Sunday, October 17, 2010

LGBT rights , battle not won

Many think LGBT rights have been won, I mean look the poofs can have a civil partnership. There is the pink pound, now stop your griping and get back in the club rather than the closet .ON an aside that ignores the point that LGBT includes Trans people and bi-sexuals, often forgotten in the debates. One need only look at Stonewall to see how even Gay organisations happily ignore the issues of trans people by nominating candidates for awards with less than enlightened views . Then there is the attitude of some feminists to trans women, ignoring the very real violence that they face and excluding them from events , by omission or explicitly. I'll say more about trans issues and bisexuality as well , another time .

Back to the main point, people are still prejudiced against lesbian and gay people, and the battle is far from won . Sadly no one should sigh with relief and believe its all sorted , rights and acceptance can slip away . Even in very Gay friendly Brighton there is still violence and abuse . I want though to focus on worrying reports from the US . The Observer reports on this :

Liberal America has looked on aghast as virulent homophobic prejudice seems to have returned to its streets and cities. Most remarkable of all, much of it seems to be centred on the New York region, usually tolerant in its politics and not seen as hostile to homosexuals living openly. But it was just a few miles away from Bounville's protest in the Bronx that a group of suspected gang members brutally beat and tortured a 30-year-old gay man and several other youths who had been associated with him. The details of the assault, for which 10 people have been arrested, horrified New Yorkers. The gay victim was kidnapped, beaten, whipped and burned.

The shocking crime was just one of a series of incidents that have hit the city. Others have even occurred in the heart of New York's vibrant gay scene. In the Chelsea neighbourhood, which has a large gay population, a group of men hugging each other goodbye after a night out were punched and had a rubbish bin thrown at them. Meanwhile in the famous Stonewall Inn, where the modern gay rights movement was founded after a police raid in 1969, a customer was beaten and robbed by men who hurled homophobic insults at him.

For many observers the violence has been especially worrying as it has come at the same time as several leading Republicans have made anti-gay statements. South Carolina's Senator Jim DeMint, one of America's most powerful Republican politicians, has publicly said that gay people should not be allowed to become teachers.

Those sentiments were echoed by the Republican candidate in the New York governor race, Carl Paladino. In an astonishing piece of political theatre at a meeting of conservative Orthodox Jews, Paladino condemned gay pride parades and said gay people should not teach in schools. When the comments stirred outrage in the media, Paladino went on the talk show circuit in New York to complain about men "grinding" against each other at marches while wearing Speedos. "Is that normal?" he asked one TV interviewer.

The remarks were so bizarre some observers dismissed them as just another gaffe from a candidate dogged by allegations of infidelity and sending pornographic images by email. But gay rights activists say that is a mistake. There is a direct link, they say, between such public statements of homophobia and attacks. "These comments give licence to those who use violence. It is dangerous. It is tragic to think these hateful kinds of words have consequences," said Michael Cole, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which campaigns for gay rights in America.

Such sentiments do not just encourage violent attacks; they can also spur people to suicide. Recently a student at Rutgers University committed suicide after his room-mate broadcast one of his gay sexual encounters over the internet. In Oklahoma recently a 19-year-old man killed himself after attending a local council meeting where members of the public had spoken out against celebrating the local gay community. The family of Zach Harrington, who committed suicide at home, told their local newspaper in the small town of Norman that they believed the "toxic" environment of the meeting had pushed him over the edge.

I remember friends who struggled at school , teased and bullied for being gay . Its depressing to read reports of this still happening , but it does. "Gay ' is an insult in the playground , kids are still bullied in the US and over here . Talk of gay people as unsuitable to be teachers sends a very clear message ; being lesbian or gay is not normal, don't tell anyone if you are and of course that most despicable of mud slinging, poofs are paedophiles after your children. Sickening . Add in faith schools teaching its a sin and its hardly a positive environment .

Playground bullying extends into adult violence , as Johann Hari points out :

In London, recorded homophobic attacks are up by 20 per cent. In Glasgow it's 32 per cent; in Liverpool it's 40 per cent; in Greater Manchester it's 63 per cent. James Parks is only the latest face to be kicked in by this trend: last week, the off-duty police officer left a club in Liverpool with his boyfriend and was lynched by a group of 20 teenagers who smashed his skull and left him close to death.

In a recession, violence always rises, and violence against minorities rises more. Attacks on Muslims, Jews, and black people are also spiking across Britain. But recorded violence against gay people has shown the most extreme rise. Last year, an 18 year-old hairdresser in Liverpool called Michael Causer was sleeping on a friend's sofa after a party when he was woken up. A witness testified that a group of teenagers yelled, "You little queer faggot!" They said they were going to cut out his body-piercings with a knife, and started burning his legs with a lighter. He was found bleeding to death later, dumped in the road outside, after having his head smashed in with a hardback book.

At the trial, one of the 19-year-olds tried for the murder said he was acting "in self-defence" – against a smaller, seven-and-a-half stone boy with no history of violent behaviour. A witness said that during the attack, he had yelled: "He's a little queer, he deserves it!" Yet the jury found him not guilty

Hari points out the culture in schools :

Almost all the new homophobic attacks have been carried out by teenagers who are in – or just out of – the education system. It is not a coincidence that our schools are the one place where homophobic violence is still absolutely mainstream. The official schools inspectorate, Ofsted, says that homophobia is "endemic" in our playgrounds and our classrooms. A study by Stonewall found 41 per cent of gay children are beaten up, and 17 per cent have been told they're going to be killed (it's 10 per cent higher still in faith schools). The young people who attacked PC James Parks were simply taking that culture out of the playground and onto the streets.

This doesn't have to happen. Michael Causer's mother, Marie, says: "This generation of infants needs to be educated. You hear youngsters as young as four and five saying 'Go away, you're gay.' It might be a word to them, but their parents need to pull them up and tell them that it's wrong. They need better education to let them know that gay people are no different."

When this is tried, it works. The Stonewall study found that in schools with a consistent policy of punishing homophobic language, gay children were 60 per cent less likely to be attacked. That fall in violence could ripple out from the school gates - but today, only 6 per cent of schools adopt this policy. The Government should immediately make it mandatory.

So my point is ? Well its that there is no room for complacency .It IS still an issue. Kids are still bullied, its still seen as an insult . People die, others still pretend or struggle . The left as well need to keep this in mind, many seem to minimise it when it happens in 'anti imperialist' countries, well it happens here as well . Wherever it happens , its bloody awful.

This still needs to be on our agenda , even if it doesn't build the party.

So if that has fired up anger at such horrific examples of violence, the only 'reason' for it being that someone loves or has sex with another of the same gender, then get along to this on the 23rd . It is the 2nd Vigil against hate crime.

Now to end on a more positive note, a very moving personal account alongside the stories and pictures of children who killed themselves due to homophobic bullying :

A very brave man, especially in Texas I suspect. Give that man a hug.