to our bars. It promotes tolerance.’

Rachel, sitting with her boyfriend, Craig, goes to Old Compton Street to drink after work with her friends, most of whom are straight. ‘In the big cities people don’t care who you are or what you do. We are more accepting because if we weren’t we wouldn’t have any friends. ‘The whole gay thing feels like the black thing was a few years ago. No one can remember what the fuss was all about. We are all too busy enjoying ourselves in whatever way feels right.

Electronic Telegraph, ( )

June 10, 2001

Homosexuality is divinely ordered, says catechism

by Victoria Combe, Religion Correspondent
A radical rethink of Church teaching on homosexuality that declares it to be "divinely ordered" is revealed this week in a catechism commissioned by the Archbishop of York. The second most senior churchman in the Church of England, the Most Rev David Hope, has given the new catechism his imprimatur and describes it in his foreword as "a celebration of Christian living".

Written by Canon Edward Norman, canon and treasurer of York Minster, the catechism seeks to define Anglicanism for the first time since Thomas Cranmer wrote The Book of Common Prayer in 1662. The Prayer Book version was a brief inquisitorial text intended for use in a pre-literate age. Canon Norman’s is the first attempt fully to define Anglican teaching. In the section on sexuality, he contradicts official teaching and the views of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.

"Homosexuality," says the catechism, "may well not be a condition to be regretted but to have divinely ordered and positive qualities." It continues: "Homosexual Christian believers should be encouraged to find in their sexual preferences such elements of moral beauty as may enhance their general understanding of Christ’s calling." The Anglican Church is deeply divided over its teaching on homosexuality and at the last Lambeth Conference bishops rowed openly about the issue. In the end, Dr Carey, supported by African and Asian bishops, passed a resolution saying homosexual acts were "incompatible with Scripture". The resolution said "abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage".

A discussion document by the House of Bishops called Issues in Human Sexuality, published in 1991, forbade clergy from entering into homosexual relationships. Canon Norman, a highly respected theologian who writes "meditations" in The Telegraph, was asked to write the catechism by Dr Hope to provide a tool in training for ministry. An "official" catechism is being written and published by Church House but the project will take several years. Called An Anglican Catechism, the text is praised by Dr Hope for managing to "explore the relevant issues for today" in the context of "an unchanging doctrinal basis of faith". Dr Hope was targeted by the homosexual rights group, Outrage!. After a night of prayer in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, he said his sexuality was "a grey area" and that he was celibate.

Canon Norman addresses the contradictions in what the Church teaches and practises, saying: "The Church continues to classify homosexuality as an intrinsically disordered condition, yet significant numbers of Christians are and always have been homosexual." The catechism declares that homosexuality "is not in general chosen: it is an expression of sexuality which derives from conditions of inherited impulsions or of early infant experience". Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed the text as a "refreshing statement which the Church is crying out for". .
An Anglican Catechism by Edward Norman (Continuum)

Rainbow Network,

16 July 2001

British Gay Muslims Denounce Fatwa

A group of gay Muslims have denounced a fatwa issued against them by Islamic fundamentalists. The fatwa, or religious decree, was issued against the gay group Al-Fatiha earlier this month by the British Muslim group Al-Muhajiroun. Al-Fatiha issued a statement saying that police were investigating the fatwa. They said that none of the group’s members have received direct threats from supporters of Al-Muhajiroun.

A spokesperson for Al-Fatiha said: "Al-Fatiha has concluded that the statement from Al-Muhajiroun is only an alleged fatwa. We believe that it was only sent to press in the United Kingdom in reaction to the Al-Fatiha conference that was held in San Francisco, and Al-Fatiha’s participation in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade. But whether it is an official fatwa or not, the rhetoric used in the statement was extreme, and cause for concern."

The alleged fatwa said: "The very existence of Al-Fatiha is illegitimate and the members of this organisation are apostates. Never will such an organisation be tolerated in Islam and never will the disease that it calls for be affiliated with a true Islamic society or individual. The Islamic ruling for such acts is death. It is a duty of the Muslims to prevent such evil conceptions being voiced in the public or private arena." Some Al-Fatiha members reported that Friday sermons in mosques around the country following the fatwa condemned homosexuality and specifically mentioned Al-Fatiha. Earlier in the month, the group heard that Al-Muhajiroun is planning on filing a suit against the Al-Fatiha website in an attempt to remove it from the internet.

London Times, London, United Kingdom ( )

August 31, 2001

Couple use first gay partners register

by Melissa Kite
A retired actor and a male nurse will be the first homosexual couple in Britain to have their partnership registered in a civil ceremony. Ian Burford, a former member of the English Shakespeare Company, and Alexander Cannell, a retired nursing manager, will sign the London Partnership Register at the headquarters of the Greater London Authority on Wednesday.

The two, who are in their sixties and from South London, will pay £85 for a short ceremony and a certificate. The register was created by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, at a cost to council taxpayers of £100,000. Although it does not confer legal rights, the GLA is hoping that the register will be recognised by public bodies and could be used in disputes over wills, property and succession rights. A similar partnership scheme in Paris, called Pacte Civil de Solidarité, has attracted more than 10,000 gay couples.

Since the Mayor announced his intention to create a register in February, hundreds of couples have expressed an interest in joining the register. In the event of a relationship breaking down, the entry would be annulled, a GLA official said. In a joint statement Mr Burford and Mr Cannell said: "We have shared everything in life and own our home, but the problem arises when one goes before the other. We would not have the same rights as a married couple and would be taxed heavily, seriously affecting the security of the surviving partner."

Up to 25 guests will attend the ceremony, which will take place in the visitors’ room of the GLA headquarters in Romney House, London. Afterwards the couple will celebrate with a private party. They are one of two couples who will avail themselves of the scheme on its first official day in operation. Linda Wilkinson and Carol Budd, from East London, will also register their relationship.

News Wales, (

30 August 2001

Gay forum to advise Welsh Assembly

Wales’ first Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) Forum, set up to inform Assembly policy, will be launched by Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities Edwina Hart at Cardiff City Hall today (Thursday). Mrs Hart, who has committed £25,000 of Assembly funds to the Forum, said: "The establishment of the Forum signals the beginning of a national voice for lesbians and gay men.

"The importance of a Forum cannot be underestimated. The opportunity to have a meaningful communication process between the communities and the National Assembly is essential if the Assembly is to carry out its obligation of meeting the needs and listening to the aspirations of all the citizens of Wales. "The setting up of this Forum is a significant step forward and one in which all citizens of Wales can be proud."

Irish Times, Dublin, Ireland ( )

August 24, 2001

Widespread bias against gays in Northern Ireland (UK)

by Róisín Ingle
Discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is widespread in Northern Ireland, according to a report. The report, published by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, shows how the gay community is discriminated against in areas such as criminal law, employment, partnership, family life and healthcare.

The problem is particularly evident, according to the report, in family and partnership legislation where same-sex couples are not regarded as parents. This can have implications for the education and healthcare of the children of these couples. The report also maintains the extent of the discrimination has been hidden because of lack of research and the fear members of the gay community have of being "outed".

Compiled by the University of Ulster, the report, Enhancing the Rights of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Northern Ireland, found many in the gay community are less likely to access legal services because of this fear. Several recommendations are made in the report including the setting up of a legal advice centre geared specifically to the gay community. The report also recommends that the British government and the Assembly enact a law recognising same-sex partnerships.

One of the authors, Mr Dermot Feenan, lecturer in law at the University of Ulster, described the report as a "landmark document" which he hoped would lead to a more inclusive society. Despite a legal duty on authorities, enshrined in the Belfast Agreement, to promote equality of opportunity with regard to issues such as sexual orientation, this is not always exercised. "Many show little evidence of policies or practices that relate to lesbian, gay or bisexual people," he said. The report recommends the Northern Ireland Assembly should set up a task force to address concerns faced by the gay community.

Commenting on the report yesterday, Mr Brice Dickson, chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, said he hoped attention would be paid to the report’s contents. "I hope that early changes in law and policy will result so that lesbian, gay and bisexual people can genuinely feel more included in our society," he said

The Observer, London ( )

12 August 2001

Armed forces are set to give spouse rights to gay partners

by Jason Burke
The partners of gay service personnel are set to be recognised as fully-fledged spouses for the first time, following a key concession by the Ministry of Defence. After meetings with the Armed Forces Lesbian and Gay Association the MoD appears to have admitted that the gay partners of service personnel could be considered spouses.

The move, which would mean that gay partners could also receive pensions and other benefits, is controversial. The prospect of homosexual couples living openly on army bases in the UK and overseas will concern the many opponents of reform. One senior officer branded it ‘political correctness gone mad’ this weekend. But the discussions in London have been welcomed by homosexuals in the forces. Lt Commander Craig Jones, one of the most senior officers to come out, said he would be keen to live with his male partner in Royal Navy married accommodation.

‘There are a lot of people in our position, but few who are open about their sexuality,’ Jones said last week. ‘The services like to move at their own pace and have a tendency to be oversensitive. This shows they are slowly getting the message.’ Jones said his partner had accompanied him to formal mess dinners while serving on HMS Fearless. ‘We had a fantastic reaction,’ he said.

Homosexuality was forbidden in the armed forces until January last year. The ban, which led to up to 200 sackings a year, was lifted after the European Court of Human Rights ruled it unlawful. The court awarded £400,000 compensation to four military personnel, among them former navy Commander Duncan Lustig-Prean, who was awarded £144,000. The MoD has stated that it is trying to move ahead of European legislation rather than merely react to it. A European directive that will come into force in 2003 will make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

An MoD spokesman said last week: ‘The services are looking at the whole question of unmarried people living together, and homosexuality obviously has to be considered. At the moment everything is predicated on marriage.’ Though there is still no provision for same-sex marriages in English law, the MoD policy favouring traditional families could leave it open to scores of legal chal lenges from unmarried couples — homosexual or otherwise — following the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law last year.

Recently the MoD was forced to agree to give the girlfriend of an SAS soldier killed in Sierra Leone last year a ‘widow’s pension’. Prior to its removal, the ban on gay service personnel was justified on the grounds of military effectiveness. Conservative Armed Services Minister Nicholas Soames said the services should not be ‘bludgeoned out of the esprit de corps that has won every war since 1812’.

But 10 months after the ban was lifted, a Ministry of Defence review of the consequences found that the operational ability of the forces was unaffected. ‘The services reported that the revised policy on homosexuality had no discernible impact, either positive or negative, on recruitment,’ the report said, remarking on the ‘mature, pragmatic approach which allowed the policy to succeed’. Many senior officers fought the lifting of the ban. Last week one called moves to allow same-sex marriages ‘madness’.

‘It’s a monstrosity. We are becoming an army of social workers not soldiers. There is all this focus on issues of gays and women and very little recognition of the fact that we have tens of thousands of soldiers doing a very professional job with increasingly limited funds,’ he said. U.K.

12 November 2001

Gays More Than Lesbians Believe They Were Born Homosexual, Says Study

A study claims gay men, more than lesbians, feel they were born homosexual. The survey for Channel 4 News found that 65.5% of gay men think they were born with their sexual orientation. Only 46.3% of lesbian women thought they were born with their sexual orientation. More gay women also believe they actively "chose" to be lesbian than their male counterparts. About 5.5% of those lesbians questioned made a conscious choice as adults to lead a homosexual lifestyle, compared with 2.4% of gay men. The study, which claims to be the most extensive undertaken in the UK into gay lifestyle, involved interviewing 10,500 people.

Other stereotype-breaking findings included that there are more gay construction workers, policemen, firefighters and accountants than hairdressers or vicars. Market research company ID Research also found that domestic violence is just as prevalent as in heterosexual relationships. The survey will be in a special on Channel 4 News on today.

The Age ( ) Australia

31 December, 2001

Obituary: Sheila Colman Farmer (1919 – 2001), defender of Oscar Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas

Sheila Colman, who has died aged 82, devoted herself to rebuilding the reputation of Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s lover and the man blamed for the scandal that led to Wilde’s imprisonment and social ruin. It was a curious mission for the wife of a Sussex farmer, and had its origins in a chance introduction to Bosie by a mutual friend, Richard Rumbold, in 1943.

At the time Douglas was penniless – he had actually been declared bankrupt in 1913 – and living alone in a flat in Hove. Rumbold, who had been invalided out of the RAF, was recuperating with Sheila Colman and her husband, Teddy, and invited Bosie to lunch with him and the Colmans in Brighton. "After lunch," wrote one of Douglas’s biographers, H. Montgomery Hyde, "they all went back to their farmhouse where, as Bosie wrote to Adrian Earle, Mr Colman ‘produced most hospitably some excellent port (Cockburn 1909 I think it was) and also some first-rate absolutely pre-war Havana cigars!’ " The Colmans befriended the destitute poet.

In December, 1944, he moved into their home, Old Monk’s Farm, near Lancing. He was, says Montgomery Hyde, expecting to stay with them until Christmas. But, apart from visits to the local Catholic church to hear Mass, he was never to leave Old Monk’s Farm except in his coffin." The Colmans cared for Bosie until he died there from heart failure on March 20, 1945, at the age of 74. A few weeks earlier Bosie had told Marie Stopes that the Colmans "have been angelic to me, dear people". In those final days, whenever Bosie received a royalty cheque or had a win on the horses, he would take the Colmans out to lunch. It is said that, as Douglas died, Sheila held one of his hands while Teddy clasped the other.

The Colmans were the main beneficiaries in Douglas’s will (his wife had died in February the previous year) and, while he left no money, they inherited the copyright to his poetry and prose. In 1981 the Colmans made the remarkable gesture of settling in full all Bosie’s debts from the bankruptcy of 1913 by using the royalties earned from his writings.

Douglas Murray, whose book ‘Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas’ was published last year, contacted Sheila when he first began his research as a pupil at Eton when he was only 15. He recalled: "I wrote to her, and she was immediately interested. She welcomed me into her home and showed me all her things; she was very kind and generous like that. Bosie was a keen pianist, and she gave me all his sheet music."

Sheila was a member of the Oscar Wilde Society, for which she hosted an annual luncheon at her home in later years, Titch Hill Farm, Sompting, West Sussex; it was through her that the society began to take a more positive interest in the man deemed responsible for Wilde’s downfall. She was born Sheila Sanderson Crouch on May 30, 1919 at Ealing, west London. An only child, she was brought up at Worthing, Sussex, where her father had a jewellery business. Both her parents died when she was in her early teens (leaving her a trust fund to be administered on her behalf until her marriage), and she went to live with foster parents.

Sheila was educated at Worthing High School for Girls, leaving in 1937. Three years later she married Edward "Teddy" Colman; he was then an estate agent who had developed and sold properties on the South Coast in the 1930s, but he had since become interested in farming. Sheila was above all a countrywoman, and she became well known in the world of sheep breeding. In 1971 she began to build a flock of Southdown sheep, the breed native to the South Downs

She imported two rams from France and began to breed from them until, by the time of her death, she had a flock of around 80. She was a member of the Southdown Sheep Society council from 1985, and its president in 1987. Sheila won the Southdown championships four years in succession (1996 – 99).

In 1999 she was appointed a judge at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. Last year she won the Burch Dare Trophy, awarded for the most points achieved at shows over the course of the year. Sheila had inherited Lord Alfred Douglas’s papers and manuscripts; some of these she sold, but what remained she has left to his old college, Magdalen at Oxford.
Edward Colman died in 1983. There were no children.

The Independent, London, England ( )

29 January 2002

Gay sex law that convicted Wilde will be overturned

by Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
Laws that outlaw men kissing in public and criminalise homosexual behaviour in private homes will be repealed by the Government in a revamp of legislation against sexual offences. Ministers are preparing to announce that the Victorian criminal offence of gross indecency, which singles out gay men and which was used to prosecute Oscar Wilde, will be scrapped. They will also repeal the offence of buggery, as well as the crime of "soliciting for an immoral purpose", which only applies to men.

The reforms are designed to end legal discrimination against gay men and put their treatment by the criminal justice system on a par with heterosexuals. The move follows the lowering of the age of consent to 16 and an unsuccessful attempt by Labour to get rid of Section 28, which prevents local authorities from promoting homosexuality. Ministers believe that the laws – many of which date back to the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 – are antiquated.

The changes will delight gay rights and equality campaigners. However, they will infuriate groups such as the Christian Institute, which has told the Government that the law should have a "moral basis". Martin Bowley QC, the president of the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group, said that the existing law on sexual offences was "anomalous and discriminatory, especially against gay men". The new Sexual Offences Act is also expected to reform laws on crimes such as rape.

Rainbow Network (U.K.)

January 7, 2002

Northern Ireland: The Good Friday Agreement and Gays

The Good Friday Agreement is close to collapsing in Northern Ireland. If you’re gay and have no interest in Northern Irish politics, you may shrug your shoulders. But the Agreement took a valuable step for gay politics, one that was largely ignored, overwhelmed as it was by more dominant issues such as decommissioning.

This document included legal recognition of the rights for gay people. The Agreement was ratified by the creation of a new law, the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This Act saw the formation of a new human rights body, the Equality Commission. This commission oversees the statutory requirement of public bodies to promote equality of opportunity "between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation". The introduction of this term into the legislation of Northern Ireland ironically placed the province at the forefront of legislative equality for homosexuals.

This may well be a matter of timing – new constitutional arrangements in South Africa have similarly enshrined homosexual equality. It is ironic nonetheless, because Northern Ireland is not known for its tolerance of homosexuality. It is one issue on which the two main church faiths agree. The homophobic reception for Peter Mandelson in Portadown last November, showed that whilst legislative progress can be made, it does not do away with embedded public prejudice. Greater legislative freedom and cultural stigma clash in Northern Ireland.

The latter can end up cancelling out the former. Section 28 is an excellent example: it simply does not apply to Northern Ireland, yet schools and colleges are unwilling to tackle the question of homosexuality in sex education. One of the main governing bodies dealing with the education of school children, Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment, in its guidance booklets states that the issue of sexual orientation, "should be handled by schools in a sensitive, non-confrontational and reassuring way".

Promising enough. The snag is the following sentence: "Before introducing the topic in the classroom, governors, staff and parents should be consulted." This is where the difficulty arises. As already mentioned, homosexuality is something most Catholics and Protestants can agree on. Sodomy is the description used, more frequently in Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK (and among many boards of governors).

Although it has been pointed out to the respective educational authorities that Section 28 does not apply here, they are hiding under a legal umbrella of their own design rather than tackling the homophobic attitude that exists in Northern Ireland culture. Gay and human rights issues groups were able to contribute to the formation of a peace settlement that led to the Good Friday Agreement. If the fragile agreement does not hold, much of their work to bring about effective change in the treatment of gay people will have to go back to the negotiating table along with everything else

Rainbow Network (U.K.)

January 20, 2002

Northern Ireland: Irish, Queer and Equal?

Etain O’Kane Feile an Phobail, or The People’s Festival, which is held each August in Belfast is a popular and anticipated social event. It is one of the largest festivals in Europe and attracts visitors from far and wide with a showcase featuring international and local artists. The festival boasts a varied programme which hosts children’s events, music concerts, bus and walking tours, street parties in areas throughout the city, comedy, theatre, and forums for discussion, to name but a few. This year, An Culturlann, a well-established landmark promoting Irish language, education and culture in the heart of West Belfast, has hosted a unique addition to the Feile, titled ‘Irish, Queer and Equal?’

This is the first time that LBGT issues have been addressed at the Feile, which attracted a large and diverse crowd. A panel of speakers consisted of Ciaran Rose (Gay and Lesbian Network, Ireland), Joan Gamer (Southern Partners Fund, Atlanta), Clarence Patton (Anti-Violence Project, New York), Sean Cahill (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, New York), chaired by Marie Mulholand (Equality Authority, Ireland). Mr Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast also sat on the discussion panel, providing his own opinion on the LBGT struggle for equality and acceptance in Irish society and taking questions from the audience about his stance on LBGT issues.

The speakers gave personal accounts of experience as LBGT persons and promoters of LBGT and social equality issues. The members of the panel presented a multi-faceted view of LBGT activism, representing and addressing issues of gender, race, age and the conditions of various governments and political climates. Their accounts ranged from the southern states of America at the time of Dr. Martin Luther King, to south east of Boston at the St. Patrick’s Day parade where LBGT parade members were attacked with missiles and abuse.

From the streets of New York where police have been found to be in collusion with perpetrators of violence against the LBGT community, to the struggle for social and legal equality for same-sex partners in the North and the Republic of Ireland. Discussion was opened to the floor and lively debate ensued. Gerry Adams was first to be questioned, particularly on the apparent contradiction between his presence at the Boston St. Patrick’s Day march where the LBGT Irish community was attacked, and questioned on his support of their struggle for recognition and acceptance from the Irish/American community.

Mr Adams commented that the event had been an "eye-opener" for him and that he certainly was in support of equality for all. The audience also addressed the state of the LBGT community and complacency to accept discrimination and the differences between social change and legislative change. Also how the LBGT community reconciles its differences to work together to fight all forms of discrimination, to promote tolerance and to work with other groups committed to ending oppression.

The general opinion was that discrimination, be it motivated by race, nationality, sexuality, gender, religion, and/or ability, contributes to all forms of oppression. LBGT equality is not attainable in a vacuum, but must correspond to the general view that acceptance of all peoples is necessary to make any real progress. This forum as part of the Feile espouses these very ideals, making a positive step towards collective understanding. It was a powerfully moving and motivating evening, and I doubt anyone came away without food for thought. I sincerely hope this evening has set a precedent and look forward to future events, which embrace diverse cultural and community identities in the name of equality.

The Guardian, London, England ( )

12 January 2002

Don’t tell me who I am: Interview with scottish back lesbian poet Jackie Kay

by Libby Brooks
Jackie Kay has become used to all kinds of assumptions being made about her identity – literary, national, sexual and familial. The more annoying, because the joy of being a writer is that you can create any persona you like. On the other hand, she does want to stand and be counted. She explains to Libby Brooks Jackie Kay tells a tale of mistaken identity. "I went to sit down in this chair in a London pub and this woman says, ‘You cannae sit doon in that chair – that’s ma chair.’ I said, ‘Oh, you’re from Glasgow, aren’t you?’ and she said, ‘Aye, how did you know that?’ I said, ‘I’m from Glasgow myself.’ She said, ‘You’re not, are you, you foreign-looking bugger!’"

Kay roars delightedly. "I still have Scottish people asking me where I’m from. They won’t actually hear my voice, because they’re too busy seeing my face." Meanwhile, in Glasgow, her black female friends are stopped in the street and asked if they’re Jackie Kay. Since her triumphant poetry debut, The Adoption Papers, in 1991, which won the Saltire and Forward Prizes, Kay has established herself as one of the most sure-footed voices in contemporary literature. Sealing her reputation with a further two collections of poetry, she went on to publish a novel, Trumpet, in 199–the story of Joss Moody, a renowned jazz trumpeter who is discovered after his death to have been a woman, it won the Authors’ Club first novel award and the Guardian fiction prize.

Jackie Kay has a cheeky laugh. It echoes in her work, especially her poetry. In ‘Ma Broon Visits The Therapist’, from her collection ‘Off Colour’, she deposits the cartoon wifey from the Scottish Sunday Post newspaper on an analyst’s couch: "Jings, this is exciting." And there are darker recesses in her work, where she reveals the ubiquity of loneliness.

Recently 40, Kay has now published her first collection of short stories, Why Don’t You Stop Talking. In the title story, a woman chatters to strangers at the supermarket checkout, on the underground and in the street, only to be answered by suspicious, angry silence. The Woman With Fork And Knife Disorder describes the descent into domestic madness of a housewife, discarded by her husband and despised by her daughter, whose cutlery starts to rebel. The protagonist in Timing arranges her day to coincide with the routines of her neighbours, but the moment she attempts to interact with one, the illusion of company is shattered.

For Kay, loneliness is not a defining quality. Her characters are not freakish, not even necessarily unhappy. But they are people without an answering voice, people without echoes, people without love. Because Kay believes in love, not wistfully, but in the transformative power of love’s presence. "It seems to me," she says, "that if you’re loved, then you’ve got company in life. And if you’re not loved, then you have no company. Even when you’re with other people, you have no real company, because there’s nobody who understands what it’s like to be truly yourself." But what is it like to be truly yourself?

Is it possible to sustain your self by yourself? And what becomes of those who are denied that loving, answering voice? Throughout her writing life, Kay has posed these questions from various angles: in Trumpet, for example, the relationship between Moody and his wife creates and nourishes an identity, allowing him to do the impossible – to live his life as a man. Twice Through The Heart, Kay’s BBC2 poetry documentary that became an English National Opera song cycle, was inspired by the story of Amelia Rossiter, a pensioner who was jailed for life for the murder of her abusive husband but later released on appeal. Here, Kay examines how extremes of violence can alter a woman’s sense of herself, and expectations of what she is capable of.

And, most obviously, The Adoption Papers dealt with identity in its rawest form: told by three voices, the daughter, the adoptive mother and the birth mother, it asks, "Does she imagine me this way?" Born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father, Kay herself was adopted by a white couple and brought up in Glasgow. A lesbian–she lives in Manchester with poet Carol Ann Duffy, her own 13-year-old son, Matthew, and Duffy’s daughter, Ella, six–Kay has found her own identities too easily commodified for comfort.

"Your characters are fiction, but when you’re a public writer people often try to make them you. Often, they have this real need, which seems to come out of our culture, to relate things back to this big thing called the personality. There’s something discomforting about that gaze being on you because, by writing, you’ve deliberately chosen to put yourself behind the scenes. I sometimes take my own experience as a diving board to jump off into the pool of my imagination, but I don’t want to write about the diving board; I don’t even want to talk about it. I remember doing an interview once, and they just had as the headline ‘Black Lesbian Scottish’. I struggle to see Martin Amis being described in this way. You would never dream of asking a heterosexual writer how being heterosexual affected their writing, yet it’s often asked of a lesbian writer."

Is it reasonable to demand that that which marks you out be ignored? Or is Kay hoping for a more rounded appreciation of her work? She will allow that her obsession with identity comes from being adopted. "You always ask, ‘Would I have been like this, if I had been brought up with my original parents?’ You ask that of yourself, and then you ask that of people whom you see in different situations. What makes them who they are? And, without certain ingredients, without love, would those people be very different? I think they would.

Even their way of doing ordinary things, like brushing their teeth, would be different because their way of understanding their face in the mirror is different." Kay’s latest short stories also examine how characters can shore up their present identity through a renegotiation of the past. In Big Milk, an adopted woman, wracked with jealousy after her lover has a baby, seeks succour on the doorstep of her birth mother. This resolution finds its mirror in Trout Friday, an anti-quest that sees a young woman rejecting the too-late advances of her absent father.

"Our own pasts constantly rejuvenate themselves," says Kay. "It’s not something that has happened and that was it. It’s open to reinterpretation. I find it fascinating that we can’t even say we’ve lived what we’ve lived." So, in the case of Trout Friday, can rejection of the past be as empowering as acceptance of it? She is equivocal. "It’s like people who’re adopted who decide never ever to trace [their birth parents]. I quite admire that, and, in another way, I don’t–I think it’s cowardly not to go and find out about yourself.

I think people who don’t are protecting themselves from some druggie mother, or some rejection that would be piled on the rejection they already feel. But both ways of looking at it are true. In that story, she definitely feels stronger." (Kay has traced her own birth mother, but chooses not to discuss this further.) The short story is in many ways the obvious showcase for Kay’s talents. Her strength is in contriving to make what is economically described on the page become roomy in the mind. She prefers the short story to any other form she’s written in, she says. It’s exciting. It’s experimental. She describes the short stories she has loved all her life: Anton Chekov, Raymond Carver, Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro–little jewels that capture ordinary people at moments of extraordinary change. "In a short story, you can have one single idea and explore it completely. It’s like a wee picture that reveals a big picture. Like a quick but very penetrating glance at somebody’s life that often reveals something you’re not expecting."

A writer needs self-belief and self-doubt in equal measures, says Kay. In the doubting times, what difference does it make to live with another writer? "It’s helpful, because we’re very supportive of each other, but we’re quite separate in our writing lives," she says of Duffy, her partner of 10 years. "Carol Ann has her study in the bottom of house, I’ve got one right at the top and we often spend whole days when we’re both just writing. People often ask [about our relationship], and they expect us to be either jealous or competitive or depressing," she laughs. "But it feels like a lucky thing to have someone who completely understands the way that you’ve got to struggle." Kay has always read and always written. As a young girl growing up in predominantly white Glasgow, books such as Anne Of Green Gables and the Famous Five series offered her other lives, while writing gave her the chance to create her own. When she was 12, she wrote the 80-page One Person, Two Names in a school jotter, illustrated by a pal, about a girl living in the States who was black but pretended to be white. "It interests me that I still write about the same things," she notes dryly. Writing fulfilled a need.

"It’s a huge freedom to be allowed to make things up in your head. I always loved that as a kid. I used to make up terrible lies.I liked seeing whether or not I could be believed." Her worst lie? "Well, once I said my brother had drowned. My mum and dad combed the whole bank of the river," she hoots. "I was only three then. That was a very bad lie." Her parents–communists who took their children on anti-apartheid protests and peace rallies–encouraged her creativity, if not her lies. "Some children’s imaginations are squashed because they’re told it’s disturbed to have an imaginary friend.

Actually, the most healthy thing you can have is an active and vibrant imagination, because it allows you to carry out all sorts of things without ever actually doing them. If I got called names, I could go away and write a poem about some terrible revenge. Your imagination can allow you to survive in a completely different way." After studying English at the university of Stirling, Kay moved to London, where she worked variously as a cleaner and hospital porter, before she was able to write full-time. She moved to Manchester four years ago. Essentially, she left home because she was tired of having to assert herself as a black person in Scotland – despite a burgeoning racial mix, Glasgow is not known for its multi-cultural harmony.

"There is a funny thing when people accept you and don’t accept you. I love the country, but I don’t know if the country loves me." She didn’t want this for her son. Her writing remains steeped in the rhythm and humour of Scottish voices, however: in The Oldest Woman In Scotland, the protagonist curses the "old articles" with whom she shares her nursing home, and scandalises herself with the swearwords of the day: "Oh God’s trousers!"

Distance, says Kay, has given her "an outside way of looking back in". Just as Kay rejects personal categorisation, she baulks at literary assumptions, too. It is a nonsense, she argues, that women writers should be criticised for writing about the domestic. "What I am most interested in reading is often the domestic, the wee world. I find that it can be very boring to read about The Workplace, or The World, unless someone really knows how to do it. And the domestic world can reveal its own violence, its own war. Everything you might find outside, you find intensified, concentrated, inside your own house."

The charge is levelled more, she notes, the more successful women writers become. "It’s the sort of thing a sulky boy would do, a way of diminishing them, but it’s nonsense, really. You’ve got a whole rang–Pat Barker, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Toni Morrison–they all write very differently. Women writers should reject the notion that it is even a realistic label." It can be argued, though, that identity brings with it responsibility.

Does she ever feel the need to stand up and be counted? "Yes, I do," she says. "I’m always openly gay. It’s not easy – shockingly and surprisingly, we don’t live in a society where it’s easy to be a gay mum and pick up your kids from school, or have two of you at parents’ night. "I feel a responsibility not to be a namby-pamby person who says, ‘I hate labels, and I will never say what I am.’ Hating labels is one thing, but it’s the reality that we live in a society that understands people by their –literally, now–labels. If we refuse to say what we are, then people wonder what you are hiding.

It’s the classic catch-22 – yes, I’m black, yes, I’m gay, but does that define everything I write? No, it doesn’t." Kay believes that, ironically, the country is becoming less liberal. "We talk about sex in a different way, but I don’t think that that actually means we’re very open about it. We’re certainly not open about people having different sexualities. We know that we’re backward, because we can’t accept these situations with ease, they’ve always got to be commented on." In another life, Jackie Kay dreams of being a jazz singer. A lot of the rhythms that she uses in writing come from music, she says. She has a good ear. Last Christmas, Duffy bought her a trumpet, and now she’s planning lessons. She smiles at all the possibilities that exist in being herself.

Why Don’t You Stop Talking, by Jackie Kay, is published by Picador.

The Observer, London ( )

January 13, 2002

Yes, Ministers Partnership Bill deserves support

Sir Nigel Hawthorne, who died last month, had lived with his partner for almost 20 years. It was a devotion that many fail ever to demonstrate. It is shameful – particularly five years into a New Labour government – that until the day of his death Sir Nigel could lawfully have been refused a job, a home or a holiday booking simply because he was gay. It is just as great an iniquity that Sir Nigel’s long-term companion can now be deprived of pension and inheritance tax concessions available automatically to married heterosexuals. That is why The Observer fully supports the Civil Partnerships Bill introduced by Lord Lester in the House of Lords last week. It will entitle tens of thousands of lesbian and gay couples to the same treatment available to others.

But we support the Bill for another important reason too. It will extend that treatment to millions of heterosexuals who live in long-term, stable relationships but who do not wish to engage in a marriage ceremony, whether in church or a registry office. Those people are entitled to respect for their private lives too. It is argued by promoters of marriage that matrimony is the best environment in which to bring up children.

Too often, however, such assertions are based on tendentious interpretation of data. (The recent claim that some men’s health is better within marriage overlooked the concurrent finding that many women’s was no better at all.) Treasury civil servants have even cautioned that pension costs in the public sector could soar if partners are treated just like husbands or wives. That is ridiculous. Employees making the same pension contributions should enjoy the same benefits. There is all too clear a suspicion that Tony Blair fears taking on the churches and the conservative press over this issue. But if churches require to coerce people into marriage to engage them in religious activity, they are in an even more pitiable state than their declining congregations suggest. This thoughtful Bill deserves support from a government modern and courageous enough to acknowledge the way we live now.


February 26, 2002

Britons less homophic than a decade ago says survey

London – Britons are more sexually adventurous and less homophobic that they were a decade ago, according to a survey published on Tuesday. More people today think there is nothing wrong with gay sex and many more are willing to admit having one-night stands.

"We have become less homophobic and less censorial of casual relationships but we still highly value fidelity within long-term relationships more so than we did 10 years ago," said Professor Anne Johnson, of University College London. The national survey of the sexual attitudes and lifestyles of 11,000 adults, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infection, showed that more than 42 percent of men and nearly 60 percent of women believed there was nothing wrong with gay sex, compared to just over a quarter of men and a third of women in a similar survey 10 years ago.

Nearly 19 percent of women also had no problem with casual sex, more than double the number in the 1990 poll but still far fewer than the 37 percent of men. More British women are also having sex earlier. More than 18 percent of women in the latest survey said they had had sex before they turned 16 compared to less than 13 percent in the poll a decade ago. Men having underage sex jumped 2.5 percent from the previous decade to 27.5 percent. The legal age of consent is 16 years. The number of people having a homosexual experience also rose from 3.5 percent to 6.7 percent in women and from five to 8.5 percent in men.

In a separate report in the journal, French researchers highlighted the different attitudes between men and women regarding sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Scientists at the French national research institute ISERM said women are seven times more likely than men to tell their partner if they have a sexually transmitted disease. In two surveys of nearly 7,000 French adults, 179 people had a history of STIs. Fourteen percent of the men and two percent of women said they had not told their main partner about it. "These results are all the more worrying in that they probably underestimate the true situation," said Dr Josiane Warszawski, of who lead the research team. People suffering from chlamydia, gonorrhoea or other STIs are advised to inform all their sexual partners in the two months preceding their diagnosis so they can be tested and treated.

Rainbow Networ
k (U.K.)

5th February 2002

Gay MPs Get Pension Rights

Gay and unmarried partners of MPs and civil servants are to be given the same pension rights as married couples. The move will be introduced by October, following a vote by MPs last year. It will entitle unmarried partners, including those in same sex relationships, to widow’s and widower’s pensions.

Administrators are concerned about the cost of the scheme and MPs are being asked to make higher contributions to pay for it. Conservative MP John Butterfill, chair of the trustees of the Parliamentary Pension Scheme, said: "Marriage is a contractual commitment and we are saying we are going to recognise non-contractual commitments. It’s a very complex area. If we have a very elderly member who suddenly has a very young partner, a 20-year-old partner, the cost to the scheme could be huge." Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP, said that the MPs pension rights should be extended to the general public.

He commented: "The change to the MPs’ scheme will put further pressure on Members to ensure that less well-off workers such as those in the health service can have access to the same benefits. It will send a strong signal to the private sector that they should also extend these rights." A spokesperson for the National Union of Teachers accused MPs of promoting double standards. She said: "We have become used to one rule

The Herald, Glasgow, Scotland (

April 8, 2002

Family victory for Scottish lesbian couple

by Valerie Hannah
A landmark legal ruling which gives a lesbian couple the same parental rights as heterosexuals was condemned yesterday by family groups and church leaders. The decision means that the women, known as Pam and Natalie, have full responsibility for their children and are considered a family unit by the courts. The move sparked outrage from family groups which said the ruling could harm the children’s development, but was hailed as a "step in the right direction" by gay rights campaigners.

The women are the first lesbian couple in Scotland known to have parental rights granted. Valerie Riches, founder of the group Family and Youth Concern, yesterday criticised the ruling and said she feared it could open the floodgates for more cases: "This is morally wrong. Nobody is thinking of the welfare of the children. It is simply about the adults and what they want," she said. Pam, a divorcee who has a five-year-old son, David, and Natalie, who gave birth to Cameron following artificial insemination, now have rights over each others’ children in the same way as a married couple.

The ruling also means that the children have three parents as the case was not appealed by David’s father, who separated from Pam three years ago. Following the decision, by Sheriff Noel McPartlin at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on March 19, gay rights campaigners are encouraging more couples to take similar action. Tim Hopkins, chair of the Gender Equality Network, said: "There are hundreds of families in Scotland parented by gay people and I hope this decision encourages many more to try and win parental rights for children they are already parenting.

"We are delighted by this judgment because it offers the children of same sex couples the same stability and legal protectionthat children of married couples or unmarried couples can enjoy." However, Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the judgment created "a bizarre situation where unmarried same-sex couples have more parental rights than many unmarried fathers." He called for a clarification of the law in the light of the case, which he said "flew in the face" of a sheriff court judgment last month, which ruled that a lesbian couple did not constitute a family group. Mr Kearney added: "The natural social and biological ideal environment for children to develop in is with married parents. We know the advantages and benefits of that."

The women launched their action when they discovered that Pam, the boys’ main carer, could not give permission for Cameron to have medical treatment. Wendy Sheean, lawyer for the couple, said: "Family is a broad concept that has to take into account the reality of who is caring for the child, not the biology of its parents. "The sheriff took a flexible, enlightened approach to the legislation and took account of the reality of the situation."

Natalie and Pam said they did not intend to strike a blow for gay rights in Scotland, but wanted to make a stand for the rights of their own children. The case will now be cited by a lesbian couple in Glasgow who recently went to court to stop a gay sperm donor who fathered their child from winning custody. They are appealing against the decision by Sheriff Laura Duncan to give parental rights to the donor, saying that women did not constitute a family unit.

BBC News

10 December 2002

Transsexuals ‘win right to marry in England’

Transsexuals are to be given the right to marry (in England) as part of government moves towards greater equality, according to reports. The changes are also expected to give transsexuals the right to change their birth certificates and be legally recognised in their adopted gender. Ministers will announce the changes over the next few weeks after their hand was forced by the European Court of Human Rights, the Guardian said. A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor’s Department said: "There will be an announcement on transsexuals imminently, the detail of which I am not able to go into at this stage."

Calling for a clear timetable for legislation a spokeswoman for transsexuals’ campaign group Press for Change told BBC News Online: "We want it to happen now, not at some vague time in the future." At present the UK stands alongside Albania, Andorra and the Irish Republic as the only countries in the Council of Europe not to recognise a sex change as legally valid.

European backing
The expected changes follow a ruling at the European Court of Human Rights in July. Former bus driver Christine Goodwin, 65, and another woman known only as ‘I’ won backing for their separate fights to be legally recognised as women and the right to marry. Both women also argued that their legal status in relation to employment, social security and pensions was unjust. Under British law a woman can collect a state pension at 60, while a man must wait until he is 65.

The Strasbourg court’s unanimous judgement held that the UK’s failure to recognise her new identity in law breached her rights to privacy and marriage under the European Convention on Human Rights. Ms Goodwin’s solicitor Robin Lewis said the court had shown the UK law to fall "far short of the standards for human dignity and human freedom in the 21st century". ‘Human problem’ News of the announcement also came a month before a transsexual was due to go to the House of Lords, to argue for the right to marry.

Elizabeth Bellinger, a 55-year-old male to female transsexual, was given permission to appeal after the High Court upheld a ruling that her 20 year marriage to Michael Bellinger was invalid. Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the Family Division, said her case highlighted a "human problem", but Mrs Bellinger could not be recognised as a woman under existing laws.

Welcoming the expected changes Stephen Whittle of Press for Change said: "I’m really pleased they’re finally doing it. "The fact that they’re waiting nearly six months since the Strasbourg decision is appalling." The Press for Change spokeswoman said it was concerned that the government could allow the introduction of new laws to drift beyond the next election.

She said action was needed now for the thousands of people affected by their "ambiguous legal status", which can also lead to an array of problems including difficulties with employers and insurers.

Although the Lord Chancellor’s Department refused to confirm the changes to the law it pointed to a recent parliamentary answer given by minister Rosie Winterton.