Corporate Christ: Lives Less Ordinary

Gay musician Corporate Christ has released a documentary he made about his life growing up, struggling with depression and Schizophrenia. From being bullied as a teenager to developing a bowel disease that nearly killed him, Corporate Christ explains how he took strength by the experiences he went through.


Azerbaijan Considered Worst Place To Be Gay In Europe

During the last two weeks of September, Azerbaijani police launched a violent campaign of “arresting and torturing men presumed to be gay or bisexual, as well as transgender women,” according to Human Rights Watch and local advocacy organizations. On Oct. 2, by all accounts, police released all the detainees, officially acknowledging that 83 had been detained. Local advocacy organizations claim that beatings, electroshock, coercion, blackmail and other abuses were carried out based entirely on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Azerbaijan is “the worst place to be gay in Europe,” the 2015 and 2016 Rainbow Europe reports by ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association) concluded. The LGBT community in Azerbaijan has no legal protection. But for the most part, the state leaves the community alone – except when police extort money from individuals, often sex workers. The state can ignore the community because families routinely and effectively stigmatize, discourage and punish deviations from societal rules. So when the state does intervene, as it did in September, there’s usually a motive.

Why the September crackdown?

Early in September, an investigative journalism coalition called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) released a report on something called the Azerbaijani Laundromat, apparently a slush fund that for two years laundered $2.9 billion in cash that helped Azerbaijani elites and officials buy luxury goods and that paid European lobbyists and politicians to support Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan reacted to the report by attacking the OCCRP, linking it to American Hungarian financier George Soros. European politicians called for investigations.

Separately, on September 12, more than 20 international human rights organizations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling for sanctions against the Baku chief of police for abusing political prisoners. The head of the Council of Europe called for legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release one such prisoner, despite being ordered to do so by the European Court of Human Rights. On Sept.ember26, two U.S. congressmen introduced legislation charging Azerbaijan with human rights abuses and calling on the U.S. government to respond.

In response, Azerbaijan renewed its anti-Western campaign.

Why target the LGBT community?

Historically, Azerbaijan’s anti-Western campaigns targeted civil society and pro-democracy groups. This time, the regime targeted the LGBT community, more vulnerable in the Trump era. The LGBT community is also widely disliked in Azerbaijan; it’s a group no one is willing to defend.

Survey research in Azerbaijan is challenging because citizens self-censor and the government interferes. Nonetheless, when asked, Azerbaijanis express very negative attitudes toward LGBT people. In a 2012 nationally representative survey, 63 percent of adult Azerbaijanis said they would not like to have neighbors of a different sexual orientation, and 72 percent said they would not like to have neighbors who have AIDS. The World Values Survey, collected in Azerbaijan in 2011-2012, reports that 93 percent of Azerbaijani adults believe that homosexuality is “never justifiable,” with a mean of 1.19 on a scale of 1 to 10. Similarly, a 2011 Pew study finds, that, when asked, 92 percent of self-identifying Azerbaijani Muslims say that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.




That’s how the Azerbaijani government is portraying the recent attacks on gay people and trans women. Pro-government media explicitly describe the raids as measures to “prevent acts contrary to national and spiritual values,” associating these individuals with sex work. In an interview with Eurasianet, a Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman said:

“The main reason for such raids was the numerous appeals from the residents of the capital. People complain that such people walk around us, walk in our streets, and sit in our cafés. ‘These are people who do not fit our nation, our state, our mentality, please take action against them.'”

Gay men and trans women are framed as a health risk. Edenborg explains that LGBT people are characterized as not only a moral threat, but also a health risk. In Azerbaijan, much of the early official response claimed that nearly all detained have several sexually transmitted infections, although the most recent statement said that fewer than 40 percent had at least one. The Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman said, “This once again proves that both our citizens’ concerns and the actions we take about it are justified. It is important for the health of our people. Those who have diseases are being isolated from society.”

Attacking LGBT people may shore up the government’s relationship with the Muslim majority. Further, although Azerbaijan is an officially secular country, religiosity is growing – which the government considers one of the strongest threats to the regime. The LGBT raids let the regime display a commitment to protecting spiritual values and nod toward the country’s Islamic religious groups, a faction with whom it has had a challenging relationship.

This is a particularly sensitive time for that relationship. Political commentator and religious history scholar Altay Goyushov notes that the LGBT raids come during Muharram, one of the holiest times in the Islamic calendar, which may be an effort to appease religious groups.

Finally, the LGBT raids are a boon to the government in that they further marginalize and divide the opposition. No one, not even human rights and pro-democracy groups, can afford to defend the LGBT community, according to Azerbaijani LGBT advocates, and the raids prompted heated social media debates between LGBT advocates and opposition figures. Creating drama within the opposition is a favorite authoritarian tool for social control, particularly in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, ironically, brands itself “the land of tolerance,” notoriously sponsoring op-eds making the same claim. By finding a hated and indefensible target, the regime wins. The domestic benefits of these raids profoundly outweigh any international costs.


Pearce is an assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Washington. She studies technology and inequality in the South Caucasus. For other commentary from The Monkey Cage, an independent blog anchored by a group of political scientists from universities around the country, see www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage


Taken From HoustonChronicle.Com 





2 Gay Iraqi Soldiers Found Love Amid War. Then The Death Threats Started

SeattleEach night, when the guns fell silent in Iraq, Btoo Allami would invite his friend Nayyef Hrebid over for dinner.

The two first locked eyes on a dusty battlefield in Ramadi. After days of exchanging hasty glances amid gunfire, they snuck away one night to listen to Michael Jackson on shared earbuds.
The music stopped, but a love story was just beginning.
A decade ago, Allami was a sergeant in the Iraqi military when he met Hrebid, then a translator for the US Marines.
Militants had seized a hospital in Ramadi, and they were part of a mission to reclaim it.
When not defusing bombs, they’d talk late into the night at a pitch black lot surrounded by Humvees. Allami fell in love, unafraid of the war, yet terrified by what was happening with Hrebid.
Their love story would take them through two continents as they joined the 22 million refugees in the world, all fleeing war, grinding poverty and in their case, persecution from militants and relatives. Last year, only 14,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled worldwide, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. The UN does not have the number of applicants who claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few countries, if any, collect such statistics, he says.

Taking chances

Neither Hrebid nor Allami knew the other was gay. Iraq is not a country where same-sex attraction is discussed in the open.
LGBT people in Iraq risk harassment, beatings, and brutal killings — sometimes by family members. ISIS, which held large swaths of Iraqi territory until recently, has also targeted gay men, tossing many to their deaths from tall buildings.
Despite the risks, Allami took a chance two weeks after they met. “I love you,” he told Hrebid.
Hrebid did not say a word, but drew him close and kissed him.
Allami was so excited, he didn’t eat for two days. At the time, he didn’t know that Hrebid loved his calm demeanor and the way his dark hair shone in the sunlight.
Their relationship grew, but in secret. They knew loving each other openly could be deadly. Even during the days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, when the US did not officially allow gay people to serve in the military, Hrebid says a base officer allowed them to spend time together at the American base.

Their talks put them in a bubble. During those moments, war and bloodshed did not exist.


One last night

Hrebid loved his job as a translator.
At the base, his American buddies called him David to protect his identity. But word got out that he was gay, and that he was a US translator. His name was added to a militant hit list posted on the streets of Ramadi.
People started talking. It was time to leave.
In March 2009, Hrebid applied for asylum as part of a program that gives preference to Iraqis and Afghans who translated for the US government overseas. Hrebid’s application was approved eight months later.
The night he got his US visa, they sat up all night in a candlelit room, hugging each other and crying.
As much as it crushed him, Hrebid flew to Seattle in December 2009, leaving Allami behind.
But they kept their promise to stay in touch. One night, as they chatted on Skype, Allami’s relatives overheard them and realized he was gay.
Some of his relatives accused him of bringing shame to the family, and wanted him killed, he says. Terrified, Allami deserted the military and stuffed a backpack with pants and a few T-shirts. Hrebid paid for his ticket to flee to Lebanon in November 2010.
Seven thousand miles away, Hrebid started his new life in Seattle, the only place he knew someone in the US.
But while he was finally safe, he’d lie awake worrying. What if Allami was detained for overstaying his 30-day tourist visa and deported back to Iraq? A return home now included the risk of arrest by the military for desertion.
One day, while at a party, Hrebid met activist Michael Failla and told him about his relationship with Allami. His new friend would become their lifeline.

Living in the shadows

Allami’s new life in Beirut did not involve parties and new friendships. He lived in the shadows and worked illegally as a shoe salesman for $250 a month. Hrebid sent him money to help with upkeep as he desperately sought a way to get him to Seattle.
With every day spent away from Hrebid, Allami sank further into depression. He’d sit in bed at night and guzzle bottles of beer.
Hrebid blamed himself as Allami languished in a new country. Despite the time difference, they did their best to maintain a “normal” relationship. They would Skype and virtually eat together — breakfast for one and dinner for the other.
“We would cook together, and discuss things almost like we lived together,” Hrebid recalls.
They also showered each other with sentimental gifts, including locks of each other’s hair.
Hrebid would sit in bed, smell Allami’s hair and cry. Other days, he’d send Allami long letters describing his undying love.
“My heart melts at the sound of your voice,” one letter says. “When I look at you, I see clear skies.”
In December 2010, desperate to join Hrebid, Allami filed for asylum from the United Nations refugee agency, not knowing it would take years.
The United Nations refugee agency interviewed Allami eight times, but his application was bogged down by translation errors, according to Failla, who attended several interviews with him.
One error in particular complicated his case. During one asylum interview, he was asked whether as a soldier, he was familiar with the Abu Ghraib prison torture. He said he watched it on TV — but it was translated that he witnessed it first-hand, implying he was complicit, Failla says.
In the process of seeking asylum, applicants can have a preference for country of resettlement, but countries decide whether to accept an applicant.
Allami’s preference was the US. But the agonizing wait for a decision was so long, he applied for a separate visa to Canada at its embassy in Beirut.
In March 2013, nearly three years after he escaped from Iraq, Canada said yes.
Allami arrived in Vancouver in May of the same year. He was now 150 miles away from Hrebid, and their dream of living together suddenly seemed within reach.
Hrebid would drive to Vancouver every weekend to see him. On Valentine’s Day 2014, they got married at a courthouse in Vancouver, with Failla as a witness.
“We always say Michael was our angel — the world needs more angels like Michael,” Hrebid says.
Washington state recognized same-sex marriages at the time, and Hrebid quickly applied for a visa for his new husband at the US Consulate in Montreal.
When the consular official approved it, Allami sat down on the embassy floor and wept. Hrebid covered his mouth and screamed.

“I was shaking so hard,” Allami says. “I asked the embassy person to repeat again just to be sure.”


A new chapter

The date March 6, 2015, will forever be etched in Allami’s mind. He finally moved to Seattle to be with Hrebid.
A few months later, on August 8 of the same year, they had their dream wedding at Failla’s house, surrounded by friends.
Allami then applied for permanent residency — known as a greencard — as Hrebid’s husband. The couple relishes their life in Seattle, where they live with their Siberian Husky, Cesar, and cat, Lodus. A rainbow flag draped over the balcony of their new town home flutters in the wind.
Inside their home, black and white photos of their wedding day line the walls. In other photos, they are hiking through the mountains or simply gazing into each other’s eyes.
After six years of living on different continents, their new life is idyllic. Hrebid is a kitchen specialist at a home improvement store while Allami is a maintenance worker for a residential building.
Failla describes the couple as “major influencers” in the gay community in Seattle. They open their home to LGBT people who’ve fled the Middle East, help them get jobs and into schools, and teach them about their new culture in the US. They’ve helped 21 people find jobs and places to stay, and are working with several rights groups such as Canada’s Rainbow Refugee to assist more.
“First we were the ones who needed help now it’s our turn to help,” Hrebid says. “Anything we can do, even if it’s changing people’s minds just by sharing our story.”
Their story is already bringing about change.
Christine Matthews, a deputy director for the UN refugee agency, said last year they used the gaps in Allami’s case as a learning experience. They have since launched an effort to sensitize staff on the best ways to process such claims.
“We need to do better for refugees, all refugees including LGBT refugees,” she said.
And after years of separation, Hrebid still wakes up at night and asks: Am I dreaming or is this real? Are we really married? Will I wake up one day and find you gone?
“It’s almost like that fear never leaves you,” he says.
In Iraq, the two say they are considered an embarrassment to their communities, and family members don’t utter their names.
“Out of Iraq,” a documentary on their romance and fight for asylum, recently won an Emmy, but its two stars say they are hardly feted back home.
Even though they can’t go back to Iraq for fear of being killed, they’ve learned to define “home” in their own way.
“He’s my family, he’s my safe place, my love,” Allami says as Hrebid gently strokes his face.
“I may not have my country anymore, but he’s my country now.”

Taken from Edition.CNN.Com





Novel Rejected As ‘Too Gay’ Receives Flood Of Crowdfunding Support

The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain was turned down by mainstream publishers more than 30 times, but has won keen backing from readers


A novel that was rejected more than 30 times by publishers for being “too gay” has been inundated with backing from names including David Walliams, Mark Gatiss and SJ Watson after its author turned to crowdfunding.

Matt Cain’s The Madonna of Bolton tells the story of Charlie Matthews, who falls in love with Madonna on his ninth birthday. The obsession “sees him through some tough times in life: being persecuted at school; fitting in at a posh university; a glamorous career in London; finding boyfriends; getting rid of boyfriends; growing up and family heartbreak”. Launched on the crowdfunding site Unbound this week, it has already racked up 60% of what it needs to be published, with backers also including One Day author David Nicholls and the bestselling writer Lisa Jewell.

Cain, the editor of Attitude magazine, said the support for his book – which is on course to be the fastest-funded novel on Unbound – showed there was a market for a commercial novel about a gay man, even though publishers rejected it as “too working class, too 80s, too immersed in pop culture, and too gay”.

The Guardian has seen the rejection letters, including some from major UK publishers. One called Cain’s book “a little niche”, while another said that “it’s just such a tricky area of the market that I’m not sure this story has a strong enough hook to really appeal to a mass-market readership”. One also said that “it was difficult to envisage who the reader might be”.

One publisher told Cain that while “the subject of growing up in the 80s and embracing your sexuality is brilliant”, it would perform better with “a more serious slant”. “This type of book,” he was advised, “really needs to fall into the literary fiction arena, think of Edmund White or Alan Hollighurst [sic]”.

“I have more than 30 rejection letters and emails. Most of them say the novel ‘isn’t commercial enough’ or ‘too niche’ and then an editor tells my agent off the record that gay doesn’t sell,” said Cain. “Nobody comes out on email as saying it’s too gay, it’s kind of dressed up – the thing about homophobia is it’s often covert. When my agent has phone conversations, they don’t say ‘We don’t like it’, they say ‘It just won’t sell’. I just don’t believe that that’s the case.”

Cain was clear that the book was not aimed solely at gay men – “It’s a family drama more than anything else”. But “even if you just take the gay people, do not erase us as a market,” he said. “Attitude sells more copies every issue than it takes for a book to become a bestseller.”


Cain said he was always hesitant to “play the [homophobia] card, but the truth is phobia means fear, not hatred, [and] I was just reading these rejection letters and thinking ‘there’s a real fear of this not selling, they’re assuming it’s only the very intelligent in society who read literary fiction who understand and accept gay people’. They don’t realise that it’s not the case … Just because there have been literary successes does not mean there can’t be a commercial success.”

Cain first started work on the novel 12 years ago, but when it was initially rejected, he went on to write two more novels, Shot Through the Heart (2014) and Nothing But Trouble (July 2015), which have straight protagonists. “I started Shot Through the Heart as a reaction to all these editors telling me gay doesn’t sell. I went away and got a book deal,” he said. “For the second book, my editor pushed me towards bonkbuster style, and I had lots of sex scenes with straight characters but only one minor sex scene with gay characters and I was told to take it out or I wouldn’t get stocked in Asda or Tesco. And I did, and they didn’t get me stocked in Asda or Tesco anyway.”

Cain said he had spoken with many gay writers who had encountered resistance from publishers when writing about gay life.

“It’s really deep-rooted and I want to uproot it. In some ways it’s completely humiliating for me to go out there and say I’ve had more than 30 editors reject that book. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who’ll say he’s just a crap writer. But I really passionately believe in it,” he said. “Don’t tell me there’s no one out there who wants to read about gay lives.”

Cain’s editor at Unbound, Katy Guest, said that the crowdfunding for The Madonna of Bolton showed that publishers were wrong in thinking there was no audience for commercial fiction with a gay protagonist.

“Other publishers rejected this for being too niche – by which they mean too gay – but the support we’re getting already belies this. EM Forster said about Maurice that he knew no publisher would let him publish a gay love story with a happy ending,” she said. “Well, isn’t it a bit crap that publishers are still saying that Matt can’t write this funny, flirty, lighthearted novel because gay characters are only a subject for ‘serious’ fiction … They still have to end up miserable or dead or riddled with Aids. They can’t just have mates and dance to Madonna and fall in love and live happily ever after?”






Taken From TheGuardian.com 


 

Little Richard Calls Same-Sex Relationships ”Unnatural Affections” Years After Coming Out As Gay

Little Richard has a new perspective on sexuality, and it widely differs from what he’s disclosed in the past.

The 84-year-old rock and roll pioneer recently gave a rare interview to Christian-oriented programming Three Angels Broadcasting Network, simultaneously touching on his faith and repudiating homosexuality as “unnatural.”

“When I first come in show business they wanted you to look like everybody but yourself,” Richard said. “And, anybody that comes in show business they gone say you gay or straight… God made men, men and women, women.”

The “Tutti Frutti” singer continued, “You’ve got to live the way God wants you to live… He can save you.”


In 1995, Little Richard (real name Richard Wayne Penniman) told Penthouse,” I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.” Years prior, he stirred controversy for calling same-sex relationships “unnatural” and “contagious.”

Decades later, it appears Little Richard is once again singing a different tune.”You know, all these things,” he continued, “So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him.”

More recently in a 2012 GQ interview, Richard candidly discussed partaking in orgies with both men and women while also describing himself as “omnisexual.” In his words, “We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for.”

Little Richard concluded on the matter with Three Angels Broadcasting, “Regardless of whatever you are, He loves you. I don’t care what you are. He loves you and He can save you. All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Lord, take me as I am. I’m a sinner.’ But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.””I don’t want to sing rock and roll no more,” he said. “I want to be holy like Jesus.”






Taken from EOnline.Com


 

Romania ‘Turns Illiberal’ With Moves Against Gay Marriage

Conservative campaigners in the country are gearing up for a referendum that could put the country on a collision course with Brussels.


BUCHAREST — Romania is gearing up to hold a referendum to amend the constitution to prohibit gay marriage, a move that civil rights groups warn could put the country on an “illiberal” path alongside the likes of Hungary and Poland.

Romania’s civil code forbids same-sex marriage, and civil partnerships — whether between heterosexual or gay partners — are not legal. But the constitution’s gender-neutral formulation on marriage, which defines it as a union “between spouses,” has left the legislative door open to legalizing gay marriage.

“This is an issue of immense depth,” Liviu Dragnea, leader of the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the most powerful politician in Romania, told reporters last month, pledging to quickly amend the constitution. “Even if some of my colleagues in Brussels are unhappy with what is happening in Romania, we will make it happen.”

The planned vote — which could be held as early as November — is the result of a campaign by “Coalition for Family,” which brings together more than 40 groups, many of them religious or describing themselves as “pro-life.” With the backing of the influential Orthodox Church, the organization collected 3 million signatures (Romania’s population is 20 million) in just a few months in 2015, enough to take the initiative to parliament.

“We have the constitutional right and moral obligation to defend the family from those tendencies of modern society which diminish its importance and accelerate its degradation,” says the Coalition for Family’s website.


All major political parties in Romania have expressed support for the constitutional change, with the exception of newcomer Union to Save Romania(USR), and the initiative is expected to be approved in parliament. The government has said it wants to call a popular referendum as soon as November, but the Constitutional Court’s announcement this week that it would analyze the law’s compatibility with the rest of constitution may push back the date of the vote.

As long as participation exceeds 30 percent of the electorate, a vote in favor will give the green light to constitutional change, undoing decades of campaigning by LGBTQ groups in Romania and possibly putting the country on a collision course with Brussels.

“This referendum is evidence of Romania’s moving in an illiberal direction,” said Vlad Viski, the president of MozaiQ, one of Romania’s largest LGBTQ rights groups.

Religious influence

Romania’s referendum against marriage equality is not the first of its kind in the region.

In Croatia, a group called “In the Name of the Family” collected 750,000 signaturesin 2013 to launch a referendum that successfully amended the country’s constitution to stipulate that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

In 2015, the “Alliance for Family” mobilized Slovakians to trigger a referendum to restrict the family rights of gay people, but the vote eventually failed because of low turnout. That same year, Slovenia’s “Children are at Stake” group used a referendum to block the government’s plan to legalize gay marriage. (The country passed the legislation this year.)

Efforts to prohibit gay marriage also tend to go hand-in-hand with campaigns to remove sexual education classes and restrict abortion rights.

Similar efforts to mobilize citizens to restrict gay rights have taken place in Georgia, Bulgaria, France and elsewhere across Europe. In many cases, U.S. religious groups have played an active role in their campaigns.

Romania’s Coalition received legal assistance from the international chapters of several U.S.-based conservative Christian groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Liberty Counsel. In the U.S., both have been designated as anti-LGBTQ hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The international chapters of both organizations submitted pro-referendum legal opinions to Romania’s Constitutional Court while the body assessed whether the civic initiative could be considered by parliament.

In response to repeated requests for comment for this article, the Coalition responded with three internet links — one to an article about alleged attacks on pro-lifers, another to a video of a kink festival, and another to an article about propaganda. It gave no further information.

Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs, Horatio Mihet, said his organization “provided legal support and shared lessons we have learned while advocating for natural marriage in the United States and elsewhere.” Andreas Thonhauser, a spokesman for ADF International, said that the group also gave legal expertise to other countries in the region that requested help.


Local churches — be it the Orthodox Church in Romania or the Catholic Church in Slovakia or Croatia — were also involved in recent anti-LGBTQ rights campaigns.

Efforts to prohibit gay marriage also tend to go hand-in-hand with campaigns to remove sexual education classes from school curricula and restrict abortion rights.

Academics from Central and Eastern Europe, including feminist historian Andrea Peto from the Central European University in Budapest, have argued that this type of initiative constitutes an “anti-gender movement” that targets not only LGBTQ people but also takes aim at women and people who don’t fit into their conception of a “natural, traditional” family pattern.

“They do politics, they are lobbyists,” Peto said of the movement’s campaigners across the region. “They rely on transnational know-how, borrow talking points and transfer symbols, concepts and ideas.”

“The American groups have been promoting these themes for a long time, also outside of Europe, but in the last five years or so they became very active in Eastern Europe where they seem to have found fertile ground,” said Viski, of MozaiQ.

‘Traditional values’

Despite Eastern European countries’ accession to the EU, most are still plagued with social inequality and have not attained the prosperity they expected as European citizens. The resulting frustration has made them a fertile breeding ground for conservative social and political movements.

Self-styled illiberal regimes such as Viktor Orbán’s in Hungary and Jarosław Kaczyński’s in Poland have honed a political formula that strategically builds support among lower-income classes with targeted economic measures and pushes a socially conservative agenda rooted in a nationalist narrative of defending the nation from outside threats: refugees, gay people, feminists.

The fight against “gender ideology” — or “sexo-Marxists,” as liberals defending gay rights in Romania have been labeled — fits into this narrative, with illiberal regimes claiming to be protectors of traditional family values.

Since Orbán became prime minister in 2010, Hungary has changed its basic law to protect a fetus’ life from conception and to restrict the definition of marriage to a union of a heterosexual couple.

Earlier this year, Orbán hosted the World Congress of Families, a U.S.-founded global coalition of religious groups that opposes gay rights, abortion and sex education. It was the first time a government hosted the annual congress, which has taken place since 1997 and is widely thought to be the influence behind stringent anti-gay laws in Russia.


In Poland, the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has declared war on what it calls “gender ideology” — which it portrays as an imposition from Brussels — and has introduced an education reform bill that would eliminate anti-discrimination education in schools and promote “education for family life.” The government has also cut support for female victims of domestic violence.

Last year, conservative legal group Ordo Iuris collected close to half-a-million signatures to further restrict Poland’s abortion legislation. The proposal was rejected in parliament after tens of thousands of women took to the streets in protest, but Poland still has some of the most restrictive abortion laws on the Continent.

Unlike in Poland and Hungary — where a push for “traditional family values” is part of the ruling parties’ conservative agenda — the Romanian group’s effort to block same-sex marriage is a novelty in the country.

Romania is, overwhelmingly, a conservative country. Until 2001, it was illegal in Romania for same-sex couples to hold hands or express any other sign of affection, which was considered indecent exposure in public. The law changed as part of Romania’s EU accession process.


The Coalition for Family describes itself as a “pro-family group,” saying its main objective is for Romania to have “as many families as possible, as long-lasting and numerous as possible, and to ensure to their members a proper economic, social, psycho-emotional environment … and to ensure the continuity and demographic, economic, social and cultural development of the nation.”

The group has proposed measures that would increase economic support for traditional families, including subsidized housing for young couples and early retirement for full-time mothers, and would cut state funds that go toward elective abortions.

No matter the result of the upcoming referendum on the definition of marriage, the Coalition for Family and its Christian conservative backers have already changed the terms of the debate by portraying it as a fight between those who defend “the natural family” and “the Brussels-supported, [George] Soros-financed” NGOs, said historian Dan Cirjan.

“In Poland and Hungary, the political space has been defined in a similar way,” Cirjan said. “As an opposition between the ugly forces of globalization and the white cavaliers of tradition and ‘Christian Europe.’”

An illiberal turn

In Romania, the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD), by far the most popular party, has been cutting its teeth on the illiberal formula. The party ramped up the nationalist rhetoric in the run-up to the 2016 general election and since coming to power, it has tried to bring the judiciary under its control in order to safeguard the interests of corrupt party members.

“There’s a high risk that Romania will go the way of Hungary,” political scientist Cristian Pirvulescu, the founder of Respect, a campaign opposing efforts to outlaw gay marriage, said in an interview published on Respect’s Facebook page.

“We cannot separate the referendum from the Romanian government’s judiciary reforms, which would transform judges into terrified agents of the state,” he said, noting Romania has also become susceptible to rhetoric demonizing philanthropist George Soros and has started looking at tightening control over NGOs, much like in Hungary.

“These are all attacks on the liberal philosophy of democratic states and they come together. What happened in Russia is being reproduced here, in Hungary, Poland and Romania,” he warned.

Some effects of the referendum campaign in Romania are already visible. LGBTQ rights group MozaiQ reported an increase in violent attacks against gay people since the referendum campaign started in 2015.

Still, the group’s leader struck a note of optimism.

“The LGBTQ community and its allies have been forced to mobilize more,” said Viski. “We’ve had more protest actions and bigger participation in Pride marches, and there is more support expressed for the legalization of civil partnership.”

“This has — paradoxically — opened up opportunities.”



Taken from Politico.Eu


 

Stars Of Eurovision 2016 Promise It’s Going To Be A ‘Very Gay Year’

eurovision-2016 (1)Huge crowds watched as artists from 42 participating countries walked the red carpet for the opening ceremony of Eurovision 2016, in Stockholm, yesterday.

Gay Star News was on the red carpet and talked to many of the fabulous performers as they arrived at the star-studded event.

Christer Bjorkman, the contest producer, and Petra Mede, one of the show’s hosts were among the first on the carpet.

Sweden last hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, when we at Gay Star News proclaimed it the ‘gayest Eurovision ever’. How will the 2016 contest compare – will it be just as good?

Christer told us: ‘If you perceived it as gay last time you probably will this time. It has a lot to do with Petra’s humor. She’s sort of an icon for us.’

Petra added: ‘It’s going to be just as gay – don’t you worry.’

UK artists Joe and Jake seemed very appreciate of Eurovision’s LGBTI audience. Joe told GSN: ‘We’ve had a lot of love from all of the gay community and all the gay fans, and we’d like to give that love back to them and just say thank you.’




Nicky Byrne from Westlife is representing Ireland this year. We asked him about Eurovision’s large LGBTI viewership. ‘It’s the same as every viewer. To me – gay, straight – it makes no difference. So, everybody is out to have fun, enjoy the show, and vote for Ireland.’

Serhat, the performer representing San Marino was a little more philosophical. ‘They ask me what is the color of life? Life is beautiful with all colors. That is my message.’

Though there are many flamboyant performances, the number of openly LGBTI contestants historically has been very low.

Douwe Bob, the artist representing the Netherlands, is a rare exception and is openly bisexual. ‘I think personally it shouldn’t matter if you are gay or not. If you are a fan of something you love, that’s a good thing. It’s a beautiful thing.’ When asked about being an out contestant, Douwe added: ‘I don’t consider myself out because I’ve never been in.’




Jamala from the Ukraine thinks it’s important that all artists can be authentic. ‘Be real, be yourself. No matter what they say we have important thing that god creates us and we are different and it’s a good thing that we can be different.’ Michal Szpak from Poland added: ‘Just be yourself’

While it is becoming easier to be openly LGBTI in many European countries, it’s still a challenge in others.

Ira Losco from Malta had words of support for LGBTI people in more difficult countries. ‘I hope that coming out isn’t too hard. For some people because that’s always the worst part. Just know that people will love you no matter what. Just keep strong and believe in yourself. People around you love you.’

Christina Lachana, the lead singer from band Argo representing Greece was equally encouraging. ‘Think positive. Enjoy every good stuff in your life.’

Sandhja, representing Finland, see’s Eurovision as a unifying force. ‘It shouldn’t be about being gay or lesbian or straight. Music and love and healing all come together in a holy triangle. I believe that music brings people together.’

Our Eurovision coverage will continue throughout the week. If you have a favorite Eurovision song from this year, let us know.


 

Taken From GayStarNews.Com


Corporate Christ is a Musician and Author from Cardiff, UK.

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The Queering Of Pee-Wee Herman: How The Gay Icon Redefines Queer Boundaries Beyond Sexuality

Pee-wee's Big Holiday
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

“I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”

These sentiments are voiced three different times in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” the Tim Burton-directed film that popularized Pee-wee Herman, the guileless manchild in the grey suit and red bowtie. Throughout the 1985 film, Pee-wee routinely rejects the advances of Dottie, a button-cute blonde played in a rare on-screen role by voice-over actress Elizabeth Daly (“Rugrats”). The joke isn’t just that Dottie is hopelessly, cluelessly in love with Pee-wee but seeing the character’s own image juxtaposed with his statement. These are the words you might hear from Johnny Depp’s meticulously coiffed greaser in John Waters’ “Cry-Baby,” not someone whose closest antecedent is Waters himself.

Pee-wee’s noted lack of interest in the fairer sex has long led to speculation about his sexuality—with the implication that he’s gay. If you’ve come into “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” with that idea in mind, the film will do little to dissuade you. The Netflix release, directed by John Lee (“Wonder Showzen”) and produced by Judd Apatow (“Freaks and Geeks”), finds Pee-wee Herman getting his bromance on with Joe Manganiello, playing a version of himself. Manganiello rides up to the diner where Pee-wee works on a motorcycle wearing a too-tight tee, and Pee-wee nearly faints. True to form, he refers to the “True Blood” actor as “triple cool!”

The movie never plays down its potential homoerotic elements: Aside from Pee-wee’s clear overexuberance at serving Joe Manganiello a milkshake, the character develops something of a crush on the hunky actor (and who could blame him?). He expresses his desires for “friendship” with Manganiello in fantasies where the two joust on what appear to be giant piñatas; meanwhile, fireworks explode in the background. It’s about as subtle as the end credits of “Deadpool,” in which the spandexed superhero jerks off a unicorn.



The film’s overt gayness led many, like BuzzFeed’s Louis Peitzman, to declare it a “queer romance.” “[C]ategorizing Pee-wee and Joe as ‘just friends’ would be, at best, a euphemistic solution to a relationship that’s deliberately vague but undeniably queer,” he writes. “Because Pee-wee is almost entirely sexless, his age indeterminate but his interests decidedly childlike, he can never consummate anything. Instead, he and Joe share the kind of mutual crush that passes for grade-school intimacy.” Slate’s Paul H. Johnson added that the character has always been gay, even back in the days of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” He married a fruit salad in one episode, forgodsakes.

These takes are smart, well-written and accurate: There’s something that’s always been defiantly, unmistakably queer about Pee-wee Herman, but it would be a mistake to solely ascribe that to his sexuality. Pee-wee might live in a world of adult longings and eroticism, but Pee-wee does not partake. It’s not that he’s queer or even asexual, but that—by being frozen in a state of stunted adolescence—he exists in a prepubescent universe where sexuality doesn’t quite exist yet. The queerest thing about Pee-wee Herman is that he purposefully breaks with those notions by rethinking the boundaries of what “queerness” really is—an act of societal rebellion.

If Pee-wee is a PG character in an R-rated universe, that’s no accident: The persona was developed while Paul Reubens was a member of the Groundlings, the L.A.-based improvisational comedy group that also gave Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman and Melissa McCarthy their starts. Reubens’ “Pee-wee Herman Show” began as a weekly midnight show with a grown-up slant. When he appeared on “Late Night With David Letterman” in 1983, Pee-wee romped around the set like a kid in a candy store—seemingly unaware of the adult show he’s on. “Camping with Pee-wee, that’s like a headline in the Post!” Letterman jokes. Pee-wee has no idea what he’s talking about.

His own lack of awareness is central to how we understand Pee-wee Herman—and how we read his character. In Peitzman’s essay, he refers to homosexuality as the “subtext” of “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” but if we’re being honest, it’s the context. “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” might as well take place in a gay bar. Take the program’s holiday special, for instance: The episode boasted a queer cornucopia of guest stars, including community icons like Cher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dinah Shore and kd lang. Pee-wee goes ice-skating with Little Richard. Grace Jones even drops by to sing “The Little Drummer Boy.” If that’s not enough, a group of shirtless construction workers build a tower out of fruitcakes.

If subtext by definition is furtive and secret, the queer reading of this episode couldn’t be any more overt if it were singing the Village People in gold booty shorts. The joke is that if the world around him is fabulously gay, Pee-wee hasn’t the slightest clue. The ongoing series of Pee-wee Herman films and television programs delight in placing the character in settings where his naive innocence is at odds with his surroundings, even the film he’s in: “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” finds him in a coming-of-age tale, even if Herman—by nature—doesn’t grow. “Big Holiday,” however, reimagines his hero’s journey as a romantic quest—except that the character himself finds that concept gross, like eating his peas.


 

Taken from Salon.Com


Corporate Christ is a Musician and Author from Cardiff, UK.

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Americans Increasingly Approve Of Gay And Lesbian Adults Adopting Kids

Approval of same-sex relationships also grew, hitting 60 percent among women and 49 percent among men. Given recent major political shifts, like the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide in June 2015, it’s possible that these figures have grown even further since. Many states, like Mississippi, still have laws that prohibit or limit same-sex couples from adopting, so shifting views on adoption are every bit as important as advocates continue to press for equality.




Colorado Fight To End ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ Could Carry National Weight

State will debate legislation this month that would ban the counseling on minors, a practice psychologists say can lead to depression and suicide

 

gayrightsThe day before Brad Allen planned to kill himself, he had an epiphany. It was September 2012, and the then 31-year-old Colorado pastor had spent years learning from his therapist and church leaders that his same-sex desires were a disease that could be cured.

“I was disordered and embodied toxicity to other people … I had a suicide plan, and I was ready to go through with it,” the Denver man recalled. “But I felt this thought: ‘You are not toxic.’ And that resonated deeper than what I had learned in therapy.”

Allen, now an openly gay worker at a not-for-profit organization, is sharing his story in the hopes that it will inspire state lawmakers to pass legislation this month banning therapists from using “gay conversion therapy” on minors.

But Colorado Republicans and conservative religious groups have mobilized against the proposed ban, even though the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation has been widely discredited as harmful and dangerous, and are expected to defeat it.

Repeating homophobic and scientifically disproven claims about sexual orientation, Republican legislators and backers of “reparative therapy” have argued that this kind of counseling can be effective at enabling LGBT people to live heterosexual lives. And if their efforts to defeat the bill are successful, the state’s licensed professionals will continue to expose queer youth to a methodology that advocates and psychologists say can lead to depression and suicide.

The legislative battle could have national implications as other states explore similar efforts. Some supporters of the ban who have experienced conversion therapy will testify that their parents sent them from across the country to Colorado for the controversial services, which can have long-term negative impacts on mental health.

Colorado Springs, which has a high concentration of evangelical Christian groups, is also the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a Christian conservative organization that does national advocacy work and is a major defender of therapists’ rights to promote what the group calls “sexual orientation change efforts”.

“There are therapists and mental health professionals licensed by the state of Colorado who are harming children,” said Paul Rosenthal, a Democratic state representative who sponsored the bill, which passed a legislative committee this week and is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

“They are still trying to convert people to be a person they are not,” said Rosenthal, who is gay. “Why should we condemn an individual to a lifetime of guilt and shame?”

A handful of states, including California and New Jersey, already ban conversion therapy for minors.

Colorado’s Republican-controlled senate is expected to block the bill from reaching the governor, and Republicans at a recent committee hearing interrogated experts in psychology and LGBT people with a line of questioning that advocates deemed insensitive and offensive.

Representative Kathleen Conti, a Republican, compared being gay to alcoholism, asking psychologists who testified against reparative therapy whether they would help a minor who came to them wanting to overcome the addiction.

Conti further expressed concerns that the bill would prevent professionals from helping LGBT minors who want to “compartmentalize” and suppress same-sex desires, who may say to a therapist: “I feel like I have these homosexual desires, but … I know innately I want to have my own biological children.”

Sarah Musick, 33, said that after she came out, she and her parents in Virginia agreed that she should travel to Colorado Springs for conversion counseling through Focus on the Family – an experience that damaged her for many years. “I felt like I was just this broken, good-for-nothing human that didn’t deserve to be loved,” she said. “I spiraled into a long depression.”



Musick, who still lives in Colorado Springs and is married to a woman and has two children, said she was shocked by Conti’s comments that implied she and others were failures for not successfully completing conversion therapy. “It just triggered so much of the hurtfulness.”

In an interview, Conti defended her comments, saying she was not homophobic and that the bill’s backers are “heterophobic” for proposing a law that would specifically prevent gay youth who want to live heterosexual lives from getting help.

“I have many friends that are gay that I love unconditionally … but I feel there’s a sector of the population that may have these attractions and yet may not want to live that way and would like to follow a different path in their life,” she said. “They have a right, whether they’re a minor or an adult, to pursue their happiness.”

Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst with Focus on the Family, said his organization does not have licensed professionals who currently offer reparative therapy, but said it may refer people with “unwanted homosexuality” to professionals who offer these services.

Johnston dismissed the testimony from those who said the therapy made them suicidal. “Just because a counseling practice doesn’t work for one person doesn’t mean we should ban it for everybody,” he said.


 

Taken from TheGuardian.Com

 

Tears Of Joy Mark Gay Inclusion In St. Patrick’s Day Parade

gay irish paradeA celebration marking the first time the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue will allow gay Irish groups to march led some lawmakers to break into tears on Thursday as they spoke of the 25-year fight for inclusion in the event.

“There were many times when we wanted to give up and we wondered if we would ever see this day,” Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Queens Democrat who is gay, said before beginning to cry.

Thursday’s event at the Irish Consulate in Midtown brought together both the parade’s organizers and the Irish gay-rights activists who for decades had been banned from marching behind their own banner.

The result was an outpouring of an emotion rarely seen at news conferences: joy.

“We too are Irish. We are your sons. We are your daughters, your brothers, your sisters,” said Brendan Fay, chairman and co-founder of the Lavender & Green Alliance, the Irish LGBT group that will march in this year’s parade.

Mr. Fay thanked the parade organizers for what he called a “historic gesture of welcome” that “undoes the anguish and pain of exclusion and discrimination.”

Mr. de Blasio formally announced that he plans to march in the parade for the first time, after years of skipping the event along with many other city officials in protest of its ban on gay groups.

“For the last two decades there’s been a blemish on this city,” he said. “Who are we as New Yorkers? It is our nature to embrace and support all peoples.”



The decision by the parade’s board members to include the Lavender & Green Alliance in this year’s event was made in September. Parade organizers, gay activists and city officials said the agreement emerged through months of meetings and discussions, many at the Irish Consulate.

They said the Consul General of Ireland, Barbara Jones, played a key role in the negotiations. Ireland legalized same-sex marriage in a referendum last year.

Francis McGreal Jr., a board member, said parade organizers decided to make the change because “it’s time to move forward. What else can we say.”

Rick Hinshaw, a spokesman for the Catholic League, said it has decided not to march because of the decision. He said the League isn’t opposed to including gay groups but that other advocacy groups should be able to march under their own banners.

“If you’re going to allow groups marching under advocacy banners, you should allow like pro-life groups which are in line with the church’s teaching,” he said.

The ban was protested for decades through civil disobedience. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former state Sen. Tom Duane were among dozens arrested for protesting the parade’s policy over the years.

So was Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended Thursday’s ceremony. He teared up as he spoke about finally being able to attend the event as a participant.

In 1991, Mayor David Dinkins was booed while marching in solidarity alongside gay-rights activists at the parade. Mr. Fay said on Thursday that he was thinking of Mr. Dinkins, “who way back then walked with us, stood with us.”

Mr. Fay said he was also thinking of those who had died of AIDS over the years, as well as Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and was regarded by many gay New Yorkers as a powerful ally.


Taken from WSJ.Com

 

Novelty ‘Gay Bar’ Soap Gets Business Park Boss In A Lather

pride chairmanA business park boss sparked anger after he got himself in a lather over a pink novelty soap left in a men’s toilet with the words ‘gay bar’ on it.

Danny McLaughlan fired off an email to firms at Rainton Bridge Business Park with an image attached telling workers he found the bar of soap to be “inappropriate”.

The novelty £5 bar is available for sale in numerous gift retail outlets, including Amazon and eBay.

Mr McLaughlan’s email informed workers the offending soap had been removed – and told staff to contact him if they wanted it back.

He also called for a cull of other toilet products that had been left by staff members in Alexander House on the Houghton park, where the Echo is based.




But the call backfired because staff and gay rights campaigners found the email and stance “offensive”.

It is understand the soap had been given to a gay staff member at the park as a gift and they put it in the toilet for everyone to use.

One worker said: 
“How can this be inappropriate?””

“It’s just ridiculous. We found his email inappropriate and offensive.”

“Why is he offended by the word gay on a bar of soap?”

“The whole ‘soap police’ thing is just barmy anyway.”

“It’s jobsworth attitude and over-zealous.”

“Who has got time to worry about soap and deodorant left in a toilet?”

When contacted by the Echo, Mr McLaughlan declined to comment and asked us to contact his manager.

James Millson, associate director of CBRE Ltd, which manages the building, said: “The park manager’s email makes reference to a number of items, the bar of soap probably being the most easily identifiable.

“The point being made in the email is that the items being left in the common toilets, which are shared with other users of the building, are not in keeping with consistent and corporate image that we aim to provide across the estate.

“We would have been removing any items ‘bars of soap’ irrespective of the slogan, brand or design and the point being made here is that the ‘random products’ being dispersed around the common parts are not in keeping with the management strategy for the building.

“In short there is no discriminatory agenda here, only a desire to provide premises to our tenants that are clean, smart and in keeping with the expectations of our client, tenants and visitors.”

Mark Nichols, chairman of Northern Pride, said: “It’s a bit like anything when it’s taken out of context, it could be used perfectly well, but could be taken to be insulting. It’s like saying ‘I’m gay’ and then ‘You’re so gay.

“The LGBT community use the word gay, there’s nothing wrong with saying gay.

“Everybody uses it all the time, so there shouldn’t be a problem with it.

“If he had just said ‘Please don’t leave personal items’ then fine, it would have been a bit petty.

“He doesn’t say the word gay is offensive but the fact is he has singled it out, that one item.

“He could have sent a picture of the make up bag and said this shouldn’t be left in the bathroom.”

Alisdair Cameron, North East-based Pride in Mind, a mental health support group, said: “Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or any other sexuality or sexual identity is ordinary and a healthy part of life.

“Humour and self-mockery is also ordinary and again a healthy part of life.

“Somewhere down the line in this story, someone lost sight that both of these things are true, and that 
one does not negate the other.”




 

Taken from Sunderlandecho.com

 

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