Tel Aviv's Gay Holocaust Victims Memorial Unveiled

By ARON HELLER 01/10/14 11:49 AM ET EST AP

tel aviv gay holocaust memorial

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel’s cultural and financial capital unveiled a memorial Friday honoring gays and lesbians persecuted by the Nazis, the first specific recognition in Israel for non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Tucked away in a Tel Aviv park, a concrete, triangle-shaped plaque details the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. It resembles the pink triangles Nazis forced gays to wear in concentration camps during World War II and states in English, Hebrew and German: “In memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The landmark joins similar memorials in Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney dedicated to gay victims of the Holocaust. While Israel has scores of monuments for the genocide, the Tel Aviv memorial is the first that deals universally with Jewish and non-Jewish victims alike and highlights the Jewish state’s rise as one of the world’s most progressive countries for gay rights.

“I think in Israel today it is very important to show that a human being is a human being is a human being,” Mayor Ron Huldai said at the dedication ceremony, where a rainbow flag waved alongside Israel’s blue-and-white flag. “It shows that we are not only caring for ourselves but for everybody who suffered. These are our values — to see everyone as a human being.”

Israel was born out of the Holocaust and its 6 million Jewish victims remains seared in the country’s psyche. Israel holds an annual memorial day where sirens stop traffic across the nation, it sends soldiers and youth on trips to concentration camp sites and often cites the Holocaust as justification for an independent Jewish state so Jews will “never again” be defenseless.

But after 70 years, Tel Aviv councilman Eran Lev thought it was time to add a universal element to the commemoration. Lev is one of many gays elected to public office in Tel Aviv, a city with a vibrant gay scene that has emerged as a top international destination for gay tourism.

“The significance here is that we are recognizing that there were other victims of the Holocaust, not just Jews,” said Lev, who initiated the project during his brief term in office.

As part of their persecution of gays, the Nazis kept files on 100,000 people, mostly men. About 15,000 were sent to camps and at least half were killed. Other Nazi targets included communists, Slavs, gypsies and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Unlike their persecution of Jews, however, there was no grand Nazi plan to exterminate gays. Nazis viewed being gay as a “public health problem” since those German men did not produce children, said Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

“The idea was to change their behavior, not to eradicate them, not to murder them,” Dwork said.

The policy was far from sweeping — as evidenced by the rampant homosexuality among the ranks of the Nazi Party’s SA paramilitary wing, which helped pave Hitler’s path to power. The most famous gay Nazi was Ernst Röhm, one of the most powerful men in the party before Hitler had him executed in 1934.

Later, the Nazis outlawed homosexuality and the Gestapo set up a special unit targeting homosexuality. In the Buchenwald concentration camp, the Nazis carried out experiments to try and “cure” homosexuality. Those sent to the camps were forced to wear pink triangles, compared to the yellow stars that Jews bore on their clothing. Gay Jews wore an emblem that combined the two colors.

Today, Israel is one of the world’s most progressive countries in terms of gay rights. Gays serve openly in Israel’s military and parliament. The Supreme Court grants a variety of family rights such as inheritance and survivors’ benefits. Gays, lesbians and a transsexual are among the country’s most popular musicians and actors.

Moshe Zimmermann, a professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the memorial project’s historical adviser, said the Tel Aviv monument marked a big step in Israel by ridding itself from what he called a monopoly of victim hood.

“We are finally shedding the load of being the lone and ultimate victim,” he said. “We can learn from this that by recognizing the victimhood of others, it does not diminish the uniqueness of your own victim hood.”

 

Further reading:

 

  1. Original Article – Huffington Post
  2. BBC News Article
  3. BN&S Commentary
  4. The Gay Holocaust Lagers

Gay, women's and general sexual liberation

“… look at page 78…”

 

(Edited out-take Gay Star  –  No. 14  –  Summer 1984)

In mid-1983 it was suggested that we write to the embassies of the Socialist countries asking them about Gay, women’s and general sexual liberation — and how the various governments saw these things fitting into their on-going social and political revolutions.

After a bit of palaver it was decided to write off to the representatives of the Socialist states / Soviet and Chinese empires / Red dictatorships.  Our wee editorial collective is very broad-based.

The Czechs sent a booklet emphatically entitled The Family in Socialist Czech-oslovakia which if you struggled through it contained the usual genuflection to women’s rights.  It also contained lots of pretty coloured photos of, már shampla, children in nursery and primary schools.  The wee boys were playing with toy cars- the wee girls were cooking and playing with dolls.

The Mongolians sent 50 Years of Socialist Mongolia a real thriller.  A note scrib-bled on the complimentary slip suggested – in the manner of a slightly degenerate librarian – “… look at page 78…”

Page 78 only told us that the lot of women had improved enormously since the revolution, sorry RRRevolution.  These days presumably the men shout orders on the erecting of the yurt from the ground instead of from the saddle. (This Euro-cent-ric racism is brought to you courtesy of SMcG).  We could not help noticing that this opus was actually printed in Moscow.

The Bulgarians, – the Cultural Attaché replied for some cryptic reason – told us to write to the Sofia Press Agency, which lives in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital interestingly enough.  This we did many moons ago.  We await the arrival of a Slavonic-looking chap with a brolly…

On a more serious note we contacted the Slavonic Studies people at Queen’s (University, Belfast).  They put us in touch with ‘experts’ at the University of Surrey, who sent our letter straight back with a slightly hysterical note scribbled on the end to the effect that they didn’t know nothin’ about nothin’.

A contact at Birmingham University, Ms Jenny Brine, Librarian of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, (and member of the Women in East Europe study group) was enormously helpful and encouraging, though the amount of stuff actually to do with homo-sexuality was quite meagre.

The Gay movement itself was the most productive in terms of solid info.  Most of it came through HOSI (Homosexuelle Initiative) of Vienna, in its guise as the East European Information Pool of the IGA (International Lesbian and Gay men’s Ass-ociation).  Some of this stuff was fascinating.

Some year’s ago, Albania rescinded all laws regulating homosexual conduct, after WW2 a Soviet-style law code was introduced.  The Soviets, being obsessed by the USA, had put stringent anti-Gay laws into the code put together at the same time as 1937’s ‘Stalin Constitution’.  Technically, Albania is the most liberal state in Europe so far as homosexuality is concerned.  We would not, however, encourage armies of Irish homosexuals to descend on the place.

The German Democratic Republic has liberalised its laws on homosexuality.  But is disturbed by the growth of a quite powerful Gay organisation. This was in-cubated by the youth wing of the Lutheran Church.  Something similar is happen-ing in Poland, where a specifically Roman Catholic publishing house has pro-duced “out” Gay novels.  The latter is a spin-off from the rise and apparent decline of the trade union ‘Solidarity’.  The East German group is partly the offspring of the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements.

Hungary has the most laid-back atmosphere, while Romania has an appalling attitude to Gay men.  It persecutes women who do not breed to the government’s satisfaction.  Romania has abolished abortion.

Yugoslavia is an interesting case, it is in so far as its attitudes to sexuality are concerned, a genuinely federal state.  Serbia is only a whisker away from Romania and Bulgaria psychologically as well as physically.  Slovenia bordered by Italy and Austria (and Hungary) has lately been the venue, in its capital Ljubljana, of a major Gay arts festival.  This has led to Zagreb Radio (Croatia: the next Republic down) introducing a two hour per week radio programme for Gay women and men.  There are plans to set up a Gay Centre in Ljubljana.

Another sign of movement in the east is the setting-up of an open Gay group in Leningrad.  It is made up of people who claim to be democratic socialists, Lenin-ists or libertarians.  They argue that the present administration of the Soviet Union is out of step with the Founding Persons, who promulgated the – thus far – most enlightened laws on sexuality, any functioning state has ever had.

There appear to be two strains in the burgeoning Gay movement in the Comm-unist-ruled countries, what might be called the oppositionist (GDR, Poland) and the integrationist (Yugoslavia, USSR – though the latter are unrecognised and may become victims of a vigorous backlash).

There were no replies from (the People’s Republic of) China, or any other Asian state, we shudder to think what North Korea thinks of homosexuality.  The African states were quiet too, presumably the deafening silence indicates that the position for specifically homosexual people is dire in Ethiopia and the Congo People’s Republic.  Mozambique has put lesbians in camps for “corrective” training; but not Gay men, so far as we know.

In the Americas, Cuba did not reply unfortunately it did not need to though there are whispers that the ‘line’ is not as shrill as it was some years ago.

There are some small grounds for hoping that the whole Communist world is no longer the People’s (?) Republic of Homophobia.

 

[Of all the states mentioned above only Cuba and the PDR (People’s Democratic Republic) of [North] Korea still claim to be ‘Communist’.  Cuba has sloughed off its machismo, and there is a well-attended annual Pride in Havana.  The PDRK has just had a monarchical transfer of power at the top, though the Head of State is not the eldest offspring of the previous one.  He was too effeminate and too addicted to the flesh-pots of Tokyo to take on the job…].

Mayors Join in Queer Festive Fun, Celebrating Christmas in Queerspace

Queerspace celebrated Christmas in style with support from Andrew Muir, the Mayor of North Down, Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and the Rev. Chris Hudson MBE from All Souls Church.  The festivities commenced with a packed bus tour, generously supported by the Department of Social Development.  A sea of red Santa hats brightened up the streets of Belfast and back to a Christmas Party with refreshing mull wine and fine snacks prepared by a small army of volunteers.

 

The Lord Mayor of Belfast said “I am delighted be here at the LGB&T Centre in Waring Street celebrating DSCF8359Christmas with our friends from the LGB&T Community.  It has been my experience over the last 6 months as Lord Mayor that the gay community makes an enormous contribution to Belfast, is a great contributor to the City of Belfast and by being here I am giving thanks for that and renewing my support for the concept of including all our people in celebrating diversity in the City”.

 

The Mayor of North Down said that there has been massive change in Northern Ireland society since he came out in 1996.  “The city has also evolved and became a lot more prosperous and peaceful and we have much further to go.  We have got to create a city and a Northern Ireland of equals where people are treated equally and celebrated as valued citizens and to do that we need leadership from people to say that diversity is good and should be embraced”.  Mayor Muir continued to say “it is great to be here with leaders of change from within the lesbian and gay community and also people from civic society and to transform our society we need more leadership and I am glad to be with people who have been very inspirational”.

 

Rev. Hudson gave credit by saying “You people yourselves have been a real catalyst for change here in the bt52wonderful city of Belfast and in many ways the peoples voice is ignored and it’s important that it is heard and how it is heard is when people like Máirtín and Andrew use their office for good authority”.  Rev Hudson continued to say “They look at people who appear to be on the margins who are excluded and say that’s not going to happen on my watch and we are really fortunate both in North Down and here in Belfast to have two people of excellent authority who have actually stood up showing new light to how this city and how this province can change and you people are part of that change”.

 

Queerspace is a vibrant volunteer led community group, based on collective planning and action which has served the Belfast LGB&T community since 1998.  It’s run through open community meetings which are held on the 1st and 3rd Saturday afternoons of every month followed by a social space where members can relax, enjoy some free refreshments and meet with friends, old and new.  Queerspace promotes and organises a wide range of social and cultural activities for the benefit of the LGB&T community and friends throughout the year.

 

QueerspaceFor more information email info@queerspace.org.uk or visit the web site at www.queerspace.org.uk or find it on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

NIGRA Wishes Everyone a Merry Gay Christmas

 

The members and followers of NIGRA wish everyone a wonderful, and safe Christmas.  Be safe, and remember to look after others when you can.

LGBT History Archive – Open Meeting

Outburst is showing A CENTURY LATER: LGBT – A HIDDEN HISTORY on Sat. 16th Nov 3.30pm in the Black Box- Green Room and its FREE (Northern Visions Dur: 40 Min).

history

Immediately following the screening will be an informal round table discussion, led by the LGBT History Archive Working Group in Belfast, around building an online public archive that shares the stories, memorabilia and key events that shaped, and continue to shape, our LGBT histories in Northern Ireland.

Please come along and let us know your views, and even better get involved with the project

 

FOR YOUR COMMUNITY BY YOUR COMMUNITY

LGBT Remembrance at Belfast Cenotaph

Those who gathered to remember past LGBT people persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Photo: Simon Rea.

Those who gathered to remember past LGBT people persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Photo: Simon Rea.

This morning about ten to eleven, a number of members of the LGBT community from the city of Belfast gathered to stand in solidarity and remembrance for all those in Germany, and all nations who lost their lives or were imprisoned for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The short simple act of remembrance was instituted and organised in the past by PA MagLochlainn, who died about this time a year ago. This year, Andrew Smyth from Cara-Friend organised the event and we were pleased to support it.

We heard from a number of readings including an extract from The Men with the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger which was read by John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project.

The prisoners’ uniforms were marked with a coloured cloth triangle to denote their offence or origin.

Yellow for Jews, black for anti-socials, red for politicalise, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, green for criminals, blue for emigrants, pink for homosexuals, brown for gypsies.

The pink triangle, however, was about 2 or 3 centimetres larger that the others, so that we could be clearly recognised from a distance. (from The Men with the Pink Triangle)

A wreath in the shape of a pink triangle was laid at the Cenotaph by Jeff Dudgeon and Andrew Smyth and we stood together in silence to remember those that suffered at the hands of the Nazis and all who have suffered persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Experienced a hate crime in Belfast? Victim Support NI want to know about it

victim_support_logoIf you have experienced any hate crime in Belfast in the last few years, then please fill in the survey which is being conducted by Lisa Faulkner from the Jordanstown campus of the University of Ulster for Victim Support NI.

The aim of the survey is to map services / provisions for victims of hate crimes in Belfast and to capture their views and opinions of the services.

The survey will close on 5th November 2013.

Please complete the survey by visiting https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VVDMTHN

For help and support contact Victim Support NI on 028 9024 3133; website www.victimsupportni.co.uk.

Sean Morrin: human rights activist – RIP

Our thoughts are with the friends, family, and work colleagues of Sean Morrin who died at the weekend in Derry.

I heard the news about Sean’s passing late on Sunday night, and immediately I thought of our friends in The Rainbow Project where Sean worked. But Sean’s life touched many more people than them.

Two members of UNISON who knes Sean much, much better than I did, wrote the following tributes, which I received in an email as a UNISON member.

“Sean Morrin who was a lifelong gay rights activist and our first ever UNISON ‘out’ gay member in the early 90s died suddenly over the weekend at his home in Derry. He was a founder member of Foyle Pride, both a volunteer and staff member with the Rainbow Project, set up AA/NA for LGB&T people in Derry, was involved in history projects and arts projects to raise the profile of LGB&T people, was a volunteer with Foyle hospice and more recently had been supporting the Trans Derry group. In between that he just helped and supported people in his own quiet way, offering his sofa, a listening ear and hope to many. When he wasn’t adopting people he was fostering cats and dogs, trying to get new homes for them. I will always remember him for his positivity of spirit and his optimism, he really did see the good in people even when it could be hard to find. I will be among many who will miss him. A rainbow flag is currently flying at half mast over the Free Derry wall. For those who would like to attend his funeral, it will be at 10am mass on Thursday in St Mary’s church in Creggan.” said Fidelma Carolan, of UNISON.

unisonlogoAnother member of UNISON, Ronan Doherty, who is currently in Cuba as part of his medical training at Kings College (he started with the Union as a nurse) wrote a lovely tribute which gives a real sense of Sean even to those who didn’t know him.

“I was sitting in Cuba when I received the horrifying news of Sean leaving us! There happened to be some Irish people there so before I realised I had a whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other! I was surrounded by people who I made friends with on my travels! I was physically unable to speak and shaking so hard I couldn’t smoke the cigarette I’d been given!

“When I finally managed to utter some words I realised that there was a grief in all their hearts just from seeing the effect of this news on me! There were 2 irish, 2 cubans, one indian girl and me! Eventually one of them asked me to please tell them about Sean! It seemed a fair point as they sat with me and grieved for a man they’d never met!

“I sat trying to find the words to describe the man I loved and who now I’d lost! However I struggled and I realised at that point that there were no words! No words seemed to do him justice! Kind, generous, radiant, forgiving, protecting, loving…. No words are enough! However I tried to tell them about Sean and how I’d come to love him!

“I’d spent my short time with these people discussing and debating life! (Usually over a bottle of rum). We had discussed everything from right and wrong to life in Cuba and uk and Ireland, poverty, wealth, health, homelessness and human rights! It was in those moments of trying to describe Sean that i realised how many of my values I had inherited from him! Basically all of them. And in everything I discussed about my opinions, values and principles over the past few weeks and probably past years- there he was!

“I met Sean Morrin when I was 15! Life was out of control and I was struggling with many things! It’s not a unique story for a young gay man but at that time I didn’t know this! All I knew was life sucked! I loved Sean the minute I met him and his radiance, smile and ability to make you feel whole and worth something emanated out of his every fibre!

“Soon after I first met him I came to meet him for dinner one evening in derry! I was in my school uniform and he would often remind me of that and laugh! I didn’t know what I needed but knew I needed something! I’d decided to move out of home and asked Sean if I could rent once of his many rooms at the time that he seemed to have for wayward gays!

“I had it planned that I would get a part time job to pay my rent and remain at school! In hindsight it was a ridiculous plan that never would of worked! However I was determined and Sean never disagreed or disrespected my ideas! I imagine he knew it was not a feasible idea and something would give but he never dismissed me! He said as long as I can pay my way I’m welcome in his home!

“Thankfully I never did follow through with that plan and on reflection I didn’t really need to after that! Just hearing that it was fine and that I had the option was support enough! As sure as I know Sean knew it was a ridiculous idea I think he knew I just needed the reassurance that I had options and his respect and support were more than enough to help me more than anything!

“He helped me in so many ways that they would be impossible to list! I have no doubt that I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him! How do you repay someone the debt of saving your life! A good friend of mine now, who i later learned Sean also lifted from despair, and I often talk and laugh about Sean’s influence on our lives! And we wonder about how many other people have the exact same story! How many people would not be here today if it were not for him! I’m sure it must run to hundreds if not thousands!

“You see, I know my relationship with Sean was special and unique to me however i also know that Sean’s relationship with me, although just as special to him was not unique! He helped and befriended everyone and had such an impact on lives it’s hard to even begin to count!

Sean Morrin pictured at Foyle Pride (Photo: Anne Ramsey)

Sean Morrin pictured at Foyle Pride (Photo: Anne Ramsey)

“Sean loved people! Many people describe Sean as an LGBT campaigner or a gay rights activist! Personally I find this a little upsetting! It is true that Sean had an immeasurable impact on the LGBT community and that’s where he is most known! However for me Sean was not an LGBT activist, Sean was a human rights activist! His campaigning and work and life not only influenced the gay community but dozens of other causes! Sean loved the Martin Luther king phrase “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and Sean would combat injustice anywhere he could see it and especially for anyone who couldn’t combat it themselves!

“And his love didn’t even stop there! He loved animals to such an extent I sometimes feared his house would turn into a sanctuary! His love seemed to have no limit and know no bounds! It was like a bottomless well that never ran dry! Sean always forgave people no matter how many times they made mistakes- myself include! Most people have a limit to their forgiveness but his was immeasurable and was never exhausted! He believed in the good in people despite any odds and gave people chance after chance! One of his favourite things to tell me when people did something wrong was that “only hurt people hurt people”.

“Many times I watched him give someone his last £5 because he knew they needed it more than he! I would get angry and ask how was he going to manage now and his response was always “the universe will provide”. His generosity knew no bounds and he never kept count! Sean is the reason I always give homeless people money even when friends argue that they just want it to buy alcohol! He taught me that giving to those with less is everything we can do and respecting that person as a human means giving without conditions and without keeping score!

“I read the hundreds of facebook comments people where posting and it proves what I already knew in that his effect on me was not unique and hundreds of other people have felt the love, respect and warmth of knowing Sean Morrin! The last picture I saw on Sean’s Facebook was of him at foyle pride holding a banner saying “marching for those who can’t”! I found this so appropriate as the friend I’ve now lost devoted his life “marching” for those who couldn’t!

“There is a huge dark hole in the earth today where his presence once stood and an even larger hole in my heart! The world feels like it had stopped spinning! However there is also a new star in the sky which shines just as bright as he did on earth! In true Sean style I choose to focus on the light and not the dark! I’ll carry everything he taught me in my heart and continue to live by the principles he taught me- respecting every other person, fighting for those who can’t, and giving to those who need! Although I have no doubt I will never be the man that he is I don’t fret! For even if i live twice as long and yet I only manage to do a thousandth of the good he did in his lifetime I will die a happy man!

“RIP Sean Morrin!”

Charles Kenny – "Eulogy at Mervyn Kingston’s funeral"

rev-kingston

 

“Eulogy at Mervyn Kingston’s funeral”

It is a privilege to have been asked to speak publicly as we meet here today formally to express our sorrow at the death of our brother, friend, fellow-churchman, Mervyn, to thank God for his life and work, and to show our sympathy to those nearest and dearest to him, especially to Richard his partner.

George Mervyn Kingston was born in Florida Drive, East Belfast. In those difficult post-war yrs his twin sister Jill and he attended Nettlefield School and Willowfield Parish Ch. Both of these institutions were from the beginning important to Mervyn and I think he knew they were to influence, even determine, the course of his life. The PE school prepared him for Grosvenor High School on the other side of the city; and the parish church and its parochial halls were a wonderful outlet for this young boy. He thrived in the life of this big and busy Parish Church on My Lady’s Road; for the C of I of the time, it gave unusual prominence and opportunity to lay people in worship and parochial organisations. Many good parishioners participated hands-on in the day-to-day and Sunday by Sunday running of the parish. (The General Vestries were sometimes eye-opening.) These experiences gave Mervyn a vocation to the sacred ministry.   I knew Mervyn in the first decade and a half of his life, but not well; a 12 yr old boy doesn’t have much in common with a 4 yr old who isn’t his brother and I left these shores in 1962 but I remember the pleasure of my parents in a blue aerogramme to me telling me the news: did I remember young Mervyn Kingston? well, he had been accepted for ordination. He would be going down to  Dublin in September. My parents and everyone else around the church were delighted. There was a detail in this development which was indicative of something that would be seen again in the future. As a child and teenager Mervyn had quite a bad stammer which he had overcome; he didn’t give up easily. Also by then he was finding fulfilment in his work in Social Services; but he felt the call to the Ministry and the Church recognised and welcomed that in 1969.

The Revd Mr Kingston was ordained for the curacy of Comber Parish to learn the trade and the practice from Hammy Leckie (this was a good choice, he reckoned at the time and subsequently), then back in E Belfast he served in St Donard’s where he appreciated Pat Synnott as mentor, followed by Down Cathedral with particular concern for Ardglass. Later in the mid 80s he crossed the river to Connor and the housing estate at the top of the Shankill Road; then down to a spur of Armagh Diocese that curiously reaches the sea near Dundalk, a care of souls which includes Carlingford and Crossmaglen.

Obviously these locations are very diverse and varied in every way but in all these milieux Mervyn was a consistent cleric and pastor. He began during the most destructive and murderous years of the Troubles and that affected his perception of what he believed God was asking of his people. Mervyn never lost the mind-set, the aspirations and the vocabulary of evangelical churchmanship. He was an evangelical true to the Gospel. In later years he often gently queried his more radical friends and colleagues who tend to dismiss the evangelical tradition as a discredited and spent force, always in hock to biblical idolatry which precludes any sort of prophetic Xnity, and which had played its part in creating debased Irish Xnity. Mervyn rejected this emphatically remembering the good people of his youth. But he knew what the epistoler James had in mind when James derides faith that is not evidenced in practice or in life. Mervyn was by nature conciliatory, seeing the best in everyone, aware of reasons, explanations of bad attitudes and deeds; he understood the power of history and environment; he tried to explain, to educate, willing people to see something differently, to read the words of Our Lord with openness and insight (as if for the first time), to try to separate the gospel imperatives from local cultural assumptions, to be sure they were questioning the latter in the light of the former, as Jesus did continually. He respected others’ opinions even when he felt in conscience that there was a better way and that it was his parsonical duty at least to present an alternative Xn position. But he always laid it on the line when he was seeking a new post. The elephant in the room was identified starkly; if you choose me you are getting an ecumenical C of I rector. “Ourselves alone” is heretical; I will want to work with those of other traditions; I will work for rapport between them and us. Furthermore I will work with and for those on the edge, those at the margins, (as the Lord did); indeed the faithfulness of our Gospel will be determined by how successful we are in these two regards. These are not negotiable, they are sine qua nons of Xnity.

About 35 yrs ago quite a few young people were frequenting St Donard’s Church and its youth club and recently Mervyn mentioned with pleasure to me that altho’ sometimes they vigorously challenged or rejected some advice of their curate, the verdict of one of them was: “You made us think!” How many of us pastors have had that accolade?

In the mid 80s Mervyn’s institution in St Andrew’s at the top of the Shankill Road was attended by one of his friends Fr Joseph Campbell in his robes, (he had also attended his ordination 10 yrs earlier). Some months later his parishioners were enchanted by a sermon from a nun in their pulpit. This was the pattern throughout his incumbencies, contact with the other, encouraging the C of I faithful to be open to others, “the other side”. Mervyn believed in that and practiced it, no more fervently than in his last incumbency at Creggan and Ballymascanlon. Here was a conspicuous opportunity of living out that old Anglican adage about rectors being there for the benefit of all of the people physically in their cure. The rector of Creggan ministered to the small protestant minority who felt under pressure and also to all who lived there; he met, liaised with, negotiated, socialised with the local people, and their political representatives. This caused surprise at first but went down well when it became apparent that things got done, attitudes mellowed, to the benefit of the whole community.

Back in 1969 it had been a revelatory experience for a young school leaver from Florida Drive to work for 4 yrs out of a Supplementary Benefits office in west Belfast. He and his office became known for his understanding, non-judgmental approach, general humanity and sympathy. This was instinctive to Mervyn as the mindset natural to any follower of Jesus. I’m told that in the office the nickname for this junior civil servant was Santa Claus.

The other elephant in the room was caused by the increasing awareness during our lifetimes that not everyone is heterosexual. For many yrs Mervyn had been drawn to quiet involvement in mixed marriages, to help with, encourage and sometimes to offer private blessings for mixed couples, or for divorced couples not welcome in their own church who still wanted a Godly benediction on their union.  Mervyn is among those who came, after much thought, study, prayerful consideration, to a similar openness towards same gender couples, those whose natural and only search for love, for mutual comfort help and society that the one should have of the other that the BCP so correctly stresses as the foundation of life among almost all of us. Xns who were gay were beginning to emerge from the shadows in the 1980s and Mervyn was among them. But there was a change of gear, a new burst of energy, with the setting up of Changing Attitude Ireland in 2007. Here for the first time was concerted public involvement by church men and women, gay and straight, within the C of I, and all other Irish Churches, pointing out simply the unjust and socially damaging and downright cruel nature of conventional Xn dismissal of the unhappiness and anxiety of gay Xns. You are welcome in the church only if you pretend you are not what you are. The founders and inspiration behind CAI were Mervyn and Richard O’Leary. I dare to say that future generations of our church, if not the present one, will recognise this enterprise and thank God for it.

In 2002 the rector of Creggan and Ballymascanlon was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the following year was incapable of full-time ministry. The Diocese recognised this, made him a minor canon of Armagh Cathedral with the title of Vicar Choral. (Music, ecclesiastical and other, singing was always a joy to Mervyn.) This obtained until 2007 when he retired.

Since then, Mervyn has been increasingly looked after and sustained by Richard. The professionals from the Hospice helped, the input of two individual carers went far beyond duty. This meant Mervyn has continued faithfully to fight the good fight to the very end, to fulfil his godly calling to leave this world, this country and his beloved church in a state more pleasing to the Almighty for his having been with us. The struggle goes on: from his labours may Mervyn rest in peace.

Research on the implications of public spending cuts on LGBT people

We need your help!

The impacts of the Government’s spending cuts are wide ranging. However more information is needed to understand the implications for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The impacts of the Government’s spending cuts are wide ranging. However more information is needed to understand the implications for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

NatCen Social Research, an independent social research organisation, has been commissioned by UNISON to explore whether and how public spending cuts of recent years have affected LGBT people. We are interested in hearing from LGBT people who have used publicly funded services or people who provide services to LGBT people in the last two years.

We are inviting you to contribute your views on the implications of austerity for LGBT people. Taking part is completely confidential and no individual or organisation will be identified. Click on this link http://www.natcen.ac.uk/study/implications-of-austerity-on-lgbt-people-in-public-services  to visit the study website where you can find out more about the research and take part. To take part, click the ‘Take part in the research’ button on the webpage.

 

Yours sincerely

Dr Martin Mitchell

 

 

 

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[highlight color=”blue”]Research on the implications of public spending cuts on LGBT people[/highlight]

[highlight color=”pink”]What is the research about?[/highlight]

The implications of austerity (cuts in public and voluntary sector funding and budgets) may be far reaching but little information is available, beyond anecdotal evidence. UNISON has commissioned this study to find out more about how the austerity measures of recent years have affected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

[highlight color=”pink”]Key aims of the study are to:[/highlight]

Explore the way cuts to public and community services may be affecting LGBT people from the perspective of LGBT service users and people who provide services to LGBT people.
Gather suggestions of ways UNISON and its members can respond to cuts in public and voluntary sector funding and budgets.

[highlight color=”pink”]Who can take part?[/highlight]

Any LGBT person aged 16 or over who has accessed publicly funded services in the last two years.
Anyone who has provided publicly funded services to LGBT people in the last two years; either specific services targeted at LGBT people or mainstream services accessed by LGBT people.
If you are unsure if you are eligible to take part, please contact the research team who will be happy to help you. See ‘ How do I get in touch?’ below.

[highlight color=”pink”]Who is funding the research?[/highlight]

The research is being funded by UNISON, one of Britain largest trade unions with members in the public, community and private sectors. UNISON has asked NatCen Social Research to conduct the study on their behalf.

[highlight color=”pink”]Who are NatCen Social Research?[/highlight]

NatCen Social Research is an independent and not-for-profit social research organisation. NatCen designs and carries out high quality research studies in the fields of social and public policy. Learn more about us at www.natcen.ac.uk .

[highlight color=”pink”]What is involved in taking part?[/highlight]

There are three ways that you can take part in the study:
1.      Make a short written submission via a secure website in response to five questions. Submissions can be made at any time up until midday on 30th September 2013. This will involve preparing short written answers to five questions that may take up to 30 minutes.
2.      Take part in a 30-40 minute telephone interview. We would arrange a time and date that is most convenient for you.
3.      Make both a written submission and take part in a telephone interview.

[highlight color=”pink”]Do I have to take part?[/highlight]

Taking part is voluntary.  It is entirely up to you if you want to take part in the research and you can change your mind at any point.

You do not have to give answers to all the questions on the online written submission website or in the telephone interview and you can choose to stop at any time.

[highlight color=”pink”]Who will know what I say?[/highlight]

We will write a report based on what people have said. The names of the people who have taken part will not be in the report and it will not be possible for you to be identified.

If you choose to participate in a telephone interview, we will ask to audio record the discussion so that we have an accurate record of what you say. This recording will be stored securely at NatCen’s offices and only the research team will be able to listen to it.

[highlight color=”pink”]Why take part?[/highlight]

This is your opportunity to have a say. Your views will be important in indentifying whether austerity has implications for LGBT people and will help to inform UNISON’s campaigns, recruitment and other work in this area.

[highlight color=”pink”]How do I get in touch?[/highlight]

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a member of the research team by emailing AusterityandLGBT@natcen.ac.uk or calling our freephone on 0808 178 9054.