Coming Out All Over Again

So it’s about time I came out to you all. No not as a queer lesbian, if you haven’t worked that one out you probably haven’t been paying attention. I have come out several times to different people when I’ve moved to a different city, country, university, workplace or indeed social circle. This, however, is different. I very rarely come out to people as disabled. Those of you that know me through student politics may know I sit on the steering committee for the NUS Scotland Disabled Students’ campaign or if you know me from Stirling you might know I was involved in the Disabled Students’ Society for a while but unless you’ve been paying close attention or you’ve been involved too you might not even know that.

I’m going to hazard a guess you don’t what my disability is because I have a hidden disability and it often stays that way unless I have to come out about it. Today I’m going to do just that though. And like most things I do it’s for a cause and a campaign. This month is Crohn’s and Colitis awareness month and I’m going to talk about it because it’s something people should be talking about.

I have suffered from ulcerative colitis since I was diagnosed in 2005 age 17. In fact on my 17th birthday a Dr stuck his finger up my bum and thus began the diagnostic process. My father’s response on hearing this was “Did you enjoy it?”. Me: “No”. Papa H: “Well you can’t be gay then”. True story but that is another anecdote for another time and I’d like to point out how amusing I find this because now my Dad’s so accepting of my sexuality he tells me songs to listen to about gay shiz. Anyway, I digress.

You may not have known I have a disability but you’ve probably noticed its effects. If you’ve ever spent any length of time with me you’ll notice I go to the toilet all the fucking time. You’ve probably also noticed I drink more caffeine than is perhaps good for me because without it I get pretty tired. You’ve probably also all had me bail on you at the last minute when we’ve made plans (especially if they’ve involved food) often with a shitty excuse you haven’t believed. Now sometimes that’s because I’m flaky or perhaps I just don’t like you but more often than not it’s because my body’s decided a flare up of colitis is just what it wanted to do. Oh and those of you that have seen me more recently may have noticed I am getting even more mild illnesses than normal – this is because I’m on immunosuppressants because this disease means my immune system enjoys attacking itself. I like to imagine it like there’s a civil war going on. There’s a reason I’m not doing a science degree.

For those of you that are wondering there isn’t a cure for Crohn’s or colitis and it isnt contagious. You can get closer to the screen again. More worryingly it isn’t talked about enough and this lack of dialogue is having a negative impact on the career aspirations of young people with these diseases and on the productivity of workers that are reluctant to come out (interestingly to colleagues more than employers) about their illness. The NACC (National Association for Crohn’s and Colitis, also known as Crohn’s and Colitis UK) produced a report on IBD (the collective name for these illnesses, not to be confused with IBS) and employment last year that you can read here: http://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/downloads/research/Crohns_Colitis_Employment.pdf

One of the recommendations of the document is that sufferers have their part to play in talking about IBD and the impact it has not just in the workplace but in the public sphere so that’s what this blog is all about. But that isn’t all, as always I want you to do something. The theme of this year’s Crohn’s and colitis awareness month is ‘Sport, Fitness and IBD’ – not really my specialist subject but for those of you that are interested there is a walk in London on May 26th and you can find out more on the NACC website?

However, my focus for this comes from reading Mostly Cloudy With Some Bright Spells by Juliette Wills which I’m going to be honest scared the literal bloody shit out of me. I’m aware I’m probably not the target audience for the autobiography which I presume is aimed at people that don’t suffer from the conditions she does to highlight what the problems are. As a reader who’s less than half the age of the author that suffers from colitis and a similar back problem to the one she does I found the book really negative and it didn’t fill me with confidence about my future but then I’m someone who tries to fart while inserting suppositories to see if they shoot out like a rocket so maybe we just have different attitudes to the disease and maturity levels.

While I would recommend it to people that don’t know much about IBD I wouldn’t recommend it to sufferers. I’d like to think that there are more positive stories to be told about IBD and we can start talking about the problems to encourage people to share their stories and change the world and opportunities for IBD sufferers. There is no need for young people to be less likely to aim for certain careers because of IBD and if we raise awareness about ways to make work places and practices more accessible for sufferers then this need not be the case.

So I want you to do something for me: I want you to talk about IBD. I want you to tweet about it, post a status on Facebook and bring it up at work. Also if you are interested in the sports activities get all over that chat but it isn’t something I’m interested in so I haven’t talked about it here (although there are 200,000 people in the UK unable to be as active as they want to be because of IBD so people who are more qualified to talk about sport should absolutely be doing so). I don’t really care what you say as long as you say something. May 19th is World IBD Day. That’s Saturday. So whether you’re at home for the weekend or you work weekends start talking about IBD and the people that are suffering in your workplace, those that never made it into work and those that were put off applying for the job.

Rhi x

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Some People are Homphobic: Don’t Put up With it

Here is a list of thongs I hate:
Homophobia
Bigotry
Coriander
Sexism
Injustice
Racism
Inequality
Patriarchy
Disablism
Heteronormativity

The problem with all of these things is that they get everywhere. They invade our homes, our workplaces and our streets and they are so prevalent that when we point them out we are seen as making a fuss over nothing. We are faced with arguments such as ‘page 3/the gender
pay gap/the gender binary has always been there why is it a problem now?’ or ‘it’s just a bit of fun’ or ‘you’re just a silly little girl/disabled lesbian/freak’. The only correct comment there is little. I’m barely 5 foot. The rest is all bollocks.

Usually when we’re faced with problems such as homophobia or sexism they’re so hard to isolate from the prevailing heteronormativity or patriarchy that we’re ignored or ridiculed. Sometimes, however, we are gifted with homophobia so blatant or sexism so obvious that we can wave it in the air and say “look here it is, now can we tackle it?”. The Daily HateMail often provides us with such gems. Delightful they are not. Its homophobic articles only make the everyday abuse we receive on the streets, at work or at home so much worse because now a national newspaper is justifying such bigotry. While those involved in the excellent ‘It Gets Better’ campaign are right; it doesn’t go away.

So yet again the Daily HateMail have graced the journalistic world with a tirade of bigotry. As if Jan Moir’s atrocities weren’t enough they also pay Alexander Boot to add to the homophobic rantings their paper produces. Great. Boot wrote an article (if we can call it that, perhaps rant is better) entitled “Homosexuality IS a departure from the norm: We must beware of our civilisation being battered by the PC brigade” which claims homosexuals are an aberration in need of reform for their sin which they can be cured of. Additionally those London bus adverts from the Core Issues Trust that said ‘Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud! Get Over it’ were a jolly good idea and not offensive with the suggestion that homosexuality could be or should be cured. Oh silly me.

The article in full can be read here:Daily Mail article on the ‘Nickdefig’ blog
This is a great blog post on why you should read it elsewhere online and not on the Daily Mail’s website thus getting them more hits. So off you go and come back when you’re done.

OK, so you’ve read the article and you’re angry. ‘What now?’ I hear you cry angry fictional reader. Well now you can make a complaint. The Press Complaints Commission have a form for you to complain about the article on their website which can be found here: PCC
Also they will ask for a link to the original article, the headline and the date of publication and so you don’t have to find it and give their vile site more hits that can be found here so you can just copy and paste this link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2129340/Gay-cure-bus-advert-Homosexuality-IS-departure-norm.html (The headline is Homosexuality IS a Departure From the Norm and the date of  publication is the 13th of April 2012)

The Press Complaints Commission will receive complaints if any article has breached their Code of Practice which can be found here: Code of Practice
The key sections I found of interest when complaining were sections 1 Accuracy and 12 Discrimination.
Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

Discrimination

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

There’s lots to be said about the factual accuracy, misleading comments and conjecture about homosexuals and the adverts in question so I’m sure you can pull that apart. The discrimination one refers to individuals in the article rather than discrimination in the broader sense but the article specifies ‘reasonably educated people’, ‘homosexuals’, ‘us’ ‘our civilisation’, ‘our education’ and many others so if those descriptions fit you or your life (or don’t and you have a problem with that, such as the suggestion that there is one religion to be known as ‘our religion’) then you should be able to complain. The use of reform also implies that homosexuals are criminals. If you, like me, are a homosexual that is also not a criminal that sounds like defamation of character to me. Also if you’re a member of Stonewall the article does suggest the organisation produces propaganda and I don’t think they have your mission and vision quite right.

Additionally, if you are a Bolshevik or Boris Johnson they are defaming your character too. Oh and it’s a long shot but if you are a Police Constable and you’re surname is Modernity and you don’t have a ram for battering or other purposes, or if you do and you haven’t been using it to smash ‘our religion but also our constitution, our aesthetic sense, our education and our general morality’, then this Alexander Boot has some apologising to do. Indeed if your surname is Modernity and you are not a PC then you can complain about that. Yeah ok I think I’m done finding errors with this article.

In short I just wanted to blog to say that just because homophobia is everywhere doesn’t mean it’s ok. If it offends you too then complain and do something about it. Get angry and keep fighting the good fight.

Jam x

“Homosexuality IS a departure from the norm: We must beware of our civilisation being battered by the PC brigade

Reading Week

Ok so at the start of the year Girlface and I decided to undertake a challenge to read 50 books in a year. They can be about anything and although fiction was favoured. Audiobooks counted but individual short stories or essays did not. As of Monday I’m on ‘Reading Week’, a break in the semester of my course dedicated to catching up on reading and thinking about essays – the life of a postgraduate alas means reading week really is all about reading – so I thought I’d update you on my progress so far. Here is my list of books read:

1. Caitlin Moran – How to be a Woman
2. Jo Nesbo – The Redbreast, reading
3. Christopher Brookmyre – A Snowball in Hell
4. Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea
5. Kate Chopin – The Awakening (audiobook)
6. Ann Radcliffe – A Sicilian Romance
7. Charlotte Brontë – Villette, reading
8. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
9. Graeme Chesters and Ian Welsh – Social Movements: The Key Concepts
10. Sarah Blake – The Postmistress
11. Colin Bateman –Mystery Man, reading
12. Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games
13. Michel Foucault – History of Sexuality vol. 1
14. Caroline Cooney – What Janie Found
15. Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire
16. Suzanne Collins – Mocking Jay
17. Elizabeth Gaskell – Gothic Tales
18. Marjorie Garber – Vested Interests, reading
19. Vernon Lee – Haunting, reading
20. Neil Gaiman – Orange
21. Jasper Fforde – The Last Dragonslayer, reading

Ok that isn’t too bad so far although you will see on closer inspection that some of these I’ve yet to finish so they don’t count and are just there so I don’t forget to add them or indeed to finish them. I should confess some of these are children’s books and Neil Gaiman’s Orange probably shouldn’t count because although it was a free ‘book’ given to children for World Book Day it is only about 20 pages long.

Since starting this challenge I’ve discovered I’m good at reading several books at once and even better and putting them down and forgetting about them. I’m reminded of Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree in which he confesses to buying more books than he’s finishing, although in my case I’m getting them out of a library. I should probably also confess that some of these books I’ve read before so whether they count or not may depend on how close I am to 50 at the end of the year. I should also confess that if I reach 50 without needing to finish Villette by Charlotte Bronte then I won’t.

What’s interesting about Hornby’s book, which is a collection of monthly columns about reading, is that there is a pattern to what he is reading and deciding to read. Sometimes this is an obvious link because of the period or authors but at other points he appears to be seeking patterns and links in the literature that are quite tenuous and unexpected. However, I’m not finding this. This may be because what I read is dictated by courses on subjectivity and gothic as well as dissertation and potential PhD topic reading. Therefore the reading I do truly for fun is difficult to isolate as well as to link up. I think I’m also trying to get through lots of books that I’ve bought and want to read but I’ve never got round to it. It’s also interesting to note that while many of those as yet unopened books were on my initial ‘to read’ list at the start of the year they haven’t yet found their way into my hands because I’ve been distracted by other books. Poor things.

Ok so I’ll give you a brief summary of the books I’ve read and whether I’d recommend them.

The first book isn’t actually on the list because I read Alan Glynn’s Limitless just after Christmas but I finished it before the first of January. I only really read it because it was free on one of those Starbucks iBook download cards and I wanted to try out an e-book on my new iPad. However, it was actually quite good and quite interesting to see a different side to novels about drug taking. With lots of people turning to performance enhancing drugs or drugs that aid study, work or information retention it was interesting to see that taken to it’s extreme and what that means for individual identity. I haven’t seen the film but I’d recommend the book.

So the actual 1. Caitlin Moran – How to be a Woman.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I’d heard good things but there was perhaps a little too much hype about this book. However, it is funny for the most part and it’s a good introduction to feminist thought in an everyday way rater than an academic sense. This makes the book accessible and it targets the attitude of “I’m not a feminist but… I want equality, equal pay, not to be objectified”. This is does pretty well with many amusing anecdotes on being or becoming a woman in Britain today. I don’t agree with everything it says and it can generalise quite a lot but it gets top marks for intentions. Have a read.

2.

This was another free book thanks to the 12 days of Christmas iTunes giveaway. I’m not that into crime fiction so I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise but it’s ok and I’ll finish it eventually and update you on my thoughts then.

3. Christopher Brookmyre – A Snowball in Hell.

I really like Christopher Brookmyre. Stef got me not him and although I’d describe myself as someone that doesn’t really like crime fiction his books are brilliant. They are funny, tense, interesting and wonderfully Scottish. They’re great when I’m missing Scotland. This book is a sequel to an earlier novel about a terrorist and surrealist clown bank robbers. In this novel the terrorist is back and this time he’s terrorising reality television wannabe popstars and the show’s creator as well as racist tabloid columnists giving Brookmyre plenty of opportunities to criticise both areas. If you’ve never read any Brookmyre you should.

4. Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea.

I read this because I thought it was gong to be on my gothic course this semester but it was removed. I wasn’t a big fan. It was dull but there were something constructions of women and mental illness.

5. Kate Chopin – The Awakening (audiobook).

I’ve discovered that I’m not always listening when I think I am. My girlfriend has been telling me this for a while but I wasn’t listening. This meant that I had to keep repeating parts of the audiobook because I’d get distracted. This was a lot like another story I read by Chopin but it was good. Everyone loves a bit of early feminist literature.

6. Ann Radcliffe – A Sicilian Romance

I’ve read this before so it probably doesn’t count.it annoyed me last time I read and it annoyed me again this time. Any time anything happens to any woman in this novel she faints. I’m surprised we can get to the end of the book will all of the female characters fainting like that. It doesn’t happen to the male characters oh no they are getting on with the plot. Ugh.

7. Charlotte Brontë – Villette, reading

I may never finish this book.

8. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

I was surprised that I’d never read Frankenstein. It was good. It reminded me a lot of Paradise Lost and for me the monster was a lot like Eve. The monster is made from bits of man, is always other and cannot help but fall. The monster is fallen and can do nothing but fall much like Eve can do nothing but fall whereas Adam falls knowingly out of choice. There’s also a similarity in when the monster see its reflection and is repulsed. Eve sees her reflection, finds it attractive, and is then repulsed when she realises. Anyway, read Frankenstein.

9. Graeme Chesters and Ian Welsh – Social Movements: The Key Concepts

I read this because I wanted one of them to be my secondary PhD supervisor and I wanted an introduction to the field of social movement studies. It’s good.

10. Sarah Blake – The Postmistress

I read this after reading a recommendation on afterellen.com. I was interested because it’s about a war correspondent and one day depending on the legalising of gay marriage and the employability of a certain journoface I might be married to one of them. It’s set in the second world war before America has joined and tells the story of the news that was coming in about the war and how it affects the lives of Americans.

11. Colin Bateman –Mystery Man, reading

My Mum gave me this book to give to Stef because she thought she’d like it and I started reading it on the train up to visit her. It’s good so far. It’s funny. It’s about how the owner of a crime fiction bookshop accidentally starts solving crimes.

12. Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games, 15. Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire and 16. Suzanne Collins – Mocking Jay

These are books are so good they are getting a separate blog.

13. Michel Foucault – History of Sexuality vol. 1

I’ve read this book many times before and I had to read it for class so it probably doesn’t count. Go read Foucault. Then read some more. He’s awesome.

14. Caroline Cooney – What Janie Found

I found this book online quite by chance. It’s the final book in a series I read as a kid about a girl who finds out she was kidnapped. I read to see how the story panned out. Alas this final book is rubbish I don’t think it’s just because I’m probably 10 years outside of it’s target audience. This book introduces the possibility that her kind of adoptive parents knew she was kidnapped and had been financing the kidnapper’s lifestyle. It then gives this teenager the opportunity to confront her kidnapper. Then she pisses about whining and doing nothing other than crying and thinking about boys before deciding to give the kidnapper lots of money and not meet her. How pointless. What a pointless book and ending.

17. Elizabeth Gaskell – Gothic Tales

I had to read this book for class. It’s a collection of short stories but I think it counts if I had to read all of it. They were ok. It thee was lots of middle class whining and oh no’s he/she’s poor while selling off, I mean marrying, one’s child. That’s more of a reflection of the time though. There’s some interesting gender identity and fluidity in ‘The Grey Woman’ which helped somewhat to make up for it.

18. Marjorie Garber – Vested Interests, reading
19. Vernon Lee – Haunting, reading
20. Neil Gaiman – Orange
21. Jasper Fforde – The Last Dragonslayer, reading

I put all these together because either I haven’t finished them or I’m not sure they count and this blog has gone on long enough.

Happy reading week xx

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Equal Playing Field

Perusing the news earlier I came across a man called Lee Steele. I hadn’t heard of him before. He plays a sport I’m not interested in for a city I’ve never been to in a country I don’t live in. For those of who that are interested he plays for the football club Oxford City. In fact he played for Oxford City.

Earlier today he was sacked for making a homophobic comment on Twitter about the out homosexual ex-rugby player Gareth Thomas who is currently starring in Celebrity Big Brother. Incidentally, today I also learnt that the hashtag #cbb is about that show and not about children’s television. Anyway, Steele suggested that he would have to be careful if he were in a bed near Gareth Thomas in case Thomas violated him. Those pesky homosexuals. Not only are they attracted to everyone of the same sex, much like heterosexuals are attracted to everyone of the opposite sex and bisexuals are attracted to everyone ever, but they also cannot control their desire to rape and sexually assault everyone they come into contact with. What that isnt the case?

Someone should have alerted Steele to this because he seems to think one needs bottom protection when near a homosexual male. In his offensive tweet he used the hashtag #padlockmyarsehole. I don’t recommend you type that into a search engine. It’s a good thing shit comes out of his mouth or he’d be in trouble with that kind of behaviour.

Quite rightly, Steele has been punished for his offensive homophobic tweet. While I may have just heard of him today he’s a figure in the public eye that lots of people will look up to. While there will be some disagreement about the punishment he received it’s a clear message from the club that they won’t tolerate homophobia and I think that’s important. Football is still a sport where male players can’t come out as LGBT. To my knowledge the last high profile player to come out was Justin Fashanu, who committed suicide in 1998. However, homophobia is not the only villain on the field. There have been lots of debates about hate crime on the pitch focused most recently about racist comments. With the Olympics just around the corner the world is watching our sport and they should be seeing the excellence British sport has to offer. Instead they’re witnessing an embarrassing tirade of abuse that’s damaging players, fans and the future of equality.

That’s what I’m really blogging about here. Equality and LGBT people in sport. I could blog until I’m blue in the face about hate crime on the pitch, and many people who know more about sport and more about racism have much more intelligent things to say so I recommend you read their blogs, but it would make me look a bit like corpse bride. Unfortunate. Last year the government launched a Charter for Action to Stamp Out LGBT Discrimination in Sport. Excellent. Let’s kick homophobia and transphobia out of all levels of sport for the benefit of everyone.

However, sacking footballers when they make homophobic comments isn’t enough. It’s a step in the right direction but it doesn’t stop the homophobia. It punishes for a crime but it doesn’t necessarily make sporting events any more LGBT friendly. This is of course not to say that all sports are filled with homophobic bigots. There are lots of sports that have out LGBT players and many sports may have LGBT or LGBT-friendly teams. They don’t tend to be shown on hundreds of TV screens in pubs and homes across the UK though. It would be great if we could have more equal playing fields and more welcoming sports that tackled these problems in a positive way rather than all we see to stamp out discrimination in sport is the firing of players. Instead we should be seeing positive messages about LGBT people and sport whether that’s through advertising for LGBT charities and organisations at large sporting events or lots of high profile sporting individuals supporting campaigns to remove homophobia from sport regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Next month is LGBT history month. Could we see some rainbow kits or a wee pride flag? Some rainbow armbands would do.

I hope as plans are being made across the LGBT community to celebrate LGBT history month that across the sporting world they too are making plans to celebrate LGBT history month and kick homophobia out of sport in positive ways as well as by firing homophobes.

A picture stolen from Google images.

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New Book Resolution

Well that’s 2011 over. It was an interesting year. I was an employer, an employee and a student. There were times when I was almost important. Mostly it was self important though. It was a year of political protest across the world and across the UK. My life was political for a while. Now it’s calmed down a lot. I’m a poor postgraduate and I read a lot. Sometimes I spend time with other humans but not often. So with less politics and less wank in my life, 2012 will be full of books. Not just snippets of chapters clutched at while trying not to nod off commuting to work. Not just books I have to read for my course. Real reading for the sheer joy of it. Sounds good doesn’t it? So good I’d like to read 50 books this year to celebrate how good it sounds. Here’s the potential list so far:

1. Steig Larsson The Girl Who Played With Fire
2. Steig Larsson The Girl Who Kicked the Hormet’s Nest
3. Ann Radcliffe A Sicilian Romance/em>
4. Herman Hesse The Glass Bead Game
5. Jacques Derrida Positions
6. H. G. Wells The Time Machine
7. Michel Foucault Madness and Civilisation
8. Vernon Lee Hauntings
9. Charlotte Bronte Villette
10. Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness
11. Sigmund Freud The Uncanny
12. Julia Kristeva Powers of Horror
13. Mary Shelley Frankenstein
14. Djuna Barnes Nightwood
15. Sarah Waters Affinity
16. Sarah Waters The Little Stranger
17. Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea
18. Angela Carter Love
19. Umberto Eco Baudolino
20. Umberto Eco Foucault’s Pendulum
21. Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose
22. A. S. Byatt The Children’s Book
23. Owen Jones Chavs
24. Brian Christian The Most Human Human
25. Caitlin Moran How to be a Woman
26. Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie
27. Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter
28. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto
29. Plato The Republic
30. Jean Jacques Rousseau The Social Contract
31. Catherine Belsey Culture and the Real
32. Judith Butler Undoing Gender
33. Judith Butler Giving an Account of Oneself
34. Jo Nesbo The Redbreast
35. Alasdair Gray Lanark
36. Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice
37. Italo Calvino Invisible Cities
38. Christopher Brookmyre The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks
39. Christopher Brookmyre A Snowball in Hell

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Something Old, Something New…

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Sorry I haven’t blogged for a while. Today I have something important to say.

I’m in love. This isn’t news for many of you, and probably isn’t important to most of you despite its importance to me. However, what I’m going to tell you is important and if you want you can help me.

So I’m in love and I love a woman. She defines as a woman, society defines her as a woman and she goes by the name of Stefani. So far so good. I too am a woman. I define as such (albeit in a continually questioning and refuting sense), society defines me as such and I go by the name of Rhianna. So far so gay. We are like any other couple in love. We care about each other, we can be ridiculously sweet to the point that others may be caused to vomit, we nag each other about things that don’t matter, and we want to spend the rest of our lives together.

That we can do. We currently live very far away from each other while I study in Cardiff and she studies in Glasgow, but in a few months we will be living together (hopefully with a tiny kitten called Tilly but that’s for another blog post). We can live together, and in doing so we can share so much of our lives with each other from the television remote to bills, laundry, food, and more. We could adopt children, or use various options available to have our own. We can own pets, such as Tilly. We can disagree over types of pasta in Tesco. There’s one thing we can’t do though. We can’t married.

‘What about civil partnerships?’ I hear you cry fictional reader. Yes we could get a civil partnership. It’s pretty similar in the law, it’s recognised across the UK and as of Monday you can even have one in a religious venue if the religious organisation will let you. So what’s my problem? Well if you read the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 you will stumble across the fact that you cannot enter into a civil partnership if you are not of the same sex. Marriages are for couples of the ‘opposite sex’ as defined by the law (there is much more to be said about ‘opposite sex’ and ‘same sex’ as categories as well as the term ‘sex’ itself but for now I’ll stick to the legal terms to avoid confusion and to keep on topic) and civil partnerships are for ‘same sex’ couples. Separate but equal some might say. The problem is, as we learnt from segregated schools on the grounds of race in America, separate is inherently unequal. To offer up a marriage equivalent only available to the group of people to whom marriage is denied is a sop. It is a political distraction to prevent the contentious debate around equal marriage. Why is it contentious? Because homophobia is still rife in the UK. Homophobia is in our classrooms bullying our children. Homophobia is on the streets shouting at couples holding hands. Homophobia is in our laws denying me the right to marry my girlfriend. For some of us homophobia is in our homes and for others it is at our places of work.

There are many problems with having civil partnerships for some couples and marriages for others. People denied the opportunity to marry or to enter into a civil partnership are not the only ones negatively affected. Trans* people who are married find themselves forced to divorce their spouse in order to get a gender recognition certificate because they would find themselves in an illegal marriage with someone of the same ‘sex’ (I know I said I’d leave this problem with the language used alone, but it is interesting to note that in this situation ‘sex’ is not the same and in theory the law has not been broken. There is a great book called Transgender Jurisprudence by Andrew Sharpe if you’re interested in learning more about the problematic relationship between trans* and the law). A gender recognition certificate came into being after the Gender Recognition Act in 2004 and allows for people living in a different gender to the one the law acknowledges them as being, as a result of their birth certificate, to have their gender defined appropriately in the law. (This law isn’t perfect and for trans* people wishing to define as such it still isn’t enough but again I’m getting off topic). For trans* people in a civil partnership they too would have to get it dissolved before they could get a gender recognition certificate.

‘So civil partnerships and marriages are pretty good for recognising relationships and they usually come with a good party and cake, why don’t we just open both up to everyone?’ I hear my imaginary reader say.

Why don’t we indeed. NUS Scotland LGBT has been campaigning for equal marriage for at least 4 years. The Equality Network have also been key players in this campaign, not to mention Liberal Youth and the Scottish Youth Parliament who’ve taken up this cause too. Earlier this year the Scottish government launched a consultation to find out what the people of Scotland think about same sex marriage and civil partnerships. This consultation closes on December 9th. If you live in Scotland and you haven’t already filled it out then please do so now: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/justice/samesexmarriage.asp

This consultation was welcomed with open arms by those in the LGBT community, as well as our friends and supporters who define in all sorts of other ways. Many of them have filled out the consultation. Thank you so much to those of you that have. Others haven’t been so thrilled. The Scottish Catholic Church has sent out 200,000 postcards for people to fill out in opposition to the consultation on same sex marriage in Scotland. Fortunately that many haven’t been returned (I believe the last reported number was 20,000 but it may have gone up since then) and without a proper consultation response they don’t hold as much weight. The Scottish Christian party have encouraged people to fill out the consultation and produced a ready-reckoner with suggestions for responses. They have produced their own horrific homophobic response which suggests homosexuals are paedophiles, homosexuals indoctrinate children, and same sex parents are unnatural and harmful amongst other misguided ill-informed opinions. Have a read for yourself here: http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/documents/SCP%20response%20to%20Consultation%20on%20Homosexual%20Redefinition%20of%20Marriage%200120685.pdf There’s also been a protest outside Holyrood held by Scotland for marriage, http://scotlandformarriage.org/, an organisation apparently protecting marriage from homosexuals who might taint it. Apparently marriage is for men and women and it’s to give children a mother and a father. What about all those currently married that don’t have children? Should they get divorced because they aren’t doing it right?

A lot of these organisations speak of the need to defend marriage, to defend Scotland and for Scotland to support marriage. What I’d like is for Scotland to open up marriage, to improve marriage, and to offer a marriage worth defending. One day I would like to wear a beautiful white dress as I walk down the aisle to marry my beautiful girlfriend. I want to cut the cake together and have our first dance as a married couple in front of our friends and family. I don’t want second best.

 

If you would like to see a Scotland that promotes equality and that offers equal opportunities to couples regardless of who they love then please fill out the consultation. NUS Scotland have produced a slightly easier to read shorter version available here:

www.nusscotlandlgbt.org.uk

or the full version is here:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/justice/samesexmarriage.asp

 

Say Cheese 29

Day 29 – A picture that can always make you smile

Say Cheese 28

Day 28 – A picture of something you’re afraid of

Moths. They scare the crap out of me. I’m not really sure why. I have no fear of butterflies.

Picture pilfered from Wikipedia.

Say Cheese 27

Day 27 – A picture of yourself and a family member

This me with my parents from Christmas a few years ago.

Say Cheese 26

Day 26 – A picture of something that means a lot to you

Boke 🙂