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.
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.
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.
Jandy Nelson’s ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ and ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson cover issues of sexuality and gender
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
- The Guardian – I’ve changed my mind on the gay cake row. Here’s why
- The Council of European Union – EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline
- Geneva, 23 April 2009 – ARTICLE 19 launched the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality
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′.
BY BRUCE WILLIAMS
JANUARY 19 2016
At 68 years old, having led a responsible and productive life, I find myself living in poverty with the prospects for the final third of my existence only getting worse. I wake each day only to hope that I will die before my funds and limited resources run out completely. I also find that I am in the company of hundreds of thousands of other LGBT seniors who, through no fault of their own, are in the same tragic and inhumane situation.
Putting aside any pride that I once may have had, I share my story in an effort to create an awareness of these inequities that have devastated the current generation of LGBT seniors.
I have worked since I was 12 years old: part-time when school was in session and full-time each weekend, during every summer recess and every day of each holiday vacation. I have paid into the Social Security system for well over 50 years — over one half of a century! At 21 years old, I assumed the responsibility for raising my three brothers and helped to care for my mom until her death from lung cancer.
In my professional career, I have gone from cleaning dirty toilets at minimum wage to serving as the executive director of a continuous care retirement community with some 500 residents and nearly 200 employees. In the late 1990s, I was earning a very comfortable six-figure salary. I have led a frugal life in an attempt to build a nest egg for my own golden years.
But LGBT seniors of today have endured a past that was and still is not at all conducive to planning and providing for a comfortable and secure retirement existence. During the working years of today’s LGBT seniors, there were four fatal bullets that prevented our financial success: We were refused employment solely on the basis of our sexual orientation, we were paid less money for equal work, we were denied promotions, and we were fired with no recourse at the whim of ignorant employers. Fortunately I was able to dodge the first three bullets, but that was only to tragically fall victim to the fourth.
I was fired because of my sexual orientation less than two months before my 25th anniversary of employment. After dedicating nearly a quarter of a century of my life to the same company, I found myself unemployed in my early 60s and looking for work during one of the most disastrous periods of our nation’s economic history. Making things even worse, with absolutely no income, I was forced to accept early retirement Social Security benefits at a 25 percent reduction, a desperate decision that will negatively impact my existence for the rest of my life.
So here I am, a 68-year-old gay man who has led a productive and responsible life but who now has to work just to survive. I am fortunate enough to have found a job at the Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors, Fla., that pays me to pursue my passion of advocating for the elderly and gives me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of other LGBT seniors like me.
It is my passion in life to convince folks of the need to embrace aging and to set out on a journey to improve the “third third” of our lives. I aspire to raising awareness of the special needs of our LGBT senior population. This is a group often with far less family support, with fewer financial resources and many more societal scars than other aging populations, and at the Pride Center we provide programs that help to maintain independence, that boost mental and physical health and that provide a raison d’etre — a reason for being and enjoying life. We strive to increase the connections between service providers and our seniors in need of those services. And for those who are serving as caregivers, we offer support, education and respite to ease their burden.
Our Coffee & Conversation gathering draws nearly 200 LGBT seniors every Tuesday and serves to provide a fun and free opportunity for socialization to ward off the isolation that is so prevalent with many seniors. I solicit a different sponsor each week, which may be a long-term care facility, an elder law attorney, a home health care agency or some other business normally utilized by an aging population, so that our attendees cannot only enjoy free coffee and goodies but also build an arsenal of information about available area service providers for the times they need help the most.
The Pride Center partners with other local and national organizations to help improve the lives of LGBT seniors. In conjunction with SAGE USA we have been providing the SAGE Works program that, through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, helps LGBT seniors find work or hone their skills to get a better job. Our Fund, a Broward-based community foundation that supports the LGBT community, just recently provided a program of LGBT Cultural Competency Certification that now enables several of us from the Pride Center to go out into the community and make caregivers more aware of and sensitive to the needs of the LGBT senior community.
As a society, we have made great strides in LGBT awareness and rights that today’s LGBT seniors never expected to see in their lifetimes. Yet for myself, and for so many other LGBT seniors, change has come too late. After an exhilarating period of celebration, we settle back and wonder how our lives would have been different had the changes come during our younger years. We know one cannot reclaim missed experiences nor amass fortunes never earned. We now need to focus our efforts toward securing equality in health care, housing, and employment so that no old people have to go to bed at night hoping to die in their sleep.
BRUCE WILLIAMS is leads programming for LGBT elders at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Florida.
BRUCE WILLIAMS leads programming for LGBT elders at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Fla.
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.
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
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.
- DOWNLOAD AN ORGANIZING KIT
- MORE RESOURCES AT HRC’S WELCOMING SCHOOLS | GENDER STEREOTYPING AND IDENTITY
- READ: Heartwarming Story of the Day: Outpouring of Support for Transgender Youth in Wisconsin Town
- WATCH: Mom’s for Transgender Equality | Wisconsin Community Rallies in Support of Transgender Equality | Join Jazz Jennings and HRC for a Reading of Her Book I Am Jazz