A Tech Entrepreneur Is Moving His Company Out Of Georgia Because Of Its ‘Anti-Gay’ Bill

gayrightsMarc Benioff isn’t the only business leader threatening to move business out of Georgiabecause of a new bill that critics say discriminates against gay people.

Kelvin Williams, founder oftelecom company 373Kheadquartered in Georgia, tells Business Insider that he’s already in the process of moving his company to Delaware.

He vowed to move in late February, when Bill 757, dubbed the “First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), initially passed the Georgia Senate. On Wednesday night, the bill was amended and passed by the House and the Senate, and is now headed to Governor Deal, who is being urged by Salesforce and others to veto it.

But Williams, who is gay, isn’t waiting to find out what the governor will do.

“When they passed FADA the first time, we decided to move at that point. Everyone thought it was a threat, but no. We were dead serious,” he said.

His decision to move earned him national attention and he heard from economic development officials all over the country inviting him to move his business to their states.

But Delaware did one better: Governor Jack Markell called Williams. “He extended a personal welcome to Delaware.”



On Thursday, 373K officially “became a Delaware corporation” and in the next couple of days, it will dissolve its Georgia corporate status. It will fully relocate to Delaware within couple of months, he said.

373K is a telecom provider with about 20 employees, and is hiring. Williams says his staff voted on the decision to relocate. Employees won’t be required to move if they want to stay in Georgia. 373K has many remote workers, he says.

And he’s not leaving the state just because he feels personally unwelcome but because he’s concerned for his employees, too, he says.

“One reason we decided to leave is because our employees are from around the world. You name it, we’ve got it here. What I tell people is that, under this law, if it is to become a law, I only have two employees that would be acceptable in the state of Georgia, only two heterosexuals that have only been married once,” he says.

His team includes people of multiple faiths (Muslim, Buddhists, atheists), single divorced parents, and members of the LGBT community, all of whom he fears could be targets of discrimination, or worse, in Georgia’s current political climate.

“The support versus the hate mail, it’s like 99% to 1%. But the hate mail we have gotten reaffirms our decision to leave,” he says.


 

Taken from UK.BusinessInsider.Com

Danny Dyer Stars As Drag Queen In Moving New Music Video

The EastEnders star features in a new video from British singer Lucy Rose

Danny Dyer DragEastEnders’ Danny Dyer has taken on one of his most challenging roles – becoming a drag queen for a guest appearance in a music video.

The British actor (who plays Queen Vic landlord Mick Carter in the long-running BBC soap) features in the new video from singer Lucy Rose.

Entitled ‘Nebraska’, the film, directed by Christopher McGill, also includes Ghostpoet, Rae Morris and Josef Salvat.

In the video, Dyer plays a man who is struggling with his desire to dress as a woman. He visits a London drag club and after watching the acts, goes to the dressing room with his own bag of make-up and sequin-encrusted gown.

Speaking to The Independent, Dyer said, ‘I was honored to be asked by the maestro that is Lucy Rose to be part of her video.

‘When I got the treatment through I was overwhelmed. I think it’s such a moving piece of work. I’m beyond proud to be part of it, I’ve always believed that people should be who they wanna be, regardless of race or gender.

‘Freedom of expression is so important – I really hope that this video gets the recognition it deserves.’



British singer Rose released her sophomore album, Work It Out, last October. It reached number 9 on the UK album charts. She said that she had reached out to Dyer after she noticed he began following her on Twitter and recommending her music.

‘I built up the courage and sent him a private message asking if he would be interested in collaborating on a music video. This was back in August 2015 and straight away he was keen and really enthusiastic.

‘We discussed which song to do, I gave a few options and he chose ‘Nebraska’ which suited me down to the ground as it’s a song that I think really shows a different side to my record.’

She said that the idea for the video came from director Chris McGill, and although she loved it, was ‘bricking it’ at the idea of sending it to Dyer.

‘How could I ask Danny to do what we were asking him to do? The miracle to this story is that almost an hour after I sent over the treatment he replied saying lets do it, I’ve always wanted to be a drag queen.’

‘This video to me isn’t about Danny being a drag queen but a freedom of expression and a form of escapism. I’m sure there’s many things we all want to do but we are worried that it means we won’t fit in. Fit into the mold that society has told us to live in which is accepted.

‘Let everyone be who they want and don’t make them justify their choices.’




 

Taken from GayStarNews.Com

 

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

 

Primary School Stages ‘Gay Play’ To Teach Children About Diversity – But ‘Homophobic’ Parents Don’t Like It

Two parents were reported to police following the homophobic comments they made about the school on social media

Sacred-Heart-Primary-School teacherA headteacher has said she refused to be cowed by homophobic parents who slammed her primary school on social media for staging a “gay play”.

Carrie Morrow, head of Sacred Heart RC Primary in Atherton, near Wigan, was shocked when a gay-friendly workshop aimed at teaching children about diversity was blasted by parents on Facebook.

The comments, posted by a “small minority”, came after a theatre company performed a fairytale where two princes fall in love.

Writing on Facebook, one dad said he was annoyed when his son came home “talking about gays, saying he had learned about gays.”

Two men were reported to the police by another Facebook user, and have since been spoken to by officers in the area, Manchester Evening News reports.

The head of Sacred Heart says she is proud to be one of the first schools in the area to publicly stand up to homophobia.

Ms Morrow, who has worked at the school for 13 years, said: “We are very proud of what we have done.

“I know for some schools it is not an easy aspect of the curriculum to teach, but our pupils handled it with maturity and sensitivity.

“We have been quite bold and it has not been without some negativity from the community.

“We are not intimidated as we know such homophobic attitudes are in the minority.”

As well as the play, children learned about when it was appropriate to use the word gay, and were asked to design a logo for Wigan’s first Pride festival in August.

Yet Mr Marsh accused the school of ‘social engineering” on Facebook.

In a public post, he wrote: “I think people who promote PC sex to kids below 11 border on paedophilia and are depraved.

“It has nothing to do with gay sex that upset us but the lack of parental consent, a bit like finding the school had decided it has the right to vaccinate your kids for you and did it without your consent because it knows best.”

A GMP spokesman said: “Shortly after 10:25pm on Sunday 28 February 2016, police were called to reports that a number of homophobic comments had been made on Facebook.

“This was investigated as a hate incident but it was determined that the comments did not amount to a criminal offence.

“Local resolution officers spoke to all parties involved and advised two men of their future conduct on social media.”


Taken from Mirror.co.uk


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

 

California High School Students Wearing Anti-Gay Stickers On Their Name Tags Are Asked To Remove Them ‘For Now’

rainbow smiley
Response to the homophobic stickers

High school students, who sparked outrage after they started wearing anti-gay stickers on their identity badges, have been told to take the images off ‘for now’.

The symbols in question show a rainbow pattern crossed out with a red circle and a line.

They started popping up in the hallways three weeks ago, prompting concern by classmates and teachers.

Both anti-gay stickers and pro-gay rights symbols were allowed as a matter of free speech at Shadow Hills High School in Indio, California, according to The Desert Sun and FOX News.

But Superintendent Gary Rutherford said new information instigated an additional review he said on Monday but didn’t say what the new information was.

‘Recently some information has been brought forward that requires additional investigation and follow-up to determine a proper course of action.

‘Pending further investigation, we are going to ask students who are displaying the symbol showing a rainbow pattern with a circle and a line, at least for now, to remove symbols while at school,’ Rutherford wrote.





Faculty at Shadow Hills High School in Indio, California, had insisted they couldn’t force the teenagers to remove the labels because it would violate their right to freedom of speech.

However, federal courts allow some limits on student speech, allowing schools to prohibit items like banners and T-shirts that mentioned drug use.

People also slammed the labels as homophobic when images of them were uploaded to Facebook.

The school initially released a statement to the Desert Sun when the symbols started cropping up saying: ‘After consulting with district level personnel and our legal counsel, it was determined that these students do have the protected right to freedom of speech, just as students portraying rainbows in support of the LGBT would.

‘If at any point students are interrupting class time to express their beliefs, they are to be sent to the discipline office with a referral for disruption.

‘We all have a right to freedom of speech, but students also have a right to be educated without fear. This has always been our policy, and we will continue to enforce it.’

In response to the anti-gay stickers, students including eighth-grader Paige Labayog started coloring in rainbow smiley faces to wear on their ID badges.

Some teachers have also gone against their school district, insisting they aren’t happy with the decision.

Amy Oberman, an AP U.S. History teacher at Shadow Hills, told the newspaper: ‘Yes, there is freedom of speech established by Tinker, but at least in my view, it’s a hate crime because a group was targeted.

‘I’m Jewish, and if that had been a little swastika on my window, what’s the difference?’

Michelle Bachman, a senior at Shadow Hills and vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance, said she feels the anti-gay symbols ‘rise to the level of bullying and intimidation.’

‘This group of students was publicly displaying an intolerance and hate for the LGBT community when a large portion of our students at SHHS are part of the community or close to people a part of it as well,” Bachman said on Twitter through a direct message conversation with The Desert Sun. “This is definitely hate speech, but legally, we can’t do anything until these students start to physically harass us, which I believe is an injustice.


Taken from DailyMail.Co.Uk

Gay Music Video Makers Defend Raunchy Song

After the Kenya Film Classification Board banned a music video depicting same sex relationships by Kenyan band Art Attack, the band members have come out to defend themselves.

KFCB banned the video titled Same Love (Remix) because “it does not adhere to the morals of the country”.

In an email interview with Word Is, Art Attack said: “Obviously, someone alerted KFCB about the video. It’s that simple, really. Either that or they stalk me. And were among the first people to watch it after it dropped. Kidding, they must have heard it from the grapevine, really. And then sprung to action.”

What went through your head when they banned it? “Nothing. I expected a ban anyway. I was actually surprised it took that long — a week — for them to eventually ban it. So I wasn’t surprised. Bans happen all the time. These are the same guys who banned 50 Shades of Grey, right? And still allow us to watch Empire, Haves and Have Nots and other shows with a strong gay narrative? Hmmm. OK.”




 

The group of rappers under the Art Attack umbrella are not featured in the music video. It features known LGBT faces like Noti Flow, Joji Baro, Binyavanga Wainaina and the late South African music legend Brenda Fassie.

“I was inspired by Michael Jackson’s decision not to feature in music videos for his social conscience songs ‘Cry’ and ‘Heal the World’. I followed the same pattern. And stayed away from the video myself,” he said.

They added that KFCB has not seen the last of them, as they have ‘big plans’. “We can’t divulge what’s in store. Surely, you will have to wait and watch it happen. KFCB’s ban is not the end of the narrative. But the interesting start. We’re emboldened. And will be rolling out hotter stuff in no time.”

In conclusion, the group noted: “What adults do in the confines of their bedroom is their own business. Not anyone else’s. Not the government’s. Nor the public’s. And certainly not the business of Twitter users. Live and let live. As for the Bible-quoting bigots, start a church. We are not listening.”

By the time we went to press, the banned video had more than 110,000 views on YouTube.


Taken from The-Star.Co.Ke

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

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

Poppers: How Gay Culture Bottled A Formula That Has Broken Down Boundaries

poppers 2 Prowler on Brewer Street in Soho is, by its own account, the UK’s largest gay lifestyle superstore. Past rails of neon elasticated underwear and shelves bearing pornographic comic books, neat rows of small, colourful bottles stand on top of the sales counter.

With names including Buzz, Rush, Deep and Hard On, these are poppers – alkyl nitrites in liquid form that cause a head-rush when inhaled and were banned by the Government this week.

On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted down an amendment to exclude poppers from the Psychoactive Substances Bill. From 1 April, all poppers will be banned in the UK. The debate was all the more remarkable in that the Tory MP Crispin Blunt “outed himself” as a user of poppers – which are often taken before sex as they act as a muscle relaxant.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in in the last couple of days saying, ‘What am I going to do now?’” says Stephen Dunne, 43, a sales assistant at Prowler. “People rely on them: one man yesterday bought 40 bottles.”




A recent survey found the use of poppers to be 25 times more common among gay than straight men. Some believe the association of poppers with gay culture is what has now led to the ban.

“If you trace the bottle of amyl [a type of alkyl nitrite] through late 20th-century history, you trace the legacies of gay culture on popular culture in the 20th century,” says Dr Lucy Robinson a history lecturer at Sussex University. “We wouldn’t have had rave, disco or club culture as we know it today without the gay community.”

Amyl nitrate, the drug’s first incarnation, was synthesised in 1844 by the French chemist Antoine Jérôme Balard. It was pioneered as a treatment for angina: inhaling the liquid’s fumes would cause blood vessels to expand and pain to subside. The street name by which they are now known came from the packaging of this treatment. The liquid came in individual ampoules to be “popped”.

When nitro-glycerine tablets replaced amyl nitrite as the preferred treatment for angina in the early 1960s, demand for the stimulant rapidly declined. But its manufacturers sought an alternative market. Poppers were soon being shipped to Vietnam and given to soldiers as an “antidote to gun fumes”.

Various bans caused chemists to resynthesise chemical variations, such as butyl nitrite. The liquid on offer at Prowler is mainly isopropyl nitrite. “I remember when it was amyl nitrite,” says Mr Dunne. “That was a different story altogether: you’d get burns on your nose if you spilt it. Those were serious; these here are far tamer.”

According to Ian Young, author of The Stonewall Experiment: A gay psychohistory,  an unspoken agreement seems to have emerged between manufacturers and regulators that amyl nitrite could be sold as long as it was labelled as a room odoriser and marketed only to the gay community. Adverts promoting poppers as a sex aid began to appear in gay magazines in the US and before long a similar strategy was adopted in the UK. Because poppers were used mainly by the gay community, and were associated with sex, there was speculation in the early days of HIV and Aids that they might be causing the disease.

Amyl nitrite peaked in popularity, first as a drug of choice during the 1970s disco era and then in the late-1980s and early-1990s rave scene – both of which owed much to the gay community. Poppers, says Dr Robinson, owe their popularity to two important qualities: their association with pleasure and their communal nature. Used in clubs as much as in the bedroom, they have always provided a “crossover between what feels good in a club and how great sex can be”.

Clubs in 1970s New York would reportedly spray amyl nitrite into the air to create collective euphoria. Being cheap and easy to inhale from, the small bottles are often passed among many people – either in the club or in the bedroom. Amyl nitrite quickly became a way to break down boundaries – those standing in the way of pleasure as well as those between individuals.

Back at Prowler, Mr Dunne echoes concerns raised by Mr Blunt that the legislation will push poppers underground, increasing gay men’s exposure to drug dealers. Many dealers already sell the stimulant. Others have criticised the legislation for being based on paranoia surrounding sexual practice rather than on firm evidence.

There is no indication that poppers are particularly harmful to human health. “Drugs are never simply good or bad,” says Dr Robinson. “They – and their policing – have always been a lot more to do with the groups that are taking them.”





 

Taken from Independent.co.uk