Human Rights – The Legal Act in the UK

Human Rights ActI asked a friend who is retired with a wide set of experiences in dealing with Human Rights, to give me his impression on the removal of the Human Rights Act from the UK, and what impact it would have.

He believes that repealing this Act which brings into domestic law the European Convention on Human Rights, will be a difficult job for the UK Government. Attempts here (N Ireland) to have a Bill of Rights expanding on those rights conferred by HRA are doomed in the short to medium term, despite the Good Friday obligations. He is part of the Human Rights Consortium and during the past 10 years or more since he started to attend, virtually no progress has been made.

He believes that Brexit will further complicate matters as various parts of these islands work out relationships between each other and the EU.

On the Consortium, they have encountered a lack of interest in the Bill of Rights, with the UK Government, the Irish Government and the NI Executive playing each other off. The DUP, mean as usual, don’t really have much of an idea about the value of rights, unless they are to their narrow benefit. It’s rather depressing!

He feels that one possibility is that Scotland, opposed to repeal or amendment of the HRA, might have its own Bill of Rights. It has vehemently opposed the “regressive” proposals for a British Bill of Rights.

On a case by case basis, any repeal of the HRA will be aired by the UK courts, ending up in the Supreme Court. The courts will not want to have to do what is essentially the work of Parliament. That relationship between Parliament, Government and Judiciary can be fractious at times, particularly here (N Ireland) where issues such as sexual orientation and abortion grab the attention of a very religious and conservative Attorney General.

hr-actN Ireland is still awaiting the reserved judgements in the two marriage cases and the Ashers appeal. And it looks like the current Attorney General in N Ireland is being very wide in his interpretation of his role, and there have been requests that he stand down or stop pursuing his own agenda which seems to definitely have a very select bias from my own and others  observations.

As with all these things we will have to wait and see how things develop, but of one thing I am certain the removal of the current Human Rights Act will not be to our benefit, and I honestly believe that LGBT rights and other diversity groups will suffer if it is taken away.

Links to further reading

‘The Pulse’ gay night club in Orlando

Onlookers

Onlookers

The Pulse

The Pulse

I was deeply shocked to hear of the sheer scale of the casualties at ‘The Pulse’ gay night club in Orlando.
It is hard to comprehend the enormity of the act and the awful nature of the suffering of the members of the LGBT community.
Those who survived will never be the same again, while the lives of so many, mostly young victims out enjoying themselves on a Saturday night have been cruelly and abruptly ended.
Such attacks on gay venues, with high casualty rates, have occurred before – in London, the US and Israel, while there have been single murders in Belfast like that of Darren Bradshaw at the Parliament Bar (and the Rev David Templeton), and more recently three gay men who were killed in London by a bomb at the Admiral Duncan pub.

 

Northern Ireland is no stranger to mass murder.  Our community knows there is a reservoir of hatred out there that can be motivated to action by political organisations and by religious hate speech. In this case it was Islamist.
The people of Belfast will I know express their solidarity with the people of Orlando, a city in Florida many of us know well and have visited.  Your pain having to bury so many fine people will be hard to bear.

I have asked that our City Hall officials put arrangements in place to allow citizens to show their sympathy to our American friends and that the City Hall gates be opened for people to gather in the grounds on Tuesday at the planned demonstration of support.
Jeff Dudgeon (Belfast City Councillor and NIGRA Treasurer)

 

Further reading:

 

 

 

Onlookers

Onlookers

Swat Team

Swat Team

Britain’s concentration camps for gay men

 

concentration-camps_640x345_acf_cropped

Historian and author Simon Webb writes about the gay men who were kept in concentration camps in the UK.

We are most of us aware that gay men were routinely sent to the concentration camps of the Third Reich for no other reason than that their sexuality was unacceptable to the Nazis.

A special section of the Gestapo, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1936, with the avowed intention of rooting out homosexuality wherever it was to be found in Germany.

In Britain during the 1930s and 1940s, gay men were certainly imprisoned for what was then classified as criminal behaviour, but few people know that there were also concentration camps operating in this country between 1940 and 1946, to which one special category of gay men were sent.

In 1940, following the fall of France, an estimated 30,000 Polish soldiers arrived in Britain; men who had fought alongside the French army in an effort to stave off the invading Germans.

They were led by a former Prime Minister of Poland, General Wladyslaw Sikorski. Fearing that this country was itself about to be invaded, these troops were rushed to Scotland to defend the east coast against possible landings of German troops launched from Norway.

Britain was thus indebted to the new Polish government-in-exile, which was led by Sikorski. Without the Polish troops, Scotland would have been all but undefended against German attack.

General Sikorski was not universally popular with his fellow countrymen and opposition groups emerged which threatened his position as leader of the Polish government and commanding officer of the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers.

The solution, at least as far as Sikorski was concerned, was simple. These enemies would have to be neutralised.

General Sikorski – the man responsible for the concentration camps in Scotland
On 18 July 1940, General Sikorski told the Polish National Council in London: “There is no Polish judiciary. Those who conspire will be sent to a concentration camp.”

Since he and the others were likely to be in Britain for the foreseeable future, it was plain that the concentration camp of which he talked, would be set up in this country.

General Marian Kukiel, appointed Commander of Camps and Army Units in Scotland by Sikorski, received a secret order relating to what were described as, ‘an unallocated grouping of officers’, who were to be held in a special camp.

Not only did Sikorski wish to see senior officers and political rivals who might challenge his authority tucked out of the way, he also wished to purge the Polish army of what he termed, ‘Person of improper moral level.’

General Sikorski was an austere and autocratic leader and had very strong ideas on what constituted acceptable behaviour.

He loathed drunks, gamblers, the sexually promiscuous and especially homosexuals.

So it was that along with all the men he feared might interfere with his leadership of the Polish government-in-exile, generals and senior politicians from pre-war Poland, Sikorski made the decision to lock up many other men of whose conduct he happened to disapprove.

The site chosen for this, the first concentration camp to be established in Britain, was the Isle of Bute.

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, before the Second World War. The first Polish concentration camp was established here in 1940

The inmates of the new camp were at first housed in tents. Not all were military men.

Among the first to be imprisoned there were men such as Michael GrazynskI, President of the Polish Scouting Association. Another important prisoner was Marian Zyndram-Kosciakowlski; who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1935-1939.

The atmosphere in the camp on the Isle of Bute was toxic.

The senior officers, no fewer than twenty generals were held captive there at various times, refused to have anything to do with what were known as the ‘pathological cases’; I.e. the drunks and homosexuals.

This led to the development of a sub-culture of gay prisoners, who tended to stick together; a situation which represented something of a scandal to those running the camp and it was decided that the ‘pathological’ types should be separated from the political prisoners.

A new and harsher camp was set up on the Scottish mainland at Tighnabruich and the gay prisoners transferred there.

This village, voted in 2002 ‘the prettiest village in Argyll, Lomand and Stirlingshire’, is on the coast, facing the Isle of Bute. The commandant of the new camp was Colonel Wladyslaw Spalek.

How was it possible that the Polish government-in-exile was allowed to operate concentration camps in this way, without any objections from the British government?

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British needed all the help they could get to defend their country against a German invasion.

The Allied Forces Act was accordingly passed that same year.

This gave the governments-in-exile of Poland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and Czechoslovakia the legal right to raise their own independent forces from among citizens of their countries resident in Britain.

Their army camps and military bases were to be regarded as the sovereign territory of the various countries concerned and, as such, immune from interference by the British police or any other authorities.

How this worked in practice was that if General Sikorski took a dislike to any Polish person living in this country, he was able to draft that person into his army and then have him arrested by the military police and taken off into captivity as either a deserter or mutineer.

This neat little trick meant that any Polish man whose behaviour, sexual or otherwise, did not meet with Sikorski’s approval was apt to find himself being shipped off to Scotland and held behind barbed wire.

In another grim echo of the situation in Nazi Germany, not only were gay men marked down for imprisonment in the camps; communists and Jews were also likely to fall foul of the Polish government in London.

One of the most famous prisoners on the Isle of Bute was the writer, journalist and biographer of Stalin; Isaac Deutscher.

Although born in Poland, Deutscher, a Jew, had emigrated to Britain where he made a life for himself before the outbreak of war in 1939.

In 1940, following Dunkirk and the Fall of France, he travelled to Scotland to volunteer for the Polish army which was now based there.

No sooner had he joined up, than Deutscher found himself arrested and sent to the camp at Rothesay.

Being both a Jew and also a communist, he was regarded as a dangerous subversive by senior figures in General Sikorski’s administration.

Rumours began to circulate among MPs in London that something unsavoury was going on in Scotland.

Names began to emerge of Polish citizens being held for no apparent reason in secret installations.

In all cases, the men being detained seemed to be Jews.

On February 19 1941, for example, Samuel Silverman, MP for Nelson and Colne, raised the question in the House of Commons of two Jewish brothers called Benjamin and Jack Ajzenberg. These men had been picked up by Polish soldiers in London and taken to a camp in Scotland.

The following year, Adam McKinley, MP for Dumbartonshire in Scotland, asked in the House what was happening on the Isle of Bute.

The government, which had no wish to upset a valuable ally, refused to provide any information.

Under the terms of the Allied Forces Act, the British had in any case no legal right to interfere in what was happening at camps and army bases being operated by the Polish Government in Exile.

Having found that they were apparently able to operate concentration camps on British soil with complete impunity, the Polish leadership opened new facilities for holding political prisoners and others at Kingledoors, Auchetarder and Inverkeithing.

The last named of these was located just eight miles from Edinburgh.

These were dreadful places which looked like the traditional idea of a concentration camp; barbed wire fences, primitive accommodation and watch towers containing armed guards.

Those living nearby heard rumours of maltreatment, starvation, beatings and even the death of inmates.

In a number of cases, the reports of deaths by shooting turned out to be quite true. On 29 October 1940, for instance, a Jewish prisoner called Edward Jakubowsky was shot dead in the camp in Kingledoors, for allegedly insulting a guard.

The Polish camps were to operate for another six years.

Increasing unease on the part of British MPs and others, led to questions being asked in the House about what precisely was going on in Scotland.

Matters came to a head on 14 June 1945. Robert McIntyre, the Member for the Scottish constituency of Motherwell, stood up in the House and asked the following question:

“Will the government make provision for the inspection, at any time, by representatives of the various districts of Scotland of any penal settlements, concentration camps, detention barracks, prisons, etc. within their area, whether these institutions are under the control of the British, American, French or Polish governments or any other authority; and for the issuing of a public report by those representatives?”

This caused something of a sensation; the suggestion that there were concentration camps in Scotland.

That same day, Moscow Radion made the same accusation, citing the detention of a Jewish academic called Dr Jan Jagodzinski in a camp at Inverkeithing.

This provoked widespread interest and the world’s press began to ask what was happening in these Polish camps.

Cutting from the Brisbane Courier and News, 15 June, 1945

In an attempt to defuse the anger being felt, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to allow journalists to visit the camp at Inverkeithing.

This action did little to reassure anybody. The first prisoner to whom reporters spoke turned out to be yet another Jew, by the name of Josef Dobosiewicz.

He alleged that a prisoner had recently been shot dead in the camp. The commandant conceded that this was true, but claimed that the dead man had been trying to escape.

Once again, the local police had been powerless to act, under the terms of the Allied Forces Act.

A year after the Second World war had come to an end, the camps were still in existence and still seemingly holding Jews.

On 16 April 1946, the MP for Fife West, William Gallacher, asked the Secretary of State for War to look into the case of two more Jews being held in a camp in Scotland; David Glicenstein and Shimon Getreudhendler.

It is impossible at this late stage to know precisely what was happening in these camps.

That they were in fact concentration camps is undeniable; that after all is what general Sikorski had announced that he would be setting up.

We have no idea at all how many gay men were sent to the camps, nor how long they were held there.

The same is true for the statistics relating to communists and Jews.

What is beyond dispute is that from 1940 onwards, men in this country were being arrested and taken to concentration camps for no other reason than that they were gay.

Simon Webb is the author of ‘British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900 – 1975′.

Poor sex education is ‘failing’ UK school pupils, survey finds

Sex education provisions are 'failing' pupils

Sex education provisions are ‘failing’ pupils

 

A survey has found that young people in the UK are being put at risk by “inconsistent” sex and relationship education – which leaves them at risk.

The Sex Education Forum carried out a survey of over 2,000 young people aged 11 to 25 – finding their safety may be at risk due to inconsistent sex and relationships education.

The survey found that many young people did not report education about a range of topic – including sexual consent, sexual abuse, or information about female genital mutilation.

It found that half (50%) of young people reported they did not learn how to get help if they were abused, over half (53%) did not learn how to recognise grooming for sexual exploitation, and more than 40% had not learned about healthy or abusive relationships.

A third (34%) of young people said they learnt nothing about sexual consent at school.

It comes amid calls for statutory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools.

Neil Carmichael MP, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, recently wrote for PinkNews to urge the government to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.

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Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said: “The odds of a young person learning vital information about equal, safe and enjoyable relationships are no different than the toss of a coin.

“The ultimate consequence of this is that many children don’t know how to recognise abusive behaviour or how to seek help.

“With evidence about the benefits for children and young people of teaching SRE stacked up high and a growing list of politicians calling for the subject to be mandatory, there is no excuse for Government to continue leaving SRE to chance.”

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “As members of the Sex Education Forum, ATL fully supports its call for mandatory and inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

“We know that education staff want high quality training so that they can deliver the SRE that will enable young people to keep themselves safe.

“We call upon the Government to take this important step, which parents, education staff and young people all want, so that we can all help to tackle child abuse, sexual health issues

i am Jazz

Editorial:

Resources for transgender ‘kids’  are not always obvious when you go looking for them, I am reposting an article from the Human Rights Campain which provides resources to enable  libraries and schools to support transgender kids.

 

More than 600 people in the small town of Mt. Horeb, Wis., recently came together to read the children’s book I Am Jazz in support of a transgender child in the community — who had begun attending school as the girl she knew herself to be.

The audience — full of children, parents, grandparents and community members — was deeply moved by the experience, where they learned more about how they could support transgender children and youth in their own backyard.

On Jan. 14, communities all across the nation are hosting their own events — building on the momentum the Mt. Horeb community started that night. The Human Rights Campaign — through HRC’s Welcoming Schools program — is encouraging educators, families and community members to create their own readings in support of transgender youth in their communities.

 

 

Will Stabbing Attack Tear Apart Israel's LGBT Community?

Fractured Gay Pride Flag

When an ultra-Orthodox fanatic named Yishai Schlissel stabbed six people at the Jerusalem Gay Pride march in July — 16-year-old Shira Banki later died of her wounds — Schlissel also fractured Israel’s self-image as a global beacon for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

For years, Israeli diplomats have used their country’s impressive record on LGBT issues to score political points on the world stage. But the picture they painted was of Tel Aviv, the so-called gay capital of the Middle East, with its gay and lesbian bars and beaches, and miles of rainbow bunting unfurled ahead of the raucous annual pride parade. Forty miles to the east, Jerusalem’s gay community feels like a stifled minority.

As the broad LGBT movement in Israel takes stock of the attack, the differences between the two societies has come to the fore. Three days after the stabbing, Tel Aviv activists declined to travel to Jerusalem to protest the violence, instead staging a separate rally in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir park. The Tel Avivians had already planned a memorial service that evening to coincide with the six year anniversary of a fatal shooting at a local gay youth center. But Jerusalemites still felt stung by the decision.

“When this happened the expectation was that everyone would drop everything and come and be in solidarity in Jerusalem,” said Tom Canning, spokesman of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. “We wouldn’t be our small group of hundreds of activists, we would be our group of activists with thousands behind us. There was a strong sense of disappointment, I would even say disbelief, that [Tel Avivians] were deciding to go ahead with their own event.”

Tel Aviv’s rally drew major politicians, with impassioned speeches by Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. Though President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the Jerusalem protest, activists there bemoaned the disunity between the two communities that they said feeds into Tel Aviv’s image as the only safe haven for gays in Israel.

“The Tel Aviv-based organizations are giving hand to creating and strengthening an LGBT ghetto in Tel Aviv,” said Canning.

The gay rights movement in Israel has its roots in Tel Aviv in the 1970s, with the founding of the national Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association, known as the Agudah. One of the first public pride events took place in Kings of Israel Square, now known as Rabin Square, in the Tel Aviv city center.

In the 1990s, the fledgling movement was buoyed by a “legal revolution,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Alon Harel wrote in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Within a few short years, the Knesset banned workplace discrimination against gay people , the Israel Defense Forces ensured their equal treatment — 19 years before the United States army did the same — and, following a high court order, El Al airlines began giving free tickets to the partners of gay employees.

Then, in 2009, a gunman entered a Tel Aviv gay youth center and opened fire, killing two. Six years later, the perpetrator has still not been found. The attack traumatized LGBT Israelis, but it also sparked a national conversation about their rights. Today, Tel Aviv’s gay community is central to the city’s identity and politics. Even politicians from the right, such as Likud minister Miri Regev, have appeared at the city’s gay pride parade, which drew 100,000 Israelis and tourists in 2015. Contrast that to Jerusalem, where only left and center-left politicians show up, and marchers typically number only about 5,000.

For Tel Aviv’s well-established LGBT community, the next frontier is same-sex marriage. But while legalizing gay marriage would benefit all Israelis, it’s a distant priority for gay people in Jerusalem, who are focused on survival.

“There are two voices here,” said Sattath. “One is the voice of Tel Aviv that seeks freedom of marriage, like in the United States, and that is a very difficult goal to achieve, but it is a valid goal. The other voice is that of Jerusalem. The majority of gay Jerusalemites are so oppressed that they can’t even dream of marriage; they need education and societal change.”

Jerusalem’s activists say that they face a combination of municipal neglect and incitement from ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians who see their parade as an “abomination.” Jewish Home Knesset member Betzalel Yoel Smotrich even took to Facebook after the stabbing to call the parade an “attempt to besmirch traditional Jewish family values.”

“The message for years has been that we are desecrating the holy city of Jerusalem,” said Canning. “People say, ‘It’s horrible that someone stabbed us and attacked us, but why you are you doing this in Jerusalem?’”

On the official level, Jerusalem’s LGBT community has had to fight its way to recognition. For years, the Jerusalem municipality refused to fund the Jerusalem Open House, even though it provided services to thousands of Jerusalemites and thus was entitled to public support. In 2010, after years of legal wrangling, the high court ordered the municipality to pay $120,000 to the Open House in compensation.

The seemingly careless policing of Pride — Schlissel had recently been let out of prison for carrying out a similar attack on the same march in 2005 — only heightened the feelings of vulnerability among gay Jerusalemites.

Jerusalem’s LGBT activists say that education is the key to acceptance in their city and beyond. According to Sattath, all secular schools in Israel have the option to include an LGBT-themed curriculum. But she wants it to be a central component of Israeli education rather than an add-on. Eventually she would like to see LGBT issues addressed in Orthodox and Arab schools as well.

“Extremists have to be nourished somewhere, and they are nourished by a society that ignores us and silences us, and where homophobia is very, very prevalent,” she said.

Sattath said that she has been buoyed by the solidarity of other Israelis. Many showed support by changing their Facebook photos to a rainbow flag with a candle. Two Israeli celebrities — Labor politician Itzik Shmuli, of Lod, and Tel Aviv journalist Keren Neubach — publicly came out after the stabbing. But Orthodox gay Israelis in places like Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh found themselves burrowing deeper into the closet.

“[The stabbing] has created an atmosphere in which people are afraid to tell the truth to tell their families, their close friends,” said Ron Yosef, founder of Hod, an organization for Orthodox gay men and lesbians.

In Jerusalem there is a feeling that LGBT leaders have no choice but to work within the city’s conservative culture to change religious attitudes about their existence. In Tel Aviv, on the other hand, activists are vigilant about politicians trying to score political points at the expense of their community. Naftali Bennett, a minister from the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, was turned away from the Tel Aviv solidarity rally when he refused to sign a document to advance gay rights in Israel. Bennett’s party opposes gay marriage in Israel.

Jerusalem activists, by contrast, opted against such a litmus test at their own rally.

“This was in order to allow everyone from the entire political spectrum and the religious spectrum to come and speak freely against homophobia and violence,” Canning said. “We didn’t want to turn this into a political event.” Bennett chose not to attend the rally in Jerusalem.

After the protests, Tel Aviv activists made a belated gesture toward Jerusalem when the Agudah chartered a bus to Jerusalem for a vigil for Banki, the victim of the stabbing attack.

And some Tel Aviv activists are acknowledging it’s time to look past the Tel Aviv “ghetto” to Jerusalem as the new battleground for gay rights.

“The real fight is in Jerusalem,” said Mickey Gitzin, a Tel Aviv city council member and gay activist. “Many times our opponents want to keep us in the ‘ghetto’ in Tel Aviv. They say, ‘This is your city, stay there.’ But we are here, we are everywhere, and it is time for us to speak up.”

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at Zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter, @naomizeveloff

Read more:

Teen Wolf Actor Charlie Carver Comes Out as Gay

AP Images

In a heartwarming series of personal posts on Instagram, the actor shares his coming-out process.

“I now believe that by omitting this part of myself from the record, I am complicit in perpetuating the suffering, fear, and shame cast upon so many in the world. In my silence, I’ve helped decide for to you too that to be gay is to be, as a young man (or young woman, young anyone), inappropriate for a professional career in the Arts,” Carver wrote on Instagram. “So now, let the record show this — I self-identify as gay. And does that really matter anymore? As a young man, I needed a young man in Hollywood to say that — and without being a dick about it, I owe it to myself, more than anything, to be who I needed when I was younger.”

Best known for his roles in Desperate Housewives and Teen Wolf, the 27-year-old also opened up about his coming-out process and his previous fear that publicly acknowledging his sexuality would have a negative effect on his career.

“As an actor, I believed that my responsibility to the craft and the business was to remain benevolently neutral — I was a canvas, a chameleon, the next character,” he wrote. “For the most part I had a duty to stay a Possibility in the eye of casting, directors, and the public. If I Came Out, I feared I would be limiting myself to a type, to a perception with limits that I was not professionally comfortable with. And I created in my imagination an Industry that was just as rigid in this belief as well.”

However, Carver said he believes the idea that actors should remain closeted is a thing of the past and is inspired by the changing landscape for the LGBT population.

“Things in this business have changed and will continue to. Thank GOD. I know that because of all of the brave men and women who’ve come out, self-identified, or couldn’t have possibly ever been ‘in,’” Carver wrote. “I get fucking MOVED every time I hear a high school voted in their transgender classmate as Prom King or Prom Queen, or when I see Twitter afire with outrage over mistreatment, brutality, and injustice.”

He added, “I long for the world to be simple, for everyone to feel happy and safe in who they are as individuals and members of a community. I can only hope that the beginning of this unrest is productive, something our generation(s) is moving through in order to end up someplace better.”

Carver also pointed out that his twin brother and fellow actor, Max Carver, “is just as cool for being straight.”

RELATED: Why It Still Matters When Celebs Come Out

Read his full heartwarming five-part post below.

Pt 1: “Be who you needed [when you] were younger”. About a year ago, I saw this photo while casually scrolling through my Instagram one morning. I’m not one for inspirational quotes, particularly ones attributed to “Mx Anonymous”- something mean in me rebukes the pithiness of proverbs, choosing to judge them as trite instead of possibly-generally-wise, resonant, or helpful. And in the case of the good ol’ Anonymous kind, I felt that there was something to be said for the missing context. Who wrote or said the damn words? Why? And to/for who in particular?
Nonetheless, I screen-capped the picture and saved it. It struck me for some reason, finding itself likeable enough to join the ranks of the “favorites” album on my phone. I’d see it there almost daily, a small version of it next to my other “favorites”; I’d see it every time I checked into the gym, pulled up a picture of my insurance cards, my driver’s license…. Important Documents. And over the course of about-a-year, it became clear why the inspirational photo had called out to me.
As a young boy, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I knew I wanted to be a lot of things! I thought I wanted to be a painter, a soccer player, a stegosaurus… But the acting thing stuck. It was around that age that I also knew, however abstractly, that I was different from some of the other boys in my grade.

Over time, this abstract “knowing” grew and articulated itself through a painful gestation marked by feelings of despair and alienation, ending in a climax of saying three words out loud: “I am gay”. I said them to myself at first, to see how they felt. They rang true, and I hated myself for them. I was twelve. It would take me a few years before I could repeat them to anyone else, in the meantime turning the phrase over and over in my mouth until I felt comfortable and sure enough to let the words pour out again, this time to my family…

Pt 2: For anyone who can identify with that experience (and I think we all can to some degree; saying something from a place of integrity, owning and declaring oneself), the immediate and comingling sense of relief and dread might sound familiar to you. For me, and my family, it was a precious conversation, one where I felt that I’d begun to claim myself, my life, and what felt like the beginning of a very-adult-notion of my own Authenticity. For that, and for them, I am forever grateful. *Note “Coming Out” is different for everyone. You can always Come Out to yourself. Coming Out as Gay/Bi/Trans/Non-Binary/Yourself or What-Have-You is at first a personal and private experience. If you’re ready and feel safe, then think about sharing this part of yourself with others. I recognize that I was born with an immense amount of privilege, growing up in a family where my orientation was celebrated and SAFE. If you feel like you want to Come Out, make sure first and foremost that you have a support system and will be safe. I would never encourage anyone to Come Out only to find themselves in harm’s way – a disproportionate number of Homeless American (and Global) Youth are members of the LGBTQ community who were kicked out of their families and homes out of hate and prejudice. It is a major issue in-and-of itself, and a situation not worth putting oneself at risk for.
The more I adjusted to living outwardly in this truth, the better I felt. But my relationship to my sexuality soon became more complicated. The acting thing HAD stuck, and at nineteen I started working in Hollywood. It was a dream come true, one I had been striving for since boyhood. But coupled with the overwhelming sense of excitement was an equally overwhelming feeling of dread- I would “have to” bisect myself into two halves, a public and private persona, the former vigilantly monitored, censored, and sterilized of anything that could reveal how I self-identified in the latter.
I had my reasons, some sound and some nonsensical. I do believe in a distinction between one’s professional life and their private one…

Pt 3: After the first episode of television I shot went to air, it became clear to me that I was at least no longer anonymous. For the first time, I found myself stopped on the street, asked to take a picture by a complete stranger – part of the job I had willingly signed up for.
Fame, to whatever degree, is a tricky creature. In this day and age, particularly with the access offered by social media, it demands that you be On, that you be Yourself, Always, in your work and to your fans. In this way, the distinction between public and private has become blurry, begging questions like “to what extent do I share myself? Do what extent do I have to?” When it came to this differentiation of public/private, I was of the opinion that my sexuality could stay off the table. While my Coming Out was very important for me, I wanted to believe in a world where one’s sexuality was for the most part irrelevant. That it didn’t “matter,” or that at least it was something that didn’t need to or ideally shouldn’t ever have to be announced to a stranger, a new colleague, an interviewer. Even the words “Coming Out” bothered me. I took issue with them insofar as that “Coming Out” implied being greeted with attention, attention for something I would prefer to be implicitly just Human, an attribute or adjective that was only part of how I saw my whole self. I did not want to be defined by my sexuality. Sure, I am a proud gay man, but I don’t identify as a Gay man, or a GAY man, or just gay. I identify as a lot of things, these various identifications and identities taking up equal space and making up an ever-fluid sense of Self.
Furthermore, as an actor, I believed that my responsibility to the craft and the business was to remain benevolently neutral – I was a canvas, a chameleon, the next character. For the most part I had a duty to stay a Possibility in the eye of casting, directors, and the public. If I Came Out, I feared I would be limiting myself to a type, to a perception with limits that I was not professionally comfortable with. And I created in my imagination an Industry that was just as rigid in this belief as well.

Pt 4: After having the privilege of playing a range of characters, gay, straight and otherwise, I realize this is not the case. Things in this business have changed and will continue to. Thank GOD. I know that because of all of the brave men and women who’ve come out, self-identified, or couldn’t have possibly ever been “In”. So to them, I am also forever grateful.
But then I saw that little photo on Instagram. Well, in truth, it had found me long after I’d made up my mind to write something like this. There were so many drafts and plans, none of them ever getting off the ground. So I bided my time, justifying the silence with the fact that I hadn’t really ever been “in”. I tried to live as authentically as I’ve known how to, as a gay guy, since that concept became available to me, only once or twice intentionally dodging the ever ill-timed question with the subtext that might have as well read “ARE YOU GAY???” I’ve lived “out,” not feeling the need to announce so. I was comfortably out in my private life. And for a time, that was enough.

Things change. There’s a lot about the Now that I’m very excited about these days. I feel like more and more people, particularly young people, are striving to create a safe world for each other. We’re learning new vocabularies to help others feel heard when they try and articulate their perceived “otherness”- words like cis- and trans-, non-binary, fluid… We’re together exploring the possibilities of the Social Media Frontier, experimenting with new ways to connect, galvanize, and awaken. I get fucking MOVED every time I hear a high school voted in their transgender classmate as Prom King or Prom Queen, or when I see Twitter afire with outrage over mistreatment, brutality, and injustice. But I also mourn over what feels like a lot of anger and righteous indignance. I long for the world to be simple, for everyone to feel happy and safe in who they are as individuals and members of a community. I can only hope that the beginning of this unrest is productive, something our generation(s) is moving through in order to end up someplace better.

Pt 5: But what can I do? How can I participate? Honesty is probably a great step in the right direction. I now believe that by omitting this part of myself from the record, I am complicit in perpetuating the suffering, fear, and shame cast upon so many in the world. In my silence, I’ve helped decide for to you too that to be gay is to be, as a young man (or young woman, young anyone), inappropriate for a professional career in the Arts (WHAAA???) So now, let the record show this- I self-identify as gay. And does that really matter anymore? As a young man, I needed a young man in Hollywood to say that- and without being a dick about it, I owe it to myself, more than anything, to be who I needed when I was younger.
Happy 2016, and all my best to you and yours in the year ahead.
And let the record show my twin brother is just as cool for being straight

TGEU’s Guides on EU Law relevant for Trans People

 

TGEU’s two guides on EU law provide an overview and summary of EU law that is relevant for trans people living, working, visiting or claiming asylum in the EU.

Both guides cover the areas of

  • discrimination in employment,
  • discrimination in the access to and provision of goods & services,
  • crime victim’s rights,
  • and asylum.

 

TGEU’s Activist’s Guide on Trans People’s Rights under EU Law

TGEU’s Activist’s Guide summarises the legal provisions in EU law that protect trans people from discrimination in the areas of employment and goods & services, as well as the rights of trans victims of crime and trans asylum seekers and refugees. The 20 page booklet contains references to specific legal cases and legal texts and paragraphs, thus making it a useful tool for activists to use in their advocacy work. The Activist’s Guide is the more technical and legal publication of the two guides.

Download the Activist’s Guide

Cover activist's guide

 

TGEU’s “Know your Rights!” Guide for Trans People in the EU

TGEU’s “Know your Rights!” Guide provides an overview over the same areas of EU law as the Activist’s Guide, but it is shorter and written in more accessible, less technical language. The guide aims to raise knowledge and awareness about trans people’s rights not just among activists, but also among trans people more generally. It also contains information on how rights can be claimed if they have been violated. The guide can be unfolded into a poster, providing an easy way to reach more trans people at events or in public spaces.

Download the “Know your Rights!” Guide

Cover of the Know Your Rights Guide

 

Order copies of the guides

To order copies of the guides, please fill in the order form. We especially appreciate orders from groups or organisations that are willing to distribute the guides in their national or regional context.

 

More information on EU law

For more information and resources on EU law and trans people’s rights in the EU, check our EU law resources page.

 

Funders

These publications have been produced with financial support from the Open Society Foundations, the Dutch Government and the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Transgender Europe, and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission, the Open Society Foundations or the Dutch Government.

Trio of HS basketball players accused of raping teammate in cabin

il_340x270.483564470_tbp7 Derek de Koff

 

Three high school basketball players from Tennessee are facing charges of aggravated rape and aggravated assault after allegedly attacking another teammate.

The school’s superintendent has canceled the remainder of the boys’ varsity basketball team season so a thorough investigation can be conducted.

The incident happened in a cabin on December 22 and involved the three older suspects and a 15-year-old freshman.

Related: NJ priest rapes teen, flees country, says victim “wanted” it

According to the victim’s grandmother, her grandson was pinned down by two of the suspects while the third ripped off the boy’s clothes and violently raped him with a pool stick.

The injuries were so severe the victim had to be driven to a local hospital by the team’s coach.

He was later transferred to another hospital in Knoxville to undergo emergency surgery.

He’s currently recovering.

Related: Six men who tortured gay teens and posted the footage online have been jailed

As a result of the attack, the three suspects have all been kicked off the team, but the victim’s grandmother says that’s not enough. She wants them permanently expelled from the school, and she’s prepared to do whatever she must to make this happen.

“Legal actions will be taken against all negligent parties,” she threatened in a statement.

Meanwhile, school administrators are still grappling with how exactly to handle the situation.

Superintendent Rick Smith called the whole thing a “tragedy” before canceling the remainder of the basketball season.

Related: This man hopes to end the stigma surrounding male rape by telling his story

Board Chairman Jonathan Welch added that he couldn’t even put into words how the assault has affected the community.

“Tragic, horrific, none describe it,” he said.

But there are some families who say these assaults have been going on for months and that school officials have been largely ignoring them.

They’re accusing the school of trying to cover up what the local D.A.’s office calls “an ongoing pattern of assaults allegedly committed under the guise of hazing.”

The D.A.’s office says it is now investigating more reports made by other freshmen, who claim they’ve been assaulted by older teammates prior to the incident in December.

The accused teens are scheduled to appear in court on January 26.

Russian Kids Voguing

Editorial:

Often NIGRA has had to write or to report by using other reporters on stories which are sad if not down right frightening. Indeed, the fight for LGBT rights is still an ongoing one, which requires our vigilance to stop them being taken away and for us to end up back in the dark!

Today I am going to direct you to a lovely article which gives hope and which also should brighten up your day.

russian_kids_voguing

Kids today are so much f**king cooler than us stupid, boring adults, what with our “responsibilities” and crap.

tumblr_o0n8f2tcls1qiohboo4_250

Proof positive, these legendary upcoming tikes in Russia who learned to vogue from one Dashaun Wesley, a high-cheekboned dance teacher currently making sure the children are our future over in St. Petersburg.

 

The rest of the article can be seen here, please watch and enjoy.

OUT: The Kids are Voguing