Is it safe to be gay in the UK?

A programme title and a question that is asked by some people, others probably don’t care or respond with hate. 

I watched the BBC programme “Is it safe to be gay in the UK?“. I always thought the UK was an enlightened place to live. The UK as a beacon of LGBT rights and champion of minorities. It was my opinion until I heard the heartbreaking stories of people who had been attacked, beaten and in some cases lost their lives to homophobia and hate.

I thought I was listening to something from a hundred years ago, whereas it wasn’t, it was here and now, in the country, I once thought was safe. Gay people can get married and go to bed with the person equally as their straight counterparts. So what is it that makes others feel it’s acceptable to assault others, whether it be physical or verbal?

Having a phobia usually means you are scared of something. I can’t imagine that it’s fright that’s going through someone’s mind, when assaulting another, because of their sexuality.

Being aware of your own emotions and how to handle them is a marker of someone who is stable and mature. Nothing wrong with not understanding others but to attack isn’t acceptable.

The solution is education. Actually being allowed to talk to others about being LGBT. Having others talk about their experiences and teaching others about what is acceptable.

Now that the election is over

I breathe a small sigh of relief to know that the election is finally over. But in my opinion that sense of relief is going to be short-lived. From the results, we can glean that the young people of this country have mobilized and others have stood up to the current government and saying no.

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This country has faced years of austerity where public services have been cut and budgets slashed. People and business are tired of not knowing what is going to happen with Brexit and how it will affect them long term. Businesses, however big or small, don’t like uncertainty.

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What is apparent to me is that people’s living standards will get worse. Things will become more expensive and more than likely we will head for a deep a lasting recession. What people voted for and what people will get longterm isn’t going to be the same.

 

Another Attack – London

When I woke this morning, I was filled with horror to realize that not only had there been another terrorist attack on our country, but my close friends were in London on holiday.

It was reassuring to know that they had posted on social media that they were safe. Then thoughts turn to the people who were killed and injured, someone’s family will be waiting again to hear from a loved one. Not knowing if they lie in a hospital somewhere or are in a place where they are supposed to be located.

Yet people I have seen will go to the uneducated and idiotic response. We have seen a world leader make statements about how all 1.6 billion of the Muslim religion should be banned from his country. How does this actually help the situation? How does that stop the terrorists carrying out such atrocious acts? It doesn’t. Simply it panders to the fear and ignorance.

Whether you like it or not these people are determined to carry out these acts and the majority of the time they are radicalized within their own country. This can be carried out on social media and the internet. Do we call for the banning of the net? No. Because we make the distinction that there is a very small minority carrying out terrorist attacks and not all people using information networks do so.

We understand these are a few people are fuckwits. Nothing else; they have no religion. They have an ideology, they don’t have religion. Greater education is needed of religion and it’s not enough to explain that this is a Christian country. It isn’t. But has been explored and understood.

Stop the world 

What on earth is going on with our society and other countries?

  • Two unarmed black men shot and killed in the USA
  • Over three thousand incidents of hate crime reported to the police in the UK last month
  • Five police officers killed in a sniper shooting in the USA
  • Hundreds dead in Baghdad in a terrorist bombing
  • Two dead at a music festival before its even started in Scotland
  • New prime minister voted in who has a poor record on LGBT rights

These are just some of the stories I have been reading about this morning. What really is going on? Has the world turned in on itself?

Hate is the keyword in all of these. Hating on black people or gay and lesbian community. Lack of tolerance and education has caused this. Justification of religious freedom to deny decent equality laws.

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Let’s get rid of proper education on relationships in schools as we are terrified to teach children to be aware of dangers that lurk in all areas of life. Terrified of standing up to people who spout hatred and bile about muslims or other religious groups.

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I bet not many people know that the Mayor of London met with Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to discuss the rise in race hate incidents that a occurred since the vote to leave the EU. Mr Khan broke his fast during his time in Ramadan for Iftar.

There are those who think that people of different faiths and nationalities cannot live side by side in harmony. There are those who are determined that their hatred will somehow win over the rest of the country. I have said it time and time again these people will NOT win. I prefer to live in a world where there isn’t fighting or death. Where people can share their differences and respect them.

There has to be reform of gun control. There has to be the continual stamping out of race hate and crime. Those who perpetrate these crimes should be punished. Those who use deadly force again another person without proper justification should be made to face the consequences.

 

100 Battle of the Somme

I don’t remember doing any work on World War I at school when I was young. I think we did some on the Second World War I might be wrong. I certainly think that it is important that we teach not just young people about war but also everyone who is living today. A respect for the past and its atrocities is needed for a better future.

The Battle of the Somme started on the morning of July 1st exactly a hundred years ago today. It has been said that it was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of World War I. It is estimated that there were least 60 thousand casualties by the end of the first day and around 20 thousand of those men lost their lives.

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The horrors of the war are just unimaginable. People thought that it would be over by Christmas but seeing the wounded come and with horrific injuries, it must have been a sharp realisation to those in the front that it was going to take more effort and sacrifice than first thought.

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Some of the men were teenagers. A word that wasn’t used a hundred years ago once you got to the age at which you could work which was around fourteen you were considered an adult and joined others at work each day. Young men who signed up for the army before conscription was brought in were trained and sent to the trenches. Many never to return home to their loved ones.

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I think it’s more poignant to remember their sacrifice of their own lives for the freedom we have today. Those who have greed and hatred in their hearts aren’t welcome. Commemorating their loss is something that we all should do and take time out of our arguments and squabbles, however trivial some of them seem to be, to realise the events of 1916.

Blame

There is always someone who will want to proportion blame other than the person who pulled the trigger on the guns. So far I have heard that the police at the nightclub were to blame, the lack of guns in the club and even the gay people who murdered should share the responsibility for their own deaths.

The appalling politicians and right-wing groups that latch on to what has happened and use if for their own gain. They proportion the blame to an entire religion which is wrong. Within most belief systems that there are the radical parts that will use this as an excuse to create mayhem and murder innocent victims. Many political parties have murdered in the name of their cause and under-pinned it with the belief that what they are doing is from god. It’s not. True religion does not kill.

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The key to getting to grips with this sort of violence has to be education and understanding. The Islamic faith does and has to condemn these sorts of atrocities that are undertaken in its name. The Muslim Advocates which speaks on behalf of Muslims in American has rightly condemned the killings of innocent LGBT victims. Something that does not get reported in the wider press and beyond.

There has to be a working together of ordinary people who will speak for all sides to condemn this violence. ISIS and its ideology are evil and that message should be broadcast throughout the world. Allowing the lunatics of the far-right and the homophobic part of the Christian church to use it for their gain should be stopped right at the beginning.

Ordination

In 1991 I completed three years Theological training. It was a difficult time of lessons, exams, term papers and physical duties around the college. I look back on it with fond memories as I met some very good friends at this time and it shaped the person I was back then.

An article on a Christian website discusses the current crisis in the Church of England. It addresses the problem that there aren’t enough people of a certain age coming forward for ordination. It does not surprise me at all. In returning from training I was asked to become part of the church youth group as a volunteer leader it was a certain member of the clergy that was switched on to the needs of the church. They needed to invest time and money in the large youth group it was an opportunity for the church to look at the next generation.

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(This CartoonChurch.com cartoon by Dave Walker originally appeared in the Church Times)

There were some of my friends that did go for ordination. There were some that were unsuccessful in their application. The view of the church that I belonged to failed to embrace the new generation. The old guard of lay readers has barely changed in thirty years. This is unacceptable and should never have been allowed to happen. Now the Church of England as whole finds itself in crisis. The missed opportunities have passed and now they are left wondering if they will ever recover from this.

I am a different person that I was in the early 90s I have rejected the faith that I once had for a rational humanist view of the world. People expect me to be the same person championing the cause of Christianity and surprised when I tell them that it no longer holds any part of my life.

Leave it

There ‘s a cool breeze blowing throughout my house as I sit at my computer near to the front window. Something I know that would be very welcome to a lot of people who are stuck in offices with windows that open less than a cm due to health and safety rules. The irony is that it’s not okay to fall out of the window but practically a given that you should slowly cook confined in the space behind them.

What we desire, want and permissible are not usually things that we think about when we are content in life. To some it is money. To others, it could be the happiness in seeing your children and grandchildren grow up safely in a world of worry and hazards that are all too familiar once you look at the news each day.

I have had a privileged life in the fact that I have been able to get a decent education and afford to live in my own home. Now that both my parents have gone I feel I should be sensible and grown up in making life choices. After some thought and careful consideration, it is time to move on.

This decision I made was twenty years ago and not today or yesterday. I made it through hindsight and experiences I had in the years before. I gave up religion for good. I wasn’t a backslider anymore. Someone that may go back to church after a few weeks of absenteeism. I hadn’t had the spiritual flu or suffered a minor problem with my faith. It wasn’t there at all.

Each day I am reminded that the decision was the right one. Reading the updates about how a bakery in Northern Ireland has appealed a decision handed down by the courts in the fact that they discriminated against someone on the basis of their sexuality makes me realise I am better away from such organisations. I want nothing of them anymore. I have met my closest friends through church youth groups and I have some fantastic friends who would call themselves Christians. But your religion ends where my non-belief begins.

I have no problem with teaching religion. I did it for years in crappy school. But I taught it knowing that I would be talking about someone else’s religion someone else’s belief. If only there was more teaching of decent religious education would we have a more tolerant society? Less gullible in believing that if a handful of crazed idiots were to represent an entire religion then it would seem that everyone in that religion held the same views. I know and have met many Muslims who don’t think that ISIS is right just in the same way that the Christians in Northern Ireland don’t hold the same views as my Christian friends. I can distinguish between the two.

The faith that once I held has died. This means it cannot be revived by any means. I believe that once something is dead it’s dead. No amount of prayer, drugs or electronic stimulation will it allow it to live again. The story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to me is a story. Others might choose to believe it as a literal story. Others will see it as work of fiction.

I respect others and their faith. I have no problem in the talking about Islam or Taoism. I don’t see any problem in talking about it. I wouldn’t mind writing about or making a living discussing them it doesn’t break any rules. Even when I did have a faith I know that talking about others beliefs didn’t make a bad person.

Thank goodness I have left it behind. The petty arguments the church is having over two people of the same sex getting married is ridiculous. I do like talking and discussing religious and non-religious belief I have always been fascinated with belief systems. But to me they are stories. We will see more and more of these cases that I am sure. Where once the Church of England was a great moral bastion above reproach we will see more fundamentalist groups appear fighting their cause. The Church of England will become nothing more than a meeting group for the lonely. Something to wheel people into once a week and then wheel out again.

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?

Freedom

In this country we can say what we like about the government. According to some the government monitors emails and certain political parties. This is is true to a certain extent but they are not stifled as they are in other countries. I can complain about the way in which the country is run and those who are in power and this is a basis for democracy.

There are certain loonies and idiots who will say that Britain is a police state. It isn’t. Look on youtube at those cases where people say they have evidence of a police state. Normally it’s a case where someone has done something wrong they have a problem with authority and the police. They then somehow become criminal experts quoting verbatim laws that have been looked up on the internet or passed on through dodgy sites that complain of police brutality.

I have seen cases where the public have constantly harangued police officers usually on there own quoting the law and trying to get a physical response from the officers involved. If you click on the last sentence it is an example of this where the police are asking someone who is sleeping outside the houses of parliament to move. He edits out the bit where he refuses to give the police officer his name..

That isn’t an example of a police state it’s showing you to be an argumentative prick.

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I know there are genuine cases where officers have acted inappropriately and in a criminal manner but the vast majority of people work for the good of the country and want to see law and order across the land. This doesn’t equate to a police state. I would invite the complainers to move to somewhere like Burma, North Korea or Libya. Let’s see how far they get when they complain about how their country is run.

Terrorists want to impose their ridiculous view of life. It is a warped version of Islam. It isn’t what the majority of over one billion Muslims adhere to. The views of right wing parties does no good to harmonise people. It divides and that’s what the terrorist want. I believe in democracy and freedom of speech as I see that this is a priviledge and also our right as human being to condemn violence.

I stand with the people of Brussels and the people of Paris in solidarity. The terrorists will never win. Using their violence to promote their cause this way won’t bring a country or countries to it’s knees. My thoughts are those families to have been caught in these bombings. Not with the people who brought untold misery to thousands.

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Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

UK-based musical theatre geek previously living with a brain tumour!