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Maggie & Me

UNEMBARRASSED (PLASTIC?) HALF-JOCK”

Maggie & MeMaggie & Me

Damian Barr

Bloomsbury

ISBN 978-1-4088-3809-9

This is a sort-of autobiography of a man in his mid-thirties, of (religiously) mixed parents in industrial Scotland. Such things matter in the central belt of Scotland, but it is more a matter of ethnic origin than religious feeling. The vast majority of RCs in Scotland are of Irish origin, and that mark (of Cain?) can stretch well beyond the fifth generation. Damian Barr’s ‘Catholic’ parent was his mother who was religiously indifferent, if not somewhat hostile to the church, on the grounds that she was divorced. ‘Damian’ is definitely a ‘Catholic’ name, it became popular in the twentieth century due to a Belgian priest who ministered to lepers in Molokai a south Pacific island. He (Mr. Barr) may, given his age, have been named for the central character in a Hollywood horror movie. Given that that character was the Devil, no less, in disguise, that notion may be inaccurate. But there were an awful lot of ‘Damian’s’ so named in the late 1970s an early ’80s. The Belgian missionary’s surname was rendered ‘Damien’.

Damian Barr was sent to State schools rather than semi-independent Catholic ones. Despite the ‘Taig’ name he wasn’t given too much hassle. That, in ever-increasing quantities, was brought on by the fact that he was deemed to be queer quite early in his schooldays. ‘Gay Barr’, ‘Gaymian’ and other more brutal nicknames followed him from primary to secondary school. That he was very tall and willowy from his very early teens didn’t help, nor that he was the smartest in his class. His first encounter with genuine disappointment was not getting a big prize in his secondary (the Scottish equivalent of a Grammar) school for being an all-round brilliant pupil. He was half way out of his seat before another boy’s name was called, and he was surprised at how angry and disappointed he was. Despite that, he tended to win every other prize worth having, including one to study in Cambridge. He had been expecting to go to Strathclyde. He wasn’t snooty about that eventuality, but Cambridge was a usefully long way away from prying family, neighbours and ‘friends’.

It really isn’t much of a ‘story’ but it is very well written and he tells us about his intimate friendship with a handsome fair haired boy, “Mark”, who decides in their very early teens that there is something wrong with the relationship. He (Mark) become heavily involved with girls, a large plurality of them. He doesn’t get forced into marriage because the girls, mostly, insist on condoms being used. Mark acknowledges Damian when the latter returns to the isolated housing estate (called ‘schemes’ in Scotland) on the periphery of Glasgow they lived in. Some ‘schemes’ are enormous, the ‘planners’ forgot to include amenities, like shops, much less social spaces like club premises; churches and church halls weren’t even an afterthought. Public transport was heavily used for shopping (women had to travel into Glasgow, up to twenty miles away, to get basics. Entrepreneurship in these matters was entirely in Indian hands. The grocer’s son encountered in school was called ‘Ahmed’.

Damian eventually discovers the deeply closeted Gay life of his school, his scheme, and later the ‘Gay Scene’ in central Glasgow where he had happy times in the pubs and discos. He was earning money working part time and weekends in shops mostly, and had something like genuine privacy because none of his elders were particularly interested in him, or his younger sister. They were quite enthusiastic about pointing out that she was more masculine than he was. This tomboy eventually settled down, and trained as a nurse, after Damian made good his escape to Cambridge, then London. (His family were quite proud of the fact that he got to university, especially one of the few they could name.)

This is a fairly well-trodden path in terms of queer autobiography, except for its straightforward approach to his sexuality. He writes at one point “I was gay” a simple, slightly relieved, acknowledgement of a fact. There are no dramatics, melo-, or otherwise. There are a number of comic interludes in this narrative from his schooldays to disastrous job interviews. Towering over teachers, school bullies, and interviewers isn’t always useful, it can provoke some into pointless aggression, Pointless, because Damian Barr could probably pick such people up and give them a good shake. He also encounters men he has made contact with through advertisements in a magazine made up of adverts for, mostly, unwanted hardware. They are mostly middle-aged and not quite the Adonai they implied in their ads.

Most readers will probably enjoy this well-told tale, and find an awful lot of points in common with his progress through his adolescence. And if you try the internet you might get this treat for pennies (not that one begrudges Damian a good return on the work he put into this text).

Seán McGouran

PS Thatcher doesn’t loom large, or small, in this text – quotes from the good Lady preface each chapter – in the manner of uplifting Victorian books.

ROCK AGAINST BOWIE

David Bowie (né Jones) died a short time ago, as ever on such occasions, tributes ‘poured in’, and there is no doubt that Bowie was an artist who could produce very interesting material. He could also, it should be said, produce whole albums-worth of dreck. The person who first broke ranks on the adulation was the comedian (and sharp investigative television reporter), Mark Thomas.

He noted Bowie (“the Thin White Duke”)’s Hitlerian salutes and straightforward racism, shouting “Keep Britain White”, and “Get the foreigners out” in the course of early 1970s gigs. Such people don’t ‘do’ irony, the fact that he was using African-American music crudified for honkie consumption never seems to have ‘fizzed’ on him.

He was, admittedly, one of the few people who composed ‘concept albums’ worth listening to – one on the theme of travelling from Vladivostok to Moscow along the Trans-Siberian Railway. That’s the sort of thing ‘Rock Stars’ did in those days, when not molesting under-age girls or chucking televisions out of hotel windows. Bowie was a quite inconsistent artist and some of his stuff is worthless. The guitarist Eric Clapton, of the band Cream, joined in the racist fun at his own gigs.

A result of this dangerous nonsense was the founding of Rock Against Racism, at the instigation of a professional photographer ‘Red’ Saunders, in a letter to the ‘music press’, presumably mainly NME (New Musical Express) a mass-circulation journal at the time. There already was a group called Rock Against Racism an arm of the SWP (still the International Socialists, becoming a ‘party’ in 1976). The SWP was very gratified at a sudden huge extension of its youth base.

It was less enthralled to learn that the great majority of the base thought their particular analysis of society was surplus to requirements. The SWP personnel were voted out of office in RAR, though the IS / SWP were allowed to sell their wares at RAR gigs – some of which were enormous. The racist Right found that “there ain’t no black in the Union Jack” stirred most teenagers to thump them rather than nod in agreement. Ska and reggae bands were ever-present at RAR gigs and rallies. RAR’s magazine Temporary Hoarding was first published on May Day 1977.

Despite that, the racist Right looked as if it was going to make inroads in electoralist politics, it got 10% of the vote in the 1974 London’s local elections. It certainly seemed to be making determined efforts to monopolise the streets. Kevin Gateley was killed in Notting Hill in the Summer of 1976, prior to that Enoch Powell, in April claimed that ‘Britain’ was being “hollowed from within…” a portentous remark, if not a particularly clear one. England, or at least London, experienced a number of long, hot summers. In August 1977 the National Front staged an “anti-mugging” march through Lewisham. It left the south London, largely plebeian borough in a mess, but did very little to wipe out ‘mugging’ (street theft of purses and money off isolated, working class people) mostly women out shopping.

There can be little doubt that the rank and file of the police were sympathetic to the NF. The ‘blacks’ had suddenly become a majority, allegedly, in some London boroughs and parts of other cities and towns. The ‘Asians’ were a slightly more ambiguous matter, they didn’t look all that out of the ordinary, at least when they didn’t wear ‘Asian’ clothes. And they had the proper attitude to women, they should be seen and not heard, and stay in the kitchen. The ‘Blacks’ largely of West Indian origin have now become observably English. Some third, and forth generation ‘Asians’ have reverted to wearing the sort of clothes worn in the Indian subcontinent. Given that even liberals can use phrases like “fourth generation immigrants” possibly this is not too blameworthy.

Rock Against Racism rather fizzled out in the course of the 1980s mainly because groups like the National Front did, there was nothing like an invasion (you’ll recalled Mrs Thatcher used similar language in the 1990s, when she was Prime MInister) or a ‘deluge’. It was for most towns and cities more of a trickle of immigrants. The people coming into the economy proved useful, – most of the Asians were middle class and educated. They were somewhat similar to the Poles of the ‘noughties’, nearly all of whom had skills. Despite which, the Daily Mail attempted to work up grievances against them – then they all went home.

It is worth mentioning that Blair Peach, a New Zealander was killed opposing a National Front celebration of St George’s Day (April 23rd) in Southall. It is in (far) west London, and was heavily populated by Indians – the biggest Hindu temple on the planet is in the area. Peach was part of a crowd of about 3,000 – they were managed by an astonishing number of police, about 2,500. Peach was killed some streets away clearly obviously trying to get away from a baton charge.

He didn’t manage to escape, and died next day of a physical trauma – a huge injury to the back of his head. The London Metropolitan Police took years to admit that they did it. And that they had been very heavy handed dealing with a crowd that was not being physically aggressive and was not much bigger than their own body of men. This was the socio-political ambience that Bowie and Clapton decided to throw their tuppence worth of racist bilge around.

Change.org Petition Launched to Stop the DUP using Petition of Concern to derail Equality in NI

 

thegaysay1

People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people’ – Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director)

 

 

 

The Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont have now voted on the issue of marriage equality 5 times. All 5 of those motions were blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party through their use of a parliamentary veto called the “petition of concern.” 

Under the complex rules of power sharing in Northern Ireland, parties from either the unionist or nationalist community can use this veto if they feel there is not enough backing from Protestants or Catholics for particular legislation. It was designed to ensure no one community dominated the other following the 1998 Belfast agreement.

This mechanism established to ensure the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland is being continually abused to deny a fundamental right to the LGBT community and, because of this, Northern Ireland is lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in adopting a fairer, more equal and more forward thinking approach to human rights. 

Four previous motions failed to reach a majority in favour of Marriage Equality. However, even if any of these motions did achieve a majority in favour , the DUP had already implemented the petition of concern prior to each vote to ensure the result was a foregone conclusion.

This was also the case with vote 5 in November 2015, but on this occasion the mechanism was officially enacted to veto a majority of politicians who voted ‘AYE’ in favour of the legislation.

Four independent unionist assembly members joined nationalists and others with 53 votes in favour of marriage equality – one vote ahead of the remaining unionists and independents opposed to any reform. A narrow majority but a majority all the same.

The party known as the “Democratic” Unionist Party (DUP) thwarted a democratic vote and derailed equality by using the mechanism unfairly on this issue and it seems most people are not happy about this. 

Numerous surveys have shown that a majority of people in NI are now in favour of marriage equality.

  • In November 2015 a poll jointly commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland and Irish broadcaster RTÉ, revealed that 64 percent of people support equal marriage in Northern Ireland while just 23 percent oppose it. Over 2000 people were surveyed for the cross-borders research, carried out by the polling company B&A. Not far off the landslide 62% YES vote in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum last year.
  • In June 2015 an Ipsos MORI survey interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16+ from across Northern Ireland. The interviews were conducted face-to-face between 20th May and 8th June 2015 with data weighted to match the profile of the population. The results showed that 68% of those surveyed supported marriage equality. The figure rises to 82% among 16 to 34-year-olds and 75% support among 35 to 54-year-olds, but falls to 47% among those aged 55 and over. 

In 2005 UK government actuaries suggested 6% (1 in 16.66) of the population, or about 3.6 million citizens, are either gay or lesbian. The Treasury calculated this estimate when analysing the financial implications of the Civil Partnerships Act. The figures were based on the 2000 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), which asked respondents about sexual attitudes and behaviours, but not orientation, and on comparable research from Europe and America.

In a study examining the responses of 7,441 individuals, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland, found that 2.7% of men and 1.2% of women self-identified as homosexual or bisexual. A question based on a variant of the Kinsey scale found that 5.3% of men and 5.8% of women reported some same-sex attraction. Of those surveyed, 7.1% of men and 4.7% of women reported a homosexual experience some time in their life so far.

In reality however this has less to do with numbers and more to do with human beings with feelings and without access to an equal definition and commitment to love. Most of us will know someone who is gay. This issue is not just about our friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbours. It is about standing up for basic human rights. 

The DUP have to stop differentiating peoples’ rights under the law according to their sexuality. It’s simple genetics. It would be absurd to say blonde people couldn’t marry. We’ll give them blond partnerships. Blond people could ruin the sanctity of marriage.

The DUP should step up on this issue and show NI is about equality and unity. The negative narrative has clearly has now so evidently isolated us in Western Europe.

The love between same sex and opposite sex couples is the same. Why can’t their love be recognised in the same way?

Love is love regardless of gender and hair colour.

This shouldn’t be an issue of gay rights, blond rights, transgender rights or Christian rights. This is about human rights and the equal recognition of love under the law.

It has already been established that any marriage equality legislation will grant religious organisations protections so that they will not have to officiate same sex ceremonies. This means there is no threat to the religious interpretation and view that marriage should remain as between a man and a woman. It’s just not right that in a democratic society everyone should be forced to think that way. The only people truly affected by this legislation would be those who wish to marry someone of the same sex.

Sign this petition to voice your opposition to the DUP’s abuse of the petition of concern and to petition OFMDFM to agree not to use such a veto on what is evidently a human rights and equality issue.  
As first minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster has the power to bring Northern Ireland into the 21st century and alter the perception that her party is trapped in the past. The last thing Northern Ireland needs for its image right now is the perception that it is “on the wrong side of history.” Sign your name on the petition HERE and stand up for human rights.

Letter to
Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland (OFMDFMNI)
Stop the DUP using the ‘petition of concern’ to veto Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland

Miners campaigner Gethin Roberts to visit Southmead Hospital to mark LGBT History Month

 

Aaron Sims, Reporter / Friday 12 February 2016 / News

Southmead Hospital

Mr Roberts will be visiting Southmead Hospital next week as part of a series of events marking LGBT History Month

 

A FOUNDING member of a lesbian and gay group that supported striking UK miners in the 1980’s, is visiting Southmead Hospital next week to help mark LGBT History Month.

Gethin Roberts, a founding member of Lesbian & Gays Support the Miners, depicted in the hit 2014 film Pride, will visit the hospital on February 17-18, as part of a series of events organised by North Bristol NHS Trust.
On Wednesday, February 17, Mr Roberts will be present at a special screening of Pride, taking place in the Hospital’s Learning and Research centre at 5pm, and the following day, he will take part in a seminar from 11am to 1pm.
To close the month Cheryl Morgan, a presenter on Bristol’ Ujima radio station, will be hosting a trans-awareness seminar on Wednesday, February 24 from 10.45am.

Both events are free for members of the public.

Unite the Union, Bristol Health Branch chairman, Phil Hedges, said: “We are delighted to support the events for LGBT History Month at North Bristol NHS Trust.

“Everyone is welcome to attend the events to find out more about LGBT people in a social setting and to recognise the struggle for rights at work.

 

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize: LGBT storylines make it onto youth fiction shortlist

Jandy Nelson’s ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ and ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson cover issues of sexuality and gender

Lisa Williamson

Lisa Williamson, author of ‘The Art of Being Normal’ Good Egg Media/Vimeo

 

Novels with LGBT storylines have been shortlisted for a major children’s books prize, as modern teenage issues increasingly replace werewolves and vampires in the plots of youth fiction.

Two of the stand-out novels on the shortlist for the older fiction category of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize focus on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender.

Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of a brother and sister driven apart by tragedy but brought back together as they both fall for boys at the same time. The San Francisco author’s second novel has been optioned by Warner Bros to be adapted into a film.

Waterstones Prize: The shortlist

Illustrated Books

Have You Seen Elephant? David Barrow 
Cinderella’s Sister and the  Big Bad Wolf  Lorraine Carey and Migy Blanco 
Hector and HummingbirdNicholas John Frith  
The Crow’s Tale Naomi Howarth 
The Bear and the Piano  David Litchfield 
Super Happy Magic ForestMatty Long 

Younger Fiction

Bird Crystal Chan  
Darkmouth Shane Hegarty 
Witch Wars Sibéal Pounder 
The Blackthorn Key Kevin Sands 
My Brother is a SuperheroDavid Solomons 
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow Katherine Woodfine 

Older Fiction

The Accident Season  Moïra Fowley-Doyle  
Seed Lisa Heathfield  
13 Days of Midnight Leo Hunt 
I’ll Give You the Sun  Jandy Nelson
The Sin Eater’s DaughterMelinda Salisbury 
The Art of Being Normal Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson follows two teenagers struggling with their gender identities and finding it hard to keep the secret at school.

Juno Dawson, a children’s author who has herself recently transitioned, hailed the rising profile of LGBT-themed youth fiction. She told The Independent: “The floodgates are open and I don’t think they will close again. I hope we will see diversity as standard in children’s books.

“Ten years ago, authors may have been wary that including diverse characters would affect sales, but I don’t think that’s true anymore.”

She added: “These books are now getting their moment in the spotlight,” but cautioned: “We must be careful that diversity doesn’t become a fad in the way vampires were a fad with publishers getting bored and moving on.”

In total, 18 books have been shortlisted for the 2016 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, split into the categories of older fiction, younger fiction and illustrated books.

The organisers pointed out that although fantasy and adventure books were still present, they did not dominate the list.

Jandy Nelson

‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ author Jandy Nelson (jandynelson.com)

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that fiction should reflect the issues and concerns of society as a whole. Great works of fiction reflect those issues that are of primary concern in a society.

“LGBT rights are something teenage children are informed about and can talk about sensitively – that wasn’t the case at the time of my childhood. The whole quality of understanding and debate has moved on dramatically, and we’re the better for that.”

Two books on the older fiction list are coloured by “the dark shadow of abuse”: Lisa Heathfield’s Seed, about being raised in a cult, and Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season.

In the younger fiction category, Crystal Chan’s Bird, the author’s first novel, tells the tale of how grief and guilt threaten to overwhelm a family. The animal kingdom dominates the illustrated books shortlist.

Florentyna Martin, children’s buyer for Waterstones, said: “Today’s children do not just enjoy books for the escapism they offer, but for how they can illuminate life in all its shades of light and dark.”

The winners will be announced on 17 March, with the overall book of the year prize accompanied by a cheque for £5,000.

Equality or Freedom of Expression?

Cake and eat it

Editorial

This morning Jeff Dudgeon along with MIckey Murray were interviewed on ‘Good Morning Ulster‘  (click the link for the discussion which starts about 2hr 12 minutes into the programme) in relation to a statement issued by Peter Thatchell regarding his current thoughts on the Asher Cake case, which is being reviewed as we speak.

The interview lasts about 8 minutes, and in the main followed lines previously discussed.  However I believe we all have our own opinion, and also because of the review ruling due from the courts which as Jeff, indicated the judgement will probably be looking at the following points of law:

  • Freedom of Expression etc.

  • Equality

we should await the judgement.

I will draw the attention of everyone to the following extract taken from an artile on the ifex website:

 

“The Camden Principles demonstrate that the rights to equality and freedom of expression go hand-in-hand and mutually reinforce each other, and that neither one of these indispensable human rights can be achieved at the expense of the other,” says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “They uphold the key principles of universality and indivisibility where too many have tried to impose exceptions and hierarchy.”

ARTICLE 19 launches the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality

 

Further reading: