Eurovision Winner Conchita Wurst Says Australia Looks Like Gay Heaven, But The Reality Is Different

conchita 2Australia looks like “gay heaven” to the rest of the world but the reality is somewhat different as Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst discovered on her first visit.

“You know, we think everybody is very liberal, very open-minded, the whole city [is] celebrating Mardi Gras,” Wurst said.

“And then I came here two years ago and they told me that gay marriage is just not happening.

“I could not believe it. How can you combine those two worlds?”



Wurst, who will be performing at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday as part of this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, has been caught in the crossfire of tolerance and bigotry since winning the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.
Wurst’s victory with the power ballad Rise Like a Phoenix prompted widespread praise and homophobic criticism particularly from Russia, where President Vladimir Putin’s government had enacted a law restricting gay and lesbian rights in 2013.
Austria’s president Heinz Fischer declared it was “not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe”.
However, Russian national politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky expressed outrage: “Fifty years ago the Soviet army occupied Austria. We made a mistake in freeing Austria. We should have stayed.”

Russian men, meanwhile, posted photos on social media showing them shaving off their beards in protest at Wurst robbing facial hair of its masculinity.

“I don’t understand why people spend so much time thinking about me if they don’t like what I do,” Wurst says. “I couldn’t care less about things I don’t like.”

Wurst, the alter ego of 27-year-old Thomas Neuwirth, grows a beard because she said otherwise “my face would look like the face of a 12-year-old”.

She expressed wonderment at the depth of hostility caused by her Eurovision win: “I’m not that powerful to take out the masculinity of a beard.”

Yet Wurst has become a global gay icon and spokesman for gay rights, performing at Pride festivals across Europe as well as at an anti-discrimination event held at the European Parliament in Brussels and at the United Nations Office at Vienna in front of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Beyond gay rights, Wurst is vocal about other human rights issues such as the plight of Syrian refugees in Europe. Austria is one of a number of European countries that has capped the number of refugees it will accept this year.

“If you were in this situation, if you have to leave your home because there’s nothing worth staying, you would wish to meet people who would treat you respectfully,” she said.

Wurst will perform her show Conchita: From Vienna with Love with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and singers Trevor Ashley, Paul Capsis​ and Courtney Act​.

“Everyone on the planet who makes music wants to be on that stage and I can’t even tell you how honoured and happy I am to be in this position,” she said.

Wurst will perform songs from her debut album as well as showstoppers by divas such as Shirley Bassey, but she distinguishes her act from typical drag queen fare.

“I thought as a drag queen I needed to be loud, over-the-top, kinda of bitchy like many drag queens we know,” she said. “We all enjoy that … but I’m just not that kind of person. I see myself as quite boring and simple.”

Despite her advocacy of marriage equality, Wurst remains single (“I’m married to myself”).

Wurst called herself a “very complicated person” and said she was a different person in a relationship.

“I totally change my mindset and I really turn into a very annoying person,” she said. “I’m jealous, I’m moody, I’m really not good to be around as a boyfriend.”

She added: “I did not know this would turn into a psychological thing.”





Conchita: From Vienna with Love is at the Sydney Opera House on March 3.

 

Taken from SMH.com.au

Llanelli MP Nia Griffith Reveals She Is Gay

nia griffith 1 LLANELLI MP Nia Griffith has revealed she is a lesbian, after taking part in photo call of MPs and peers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

The photograph, which appeared in the Independent, includes 28 LGBT Parliamentarians, and shows Westminster’s attitude towards LGBT politicians is changing, with 35 Parliamentarians openly out.

Ms Griffith, who is also Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, hopes her joining in the historic photoshoot, organised by Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, will help other people take pride in their sexuality.



Having received a positive reaction to the news, she now hopes that her constituents will also respond positively.

“I had always said I would answer questions about my sexuality honestly and I felt that it would have been dishonest not to respond to the notification about the photo,” said Ms Griffith.

“I was aware obviously that it would be news for some people.”

Having lived her adult life in West Wales, she said people who knew her in the 1990s would be aware, and assumed the news would have travelled.

“I tend not to talk much about myself, and prefer to focus on what I do or can do in my community, and, as I do not currently have a partner, there was no particular reason to mention it,” she said.

“I feel that nowadays, it is no big deal for a politician to be out.

“But I would like to pay a huge tribute to those MPs who showed tremendous courage as the first to come out — people like Chris Smith, the first cabinet minister to be out, and Angela Eagle, the first openly lesbian MP.

“Of course politicians are not half as interesting or influential as sports personalities or other celebrities, but if we can make some contribution towards helping young people feel that they can talk about their sexuality, so much the better.”

Ms Griffith, who has been an MP since 2005, took to Twitter to thank people for their tweets, she said: “Thanks so much for all the kind tweets. Most of all I want young people to know that being LGBT is something to be proud of :)”




 

Taken From SouthWales-EveningPost.co.uk

 

‘We Respect Islam And Gay People’ … The Gay Teacher Transforming A Muslim School

Primary teacher Andrew Moffat left his job after a backlash over his sexuality. Now he’s bringing his message of equality to a 99% Muslim primary in Birmingham

gay school islamIt took one complaint from a parent “as a Christian” to undo all Andrew Moffat’s work teaching children respect for people of different sexual orientation. A meeting of 40 parents followed with calls for an apology and the removal of books he had used in lessons.

Above all, the parents objected that he had told children he was gay. Moffat felt he could no longer continue and resigned. Far from retreating to a safe haven, however, he crossed Birmingham to take up an even greater challenge: assistant headteacher at Parkfield Community school, where 98.9% of pupils are from Muslim families.

The award-winning school is in the heart of a devout area where three inquiries have been held into the alleged “Trojan horse” plot by hardline Muslim governors to take over state schools, though Parkfield was not affected.

That was two years ago. With the backing of Hazel Pulley, the headteacher, Moffat went on to introduce a No Outsiders policy promoting diversity at the 770-pupil school, where 23 nationalities are represented. That includes welcoming people of any race, colour or religion and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

A gay teacher teaching gay rights to pupils from a faith that believes homosexuality is a sin, punishable by death in some countries? It doesn’t seem possible and yet the school’s Muslim parents appear to have accepted that children can be taught about Britain’s anti-discrimination laws without undermining their religious beliefs. Learning from his unhappy experience at his previous school, Moffat has been careful to centre the policy around the Equality Act 2010, to first gain the support of the governing body, and to keep parents fully informed, inviting them in to see the books that would be used.

Now he has published a handbook about creating an ethos where everyone is welcome, regardless of differences: No Outsiders in Our School: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools.

Moffat felt he had no alternative but to leave his previous school: “I knew I was letting down any pupil who might in years to come identify as LGBT and remember what had happened to me – if you ‘come out’ you risk a backlash and having to disappear. I was worried about that but in the end I decided that leaving was right for me and the school.




“It was a very difficult time and I was quite damaged by the experience. However, it gave me the opportunity to pick myself up and start again, learning from mistakes. There was no point in going to an area where it would be an easy task. I had to go where I might meet the same challenges in order to find a different way to meet them. I was determined to make LGBT equality a reality in any community. I could not afford to get it wrong a second time.”

Pulley says she appointed Moffat because she already knew of his work, in particular on improving pupil behaviour and on diversity. “I thought his approach was admirable. We already had similar work going on at school but we needed someone to lead it and give all the staff confidence,” she says.

It is possible to teach the law against discrimination in Britain without undermining any religious faith, she says: “Everyone knows we respect Islam here. One parent asked if he could not contradict what the school said. I told him that whatever parents said in the home was their decision but it’s lovely that the children will hear both views.”

The good relationship between governors, teachers and parents has helped, she says, and the fact parents have confidence in the school’s high standards – 97% of 11-year-olds reached or exceeded the expected standard for their age in both maths and English last year.

Last week parents, collecting their children before taking them to madrasas, the religious classes, spoke of their support. The school is “shedding light” on the minds of children, said one mother. Parents’ initial response had been “How dare they? How can the government make this law?” But their anger had abated once they learned more about the approach, they said.

“If they don’t learn about gay, lesbian and transgender people in society from school they will learn it from the outside world and they could hear things like ‘that’s disgusting’. I don’t want that,” said another. “I agree,” said a third. “I’d rather my children hear it at school. When they are at home we teach them that in our culture gay is not allowed but we respect people who are different from us and hope they too will respect us and the boundaries of our religion.”

The parent of a 10-year-old admitted her views differed from her husband’s: “My husband is a strict Muslim and my son asked him about the difference between what the school says and our religion. He did not give him a good reply. My reply was that God has created us and he is the only one who can judge us. I have told my son that it wouldn’t matter if he came home to me and said he was gay, you are my son and I will love you no matter what.”

Support from parents and governors for a whole school ethos to which everyone signs up has been a crucial factor, says Moffat. “It’s the UK law. We cannot promote an ethos that welcomes people of different faiths but not those of diverse sexual orientation.”

It hasn’t always been like that. Moffat was a teenager in 1988 when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government passed the Section 28 amendment to the Local Government Act 1986 that told schools they could not “intentionally promote homosexuality” or teach “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. It was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and the rest of Britain in 2003 but has left a legacy of nervousness about what teachers can and cannot say.

The Guardian sat in on a session with Class 5C. Children quietly waited for the book to start. Their teacher, Amy Collins, was reinforcing the No Outsiders in Our School ethos through an illustrated book And Tango Makes Three. The children heard about two male penguins who want to be a family but can’t have a child. They mistake a stone for an egg and sit on it for days. The zookeeper feels sorry for them and gives them a real egg, which eventually, to their joy, hatches and they have their own baby to care for.

“Why did Mr Gramzay give Roy and Silo an egg?” “He saw they were in love and were sad because they couldn’t be a family like the other penguins,” said a girl. “Now think about why they couldn’t have an egg’” said the teacher. “It’s because they are two male penguins,” said a boy. “When we have two male penguins or two people who are in love, what do we call it?” Every hand waves. “Gay”, said a boy.

The children decide that “No Outsiders” means that, in the words of one girl “There are no outsiders and everyone is equal, no matter what their religion or whether they are black or white or gay or lesbian. They are all welcome.”

Moffat says he wants to prove that the approach can be successful in every school. It’s early days, but teachers have noticed a difference in pupil behaviour and attitudes towards each other, especially in the playground.

Children in Parkfield’s Ambassador’s Club visit other schools to meet children from different backgrounds and spread the No Outsiders message. Moffat hopes it will reduce the potential for radicalisation of young people.




Under the government’s Prevent agenda schools must report pupils showing signs of radicalisation and Parkfield has passed on concerns over three children; two of these were followed up by the police with parental support all the way. The Prevent duty has been criticised as “spying” but a group of Parkfield parents firmly supported the referrals.

“If a school spots children being extremist they should monitor it and report it because when they grow up they could be terrorists,” says one. “We have got to help these children. It is to protect the child. So the school has every right to report any kind of radicalisation, not just Muslim but IRA or any kind of violent talk or behaviour that could lead to terrorism,” says another.

And what do the pupils think about No Outsiders? One nine-year-old boy says: “It’s really good, I believe that black people and white are equal. The gay part of it I’m not so sure. At school we learn that it doesn’t matter if you are gay or lesbian but at the mosque they say we shouldn’t be.”

Others think it possible to hold both positions: “My parents are fine with it,” says an eight-year-old. “They talked to me and said they respect what the school is doing and it is good but we must remember our Muslim faith.”

Last month Moffat felt the policy had embedded sufficiently for him to be open with children and parents about his own sexuality. So far, there have been no complaints.


 

Taken From TheGuardian.Com

Jordan Gray On Leading Trans Awareness On ‘The Voice’

Although Jordan Gray couldn’t turn the judges around on The Voice, she’s hopeful she will continue setting an example for trans people around the world.

jordan gray1 We caught up with the singer to talk The Voice, music, coming out and raising trans awareness on Saturday night telly.

Jordan! You’re the first transgender contestant on The Voice. Does a platform like this give you a chance to teach people about trans issues? Absolutely, and I take the responsibility very seriously. I’m really happy and life is too short to let things bother you, so it’s a wonderful responsibility. I’m VERY happy about it!

What’s the main message you hoped to send by being on the show, other than the fact you’re a great singer? I’m a singer first, a woman second and a transgender person third – and there’s a lot more of trans people on TV nowadays which is great.

You’ve been performing for two years as a woman. What was it like the first time you performed as the real you?It was liberating because I chose a night when I didn’t think there would be that many people at the bar I was playing at. It was just close friends and family and they had no idea! It was just a wonderful experience because they were so accepting!




It led me to come out as transgender on stage at the Essex Entertainment Awards in front of my whole county. That was AMAZING! It’s a moment that will always stay with me because Essex really surprised me. I’m from Thurrock, originally Essex, and I was so scared about how they would react, but they were all so wonderful so there’s no complaints from me as my county has been really really good to me!

Have you ever had any negative or transphobic reactions when performing? I’ve played boozers in the past and people don’t always quite understand it, but like I say life is just too short to let that bother you. I can usually get everybody on side with a bit of American Pie or Summer of 69. I chuck in a good song that everybody knows and suddenly everyone’s my best friend again! [Laughs]

Did you hope to help change attitudes across the entire country by being on the show, too? Yeah absolutely. I just think the more visible you can be as a trans person the better; and showing trans people in every walk of life is really important. Obviously I’m a musician, but we’re not all entertainers, and I think that’s an important thing. I’m not trying to speak on behalf of all transgender people and I would never claim to, but I do hope to be a positive example.

Who would have been your biggest threat in the competition? If I had got through, then I think my biggest threat would probably have been Lydia Lucy. She has such a massive and powerful voice.

Who are your influences music and style wise? It’s a lot of men that influence me. Jeff Buckley, Michael Jackson, David Gray, but also big country singers like Celine Dion and Shania Twain. I sing a wide range of styles so I couldn’t really give you a genre I prefer, but I definitely more piano based music because obviously I play on a keyboard.

You sang Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman. Does that song hold any significance to you? Yes, it might have been a bit of a coy choice as a trans woman. It’s actually the most beautiful song, and I thought if I get through or not I want to go out singing that song. It kind of feels like a trans anthem to me now and I just love it.

Which judge do you most look up to? I’ve always been a fan of all of them as they’re all fantastic in their own way. I was excited that Paloma joined the panel actually because I’ve always been a fan of hers. But not just her music but her whole philosophy on life so to be able to perform for her was a really nice treat.

Have you ever done something like The Voice before? Nothing this big, although I’ve been in the business for 10 years so I’ve played a lot of different places. I’ve played in Scandinavia and I played at the o2 Islington Academy really recently and that was under my stage name, Tall Dark Friend. I’ve done a lot of stuff but this is the most viewers or biggest audience I’ve had in one big swoop.

And finally, how would you describe your performance style? It’s super high energy, for sure. I love medleys and mashing up lots of different styles, so it’s a bit wacky, but I always get the crowd on side and we ALWAYS have fun together!


Taken from GayTimes.co.uk




Indonesia Bans Gay Emoji And Stickers From Messaging Apps

Human Rights Watch expresses alarm as government says social media must respect ‘culture and local wisdom of the country’


 

gayrightsIndonesia’s instant messaging providers must remove gay emoji and stickers from their apps, the government has ordered, prompting a human rights outcry.

The government move comes after a social media backlash against Line, a popular smartphone messaging app, for having stickers – an elaborate type of emoji – with homosexual themes in its online store.

Homosexuality and is not illegal in Indonesia but LGBT matters are a sensitive issue. At the same time most of Indonesian society, which follows a moderate form of Islam, is tolerant, with gay and transsexual entertainers often appearing on television shows.

But Twitter and Facebook recently exploded with criticism of Line and its competitor WhatsApp for containing gay content.

Line on Tuesday said it had removed all LGBT-related stickers from its local store after complaints from Indonesian users.

Ismail Cawidu, a spokesman for the government’s communication ministry, said the government would tell WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, to do the same as Line.

“Social media must respect the culture and local wisdom of the country where they have large numbers of users,” he said.



Human Rights Watch called on President Jokowi Widodo to protect gay and lesbian rights after his government’s latest high-profile step to discourage visible homosexuality.

In a letter to the president, HRW said the government should publicly condemn officials who make “grossly discriminatory remarks” against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“President Jokowi should urgently condemn anti-LGBT remarks by officials before such rhetoric opens the door to more abuses,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The president has long championed pluralism and diversity. This is an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment.”

In January the higher education minister Muhammad Nasir said openly gay students should be banned from the University of Indonesia’s campuses. His statements followed controversy over news a sexuality research centre planned to offer counselling services for students.

Nasir’s statement sparked public controversy in Indonesia for weeks, with objections from human rights groups but support from the Indonesian Ulema Council, an influential board of Muslims clerics.

Gay rights advocate King Oey urged the government to respect international treaties signed by Indonesia protecting the rights of minorities and women.

“Gays and lesbians are not illegal in Indonesia,” Oey said. “We urge people who are concerned with human rights to not sit by silently.”

In 2014 lawmakers in Aceh, a conservative Indonesian province, passed a law that punishes gay sex by public caning and subjects non-Muslims to the region’s strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

In October 2015 sharia police in Aceh arrested a pair of young women for “hugging in public”.


 

Taken from TheGuardian.Com