Out and about the LGBT web

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This week, equality and diversity charity Metro published a survey of 7,000 16 to 25 year olds about their experiences of sexuality discrimination. The survey found that 52 per cent of respondents had self-harmed, while 44 per cent had considered suicide as a result of discrimination in education, employment or the community. As a result, the charity is developing recommendations for youth groups and other organisations to do more to support the mental health of LGBTQ young people.

The results of the survey are depressingly familiar and are echoed in similar surveys from the USA and other countries. If these statistics are ever going to improve, we need to take steps to educate people about what being LGBTQ means and, more importantly, what it doesn’t mean. This is why expanding sex education in schools to cover the spectrum and reality of modern relationships is so important. I’m no fan of Nick Clegg but I agree with his comments on this issue. Unfortunately, whilst Michael Gove is at the helm and determined to remake schools in the image of his own “halcyon” education from the 1970s (which we all know was a great decade of tolerance towards LGBTQ people by institutions – not!), it looks like schools won’t be changing their syllabus any time soon.

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After steering through legislation to make same-sex marriage possible last year, the coalition government, in particular the Conservative branch of the coalition, are being criticised for doing something of a U-turn on their championing of gay rights. In 2011, David Cameron said he would block the aid increase to Nigeria if it pressed ahead with its anti-gay law. Earlier this month, Nigeria passed its so-called “Jail the Gays” law which bans same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection. Then, this week it was announced that UK aid to Nigeria will be increased from £200 million last year to almost £270 million.

Initially, this news made me angry when set against the other stories coming out of Nigeria this week detailing the punishments being handed down by Nigerian courts to homosexual citizens. This report from the BBC is about a public flogging and this report from Pink News is about the trial of 11 men who, if found guilty, could be sentenced to death by stoning. Both reports are from trials in the Muslim courts in the north of Nigeria. Predictably, the new law’s hard-line supporters are setting it in terms of the nation of Islam against the West. The law for them is just another weapon in their ceaseless fight against the influence of immoral Western ideals that have the potential to corrupt Muslim nations and peoples.

Then, I read this really balanced response to the situation in Nigeria by James Schneider, Editor-in-Chief of Think Africa Press, which makes two points: Nigeria’s anti-gay bill is a political play by embattled president, Goodluck Jonathan, to gain popular support at home; and the West should not cut aid to Nigeria but, instead, ensure that it goes through channels that cannot be corrupted. Cutting aid as a response to the new law will only make LGBT people in Nigeria scapegoats for an impoverished population.

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Israel’s memorial to LGBT victims of the holocaust was unveiled this week. It reads: “In Memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity.” It is a fitting tribute by a nation who suffered more than any other at the hands of Nazi Germany to a small group of people who also went through what millions of Jews went through in the Second World War.

Unfortunately, Israel’s acknowledgement of the suffering its fellow concentration camp inmates doesn’t seem to be consistent. The shine was somewhat taken off this story by another piece that appeared this week about the rise in crimes against Tel Aviv’s LGBT population. Tel Aviv is known for being Israel’s most open and tolerant city but, even here, hate crimes against LGBT people are not taken seriously. There will always be idiot members of a population who are unable to act within the laws of a humane society but when the individuals concerned are employed by the state as members of the police force it is cause for greater concern.

Israel needs to root out this kind of homophobia and transphobia from within the ranks of its officials or any memorials that it erects to LGBT victims of the holocaust are utterly meaningless. I wonder how those responsible for these recent crimes would feel if they were walking down a street and were physically attacked by 11 men for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish. Afterall, that’s what happened to their forefathers in Germany in the 1930s.

As the report about the crimes in Israel says, “Society’s treatment of the transgendered can be seen not just in the attack itself, but in how it was reported in the media – full of either ignorance, insensitivity or both simultaneously.” I am afraid that this is not just the case in Israel but all over the world. This recent interview by Katie Couric with Laverne Cox, which has been making headlines for its insensitivity, is a case in point.

I’m not sure that the Couric interview is really deserving of some of the headlines it has garnered. I’ve seen and read a lot worse by mainstream media. However, I am rather of the opinion that, at the moment, progress on transgender rights across the world is one step forward two steps back, and that the media’s part in that is not insignificant. This report sums up the progress of transgender rights, or lack of it, in the USA in 2013 rather nicely.

Vicious: Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi

I don’t like reporting negative news about the LGBT community, portraying us constantly as victims, but this week has been a bad week. So, I thought I’d end with this piece about a housing project in Philadelphia targeted at LGBT seniors. It’s a brilliant initiative and one that makes perfect sense. Hopefully, the other builds that they have planned will also come to fruition.

Copyright © 2014 Liberation Publishing (www.liberationpublishing.co.uk)

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