Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014: a Gay Year?

It's been quite a year in "gaydom"!

In 2014 we experienced some of the most virulent public homophobia of recent times – legislation denying gays our right to exist, persecution, abuse and physical violence - in a variety of countries across the world (notably, once again, in nasty regimes such as Uganda, Gambia and Nigeria), and yet we also saw some very positive moves indeed in many places; a contrast in attitudes between East and West, between “developed” and “third world” countries reflecting a precarious global political situation that made the headlines for other reasons.

Not least of these was, of course, the seemingly unstoppable rise of that most medieval pseudo-religious (but ultimately power-hungry and politically-motivated) movement, Islamic fundamentalism. With swathes of the Middle East falling to the rabid psychopaths of ISIS/ISIL or whatever they call themselves (and some grotesque public shows of "strength" by beheading innocent aid workers; how brave of them), and the outrages committed in Nigeria and Pakistan by the madmen of Boko Haram and the Taliban against unarmed schoolchildren, needless to say gay people were simply another “easy” target of their anti-Western ideology and violence.

In a reaction to this "fundamentalist" wave, countries across the Islamic world formerly considered "moderate" issued crack-downs and threats against us. Authorities in Cairo launched a televised raid on a gay bath-house; British tourist Ray Cole was jailed in Marrakech, then released thanks to political pressure for the "crime" of being gay (no word on the fate of his boyfriend, however); the world's richest man The Sultan of Brunei had a "Damascene conversion" to Sharia law with capital punishment for "sodomy" being introduced under his dictat; and Qatar, currently engaged in buying-up London and soon-to-be host of the World Cup, was exposed as a regime that issues barbaric punishments upon gay people.

However the mad bigotry of Islamic fundamentalism is almost expected in such turbulent times. More worrying for the West - mainly because of the political and military strife that hit Ukraine in 2014 on the border of Western Europe, with Russia becoming the "wolf at the door" yet again - was the wave of hatred that emerged from the regime of Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Hosting the Winter Olympics at Sochi while at the same time espousing the re-criminalisation of homosexuality, pseudo-religious anti-liberalism and expansionism, the political backlash was massive. Thanks to petitioning by activists (I signed!), a raft of Olympic sponsors publicly denounced the anti-gay laws (including AT&T and Coca-Cola), UK Prime Minister Cameron, French President Hollande and US President Obama and other world leaders refused to attend in person (the US delegation included three out-gay athletes to represent the country instead) and, too late for the Games themselves, the Olympic committee finally voted to include 'sexual orientation' in its charter, explicitly granting protection to all lesbian, gay and bisexual athletes in the future.

Our very own city of Glasgow hosted the “less controversial” Commonwealth Games later in the year. However, this just served to expose the fact that 42 of the members of that august institution who took part still have anti-gay discriminatory laws in force. Thank heavens for Scottish-born John Barrowman, whose very public kiss with one of the hunky kilted dancers at the event's opening ceremony hit all the headlines in an effort to expose this inequality.

There was good news across much of the Western world, nonetheless. Equal marriage – considered by some to be a bastion of gay rights [personally I sometimes despair at the “hoo-ha” that surrounds this single issue when there is still so much bullying and harassment yet to be tackled, but I digress] - became legal in the UK in March, and there was a rush to “take the plunge”, with Islington Council opening its registry office overnight in order to get the first “I do” at midnight. So very trendy. When the law was extended in December to allow couples to “convert” a civil partnership into a marriage, first in was retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas; and Dame Elton and David Furnish were not long after. London’s Southbank Centre went loopy for it, with their "Festival of Love" - a two-month celebration of the Same Sex Couple Act. "The Big Wedding Weekend" featured seventy couples, gay and straight, young and old, marrying or renewing their vows on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall, including our friends Emma and Toby – a grand day out it was, too!

In America, state by state, slowly but surely the remnants of anti-gay legislation are being repealed - same-sex marriage is now recognised in at least 35 states (and Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico), although the legislative process is tedious and there are a number of appeals and counter-appeals pending. Gay-friendly legislation also came into force in such diverse countries as Finland, Malta, Estonia, Northern Cyprus, Luxembourg, Mexico and Croatia, and Latvia's foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs made the decision to publicly “come out” during a press conference.

Despite efforts by the new Pope to force a debate on gay issues amongst his clergy, the Catholic Church (arguably the most powerful religious organisation in the world) remains stubbornly priggish about any moves towards liberalisation. Slowly, slowly, can it change? Our hero Peter Tatchell, a long-time critic of Papal bull(shit), continued to keep up the pressure on all religious leaders in his “annual state of the (gay) nation” address in November, pointedly-titled Organised religion is the greatest global threat to human rights.

Speaking of idol worship, in September five of the UK's top footballers - from one of the highest-ranking clubs in the UK, Arsenal - lent their public support to this year's anti-homophobia in sport campaign, Rainbow Laces. Add to this the “comings-out” this year (shamefully, this only makes four “out” players, with Robbie Rogers of LA Galaxy and Anton Hysen in Sweden) of German international footie star Thomas Hitzlsperger and the lovely Liam Davis of minor league Gainsborough Trinity Football Club, Britain’s traditional home of macho culture seems slowly but surely to be approaching “tolerance”. It’s just the fans to convince, now…

Other notable coming-out declarations during the year included X-Men actress Ellen Page, singers Sam Smith (one of the top-selling artists of the year) and Lee Ryan (of boy band Blue), American football star Michael Sam, Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe and, possibly most influential of all, the chief executive of Apple Tim Cook.

And what of OUR gay year? [Isn’t every year gay for us?, I hear you say…]

It begins with LGBT History Month throughout February, of course. Events we enjoyed included:
We always pay homage to the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHo) in May, even if only by wearing the symbolic orange ribbon – and, even though I am no longer chair of the Islington LGBT Forum, all offices across the council had them on display for staff and visitors to take; I was thrilled to see so many people wearing them.

Of course, the GREAT DAY of the Season is the one thing we always plan for every year. It’s our “Gay Xmas”… Gay Pride in London! This year, our chosen theme was Shocking Pink. I think we were rather pink...

I think we shocked!

All things being somewhat "circular", the year's specifically gay events concluded with the final "director's cut" of the promo video - in which I was a participant - for LGBT History Month 2015. And here (once again) it is:

All this, and one of the biggest box-office smashes of the year was the film Pride - and Conchita Wurst became Queen of Fuckin' Everything!

A gay year, indeed.

Roll on 2015...

Read my other blogs looking back at 2014:


  1. it was a fab year dear - glad to have shared some of those moments with you and here's to many more in 2015 - HAPPY NEW YEAR xx

    1. And to you, my sweet! I'll drink to that... Jx

  2. Wonderful post, Jon, and a terrific video!

    All best to you in 2015!


    1. Thank you, dear - and Happy 2015 to you! Jx

  3. In 2014 I was thankful for your wonderful blogs!

    1. Oh, bless - thank you! I promise to keep it up - ooh, err - in 2015! Jx


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