Sunday, 5 January 2014

The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true



Speaking of "gay years", and before the misty water-coloured mem-o-ries of 2013 completely escape us, I feel it is worth reflecting on the memorable moments in "Gay-dom" that occurred during the last twelve months...

Highlights in our own ever-growing social calendar included (of course) our sparkling Art Deco ensemble at Gay Pride, all the LGBT History Month events - here, here, here, here and here - Dr Matt Cook's lecture on gay rights in history for IDaHo, the anti-Putin protest, the Secular Europe march, and of course the Stonewall Awards and Peter Tatchell on consecutive nights. But what of the rest of the world?

Although "coming out" is indeed largely a very personal choice, it is always both heartening and inspirational to others who are struggling with their own sexuality to have some notable public figures join the fold. There were many of them, of course; too many to itemise in full (especially the big American names as, if truth be told, I have never heard of most of the ones on the list compiled by that fab blogger Mr Towleroad) However, we were particularly proud of the "I'm gay (or bi, or whatever)" announcements by
  • actors Ben Whishaw, Wentworth Miller and Jodie Foster;
  • footballer Robbie Rogers, basketball's Jason Collins, and Olympic ice skater (US "ambassador" at Sochi, and star of that song from South Park) Brian Boitano;
  • and, of course, our very own heartthrob Tom Daley, who made the headlines - largely in a very positive way - and gave us yet another reason to drool over him. Lucky Dustin!



Even more important than public declarations of sexuality are probably those public statements of support by notable public figures, who are not themselves gay:
  • As much as I disparage the undemocratic figurehead of the largely discriminatory Catholic Church, the new Pope Francis at least made a tentative step in the right direction with his comment: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”. Better than we could ever have expected from his predecessors.
  • Another titular head of an archaic belief system, the new Archbishop of Canterbury said: “It is absolutely right for the state to define the rights and status of people cohabiting in different forms of relationships, including civil partnerships. We must have no truck with any form of homophobia in any part of the church.”
  • Our own oleaginous Prime Minister David Cameron is at least staunch in his support of equal marriage, and on steering the Bill through Parliament said that allowing gay people to marry would "make our society stronger".
  • President Obama made history when he mentioned both the Stonewall uprising and gay and lesbian people being treated "like anyone else under the law" during his second inauguration speech.
  • Of course, it was our greatest political ally on the international stage Archbishop Desmond Tutu who made the strongest statement of the lot: "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level." Wow.
Speaking of politics, it would appear that there is a distinct "split" between the countries of the West and those in the East and the developing world. First, the good:
  • In the UK, we had good reason to celebrate. Although we are already streets ahead of many countries in terms of pro-gay legislation, after many years of campaigning the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, legalising same-sex marriage for couples in England and Wales, passed 400–175 in the Second Reading in the House of Commons. A significant (if flawed - as pointed out by Peter Tatchell) milestone!
  • The whoops were much louder (naturally) in America on the momentous occasion when the US Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act which denied federal benefits to gay couples who are legally married in their states (and at the same time invalidated Proposition 8, restoring same-sex marriage in California). State-by-state, the walls are tumbling down it seems...
  • In France, and in the face of mass protests by god-botherers, the National Assembly approved a same-sex marriage bill.
  • Same-sex marriage became legal in Uruguay, making it one of the most liberal states in South America. Brazil followed suit when it too legalized same-sex marriage after a sweeping Federal Court ruling.
  • With the election of its gay Prime Minister and deputy, Luxembourg became the third nation to have an LGBT head of government after Belgium and Iceland.
  • Not quite such good news in Australia, as first the Capital Territory of Canberra legalised same-sex weddings then the country's federal high court made them illegal again...
  • The UK government also steered a Royal pardon for Alan Turing.
Now the bad:
  • To massive worldwide disapprobation and protests, a Russian law banning "gay propaganda" sparked anti-gay violence and persecution in that increasingly fascist country this summer. The controversy about Russia's hosting of the Winter Olympics continues to rumble - it opens in four weeks' time (without much in the way of an official boycott, apart from the fact that several Western heads of state will not attend the Sochi event, which is somewhat significant)...
  • His disapproval of gay rights was just one of the anti-Western "arguments" used by the Ukrainian president when he invoked massive protests across the country over the decision not to proceed with closer ties with the European Union.
  • Two-thirds of Croatians backed a referendum to ban same-sex marriage in that country's constitution.
  • India's Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality by reinstating a 19th-century colonial era law. The Indian government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking it to review its decision.
  • Uganda passed its long-vilified law with life in prison for "aggravated homosexuality".
  • The Nigerian parliament passed a law banning same-sex marriage.
  • God-botherers were out in force in Kenya, as their leading Archbishop criticised President Obama's anti-homophobia message to African nations.
  • The decision by The Gambia to leave the Commonwealth was said to have also been sparked by their president's open homophobia.
  • The Commonwealth itself came under attack from Mr Tatchell for harbouring a quarter of the countries in the world in which varying degrees of homophobic oppressive legislation are still in place.



On TV, in movies and across the arts in general, gay characters and gay themes continued to proliferate in 2013:
  • UK telly got its first entirely gay sitcom with ITV's Vicious (although the BBC's Gimme Gimme Gimme from 1999 was certainly gayer-than-gay) with the classic combination of Serena McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Frances de la Tour - it was vilified by critics and po-faced integrationist gays alike, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Speaking of vilification, Tom Daley's celeb diving show Splash, despite its almost universal slagging-off has just been recommissioned for a second series - no doubt in part to the newly-out Tom's personal charms (and the sight of D-list "stars" in their skimpies) rather than the show's format.
  • There were recurring gay characters in all the top soaps - Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, and even Aussie soap Neighbours - as well as ratings-topping shows such as Downton Abbey, Benidorm and Dr Who. Real-life gay presenters such as Craig Revel Horwood of Strictly Come Dancing, Graham Norton, Sue Perkins, Alan Carr, Stephen Fry, Clare Balding and Paul O'Grady are considered "national treasures". As for the newest gay character (of many) in Eastenders, whose coming-out attracted homophobic tweets, his on-screen "Dad", the very straight Danny Dyer came up with a rather fab response - read more!
  • On the West End stage - by its very nature, the home of Camp with a capital "C" - gay play The Pride starring Matt Horne won brilliant reviews and held its own gay rights protest against Russian discriminatory legislation (led by actress Hayley Atwell) on its opening night.
  • A movie we have yet to see, Behind the Candelabra (the Liberace biography) caused a flurry of protests when the American distributors pushed it on TV instead of as a cinematic release, thus ensuring it was ineligible for an Oscar nomination.
  • Speaking of gays in movies - and there were loads in 2013, from the niche "art house" type with explicit sex scenes (Blue is the Warmest Colour, Stranger by the Lake, Interior. Leather Bar) to the flamboyant (such as Javier Bardem's character in Skyfall) - a speech by Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal on her perception of "gay stereotyping" prompted this brilliant response from journalist Brad Bell.
And finally, Opera singer Joyce DiDonato - who sang (beautifully) the finale of the Last Night of the Proms - dedicated her rendition of Over the Rainbow at the Royal Albert Hall to the LGBT community “whose voices are being silenced,” particularly in Russia. And here (from an earlier concert in Baden-Baden) she is to sing it for us:



Let's see what 2014 brings.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, that's quite a post. Interesting read, thank you. Hopefully 2014 will see things take a turn for the better, especially in Eastern Europe and Africa!

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    1. Thanks, babe. We can but hope - as much as I dislike the bureaucratic dystopian nightmare that is the European Union, it holds many of the cards when it comes to demanding human rights reforms before admitting countries that want to join (such as Turkey or Ukraine), although in the face of rising homophobia in Croatia, Poland and the Baltic States it may need to gain some teeth. The situation in Ukraine is the one to watch.

      As for Africa and parts of South America, there is little hope of progress until or unless someone, somewhere tackles the evil influence of the (largely American-funded) evangelical churches. And the Muslim world? That is more of a global problem than any of the above, methinks, as the maddest Mullahs always have the loudest voices unfortunately...

      As always, we keep our fingers firmly crossed. Jx

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  2. Wow! What a comprehensive and thoughtful account of things; I really don't know how you find the time but glad you do. I actually lived in Moscow from 92-95 with my Russian boyfriend and the situation was quite different then, it wasn't a big deal at all. It is the rise of influence of the Russian church and a sympathetic political leadership that has changed things so much. It's a shame Medvedev didn't have the will or power to run again. On a lighter note I do appreciate your inclusion of young Mr Daley wherever possible. He and DLB could become the poster boy couple for same sex partnerships if they carry on like this. (And I think Tom's playing the media with an incredible maturity for his age with all this.)

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    1. It appears that whenever discrimination and cruelty against minorities gain political credence anywhere in the world, one has only to scratch the surface to find an archaic belief system behind it. Unfortunately.

      Thank Tom for some sanity (and male beauty) to make everything OK again... Jx

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