Tuesday, 26 May 2009

They Upheld Prop 8, Parallel Universe Version

There was widespread outcry today when the controversial 'Prop 8' law was upheld in California.
The Law, which changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of civil union to non religious couples and eliminated Christian couples' right to join civilly, met with outrage from members and allies of the Christian community when it first came into power last November.
"It's a violation of our rights", Margaret, an anti Christophobia campaigner said. "We're human beings who fall in love and we should be allowed to have civil unions just like anyone else."
As a Christian, Margaret has the option of 'marriage' - a little known Christian concept which would join her and her Christian lover Neil for life "before god". The ceremony would take place in a church and would have little meaning outside the insular Christian community.
Lynn Rushbough, a Queer fundamentalist commentator, encourages Christians to keep their relationships private. "That 'marriage' thing should be enough for them." she said on her notoriously christophobic radio show. "Their behaviour is dangerous to upstanding Gay Americans and to institutions like Civil Union. Some Christians even seek to undermine the Gay moral values upon which this country stands. Let them have their own little ceremony, but don't let them come running to us for legal recognition when they chose to follow such an immoral, ungay lifestyle."
Civil Unions currently afford heterosexual couples the same rights as more traditional Gay unions. However, the apparent backlash against Christian rights makes many fear that even atheist heterosexual marriages may be under threat.

Funny how it's not that way.

They Upheld Prop 8

I'm so depressed I can't even analyse this. Apparently the same sex couples who already got married before the original bill get to stay married. So... gay marriage is OK. But you can't do it anymore because it upsets the Christians. Way to separate church and state. Marriage is a Christian thing now? Watch out Atheists. Your marriage rights could be next.
On a personal note, I know I don't live in California, but as the half of an anglo-american couple it's still another kick in the teeth for our chances of marrying in both our countries. For me to have any rights as an American spouse it'd need to go federal. Yeah, right.

Friday, 22 May 2009

A bit of crossover

As many of you are aware I also do a poetry blog, Chick Thing Poems.
I say 'do'. It gets the odd update when interesting things like poetry nights and competitions are in the offing, and when I need a bit of feedback on a poem, but is generally poorly maintained.
However this little bit of nonsense I came up with half an hour before an open mic slot last night seemed to fit better on this blog.
So here it is.

Just To Avoid Confusion

If you're going to say
"That's so gay"
Please make it clear
That the unfashionable T-shirt to which you refer
Always knew it was different from the other shirts,
Pretended to be interested in being paired
With a nice silk skirt, or pair of racy hotpants.
But secrently it longed to go with jeans,
Chinos or even combats
But didn't want to tell the other shirts
(for fear of being taken to the cleaners)
And so got in with a more colourful crowd
And ended up being dyed a telltale pink
After an ill advised tumble
With a pair of
Corduroy Trousers.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Late Night Ramblings on Sexuality

Once again, a post in reply to the esteemed Dr S.('the Sloz' doesn't cut it, apparently) over at Excretera who, predictably, has called me on a high handed throwaway comment I made in my last post, stating that the coming out process was 'far more complex' than most people think. It would have been so easy to just nod sagely when you read that, Michael, but Ohhhh no."What did you have in mind?" he says. Damn' university professors making me THINK about stuff. Jeez.
Here goes then. Don't come crying to me for footnotes or a bibliography, though.
In the LGBT community, the received wisdom is that one is encouraged/indoctrinated into a heterosexual/heterosexist lifestyle and that it takes a certain amount of willpower to challenge this assumptions and come out. The main problem with this view for me is that it tends to negate/belittle the bi community, as in this paradigm, bisexuals are viewed as people who have unsuccessfully shaken off the "shackles" of heterosexuality, hence the reputation of those people for being 'confused' or 'undecided' which, in my opinion is a load of shit.
Here is the problem. When Stonewall happened, 'Gay' referred to what is now referred to as the LGBT or Queer community. i.e. anyone not 'straight'. Over the years, however the meaning of gay changed to refer only to gay men or to gay men ad lesbians depending on preference. The Bi and Trans communities were shouldered out. I guess it's easier to gain acceptance if you define an 'other' to hate. I have witnessed the gay (male) community be lesbophobic, and the lesbian community fight it and overcome it (to some extent), then the lesbian and gay community was biphobic and the bisexual community challenged and partly overcame THAT. Now the LGB community is pretty transphobic, and those full on transsexuals who have been accepted 'into the fold' can be pretty prejudiced about genderqueer people. So the original writings about being gay and coming out were actually more inclusive than current writings using the same terminology are.
Also, coming out as 'not straight' represent leaving the in crowd, the tribe, the mainstream. Doing so to self-identify as having a fluid sexuality (that sounds dirty...) is frightening because there is no cohesive group to run 'to'. Therefore, if you are questioning your sexualtiy it is much easier to identify as gay/lesbian and repress your opposite-sex attraction and have the inclusivity of the gay community, rather than be left to flail around being hated by both extremes. Because that's what they are. They are not the two choices you have, they are the safety-in-numbers ends of the continuum.
Personally speaking, I self identify as lesbian, not bisexual. But I like the iDEA of heterosexuality. It's just that the practice doesn't do much for me. This leads me to another complicating factor, which is that, in our society, a lot of our sense of worth is based on the approbation of the opposite sex. As a lesbian I don't want men to hit on me but as a woman in this society, there's a part of me that's offended when they don't. Many, MANY gay men I have known enjoy 'joke' flirting with lesbians and 'fag hags'. They like the female attention because they have been socialised to need that attention to tell them that they are successful/'real men'.
Those people I know who have come out into nontraditional sexuality/gender roles have generally done so something like this. "I'm straight! No, I'm gay! No, bi! wait... am I definitely male? Please refer to me as she...some of the time... (headfuck commences)...you know what? I hate labels." It takes guts to come out as gay. It takes incredible self assuredness and assertiveness which I can barely even DREAM of to come out as something that doesn't have a solid definition in our society. Because then, the only label people can find to stick on you is 'other', making you everyone's favourite hate-object.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Our Complicated Lexicon

This post is in response to the comments on this post on Michael Szollosy's blog Excretera (which, by the way, is excellent, though a working - or at least idling - knowledge of psychoanalytic theory helps.)

It was getting too complicated to further hijack the Sloz's comments, so here's the deal.
'Go gay' and 'Turn gay' are both used quite derogatorily (word? word.)to imply that a person has been in some way corrupted into homosexuality. The reason is that both phrases rest on the heterosexist assumption that everyone starts out straight by nature, but some people deviate form this natural form to embrace alternative sexualities by their own volition.

Similarly the concept of 'turning someone gay' or 'making someone go gay' implies that gay people are recruited by predatory gay types who have already 'turned' or 'been turned' themselves.
The preferred term is 'coming out' or 'identifying one's sexuality'. This is because the favoured thinking is that people come to a realisation about a pre-existing sexuality which ahs previously been ignored or repressed because of insidious cultural pressure to be heterosexual. I don't know if this is the case, but it is the hegemony within the LGBT community. Myself, I suspect things of being FAR more complex.
That said, 'turning (someone) gay' is no more or less heterosexist a phrase than 'going gay'. I just think that as long as we're talking in those terms, the former is more elegant.

Similarly I would speak of 'turning someone vegetarian' rather than 'making someone go vegetarian'. If I were vegetariphobic...

Incidentally, for the benefit of other readers, Michael is totally down with the gays and all that. It was ME who started all this gay stuff, because he nicked the joke about getting a toaster oven for recruitment of lesbians (first used on the 'Puppy' episode of Ellen. Don't mess with a girl who simultaneously came out and did a Media Studies A-level in 1999!) to deprecate his own militant vegetarianism. (Yes, Michael, a salad spinner it is - If I ever do turn to the dark green side, yours will be in the post.) I still think tofu tastes of sick, but am, for the record, starting to regard my meat addiction as a vice rather than a virtue.

Thankyou for your time


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Thoughts on ID cards.

OK, so not strictly about language, but maybe about definitions...how we define ourselves...identity and language are linked, right?
Yeah, that's not tenuous at all.
Anyway. National ID cards, Personal Information database. The UK Government are trying really hard to get this stuff through and every fibre of my being cries out against it. I don't know which is more scary, the idea of an inept government - who leave sensitive information on laptops on trains, and lose CDroms with the names and addresses of every parent in the country - having all my personal details on a database, or the idea of a more efficient government one day having the same thing. Lets think about regimes known for valuing order and efficiency and wanting everyone to carry their Papiere - sorry, papers - around with them. Not good, is it?
And then there's the cards themselves. HOW do these prevent identity theft? By putting your identity on a handily stealable pocket sized bit of plastic? It just seems doomed from the start as any kind of a plan.
But it will happen. Mark my words.
How do I know? Because as a nation we like cheap booze. The government now sanctions shops and supermarkets VERY heavily if they are caught selling drink to anyone who MIGHT be underage. Stay with me here: it's all connected. I can't imagine that the government want us to stop buying booze. Real ales, for example, are one of the few surviving british exports. The taxes they stick on alcohol have got to be pretty useful too. The health service keep lobbying for booze to get more expensive and more difficult to buy in bulk but from what I've seen it's only getting cheaper.
But in order to pacify the health lobby, the government promises to get tough on underage drinking.
How can we curb underage drinking? Ask everyone to show ID when they buy beer.
Ah HA!
Seriously. It's doing my head in. I'm THIRTY! My partner is 33! We tried to by a measly bottle of wine at the supermarket. The wife had TAUGHT one of that outlet's cashiers (who irritatingly wasn't in that day) for five years. And because neither of us carry ID, we couldn't have wine. I'm not going to carry my passport around. It costs like £100 to replace if I lose it. I don't drive. So now I can only buy the crap, overpriced wine at the local shop where they know my face.
Standing in the city centre with my partner, wineless and ranting with frustration, I'd've given ANYthing for an ID card at that moment.
And that is why it will happen.
Just watch.
As a side note: When the NO2I.D. campaign ask you to sign a petition, and you do, and you put your address and postcode, aren't you creating a database of your personal details and SENDING IT TO THE GOVERNMENT?
How much of an own goal is that?

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Poet Lesbian

So, we have a new Poet Laureate in Britain. It's an odd role. You're supposed to be the official poetic voice of the nation. Traditionally the job description includes poets for state occasions like royal weddings and coronations. More traditionally, the job is usually held by a straight white male.
When Ted Hughes - who held the post for a few years and incidentally, was the-crappest speaker and performance poet I have ever seen - died, there were a lot of problems filling the post. Any poet who was any good, (e.g. Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy) wouldn't touch it because of the restrictions on their style. In the end it went to Andrew Motion, a poet who is willing to write to order but, frankly, writes verse that provides a perfect opportunity to use the word anodyne. He was commissioned to write a poem which would then be printed on the side of one of Sheffield universities. As my friend Graeme put it "I resent the time that stopping to read it took out of my life." Now, however, he (Motion, not Graeme) has thrown in the slightly limp towel and resigned from the post. The new PL is... Carol Ann Duffy. Apparently The Establishment decided that giving the Poet Laureate more freedom would result in.... better poems, and removed the 'obligatory fawning poem about the baby prince's first spit-up' clause. Duffy, after being approached again with the more relaxed terms of employment, took the post on the advice of her 13 year old daughter, who pointed out that she would be the first woman to hold the post.
And that's what the headlines are saying. First Woman Poet, First Northern Poet, First Scottish Poet (Techincally she IS Glaswegian, but is more obviously a Manchester poet than anything else). But so far only the international and gay press have stated what is, to me, the biggest milestone: Carol Ann Duffy is openly gay. Woman's Hour on Radio 4 interviewed the poet, about her perspective as a woman writer, with an emphasis on motherhood. Duffy mentioned winning a women's poetry contest in the 80s and being shocked to hear herself referred to as a "poetess". The weird quaintness of this word does imply the idea of a sweet amateur writing rhymes about buttercups, kittens and unrequited love. I can see why she doesn't like it. But is the wholesale avoidance by the British press of the words 'gay' and 'lesbian' an attempt to encourage the public to see her as 'just a poet' (in which case why on all the focus on her gender and nationality)
Or do they just not want to frighten the horses?
Some of Duffy's most famous works deal with sexuality. Warming Her Pearls, The Laughter of Stafford Girls High, From Mrs Tiresias... All received huge acclaim and are full of female, lesbian sensuality. In her new role, will she be forced to write 'straight'?
And if she doesn't, will everyone just pretend it's not happening?