heteronormative world

I don’t mind gay people just wish they wouldn’t be so gay.

The closet is a lonely place. Really lonely. If you aren’t true to yourself you will never find happiness or love. I spent the 80s and some of the 90s in the closet and it made me miserable. I felt I couldn’t tell anyone that I was gay because of the rejection and fear it would cause.

Footballers and pop stars are no exception. There is an underlining fear that if you do come out then somehow your life will never be the same and that’s true to a certain extent. There is a fear that you won’t be accepted in the wider world. Best to keep things quiet and live a heteronormative life.

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I said it hundreds of time ‘Im not gay’ not only to others but to myself. Its speculation and inquiry that has lead to a lot of denials. Social media rushes to defend those who have publicly denied their sexuality. But as I always argue it’s not about whether someone is gay or straight it’s about honesty.

We value honesty above other virtues. Sometimes it can be brutal to hear but I would rather know in the end. Denial of sexuality isn’t honest with others and most importantly yourself. I have experienced first hand the damage that it can do psychologically to someone who is struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

I watched a programme about Liberace and how he was in utter denial about who he really was and his sexuality. Eventually, his denial would lead to his death as he contracted HIV and refused medical treatment for the condition. This maybe an extreme example of denial but ultimately and sadly it’s consequences.

I think when you are mature enough and brave enough you should tell people who you are. The ones who stick around and are with you years later are the ones who love you. There is a reason why those people are in the past. Things do get better and it may not be great at first. My mother didn’t speak to me for days when I came out to her but it did get better and we were closer than before.

Forward to the past

Despite being stored in a shed for fifteen years they are in surprisingly good condition.

I thought it was right time (along with the other 200 million people) to bring my vinyl collection back to life. At the moment I am listening to a vinyl LP from 1982. I am lucky enough to be old enough to say I lived through the eighties and enjoyed every moment of it. I have loved music ever since I can remember and vinyl was the way.

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During my PGCE year, I met and ridiculed a lovely friend, Jeremy; berating him for having only vinyl in his collection. I was a CD/Cassette man. Technology = good – old vinyl shit = bad. I apologized to him recently and I publicly apologize to him now. I couldn’t be more wrong about something.

I did spend a large amount in the 90s driving long distances. I had to drive all the way from Oxford if I wanted to visit home. According to google maps (I cannot leave other technology behind), it should take me five hours to drive there. In the 90s it used to take around about six. Music was via cassettes as having a turntable in the car would be a little silly.

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So now I am listening to those vinyls from the 80s. I got a Cliff Richard vinyl for my 19th birthday. Hey, you can take the piss but I have always been alt-trendy. Goodness knows what my parents must have thought of me. Oooo, don’t go there. That’s A WHOLE other story.

 

Newcastle another Rotherham

When sexuality is distorted,  a deviant streak is created.

I, like others, are appalled at the crimes that have been uncovered in the north east of England. Men who have abused, coerced and forced girls into sex. Plying them with alcohol and illegal drugs to satisfy their needs.

Racists will, with almost certainty, try to capitalise on the situation and likely be planning a march in Newcastle (I wrote this a few days before a march organised by EDL was announced) to air their righteous indignation with a dose of ‘told you so’ about those bloody foreigners . If only life was so simple as their minds. It isn’t clear cut as that and I will attempt to explain why.

Sexuality and human relationships are complex things and where equality and gender is considered. If one sex is seen and superior to another, distortions and conflicts will arise.

In many religions the man is considered superior to the female. Stemming from thousands of years previous that, because the man is physically stronger than the female, she is therefore considered inferior. A woman should stay at home and a man go out to work to provide for the family. But to most in the western world we know that’s bollocks.

We have progressed and gender equality is written into law, although, as recently commented there is still a long way to go when it comes to giving men and women equal pay.

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There are still those who consider women to be there for the man that they should serve the man. You only have to look at tabloid newspapers and hear general conversation where women are considered ‘birds’ and other words which I won’t use here.

If this attitude towards women is ingrained in a culture as it used to be in the UK decades ago planting yourself into another culture where women are seen as vulnerable and open to exploitation this distortion will occur. It’s no secret that the men convicted in other towns and in Newcastle were from a predominately Pakistani heritage. It only becomes racist if you say that all men from this background are into child exploitation.

For me the problem has been the lack of knowledge and education, not of those who perpetrate such crimes but those who have been in power to stop them. Police and Social Services have been too complicit in turning a blind eye to the problem. They haven’t understood the culture and background of the men and dismissed the girls as being wayward and out of control.

What if then these men targeted boys? It would have been dealt with immediately. The imbalance of our attitude towards each sex is highlighted. You would be considered a pervert if you targeted someone who was a male and 13 years old but because they were female well they get what they deserve.

Our attitude should be that both boys and girls of that age are children in the eyes of the law and that where the investigation should start. People have been for a long time unable to say what they feel in fear of offending a part of a community.

I rang into a radio show once to talk about a restaurant that in was trouble with council officials because they wanted to call it ‘The Fat Buddha’. Officials believed this would offend the Buddhist community. It was absolute nonsense. There was a time when the Buddha starved himself and then gorged himself to find ‘Nirvana’ or enlightenment. In some parts of the world the Buddha statue itself is seen as a symbol of prosperity if the person rubs the Buddha’s belly.

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It’s this lack of understanding and knowledge that has caused so many problems. We have place religious understanding and knowledge of communities to one side and allowed officials to make ridiculous statements and decisions without consulting others first.

I understand how and why these men exploited vulnerable women and young girls. Doesn’t mean I don’t condemn these repugnant crimes. Education and understanding isn’t the same as being complicit or condoning such behaviours.

Good Grief

Who talks to you about grief when you are growing up? When my grandfather died in 1984, my parents went into silence and I was told under no circumstances was I going to see him. Another member of my family experienced the death of a friend and again I was told not to talk to him about it. Silence was the way to deal with grief.

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It was certainly a generational thing, as it wasn’t just applicable to my family alone. You didn’t talk when someone died. It not a healthy way I have learned to start to cope with someones passing.

Jeff Brazier was in a relationship with Big Brother contestant Jade Goody. They had two sons in that time and he was given custody of them when Jade sadly passed away after suffering from cervical cancer.

I always remember that when I was a teacher, there were a lot of lads that had so many problems due to losing someone. Usually a bond between them and a grandfather and the grandfather had passed away and they have an inability to cope and deal with the grief, which in turn, causes major mental health problems.

It’s about time that people talked about grief and I am sure that Jeff Brazier, through his own experiences, will be able to guide people in how to deal with the over-whelming emotion of losing someone.

How do you move on?

I spoke in the last blog about remembering the time when my father died and how it has affected me now that my mother is no longer with us. There are some people who stick to death and bereavement like chewing gum sticks to the cat. But how do we move on?

Firstly, do you want to move on? There seems a thread now in society that if we aren’t at the grave every week or sometimes even every day that we have forgotten the person or the person somehow doesn’t hold the same meaning to us when they were alive. I have seen and read numerous times how families are clinging on to the memory of their loved one in some vain attempt to keep them alive. Siblings forced to mourn for a brother or sister they haven’t even met.

Because you are moving on with your life that doesn’t mean you forget the person or love them less. Building shrines to someone aren’t helpful. I will talk about the person but there are times now after the stage of mourning where you have to start living your life again. Sitting around thinking about the person you have lost all day isn’t helpful or healthy.

I am not a one to shy away from bereavement and expressing the hurt and pain it causes. At my funeral, I don’t want any of this ‘celebration of life’ crap. I want crying and tears. Then when you have done the dishes and hoovered then you can raise a glass or seven and then start moving on with life. I am dead. Gone. Not coming back. No amount of bright colours or waving off balloons is going to bring me back. I might joke about this but I know that a lot of people want a celebration of life and there is nothing wrong with that either. It’s not me and not who I am.

People who post messages to a person on social media like they are looking in from another spiritual dimension can be helpful for younger people in the beginning but again I have read where people are posting messages about how the person who has died will be drinking alcohol and spending Christmas on a cloud somewhere. A bizarre way to view the afterlife and a little childish in my opinion.

Bereavement can cause a whole raft of behaviours that are strange. It’s when that behaviour is unhealthy or even dangerous that help should be given. It can cause serious mental illness and as someone who has suffered from depression for over twenty years I have had to be aware of my own health and keeping that from slipping downwards.

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The best advice I have heard in the past few months is taking a few small steps into the world again but don’t expect change over night. I am terrified of leaving my home town and going on holiday. I am racked with guilt about ‘enjoying’ life. Somehow it seems wrong to have a life outside of mum. Having been her carer for so many years. But if I was to ask what she might say about my guilt, she probably would laugh, and ask ‘What on earth have you got to feel guilty about?’.

She would then chastise me for being silly and tell me to move on. It would have been her way of dealing with things. Dismissing them and then getting on with life. If life was as easy as that I wouldn’t be writing this blog in my living room but in the south of France somewhere.

So you take small steps until you are ready. I went for bereavement counselling as part of those small steps I am not ashamed to say I got help. There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. It hasn’t been easy but I am glad I did it. It doesn’t make me any weaker or less of a man it means I am being honest about what I am feeling and willing enough to take steps to being well again.

It’s been 22 years

I woke up about 6.30am on a day not too dissimilar to this one. Mum had shouted me down to help with dad again his asthma. It had got worse and she couldn’t get him to relax and calm down.

I came downstairs and dad was leaning over the sink holding himself up trying to breathe. I immediately called an ambulance as six months before we had been in the same situation and it was only the fact that dad had got to the hospital in time that they doctors manage to save his life.

I went upstairs to change and said that I would go to the hospital with him again but mum screamed my name and I came back downstairs quicker than I could. Dad’s head had fallen back on the chair I had sat him on and he wasn’t breathing. There was no pulse and we tried to use CPR.

For a moment I ran outside to see if there was an ambulance and mum continued with dad. I couldn’t believe what was happened it all seemed surreal somehow. Eventually, the paramedics came and they tried to revive him. They had asked us to wait in the living room while they did their best. Eventually, a local doctor arrived and must have worked to try and get some response.

About half an hour went by and the doctor came into the room where mum was sitting and I was standing.

“He’s dead, isn’t he?” My mum asked.

“Yes, I’m afraid he is.” The doctor replied.

I can still recall that day 22 years ago today like it all happened yesterday. Now that mum has gone as well it all seems a bit bizarre. Like it should have happened to someone else. Seeing both your parents when they have passed is strange but I am glad I had time to say goodbye.

I spare a thought who have lost children or siblings. How much harder it must be to lose someone you thought that would be with you all your life. Most people don’t get to choose when they die and some live long and happy lives.

If there is anything I have learned in all of this is that only life is priceless. Making each day count.

Open letter to Christian Institute

Dear Simon Calvert,

I write to you today with sadness after reading your article titled “3-year olds referred to transsexual clinic”.

You refer to the Victoria Derbyshire programme on the BBC that discusses the issues that young people have when they know that they are born into the incorrect body. Throughout the programme it is highlighted that this isn’t a phase and something that young people are going through as matter of teenage rebellion or something that they will do to wile away long summer holidays.

“Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute said the fact that children as young as three are being told they can ‘transition’ gender “proves this is to do with adult political ambitions and not with what is best for the children.”

I find this statement to be wholly inaccurate. You are suggesting that giving young people the support they need to cope with the fact that they are transgendered as some sort of underlining conspiracy to promote a cause or someones life long ambition.

You go on to say in your article that in years to come the person will somehow realise that it was a silly mistake and they have transitioned knowing that it is something they didn’t want in the first place. The level of ignorance and ungracious manner in the way that you discuss trans issues is astounding.

I am appalled that you could make the claim that someone life is used for political gain in the guise of ambition. What are the ends of this claim? How does the person you say use the transgendered as a political pawn?

I believe it is yourself that needs to look at the damage that you are causing not only to the trans community as a whole but to those who might seek solace and peace within Christianity only to find judgment and condemnation.

Your sincerely,

Philip Evans

 

RE and Humanism

As I qualified secondary RE teacher I find it appalling that the government have taken out the teaching of those with no belief in Religious Education. It’s almost like people without any faith shouldn’t have an opinion about moral values and life choices. I see it as a backwards step in highlighting the importance of the vital role that Religious Education has in our schools in a modern world.

The terrible atrocities that happen each day in our world cause us to pause and ask the question why? It is no longer the case that our children and adults should be left with the answer that some people do bad things. This is a poor excuse for educating people about religious belief.

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I was watching a programme the other night where they were discussing the issue of child exploitation that happens on a regular basis in the UK and thought myself that certain established religions have a lot to blame when it comes to talking about and educating young people about the dangers of online grooming and sexual relationships for someone who us under the legal limit of consent.

The programme highlighted the numerous times that girls were coerced into performed sex acts on their boyfriends and the blatant manipulation coupled with emotional blackmail that they felt under these circumstances. It is no longer a choice to bury your head in the sand and say that my child wouldn’t do these things and they know better.

Education is fundamental. Talking about violence does not make someone violent. In the same way, educating people about the dangers of sex doesn’t allow young people to think they are entitled to go out and experiment on the basis of the facts they have been told.

Think back to the days of your RE and would you really want the next generation to look at the world without the rich knowledge that RE does bring? Or do you want it to be begrudgingly tagged on the lesson at the end of the week on Friday afternoon?

Shelf life

When I was about five I remember cutting the grass. I was allowed to use the lawn mower. A push lawn mower. This was about the limit of my involvement in the house. This didn’t change for most of my childhood and going into my adulthood. I have thought a lot about my childhood and really wondering what my father taught me. The conclusion is that he didn’t teach me that much especially when it comes to things like diy.

Never put a shelf up in my life so when I ventured to the local B&Q I needed guidance on what I was buying. I have got to my forties and I just don’t know.