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The Fred Phelps legacy: How America exports anti-LGBT poison around the world

We may never see the likes of Fred Phelps and his family in the post-gay world.
 

America owes the international community an apology: we are exporting our anti-LGBT activists, and they are damaging fairness, equality and human rights around the globe.

And, with support for equality on the rise from statehouses to classrooms to church pews to dinner tables – and with the US Supreme Court set to rule on marriage equality this summer – they have turned their attention elsewhere. They understand they’re losing in their own country. Americans are rejecting their vision of two Americas – one where some are equal and others are treated as second class citizens simply because of who they are.

These anti-LGBT extremists have begun exporting their hate to countries around the world, jeopardising the livelihood – and sometimes the lives – of LGBT people in places where they have no protections. Indeed, they’re opening up new battlefields overseas – working to encourage and support anti-LGBT laws in countries like Russia, Poland, Uganda and Jamaica – laws they only wish they could pass here at home.

Some of these American exporters of hate may protest this characterisation, but their true intentions are there for all the world to see. Take the World Congress of Families, for example. Since 1997, this organisation has held conferences and events around the world that foster homophobia and transphobia under the guise of protecting the “natural family.” The organisation has supported laws that marginalise LGBT people in Russia and recently honoured an individual in Nigeria who claimed LGBT advocates were conspiring with the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Every few years, the World Congress of Families hosts an international gathering of those working against the rights of the LGBT community and women. The group’s September 2014 international conference at the Kremlin was canceled due to instability in Ukraine. But later this year, many of the group’s supporters will meet in Salt Lake City, Utah. It will be the first time the World Congress of Families has ever held such a conference in the United States, despite the fact that its board of directors and staff are all Americans.

There are a disturbing cast of characters who work for, partner with, and participate in the World Congress of Families. Days after Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president of the United States, Don Feder, communications director for the organization, referred to Mrs. Clinton – who as secretary of state declared gays rights to be human rights – as “Hitlery,” writing that she’s too “hideous” to be president.

Partners of the organisation like Sharon Slater of Family Watch International have taken an anti-LGBT agenda to the United Nations, and advocated for marginalising LGBT people in places like Nigeria, where efforts to pass severe anti-LGBT legislation succeeded in 2014. And then there’s Scott Lively, a regular speaker at the group’s summits. Lively has promoted dangerous lies around the globe. Among other things, he’s blamed some of history’s most horrific atrocities, including the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, on LGBT people.

Such rhetoric isn’t just blatantly false, it’s dangerous. In countries where homophobia and transphobia are rampant, and LGBT communities have not had the resources to combat such discrimination, the words of Don Feder, Brian Brown, or Scott Lively embolden individuals, including foreign leaders, to embrace laws that endanger LGBT people and their families. In fact, their work infects regions, not just countries where they appear. Russia’s law that prohibits public support of equality (and inspires violence), which was strongly supported by the World Congress of Families, is now bleeding into central Asia, where stronger versions of the law are moving forward in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

That’s why we will not let these exporters of hate go unchallenged. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, sunlight is the best disinfectant, and over the last year, the Human Rights Campaign – America’s largest LGBT civil rights organization – has focused light on the anti-LGBT efforts of the World Congress of Families and other American exporters of hate. With only six months until thousands descend on Salt Lake City for the World Congress of Families’ first international conference in the US, we are releasing an updated version of Exposed: The World Congress of Families.

Some, such as Lively, are crying foul about our efforts to expose their work and have accused us of endangering them. We condemn all forms of political violence – no one, as a matter of basic human rights, should live in fear of danger. And no one should be able to hide from their own words, and the damage they do. That’s exactly why we are calling out Scott Lively’s travels from the Kremlin to Kampala – journeys taken with the express purpose of advancing laws that promote anti-LGBT sentiments. There was a time when they were proud of their anti-LGBT rhetoric and activities. If they’re ashamed of it now, they should publicly apologise. If they’re not, as public officials they should welcome the scrutiny of a fair-minded public.

Tide beginning to turn

In the United States and Western Europe, LGBT people are beginning to enjoy the civil and human rights they are rightly entitled to. Marriage equality has been law in most of the United Kingdom for more than a year and has recently been passed in Finland, Slovenia and Luxembourg. This month, voters in Ireland will go to the polls to vote for whether same-sex couples have a right to marry, a measure that is expected to pass.

‘Mister Majah P is a pioneering performer who is bravely breaking the homophobic mould of much Jamaican reggae and dancehall music. Long may he continue to assert that “One Love” includes LGBT people.’

Read Peter Tatchell’s article on the man breaking the mould of bigotry in the Caribbean here.

But as equality has spread in some parts of the world, a backwards slide has occurred in other parts. Not only are some countries further criminalising LGBT relationships and identities, but also finding clever new ways to prevent advocacy, association, and expression. Unfortunately, American fingerprints are on almost all of these efforts.

Luckily, pro-equality Americans are beginning to respond by speaking out in support of human rights and inclusion. President Obama has made LGBT rights abroad a key part of his foreign policy, with Secretary of State John Kerry recently appointing the first American diplomat devoted to advocating for protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the globe – an appointment HRC has long called for. In addition, the US has six openly gay ambassadors serving worldwide.

While the equality movement is not as organised and well-funded as our opposition at the global level, that is changing. Just as the efforts of advocates for exclusion are failing in America, their efforts will ultimately fail globally. The story of progress and prosperity is one of inclusion and love.

Hate is neither an American value nor a family value, and no American should be in the business of exporting it around the globe. And we won’t cease to expose, debunk and shine a light on those who are trying to make the case otherwise, until this despicable behavior comes to an end once and for all.

Chad Griffin is President of Human Rights Campaign, one of the world’s largest LGBT activist groups. Find him on Twitter @ChadHGriffin or the group @HRC. You can also visit the HRC websitehere.

Project Homophobia Celebrates Two Years

By The Gay UK, May 6 2015 08:01PM

Project Homophobia, which is celebrating two years since its release this week, is a short film about gay bullying and self-acceptance by Austrian filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger.

Homophobia, since its release on YouTube, has proved to be a  powerful haunting movie has become a viral sensation with nearly 3 million hits to date
An adolescent boy, who serves the Austrian Military Forces, experiences homosexual feelings towards one of his comrades. It’s their last night at the Austrian-Hungarian border, socially isolated and armed with loaded weapons.

Kyrgyz LGBT center victim of arson attack

Kyrgyzstan1

Reprinted from GLBT News

By John Mack Freeman

The headquarters of LGBT group Labrys was attacked with explosives in Kyrgyzstan on April 10, 2015. The attack comes amid a climate that is rapidly becoming more hostile towards LGBT people. Kyrgyzstan is considering a “gay propaganda” law similar to the one on the books in Russia. The attacked organization has said they have seen an increase in anti-LGBT violence since the proposal of the law.

Via PinkNews:

Senior Policy director Richard Köhler said in a statement: “Space for civil society is shrinking in many states of the former Soviet Union. We watch this trend with growing concern, as authorities deliberately fail to protect minority groups.

“Debating homo- and transphobic laws creates the atmosphere to hunt trans and LGBTIQ people and put their lives at risk.”

Co-chair Alecks Recher says: “We expect the Kyrgyz government to clearly speak out against homo- and transphobic hatred, assert that LGBTIQ people equally belong to Kyrgyz society, and to withdraw the proposed law. The Council of Europe should do everything in its power to budge its democratic partner to ensure safety and human rights for different groups in Kyrgyz society, including LGBTIQ people.”

Gays in the Military

Edirotial:

Since 12 January 2000 The MOD’s policy is to allow homosexual men, lesbians and transgender personnel to serve openly, and discrimination on a sexual orientation basis is forbidden.  It is also forbidden for someone to pressure LGBT people to come out. All personnel are subject to the same rules against sexual harassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

In the Republic of Ireland, an obvious close neighbour of the United Kingdom, which had carried some of its interpretation of law over from the time that the United Kingdom ruled there, there has been no preclusion since 1993 when male homosexuality was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland. Since 1993 there has been significant change to make sure that there was no discrimination in terms of public policy. At the same time as an equal age of consent was introduced for heterosexual and homosexual persons, the Irish Defence Forces announced that they would be treating heterosexual and homosexual members equally. Relationships between senior and junior ranks would continue to be forbidden, as is common in most militaries. There would also be no harassment of gay officers and no questioning of members about their sexuality.

Obviously, the argument that LGBT personnel should not have had to hide their sexuality and therefore impact on their work could be made, and indeed during the Second World War, when morale and efficiency were most crucial, as Britain faced the threat of Nazi invasion, vast numbers of gay people were allowed to serve in combat units, some quite openly.  There is sufficient evidence to prove that Britain operated different standards when it was caught short of recruits during history.

We all make judgements in hindsight, and history shows that often rules and laws are made which are nonsensical; this would seem to have one of those times!

 

 

Further reading:

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Serving with PRIDE: From a 92-year-old WWII veteran to soldiers in Afghanistan – the men and women who fought wars AND prejudice

  • Photo essay book, Gays in the Military, released by New York photographer Vincent Cianni
  • Individual stories tell the history of homosexuals in the military
  • Many were discharged because of their sexuality and suffer ongoing psychological damage
  • Rape, assault and bullying remain prevalent
  • Being gay was considered a criminal offense in the U.S. military until 1993 

A New York-based documentary photographer has spent three years traveling the U.S. photographing and interviewing gay veterans and servicemen to share their stories of suppression, sadness and silence in a moving photo essay.

Vincent Cianni, 63, said he embarked on the project, Gays in the Military, to better understand why homosexuals would enlist in the military to begin with; voluntarily signing up for a system that did, and in many ways still does, oppress them.

‘It seems I spent most of my life uninterested in knowing about the military because I supported peace, the fight to end violence and injustice, and the sanctity of life,’ the photographer told Vice.

‘I couldn’t understand why anyone would join the military, much less why gay people would join the military, an organization that shunned them.’

Pieced together, Cianni’s photos show commonalities between the subjects despite their different journeys, from a 92-year-old WW2 veteran to young soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan.

Many were discharged because of their sexuality, others were raped, assaulted and bullied, causing ongoing psychological damage.

A major turning point for gay people in the military came in 2011 with the overturning of Dont Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), a discouraging policy signed by Bill Clinton in 1993 that continued a ban on gay soldiers enlisting, but stopped investigations and ‘witch hunts’ into whether soldiers were gay.

The bill was designed to protect the soldiers by keeping their sexuality a secret, however it forced them into the closet and further internalized their struggles.

Gay and in the military: Zachary Werth (left), says he was discharged from the Army National Guard in 2010 because of his sexuality, while his boyfriend, Dustin Hiersekorn (right) left the Marine Corps due to medical reasons. They are one of the couples who appear in Gays in the Military, a stunning photo essay by Vincent Cianni documenting the stories of homosexual soldiers

Gay and in the military: Zachary Werth (left), says he was discharged from the Army National Guard in 2010 because of his sexuality, while his boyfriend, Dustin Hiersekorn (right) left the Marine Corps due to medical reasons. They are one of the couples who appear in Gays in the Military, a stunning photo essay by Vincent Cianni documenting the stories of homosexual soldiers

Veteran: Paul Goercke, of San Francisco, is a World War II veteran who served in Okinawa, Hawaii and Saipan, said there was 'no evidence of gay life' when he  enlisted with the Merchant Marines when he was 18

Veteran: Paul Goercke, of San Francisco, is a World War II veteran who served in Okinawa, Hawaii and Saipan, said there was ‘no evidence of gay life’ when he enlisted with the Merchant Marines when he was 18

'The person I was dating was older than me and had been in the Navy quite a bit longer. She grew up under the old regime where there were active witch hunts to catch gay people in the act to get them out. I learned that culture and I was terrified the whole time I was in,' says Heather Davies (left), of Round Rock, Texas. She was a lieutenant in the US Navy from 1989 to 1998

‘The person I was dating was older than me and had been in the Navy quite a bit longer. She grew up under the old regime where there were active witch hunts to catch gay people in the act to get them out. I learned that culture and I was terrified the whole time I was in,’ says Heather Davies (left), of Round Rock, Texas. She was a lieutenant in the US Navy from 1989 to 1998

Togetherness: Matt McCary (right) was arrested in 2000 after being singled out by a fellow airman. He was discharged from the US Air Force within five days. David Cochenic (left) received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The two were photographed in Orange Park, Florida

Togetherness: Matt McCary (right) was arrested in 2000 after being singled out by a fellow airman. He was discharged from the US Air Force within five days. David Cochenic (left) received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The two were photographed in Orange Park, Florida

'I was eighteen when I joined the United States Marine Corps in 1989. Because it was pre-Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the questions were asked about sexual orientation. I already knew I was gay, but I was consciously trying to suppress it,' says Eric Alva, of San Antonio, Texas. He was the first US military casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004

‘I was eighteen when I joined the United States Marine Corps in 1989. Because it was pre-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the questions were asked about sexual orientation. I already knew I was gay, but I was consciously trying to suppress it,’ says Eric Alva, of San Antonio, Texas. He was the first US military casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004

'I wanted to think about kissing her, but I tried very desperately to force it out of my mind. I became obsessive about running and dieting; the more I exhausted my body, the less energy I would have to think about that,' reveals Debra Fowler, of Lowell, Massachusetts. She was a Korean linguist in the US Army from 1986 to 1988

‘I wanted to think about kissing her, but I tried very desperately to force it out of my mind. I became obsessive about running and dieting; the more I exhausted my body, the less energy I would have to think about that,’ reveals Debra Fowler, of Lowell, Massachusetts. She was a Korean linguist in the US Army from 1986 to 1988

'I’m like everybody else. I have a job. I have a career. I want the same things: a home, family, everything else. I’m not any different.' Don Bramer, of Washington, DC, a Lieutenant O-3 in the US Navy, says. He has served since 2002 and is still serving

‘I’m like everybody else. I have a job. I have a career. I want the same things: a home, family, everything else. I’m not any different.’ Don Bramer, of Washington, DC, a Lieutenant O-3 in the US Navy, says. He has served since 2002 and is still serving

Before DADT, which was enacted in 1993, homosexual behavior was considered a criminal offense within the military.

‘In many cases, the people I interviewed and photographed had no recourse to their discharge,’ Cianni said.

‘At times, their entire record of serving in the military was expunged as if it never happened.

‘Participating in the project served to regain their dignity and their history of serving.

‘During the interviews they revisited difficult experiences, sometimes experiences they had forgotten about.

‘It was an emotional catharsis for many of them.’

Gays in the Military was published by Daylight Books in May 2014.

It is archived at the David M. Rubestein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University and is available as an exhibition and multi-media installation.

'I was three years old the first time I had a sexual experience with my grandmother. That continued until I was 17 years old. When I was eight years old, my stepdad and step-granddad started sexually abusing me, and in rather horrible ways.  I’m PTSD from Vietnam. I also have cancer from Agent Orange exposure. I’ve been HIV positive since 1987, full-blown AIDS since 1994, and I have Hepatitis C since 1989. Dying is not my responsibility; it’s part of nature. I recognize not all battles can be won,' says Bert Bares, of Houston, Texas. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam - receiving numerous commendations including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star

‘I was three years old the first time I had a sexual experience with my grandmother. That continued until I was 17 years old. When I was eight years old, my stepdad and step-granddad started sexually abusing me, and in rather horrible ways. I’m PTSD from Vietnam. I also have cancer from Agent Orange exposure. I’ve been HIV positive since 1987, full-blown AIDS since 1994, and I have Hepatitis C since 1989. Dying is not my responsibility; it’s part of nature. I recognize not all battles can be won,’ says Bert Bares, of Houston, Texas. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam – receiving numerous commendations including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star

'I left the Navy to be with someone. It would not have worked out well. I would have been faced with periodic deployments given my specialty, and (my partner) didn't like the deployments, so I decided to leave. It's difficult to hide a gay relationship. When you're single, the fifth senior officer on the ship, and always being the one who shows up alone at formal functions, it's difficult to maintain a charade. I grew accustomed to the fear of what would happen if I were caught. But I also knew that if something did happen, I would not ever admit that I was gay,' Larry Baxley says. The Washington, D.C.,-native resigned from the Navy in 2005

‘I left the Navy to be with someone. It would not have worked out well. I would have been faced with periodic deployments given my specialty, and (my partner) didn’t like the deployments, so I decided to leave. It’s difficult to hide a gay relationship. When you’re single, the fifth senior officer on the ship, and always being the one who shows up alone at formal functions, it’s difficult to maintain a charade. I grew accustomed to the fear of what would happen if I were caught. But I also knew that if something did happen, I would not ever admit that I was gay,’ Larry Baxley says. The Washington, D.C.,-native resigned from the Navy in 2005

'As far as actually getting into a real gay relationship, that didn't come until the military. In the Officer Basic Course there was an attraction between me and another woman but it never became a whole lot; the circumstances were not right. When I was at Fort McClellan was really when I started acting on my sexuality. When I left McClellan, I went to Fort Ritchie and had a relationship with the company commander. I was the executive officer. We had a relationship only until she was reassigned,' says Nancy Russell, of San Antonio, Texas. She is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army

‘As far as actually getting into a real gay relationship, that didn’t come until the military. In the Officer Basic Course there was an attraction between me and another woman but it never became a whole lot; the circumstances were not right. When I was at Fort McClellan was really when I started acting on my sexuality. When I left McClellan, I went to Fort Ritchie and had a relationship with the company commander. I was the executive officer. We had a relationship only until she was reassigned,’ says Nancy Russell, of San Antonio, Texas. She is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3034869/Gay-military-92-year-old-WWII-veteran-returning-Afghanistan-soldiers-men-women-fight-wars-prejudice.html#ixzz3X4nVGsmN
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'Homophobic bullying is stubbornly pervasive in society,” says Welsh equality charity

Reprinted from Wales Online: 16:18, 2 April 2015 By Liz Day

Rainbow flag at RCT council offices in Clydach ValeStonewall Cymru is calling on people to contact their parliamentary candidates for support in challenging homophobic bullying and hate crime

Rainbow flag at RCT council offices in Clydach ValeRainbow flag at RCT council offices in Clydach Vale

One in three gay pupils in Wales have changed their plans for further education due to homophobic bullying, according to data from an equality charity.

In the run-up to the General Election, Stonewall Cymru is calling on its supporters to contact their local parliamentary candidates for support in challenging homophobic bullying and hate crime.

Work to be done
Charity director Andrew White said: “The progress made during recent parliaments is something to celebrate, but we’re acutely aware that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people still face bullying, discrimination and prejudice.”

According to the charity’s most recent research in Wales, 43% of primary school teachers said that their pupils had experienced homophobic bullying or name-calling.
Related: Wales’ schools failing to monitor homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying finds study

In secondary schools, this figure was even higher, with 89% of staff reporting that their pupils had experienced harassment for being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

‘Profoundly damaging’
Across the UK, the charity believes that 75,000 young people are being bullied for their sexual orientation, with more than half of LGBT pupils experiencing some form of bullying. According to the charity, the use of homophobic language in Welsh schools is “endemic.”

In Welsh primary schools, 61% of teachers reported hearing pupils use the expression “you’re so gay”, rising to 93% in secondary schools.

Related: General Election 2015: Head of Christian Party UK plans to stand as Parliamentary Prospective Candidate in Cardiff North

Stonewall says that bullying has a “profoundly damaging” impact on young people’s school experience, with three in five saying it impacts directly on their work.

With just over a month until the election, the charity has launched an equality manifesto, calling for developments such as measures to combat hate crime.

Bullying‘Bullying is stubbornly pervasive in society’

 

BullyingBullying
Mr White said: “Hate crime continues to be a miserable and under reported reality across Wales. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is stubbornly pervasive in society.”

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, police in Wales recorded 270 incidents of hate crime against people on the grounds of sexual orientation in 2013-14. Welsh forces also recorded 47 hate crimes against transgender individuals over the same time period.

But the charity believes these figures are the “tip of the iceberg”, as many victims never report such crimes.

‘Equality must sit at the heart of the political agenda’
Chief executive Ruth Hunt said: “A lot has been achieved during this parliament, but the biggest risk now is that huge achievements in legal equality may result in complacency.

“Legal equality is not enough by itself, we need to encourage our candidates to help change hearts and minds in their communities in order to achieve social equality.”

Related: Revealed: The best places to work in Wales if you are gay

She added: “Equality must sit at the heart of the political agenda and we will call out any instances of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia that we see from any political party or candidate.

“Political parties should be thinking long and hard about how they can help us fight for a world where every LGBT person can be themselves, and be safe, every day.”

My boyfriend killed himself because his family couldn’t accept that he was gay

Nazim Mahmood jumped to his death from a balcony seven months ago after coming out to his parents. His partner of 13 years, Matthew Ogston, talks to Sarfraz Manzoor

Matthew Ogston Nazeem Mahmood
Nazim Mahmood and Matthew Ogston in Iceland in 2008.

Sarfraz Manzoor
Saturday 21 March 2015 05.59 GMT Last modified on Monday 23 March 2015 15.32 GMT
In the spring of last year, Matthew Ogston and Nazim Mahmood moved into their dream home. The apartment, on the top floor of a mansion block in north-west London, offered stunning panoramic views of London. Nazim was a doctor who ran three London clinics, Matthew a web designer.

The life Nazim enjoyed seemed a world away from the working-class traditional Muslim community in which he had been raised. It was that world – conservative and closed – that he had left behind for a new life. In their first week in the flat, the two men stood on the balcony as London glittered in front of them. Matthew looked at Nazim and said, “Darling, I think we’ve finally made it.” They both smiled. Four months later, Nazim jumped off the edge of that same balcony to his death. He was 34.

Nazim was 21 when he met Matthew in November 2001. Matthew was at a gay nightclub in Birmingham, when Nazim approached with the words, “Excuse me, may I sit here?” Something about Nazim’s shy demeanour appealed to Matthew. They started talking. “There was an instant connection,” he recalls.

We are in the living room of the apartment. It is more than seven months since Nazim’s death but the condolence cards are still on display. This is the first time Matthew has agreed to talk openly, and during the hours we talk, words tumble and tears flow. It was only minutes after first meeting him that Nazim had said to Matthew: “I’m a Muslim, is that going to be a problem?”

Matthew Ogston

Matthew Ogston Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Matthew and Nazim with their dog Charlie in 2007.
The two were soon inseparable. Matthew was working as a web designer and Nazim was a medical student. Their families did not know they were gay. After a year they bought a house. It had two bedrooms so their families might assume they were just housemates. “We used to have to keep the window blinds in our front room closed so no one would see us,” says Matthew. “When we walked down the street we made sure there was some distance between us just in case a family member of his spotted us together.”

They grew tired of looking over their shoulders and wanted to stop hiding, so when Nazim was offered a job at a London hospital in 2004 they seized the opportunity to move to the capital. They would be far from their families, in a city where they knew no one and could fashion a new life together. “In London we felt free,” Matthew says. “We didn’t have to worry about bumping into our parents.”

They made friends and created a social world that reflected the people they were. Of necessity, this new life was founded on sadness and deceptions. Nazim was leading a double life: his family had barely met Matthew and thought he was merely an investor in their son’s flat. On the rare occasions they visited London, Matthew had to spend the night in a bed and breakfast. “We had to ‘de-gay’ the house,” says Matthew. “That meant putting pictures of Kylie into the cupboard, Cher too – and any photo or memento that suggested a relationship had to go.”

Nazim didn’t like to talk about his family. He had left Birmingham and felt that to talk about pain or sadness or guilt would have infected the new life they had created in London – he was resigned to playing the dutiful Muslim boy to his family in Birmingham when, in fact, he was a happily gay man in London.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first meeting, Matthew and Nazim threw a party at a London club. Nazim was now a GP as well as running his own business – three London clinics that offered Botox treatments – and Matthew was doing well working for a software company. During the party, Matthew asked the DJ to lower the music. He led Nazim into the DJ booth, got down on one knee and proposed. “He looked at me and his face was just lit up,” says Matthew.

The following year, Matthew came out to his parents, who were loving and accepting of both of them, but for Nazim, whose family were culturally conservative Muslims, the only strategy was to keep the solid borderlines between the old life in Birmingham and the new life in London.

On the last Saturday of July 2014, Nazim and Matthew drove north to Birmingham. It was a strange time: a close friend had died and they had to be back in London on the Monday for his memorial service. It was also the weekend of Eid, the Muslim festival.

When he arrived, Nazim’s family were annoyed that he was late for the Eid celebrations and planned to leave early for the memorial. Things were said – Matthew does not know what, exactly – that left Nazim distraught. “I am a good person,” Nazim said, weeping. “Why can’t people accept me for who I am?”

“Is it because you like men?” his mother had asked him, out of the blue. And Nazim, who had spent years hiding and pretending, to protect his relationship with Matthew, did something he had never expected to do: on the spur of the moment, he told them everything.

Matthew Ogston

Matthew and Nazim at a friend’s wedding in 2005.
Nazim was in a state of shock as he drove back to London. It emerged at the inquest in December 2014 that he had told his mother he was gay and had been in a relationship with a man for 13 years, and planned to marry him. Her response was to tell Nazim to consult a psychiatrist with a view to being “cured”.

The coroner, Mary Hassell, ruled that Nazeem killed himself. She said: “It seems incredible that a young man with so much going for him could have taken his own life. But what I’ve heard is that he had one great sadness which was the difficulty his family had in accepting his sexuality.”

Nazim had never planned to reveal his sexuality and found it hard to process his mother’s extreme reaction.

The couple went to the service for their dead friend that evening and a second ceremony the following day, but Matthew recalls Nazim being distant, but trying to put on a brave face. On Tuesday evening, Nazim helped with paperwork for the new job Matthew would start the following morning and then they retired to bed.

In the office next day, Matthew got a text from his sister, saying simply “call me now”. It was early evening on Wednesday 30 July. He rang her and was told to go home immediately; she would not say why. It couldn’t be Nazim – they had talked at lunchtime and Nazim had called again at just after 3pm and then twice after 5pm, but it was Matthew’s first day in a new office and he had been too busy in meetings to take the calls, though he had tried to call Nazim back. Had there been a bomb scare at the flat?

As he left West Hampstead station Matthew began to run. “It was like I was running for my life,” he recalls.

As he speaks, he is clutching himself tightly, right hand gripping his biceps. “I was pushing people out of the way and as I came round the corner I saw flashing blue lights and police cordon tape, then I saw this red blanket on the floor covering something up.”

He began to scream. He was bundled into a police car as friends started to show up, faces grey with shock.

A TV interview with Matthew about the problems faced by many Asian men in coming out to their families.
Matthew arrived at Handsworth cemetery early on the day of Nazim’s funeral. In the aftermath of the death, Matthew had met Nazim’s family but the encounters were tense and uncomfortable. It appears that they did not want to have to deal with what they considered the shame of having had a gay son, and a gay son with a non-Muslim lover. Out of respect for Nazim’s mother’s plea not to make a scene at Nazim’s burial, Matthew agreed not to ask for a major role at the funeral, which was due to take place at 3.30pm.

With less than half an hour to go, nobody else had arrived and Matthew began to worry. In the distance he could see a burial taking place. “I went over and asked one of the officials where Nazim was being buried,” he said. “She said, ‘I’m really sorry – they have already buried him.’”

He ran out and saw Nazim’s family pouring dirt on to the coffin. “I was so angry,” Matthew tells me, tears streaming down his face, “I could not move. My arms and legs were just clenched. I felt completely betrayed.”

Nazim’s family had apparently given him the wrong time for the funeral.

He returned to London feeling desperately low. “I wanted to end it all,” he says quietly. “Follow Naz and leap off the balcony.”

His friends ensured he always had at least three people with him round the clock. “Every time I tried to get to the edge of the balcony, my friends would stop me. I couldn’t find a reason to stay alive.”

Then, in his distress, Matthew recalls: “I heard Naz’s voice.”

He is convinced that Nazim spoke to him, telling him to set up a foundation to help other young gay men and women driven to depression because of religious homophobia. He had a reason to go on at last.

The Naz and Matt Foundation was announced at a special service held in London for Nazim, two weeks after his funeral. The service featured contributions from a gay Muslim, gay Hindu, a gay vicar, a trainee Rabbi and a lesbian interfaith minister. Matthew has been seeing a psychotherapist but he doubts any counsellor can help to liberate him from the questions that haunt him. “I don’t have answers to the questions I have and I can’t find peace of mind because there are no answers.”

Who does Matthew blame for Nazim’s death? “I blame a community that is so closed minded to allow these bigoted views that make families believe that their honour is more important than loving their children,” he says. “The respect and honour of the family is more important than the happiness of the children they gave birth to. How sick is that?”

The purpose of the Naz and Matt Foundation is to confront and challenge these views. Matthew says the foundation has given him a reason to stay alive but he is still finding it hard to come to terms with Nazim’s death. “I am on medication for sleep and anxiety,” he says. “I can’t face going to sleep because I know I will have to wake up and face more sadness, because he’s not there.”

Nazim is gone but in the home they shared he is everywhere. A large painting of him rests against one wall, photographs arranged around the room. The condolence cards read “With deepest sympathy”, and “So sorry for your loss” and so on.

We have talked for more than five hours and Matthew looks emotionally exhausted as I prepare to leave. A digital picture frame has settled on an image from the party where Matthew proposed to Nazim. They were engaged for three years but didn’t marry. “I have applied to have my name changed by deed poll to the name I would have adopted when we got married,” he says.

Why didn’t they get married? “Naz said it would not feel right to marry without being able to invite his mother,” says Matthew. “He wanted the unconditional love of his mum – that was all he had ever wanted: love and acceptance.”

nazandmattfoundation.org

@sarfrazmanzoor

Samaritans: 08457 909090 (24-hour national helpline)

 

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/21/my-boyfriend-killed-himself-because-his-family-couldnt-accept-that-he-was-gay

£2 Million Awards Announced From Homophobic Bullying Fund

Image result for political dogma cartoons northern irelandHomophobic bullying is still happening throughout society, and in particular in our schools.  None of us condone it, but very few of us actually do anything concrete to stop it, and in particular families of LGBT kids are often to quiet in challenging schools/colleges/universities when they are aware of what has happened to their child or to someone they know.

In our previous comment on the Ashers Bakery case, we noted that the Office of the First MInister along with the Deputy First Minister funds the Equality Commission, this means they are responsible for ensuring equality in our schools but why is it that our legislative bodies seem to be dragging their feet over ensuring that our children our safe from any kind of bullying in our schools?

Is political dogma getting in the why of natural rights?  I will let you decide when you next speak to your MLA/MP and at the ballot box.

£2 Million Awards Announced From Homophobic Bullying Fund

By The Gay UK, Mar 24 2015 03:43PM

Funds awarded to projects to train school staff and provide support for pupils affected by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

◉ Stonewall awarded nearly half million pounds of the £2million total.
◉ Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson, said, “It’s good news that schools are making progress on homophobic bullying
Classroom (C) Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr

Classroom (C) Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr
Today eight organisations will be told they are to get a share of £2 million to help prevent and eradicate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. The funding was announced by Jo Swinson, Minister for Women and Equalities, and Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, in October 2014.
Homophobic bullying in schools is decreasing: 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people surveyed for Stonewall’s 2012 School Report said they had experienced homophobic bullying, down from 65 per cent in 2009.
However further action is still needed. Metro’s Youth Chances Survey 2014 found that more than half of gay young people had experienced either discrimination or harassment. In a report from Stonewall last year 86 per cent of secondary school teachers and 45 per cent of primary school teachers said pupils at their school had experienced homophobic bullying. Most (89 per cent for secondary schools and 70 per cent for primary) had heard homophobic language used. Teachers say they lack the knowledge and confidence to tackle HBT bullying effectively. These projects will help to build that confidence by providing training and resources for school staff.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, said, “It’s good news that schools are making progress on homophobic bullying, but it must be eradicated entirely. The trauma of being bullied at school can stay with you for life, and it is absolutely unacceptable that those who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are being targeted. Teachers need specialist support and training to help them stamp out homophobic bullying, which is why we have funded these excellent projects which are designed to tackle this issue head on.”
The organisations awarded funding are:
Anne Frank Trust (£104,894) – to run workshops and educate young people about prejudice and the impact of the Holocaust on lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Barnardo’s (£263,218) – to provide face-to-face support for victims of HBT bullying and training for staff with a focus on cultural issues in schools in Leeds and Wakefield.
Diversity Role Models with Brook (£277,722) – to develop and deliver training on tackling HBT bullying to 10,000 teachers and staff in 400 schools.
EACH (£189,304) – to deliver a training and resource programme in schools across Avon and Somerset.
Educate and Celebrate (£214,048) – to train staff in 60 schools, giving them confidence and strategies to address HBT language and bullying and promote inclusiveness throughout the school environment and the curriculum.
National Children’s Bureau (£128,754)– to train 1,500 teachers on tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia through PSHE.
Show Racism the Red Card (£119,557)– to hold workshops with 2,000 young people at football clubs around England, train 200 teachers and run a film competition for young people on tackling HBT bullying.
Stonewall (£465,594) – to extend and share its ‘train the trainer’ course with 60 partner organisations, enabling them to run the programme with schools in their local communities and giving them the skills to tackle HBT bullying.
ALSO READ:1 in ten calls to Samartians are worried about their sexualityMarcel Varney, Assistant Director for Barnardo’s, said, “At Barnardo’s, we hear about HBT bullying from the young people we work with across the organisation. We know that the bullying of a young person because of their sexuality can be incredibly damaging and can impact dramatically on a young person’s ability to succeed at school.
“This commitment from the government will enable us to reach hundreds of young people to alert them to the impact of HBT bullying. It‘s a big step towards stamping out HBT bullying. We aim to improve the visibility of LGBT lives in the school environment and ensure that young people are supported regardless of culture or religion.”

Ex-Gay Therapy

The Human Rights Campaign requested that Psychology Today remove a listing for an ex-gay therapist, and to stop accepting ads from therapists that offer “reparative,” “conversion,” or “ex-gay” therapy.  Initially the publication was reluctant to do so as it said that it had no control over these listings.  However Psychology Today has now removed the listing and  posted a statement on its website yesterday saying,

“Psychology Todaydoes not endorse or publish ads for reparative therapy in print, online or in professionals’ profiles. The Therapy Directory has removed the individual whose profile included a discussion of conversion therapy. We have informed all Directory professionals that those whose profiles offer conversion therapy will be delisted.”

HRC officials welcomed the move. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a dangerous and discredited practice that puts vulnerable people, including children, at terrible risk,” said Fred Sainz, HRC vice president for communications and marketing, in a press release today. ”Not only is there no evidence that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression can be ‘cured,’ but research also shows that attempting to do so can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts, particularly in young people.”

Hello Tumblr. My name is Alex. I identify as FTM Transgender and I survived EX gay conversion therapy. I&#8217;m here to tell my story-</p><br /><br />
<p>A while back in 2011 for my 11th grade year of high school, my mother sent me to a Christian private school called Calvary Chapel. That was bad enough on its own with the constant states and remarks, being accused and disciplined for acts I didn&#8217;t do, and rebelling against the uniform code to wear pants instead of a skirt.</p><br /><br />
<p>Calvary Chapel was a bad enough place on its own but I also soon came to find out they held ex gay conversion therapy there courtesy of Exodus International, a cult which luckily closed its doors a couple years back because the main man admitted he still likes dudes.</p><br /><br />
<p>Let me put it out there that I like women and was out as lesbian at the time, but secretly I identified as Trans because If I had come out as Trans to my family I would probably be DEAD. </p><br /><br />
<p>So my mother literally tricks me, tells me we&#8217;re going out to eat and then instead takes me to my school. I knew what was up so I started to run. She chased after me grabbed me, held me down and dragged me into the conference room, and said &#8220;you better change your disgusting sinner ways&#8221; and left me there with this older blonde woman staring at me. </p><br /><br />
<p>I had no idea what the hell was happening so I said &#8220;where am I!?&#8221; The women said &#8220;you&#8217;re going to be converted to being straight by me, your mentor. Your mother thought it would be best to put you in gay conversion therapy&#8221; immediately I rose up and screamed &#8220;I was FORCED to go here you can&#8217;t make me!&#8221; The women said &#8220;your parents have every right to bring you here and there is no law stating they can&#8217;t they&#8217;re doing what&#8217;s best for you and your soul.&#8221; By that time I was about freaked out and ready to go, but instead I broke down crying my eyes out for the rest of the session basically staying silent otherwise. </p><br /><br />
<p>Future appointments consisted of me going straight to therapy after Christian school. Hiding my face incase anyone knew where I was going. Therapy was starting to shame me.<br /><br /><br />
Normal every day therapy would be starting out reading a verse from the bible, reciting it three times and asking God for my forgiveness. Then we would go over my conversion homework (which I will get into later), then she would make me lay down on a table while she prayed over me. She would ask me things like &#8220;have you had any lesbian urges?&#8221; &#8220;What do you think God thinks of those?&#8221; &#8220;What will happen if you act on those urges?&#8221; </p><br /><br />
<p>Afterwards she would sit me down in front of a computer and make me watch some type of hypnotism therapy. Daily, it was over and over &#8220;you will go to hell if you are gay&#8221; &#8220;why would you want to live the gay lifestyle&#8221; it also literally looked like hypnotism on the screen, not only that but the women would hypnotize me herself, which is partially why I&#8217;m having trouble recollecting my memories of this. A lot of it I blacked out during.</p><br /><br />
<p>Onto the homework. The homework consisted of huge pamphlets that I would have to read every day. All of stories of gay people who fell to their sin, or people who successfully &#8220;became straight&#8221;. After every story I would have to answer a page of questions such as, &#8220;what should John have done to control his homosexual urges&#8221; and &#8220;what would you have done in his situation&#8221; &#8220;WHY is homosexuality a sin and what will happen if you act on it&#8221; being as scared as I was at the time it actually started getting to me. For a while I rebelled and wrote &#8220;nothing nothing nothing&#8221; or &#8220;homosexuality isn&#8217;t a sin&#8221; but eventually I became afraid, the  &#8220;therapy&#8221; started &#8220;working&#8221; and I wrote things like &#8220;I will go hell&#8221; &#8220;that character died and became a drug addict because they were gay&#8221; &#8220;that character went to college and got married because they were straight&#8221; and so on. </p><br /><br />
<p>One time I asked the woman who was counseling me, &#8220;have you ever been gay?&#8221; She gave me a long look and said, &#8220;never tell anyone.&#8221; &#8220;I used to be a lesbian but now I&#8217;m married.&#8221; I said, &#8220;have you ever even kissed a girl?&#8221; She said &#8220;no&#8221;. Right then she lost credibility to me that and it was sad.</p><br /><br />
<p>After every session she would make me read from the bible the verse where it says something like &#8220;nor the murderers, adulterers, or homosexuals, ect will enter the kingdom of heaven.&#8221; </p><br /><br />
<p>Don&#8217;t you like my word for word quote? Lol</p><br /><br />
<p>But seriously halfway through the year I hauled my ass out of there and stopped going because it started to have effects on me negatively. I became more suicidal, and the effects still last on me to this day.</p><br /><br />
<p>Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night crying to my girlfriend asking her if I&#8217;m going to go to hell. I&#8217;m tied down by religion because I&#8217;m afraid of going to hell. This stuff did some serious damage to me, and although it might not be as bad as some of the stories out there I wanted to give people a look into what leelah alcorns life may have been like. When I heard of her passing I thought &#8220;that was me&#8221;. </p><br /><br />
<p>That&#8217;s why I want to put an end to conversion therapy! I need leelahs law to be passed! Please share my story. I want as many people to know the horrors and dangers of conversion therapy as possible. PLEASE GO SPREAD MY RECENT SUICIDE POST!My ex- gay therapy session

 

 

Homophobic Attack in North Belfast

The surviving partner of a gay married couple has been targeted by a group of thugs.  This attack was not Paul Finlay-Dickson with his civil partner Maurice, who died of cancer last monthisolated, indeed it has been reported that the home of the couple was targetted more than 20 times.

In a statement made to the BBC News channel,  Supt Paula Hillman said police were aware of a number of reports made by a resident in north Belfast since August 2013.

“These reports vary in nature and investigations have been conducted and local neighbourhood police officers have been in contact with and continue to liaise with the victim,” she added.

“As with any incident reported the victim is updated and signposted to additional support services where applicable.”

In 2013, at the launch of Anti-Homophobia Week at the city hall, it was revealed that  anti-gay violence in Northern Ireland is massively underplayed, with eight out of 10 attacks not reported to the police, according to research.  A report by the Equality Commission revealed that nearly half of the gay community in the province (44%) are unaware that the law can protect them.

This current, homophobic attack highlights just how serious we must take these attacks, and why we ust report them to the authorities and also to our own LGBT monitoring groups who will support you and your family through the crisis.

This was a cowardly attack, on a vulnerable person who is grieving for his partner, the instigators of this homophobic crime must be brought to justice in the courts.

 

Further reading:

 

 

Politics – Azerbaijan gay group forced to close over safety fears

Co-founder of Nefes committed suicide last year over persecution
Founder of Nefes Isa Shakhmarli committed suicide with a rainbow flag in 2014.

One of the only LGBTI rights group operating in Azerbaijan has announced it is being forced to close today (12 February).

Nefes (which means ‘Breath’) has said the increased arrests and persecution has forced them to make a decision:

They cannot risk the personal safety of its members any longer, and will close.

At the beginning of 2014, former Nefes leader Isa Shakhmarli hanged himself with a rainbow flag in his apartment.

‘I am leaving you. God bless you. This country and this world are not for me,’ he said in his suicide note. ‘This world is not colorful enough for my colors. Farewell.’

While the death was seen as a significant loss for the community, it helped kick start a new found passion among members of the group.

But then, once they renewed their campaigns, activists of the group reported they were subject to raids and travel restrictions.

And in September, one of Nefes’ founding members became a national target after news of his engagement to his male partner went viral in the press. It led to harassment and threats of violence.

The couple attempted to seek asylum in another country, but unconfirmed reports claimed their attempts to flee was blocked by Azerbaijani authoritities who allegedly confiscated their passports.

And earlier this year, their website was hacked by suspected religious extremists. A message stating ‘We Will Destroy You All’ ‘ was posted on the main page alongside an image of a jihadist flag.

Other members of Nefes have reported other incidents including hate speech, physical attacks and even torture.

In an interview published late last year, Shakhmarli said LGBT Azerbaijan people struggle because it is a homophobic, strict Muslim country and many cannot find a job. This means 90% are forced to remain closeted.

He also said his family could not accept his sexuality.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/gay-man-20-hangs-himself-rainbow-flag-azerbaijan230114#sthash.RVbI3WWG.dpuf

In an interview published late last year, Shakhmarli said LGBTI Azerbaijan people struggle because it is a homophobic, strict Muslim country and many cannot find a job. This means 90% are forced to remain closeted.

He also said his family could not accept his sexuality.

‘I want LGBTs to be brave. I live separately from my family in my own house, I have my own job, I can do everything myself,’ Shakhmarli said in the interview, his parting words to the world.

‘If you want, you can achieve.’

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/azerbaijans-only-gay-group-forced-close-over-safety-fears120215#sthash.mCYHRc8h.dpuf