Category Archives: Public Agenda

Has anything changed since Leveson?!?

Trans Media Representation

Has anything changed since Leveson?

What does trans media representation mean for trans audiences?

Are you a self-defining trans person willing to take part in an online focus group to discuss trans media representation in UK newspapers in the last year?

This research is part of a dissertation to be submitted for an MRes in Equality and Human Rights at the University of Glasgow and a results summary will be shared with LGBTI and trans organisations that have expressed an interest such as Trans Media Watch and Scottish Transgender Alliance.

All you need is internet access and to be willing to share your opinions and give an hour of your time.

The purpose of this research project is to look at the effects media coverage of trans people and trans issues are having on trans audiences to better understand what the issues are and how to improve them.

If you want to get involved please email Rhianna on rhumphrey@hotmail.co.uk for more info and consent documents.

Please feel free share this to anyone that may be interested.

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First snog

Stonewall is 25 this year.

Happy birthday Stonewall!

I’m 25 too although not for much longer. I’ll be celebrating my birthday tomorrow by heading down to a local protest against victim blaming rape and sexual assault survivors.

Stonewall is also celebrating,

“25 years of campaigning so that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are free to love and be loved”,

with a ‘first SNOG’ campaign. Now in theory I can get on board with the campaign:  supporting change so that anyone can kiss their partner(s) wherever they like sounds great to me!

lipstick kiss

I live in a country where I can kiss my partner without fear of criminal charges or state persecution. In practice this isn’t so simple. In reality we can’t have our first, second or 3456th snog out in the street. We don’t often hold hands and rarely kiss in public unless we’re in an area we’ve experienced little or no abuse in. My partner isn’t out about her sexuality to the customers in her place of work because many of them are homophobic so if I walk her there we’ll hug goodbye.

This isn’t uncommon for many queer couples.

When we kiss in the street we out ourselves and we make ourselves a target. Of course I would love to be shouting from the rooftops that I love my girlfriend and I’m out to many people but as a matter of  self-preservation I just don’t want the abuse  that comes from kissing in the street. I don’t want the fear of violence that comes from loving who I love.

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Stonewall has joined with SNOG, a frozen yoghurt company I’d previously never heard of probably because they only have shops in London and some Waitrose sell their goods (according to their website my closest SNOG is 120 miles away). Anyway they have launched rainbow coloured froyo (that’s what the kids call it yeah?) to raise money and ‘awareness’ (I have issues with awareness raising campaigns, ask me about it sometime). You can take a selfie in their app which is downloadable and um get involved in um changing the world. How again? Oh raising money (by texting SNOG to 70300 which gives Stonewall £3) that was it. I knew there was a link to activism somewhere…

Stonewall is trying here but it just doesn’t reflect reality for many of us. Our snogs are hidden, behind closed doors, sneaking in and sneaking out, in darkness and in fear. I’m sure all these predominantly heterosexual cisgender celebrities taking SNOG selfies feel like they’re making a difference here but you aren’t making people kissing their partners any easier. You aren’t changing the world and I’m not sure if this campaign is even trying to. Even the word snog has all these connotations of teenage fumbling and for me all my teenage fumbling was conducted in a mess of confusion about my gender and my sexuality that I tried really hard to keep a secret in a very small town. I’d maybe like this campaign more if it was aimed at all those teenagers currently negotiating their first snogs but it appears to be aimed at adults looking back and I just don’t understand why.

Maybe on my 26th birthday I’ll hold my girlfriend’s hand on this protest. It’s late at night. It’ll be dark. Maybe next year Stonewall will have a birthday I’ll feel I can be part of. Maybe I’ll be less cynical and eat frozen yoghurt.”

 

 

 

 

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The World as I know it

Ok, so I am coming up to my 24th birthday. Exciting, right? When I was little I had always imagine that my 24th year was going to be my best year. 24 has always been my favourite number: my birthday, the age my mum was when she got married. I was convinced that by 24 everything was going to be settled. I’d be married, a house, a cat (several cats), and a perfect job. As a little girl, with no particularly object of marriage in mind, I had not even thought about the fact that the law in my country would not allow me to marry!

At every age there are different challenges, I feel like my 20′s have been a time of big change. There have been tons of firsts. First smear test. First moving in with partner. First serious thoughts about marriage, pets and children (mainly pets). First full-time job. First spell in hospital. Some obviously more exciting than others… I have chosen, decided, prioritised, and taken full ownership of my future. With this also came  worries about rent, food, impending unemployment and it’s all been a bit much!

This is how I feel! Photo by Popitz: http://tinyurl.com/jw4psrh

This is how I feel!
Photo by Popitz: http://tinyurl.com/jw4psrh

I was delighted therefore to see the publishing of Stonewall’s ‘Gay in Britain’ report (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/gay_in_britain.pdf). The report surveyed 3.7 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people across the UK and asked them about their perceptions and expectations of public life. The conclusions were bleak. People are considerably concerned about homo- and bi- phobias across virtually every area of public life from medical care to social care, from housing to their working environments, and most upsetting for me, in education. A huge 83% of people worried that their sexuality would put their child at risk of being bullied at secondary school.

This report has left me with a lot of thoughts, feelings, but mostly unanswered questions. Obviously, it is awful that a huge proportion of our community is concerned about such vast parts of their lives, that people may be making choices in response to these concerns and therefore limiting their lives. I wonder the strength of these concerns. I want to know what has fostered them, if they are based in experience, sensationalist media headlines or anecdotes shared between friends. I think the homo- and bi- phobias in school have a huge amount to answer for. Not just because school is hell for a lot of us, but because those hellish experiences go on to shape our expectations and taint our perceptions.

From my personal experience, although I have had isolated experiences of homophobia, this picture of Britain thankfully does not match my own experience. I have spent the last six years coming out in various different contexts and if I am honest it has not often been public authorities where I have faced discrimination, moreover individual idiots (in the street, friends of friends, etc.). From friends’ anecdotes, I am aware that I am in a fairly privileged position to say the least. but this is my experience. This is not to say I’ve not worried about a number of the things highlighted for concern in the report. Of course I have, but it is just worrying because I am a champion worrier, not from negative experience. And, I guess this is why research like this somewhat disconcerts me. It convinces me that I have something that I should  be worried about, and this I don’t like!

I hope that this research will soon enough be followed with some further qualitative research to work out where these worries are coming from so we can begin to tackle them. But, for now, I want to say to the little me’s of the world that worry themselves sick about coming out, about what life will be like as a queer and about how people will judge me, that life is often not as difficult as we imagine in our most anxious moments. Yes there is discrimination. Yes some people are horrible. But, things can be fabulous. Every complaint made. Every person willing to teach or stand for office. Every child born. We slowly break down this discrimination by saying that we will not tolerate it and in doing so we change society piece by piece.

Photo by The Green Gables: http://bit.ly/17e0W77

Photo by The Green Gables: http://bit.ly/17e0W77

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Queer News!

Marriage for everybody

New Mexico gets ‘equal marriage’! Doña Ana County is the only county in New Mexico issuing same gender marriage as you may want to call it. Their county clerk declared their laws were gender neutral and therefore did not permit same gender marriage. Hey gender neutral laws sound like they permit the marriage of any gender with any other gender. Is that the joyous sound of progress? Maybe it’s wedding bells because by the end of day one of this new practice over 40 marriage licenses had been issued. Fuck yeah.

Gender: it ain’t just a girl/boy thing

Ok so this happened last week but it’s too good not to mention. Germany became the first country in Europe to legally recognise a gender outside of the gender binary on birth certificates. But isn’t a birth certificate a little too early to be naming anyone’s gender so shouldn’t we call get to be ‘undetermined’ until we know better? Oh we can dream but at least arbitrary terms ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ aren’t forced on everyone. Would it not be great if anyone could get a legal definition of ‘undetermined’ at any point? As this now creates the legal definition of ‘undetermined’ gender in Germany which these people can keep or change as they see fit this certainly sets a legal precedent that can be developed over time.

fuck gender norms and barriers

Vaginas!

Here’s a fun fact – I used to think vlogs were feminist blogs and the v stood for vagina reclaiming the word from connotations of sexy or dirty to give women a voice. I was really quite saddened to discover the v was for video. Anyway, the University of Sydney’s student newspaper, Honi Soit, also wants to challenge our connotations associated with vaginas so they ran a cover of 18 glorious vulvae in their naked, hairy, different loveliness to show that vaginas belong to women and we can feel whatever we like about them without pressure to shave them, jazzle them or put them in tight clothing for long periods of time. However, the Editors were told to censor the vulvae specifically the clitoris – no one wants to think of pleasurable for the person they are attached to now do they – but when printed the black bars of censorship just weren’t dark enough so the print run had to be recalled. 4000 copies of the paper were trapped in an office after being pulled from shelves but those 72000 feminist vulvae could not be silenced. I have trouble silencing my one. This week that issue is back in circulation with its vulvae proudly on the cover. It’s now sealed in plastic with an R18+ rating which somewhat undermines the intention to liberate vaginas from their sexualised and stigmatised trappings but R rated vaginas are better than no vaginas. Also a quick google of Honi Soit reveals a phrase, honi soit qui mal y pense, that roughly translates to ‘shamed be they who think evil of it.’ Indeed.

Funny Feminists!

So Foster’s (yes the beer people with the sexist ads) have this award called the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier Award) and it’s kind of a Big Deal in the world of lols. This year it was won by a woman, Bridget Christie, for ‘A Bic for Her’ a title referencing the heavily criticised pens produced by pic for women’s delicate lady hands so they didn’t chafe writing shopping lists. I have some that I like to use to write ‘smash the patriarchy’ when the mood takes me. As you may have guessed from the title this show is about feminism, everyday sexism, lads’ mags, the whole shebang. Christie said “I decided to write a show about the emancipation of women and put it on at 11 in the morning. I didn’t think anyone would come, but the audiences have been unbelievable.” Fuck yeah.

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When is a political action not political…

The last few weeks have seen Russia viewed with a magnifying glass. A new law passed in June 2013 banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors (under 18s), combined with various violent acts committed against young queer men in Russia and compounded by the country hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics and naturally everyone is getting a little bit anxsty. This has lead to various public figures wading in to have their say on the Olympics, British celebrities suggesting the Olympics be moved, whilst politicians reject the proposal of a boycott. Most importantly slowly but surely athletes have  begun to take action to oppose this homophobia in what is essentially their event.

First the Swedish high-jumper Emma Green Tregaro painted her nails like a rainbow to mark out her support for LGBT athletes. She was reportedly then reminded of the International Association of Athletics Federations that she could be violating their code of conduct and instead changed them to red “for love”. American athlete Nick Symmonds has also spoken out against the homophobic laws. So it was no surprise that when this week Russian relay athletes Ksenia Ryzhova and Yulia Guschina kissed on the podium after winning Gold at the Women’s 400 meter relay that the world took this as an act of overt political resistance.

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International media speculated that this kiss was the athletes taking an opportunity to send a clear message to the world that Russian athletes did not support the country’s homophobic laws. It did not take long for the athletes to put us right. Both came out to reject the media’s claims, saying that the media were writing ‘dirt’ about them, and that they were both happily married (to other people, I was confused for a moment too). The basic jist being that the media was making a big fuss about nothing.

But were they?

The athletes seem to believe that because their action was not in their perception amorous in any way that they weren’t making a political statement. Because they did not apply meaning to the kiss that the world would not. Now I am not suggesting for a moment that the athletes are in a relationship of any sort, in fact I would go as far as to say that I could not care less whether they are or they aren’t. What I care about is that they, in front of the world, ‘committed’ a homosexual act. And whether they like it or not, given the context, that is a big deal.

I think that actions of resistance do not need to be marked out as such by those that enact them. In the the lead up to the Winter Olympics, given the context of Russia’s political climate, the watchful eye of the world is examining the everyday experiences of queers in Russia. With public figures in increasing numbers making statements both spoken and in small gestures against the state-endorsed homophobia, the athletes much appreciate that such an overt act of same-sex affection is part of the political struggle against the day-to-day oppression of Russia’s queer people whether or not they want it to be. Their action not only heightened the profile of Russia’s anti-gay laws, if it truly was an act of celebration between two team mates then it only serves to show how ridiculous the laws are. How blurred the lines are between the so-called categories of right and wrong. The hypocrissy that says the same action from two married athletes and two teenagers is viewed in such different lights by the same people. Whether or not they like it, Yulia and Ksenia you are part of our resistance.

Welcome!

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No thanks for same-sex marriage

Over the last couple of days there’s been a lot of praise and thanks given. Thanks to the Lords. Thanks to the Queen. Even thanks to the Prime Minister (boke).

Thank you Ma'am

Now I personally think that this ‘thank you’ rhetoric is taking the wrong attitude. It is behaving like somehow the Government has done us a big favour, affording us our basic civil rights. They haven’t. For years they have been withholding those rights, now they have done the right thing. So if anyone has the details of a card store selling ‘Congratulations you’re no longer homophobes’ cards then I will be on board!

Every time I go to polling station I do not feel the need to send a quick thank you note to the government for affording me the right, as a woman, to vote. Every time I am able to open a bank account in my own name I am not over-whelmed by the urge to race towards Clintons. And let’s remember those that are left out of this bill. In particular those people who will affected by the spousal veto on gender reassignment. So let’s not fall over ourselves to thank anyone too quickly!

So yes thank you to all of the fantastic activists that have helped us make the government see sense. For those that helped us take another step in the right direction. Thanks to everyone who wrote to their MPs, that pulled amazing stunts and to all of you that had quiet conversations and one by one changed people’s minds.

But lets not thank those who quietly stood by and said nothing, did nothing, fought for nothing. Simply voting does not deserve our thanks. Let’s be proud and say this is the least we deserve.

And carry on fighting!

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