Category: lgbt

Hymn or Us 2012 – “To what extent should religion influence education?”

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GLYNI StarLast night was the 2nd Annual “GLYNI Presents: Hymn or Us” event at Belfast Pride, and this year, keeping with the religious connections for the last year, the specific topic this time around was “To what extent should religion influence education?” with the obvious focus being on LGBT affairs!

Once more, William Crawley acted as speaker, and a varied and high-profile panel was arranged, including the following people:

Bishop Donal McKeown –  Catholic titular Bishop of Cell Ausaille, member of CCMS and school principal
Caitríona Ruane – Sinn Féin politician, former education minister for Northern Ireland, and current Sinn Féin Chief Whip
Peter Linas – Member of the Evangelical Alliance
Ciaran Moynagh – Solicitor
Shirley McMillen – Teacher, and founder of Northern Ireland’s first ‘Gay-Straight Alliance’ in a school

As you can agree, a good mix of people, with a broad range of backgrounds, from a ministerial opinion, teaching opinion, legal opinion, religious – well-equipped to answer the questions of the waiting audience!

There was no prearranged format for the evening, and no prearranged questions. To give the audience time to gather their thoughts, as well as hear a little from the panel, the evening was kicked off by a question from William himself. The format then really just became a discussion, rather than questions, between the panel and the floor.

I thought that since people appreciated the last write-up, I’d do one for this too. Now, I must admit that I took no-where near the amount of notes this time around, and as with my earlier write-up, I believe I have captured the essence of what was said, but this is not to be taken as verbatim. Due to the nature of the discussion this time around, there aren’t really ‘questions’ so much as just discussion. I didn’t record much of the audience.

William: “Do you think schools are a safe place for our LGBT pupils (and teachers)?”

Caitríona: No, but they are getting better all the time. What we need to see is more progressive acts, like what happened at Shimna, very progressive.
Shirley: GSA are a very simple but effective help, ours is the form of an after-schools club, they have 15 pupils who identify as LGBTQ. Very positive impact, admittedly the existence of the club was used as a ‘slag’ term at first (“Oh, you should get yourself to the GSA!!!”), but now it is accepted and basically normal for the pupils.
Donal: Well, there are many issues that make schools unsafe for a whole range of pupils, not just LGBT. Teachers who want to apply for a Catholic school do have equal access and are not excluded on that basis, or made to feel unwelcome.
Peter: There are many issues yes, including sectarian bullying. LGBT is an issue but there are many stories of it getting better.
Ciaran: Well, there is a difficulty in reporting homophobic bullying due to unwillingness for pupils or teachers to out themselves. That isolates them further, acting as a double-edged sword – they have the choice to report incidents, ‘outing themselves’ and get targeted for being gay, or ignore issues, remain closeted and feel isolated for this.

Caitríona : I hope Donal will take it away with him that teachers don’t feel they can be out and apply for jobs, particularly though not exclusively within his organisation. I hear that a lot and it is very worrying. Shimna is great, it’s radical in that it brings together all the straight people too, which is how we have to keep going – the attitudes and the legislation will only change if we can bring straight people into the discussion on our side.
It’s worth remembering that legislation is only as good as how it is used by people. There is a piece of legislation that does affect schools. Employers have a duty of care, even towards teachers. It just isn’t widely used to pursue incidents.

Ciaran: We need pupils to take the initiative, even legal action, but is this an effective remedy? This is a reactive approach, which is important and would change things, but having the section 75 legislation affect schools would mean a proactive approach and not reactive.

Shirley: It’s all very well for Donal and Peter to say that there is lots of bullying and lots of issues, but LGBT is and should be considered a separate case due to the statistics on homophobic bullying [numbers which I could not record fast enough, but were much higher for LGBT pupils in areas of physical bullying, depression, self-harm, eating disorders] .

Peter: [On a discussion of separation of church and state] My Baptist background actually encourages separation of Church and state. But there is an obligation on schools to support a Christian ethos and to have collective worship. However, there is also a value problem, if you removed entirely the Christian values, some other set of values would have to replace them, what would that be?

Caitríona: It is important that we get represented – get onto boards of governors! They are very powerful, but they are advertised and open and we need a diverse mix on them, as they are the gatekeepers, they hold a lot of power in schools.

Donal: [On whether Catholic schools are giving an ‘incomplete’ education] Catholic education is trying to give an integrated education, with religion as a lens through which to view things. As a vision through which to view the theology of the body. You don’t teach subjects, you teach pupils, and it is important to have a rapport with teachers so it is memorable. On biblical teachings, the idea is that we urge everyone to understand this idea of theology of the body – the body is a temple for the holy spirit. I’m not saying it’s a choice or anything, what I am saying is that you take what is best for your body and what is in God’s plan. With that in mind, the idea spiritually for homosexuals is celibacy.

Peter: [Asked if it is right to ask non-religious people to be celibate based solely on ANOTHER’S idea of the theology of their body] No, there is no point or justification for ‘imposing’ celibacy on people without faith. But remember legally there is a requirement for collective worship. And it is right to be able to teach that homosexuality is a sin under the current Christian ethos.

Caitríona: That is not right, either from the perspective of the LGBT pupils or from leading the straight pupils to believe that they are somehow better than their LGBT peers. You can’t have this idea perpetuated in a school, where pupils easily see all the differences in each other, that some are less – no wonder you get bullying as a result.

[From the floor] Gavin from Rainbow Project: The bishop is being disingenuous towards employment, there are many examples of teachers being told to not talk about their sexuality, where they go on holidays, and held back from advancement. Schools aren’t even made to feel WELCOME to pupils and teachers who are LGBT. This is an easy fix, teach about things, allow posters and leaflets!

“Bullshit!” – Bishop Donal McKeown

Peter: [In a discussion about how telling a pupil in an RE class that homosexuality is a sin could be demeaning or disparaging] Where is the space for some of faith to say that it is not compatible with biblical teaching? Is that disparaging?

Audience: If a straight person turned round and talked about how him and his wife have sex [no, not literally like a story!], and some person replied with “Oh my god why did you have to bring that up? That’s disgusting, now I’ve got a disgusting image in my head” you would call that person dysfunctional. Flip that around, and somehow we’re talking about the dysfunctional person needing legal protection against being called dysfunctional?!?

Shirley: The right to be safe and equal, particularly as a child, well in my opinion and most others, that comes first to your right to have freedom to discriminate.

Peter: [On the matter of parental choice to send a pupil to a school of faith] Schools are a contested space. Faith schools are a choice that parents make, and they have that right.

Caitríona : If a parent were to ask a school to corporally punish, slap their children, it’s still illegal and wrong, despite what a parent wishes. A parent’s wish for a faith-based education is not a trump to rights of a child.

Lots of discussion from the floor. Commitment for Caitríona to talk to John O’Dowd about a specific question raised on the protections in place for home-schooling. An amusing moment where the bishop, in response to a rumour from P.A. on the idea that CCMS is fighting for its right to discriminate against LGBT teachers, Donal simply replies loudly “BULLSHIT!”.

William: Final question, how do you practically make schools safer?

Shirley: Start a GSA. Use the Cara-Friend and Rainbow training packs and resources. Schools make it clear that they fight homophobic bullying in all its forms.
Donal: Make sure all schools have the opportunity to have this conversation. I can try to influence the organisations I am involved in to review the situation.
Ciaran: I will continue to assist legally with any organisation. Especially on section 75. Pro-bono!
Caitríona : I will continue to work in our party to work for all aspects, both schools and society opinions, of LGBT people and organisations.
Peter: Homophobic bullying and language is very unhelpful, and the church has unfortunately engaged in this. I will condemn any kind of language that occurs!

Personally, I hear a lot of messages, good ones, and we will see if it leads to any changing of attitudes within these parties and organisations. I take issue with a lot of the religious opinion, but at least some of what was said was done so in a more respectful way than it sometimes is.

Personally, I think the point is missed that, to be honest, a parent doesn’t have the right to insist on indoctrination of their child to a particular religion, in the same way I disagree with baptism and circumcision for the same reason, when kids grow up they can make up their own minds – and if you were so confident that your religion is god-given and holy and great, they will pick it themselves. Faith schools and religious ceremonies are to me the tacit recognition that most people raised without such ideas would actually think them worth considering later in their life.
I’d not quite care if churches wanted to be able to teach, in church or R.E. classes, that “Some of you may be gay, that’s ok, but in our belief, to stay holy you should be celibate rather than have sex with the same sex. This is in the same way that, if you are straight, you should wait until you are married.” because that is a gentle approach that makes it clear this is only in their belief, and need not be accepted – and moreover doesn’t use the old chestnuts of “sin”, “abomination”, “unholy”, “paedophile”, “bestiality” and others.

This brings me onto an aside – I have to wonder if the opposition to equal marriage is that their main view is “no sex before marriage” and  this is how they justify the idea that we gays have to be celibate. If we can get married, then it raises the possibility that a queer person could actually WAIT until after marriage to have sex!

Anyways, I must congratulate Mark Brown, co-ordinator of GLYNI, on a very successful event again this year, as well as Belfast Pride and its volunteers for their help! See you next year!

Peace, out!
      – Matt

The Dangerous World of Gay Cures – Patrick Strudwick


Tonight, Europa Hotel played host to the annual Belfast Pride Amnesty International lecture, as part of Pride Week. I was at the event and, for those of you unlucky to miss it, I thought I’d take some notes and write up the meat of the discussion, and my two pennies on the issues raised. It’s also the first time in a while that I’ve thought back to my own difficult period, one I rarely talk about from when I was around 14 and 15, where I was involved briefly online with such a ‘cure’ support network.

Please note that, whilst I tried my best to note what was said, I cannot guarantee any of my quotes of Patrick are entirely verbatim. I hope, however, that I caught the gist of it!

A bit of background; Patrick Strudwick is an award-winning journalist, a significant amount of his accolades coming as a result of his exposé on psychotherapists. Amongst others, he has written for Gay Times, as well as the Guardian, Times, Independent and others. It was whilst working for the Independent that he published “The Ex-Gay Files: The Bizarre World of Gay-to-Straight Conversion” which is where this lecture basically takes off from. Thanks to his efforts, the British Medical Association condemned attempts by psychotherapists to change anyone’s sexual orientation, as well as raising flags that instances of NHS paying for these treatments on the taxpayer should be investigated.
His work centred around two “stings” on prominent psychotherapists Paul Miller and Lesley Pilkington, resulting in wide-spread criticism of these and similar psychotherapists, and has prompted conversations within government on whether “gay cure” therapy is valid, and whether it should be allowed at all. It has also seen him under some criticism for his role in so-called ‘entrapment’, and has even been accused by the Church of England, in their newsletter, of being a Nazi!

After a brief introduction, Patrick got right to it, describing how exactly this all came to be. It was a simple situation, he found out about a conference being held in London on the subject of reparative therapy, and talked with his editor about going along undercover to see what was said. He described being “astounded by the ‘hate’ on display”, noting with a little emotion how the sight of a young man being ‘treated’ in front of a live audience is not an experience he will ever forget. Having had some experience, once upon a time during my own troubled days as a young teen, with an email group called People Can Change, I can only imagine how that went, and sympathise with the young man. As Patrick noted himself, LGBT people are not “broken” or defective – the LGBT community has been through so much but is so strong and filled with such nice people, scarred sure, but so special.

He took it upon himself to dig a bit deeper, and asked one therapist, a Dr. Paul Miller, if the good doc could offer him some help with his own ‘same sex attraction’, as well as asking him about other therapists that might help (to which he was also pointed to Lesley Pilkington). Both separately agreed to treat him, and he began treatments in parallel, undercover. Lesley will come later, but Paul was who he talked about initially.

Dr Paul Miller is, by the way, Iris Robinson’s ‘lovely psychiatrist‘. With Paul living in Belfast and Patrick in London it was decided to do the sessions via Skype. Patrick describes the general process;

“They started what I call a “wound hunt”, a cause for the homosexuality. All the usual causes, was I bullied? Nope. Was I abused? No. I was lucky, I grew up in quite a liberal family, one quite modern on views on gender roles. Paul was a bit at a loss. Finally, Paul discovered my father was a physicist and since I am quite an artistic person, he decided that we didn’t bond properly because of the contrast with my Dad’s analytical approach to things, and as a result I had ‘sexualised’ the desire for the bonding.”

Miller described the attraction to men as cannibalistic – basically that “you have sex with a person who has something that you want”, in this case, male attributes, male affirmation and bonding. The idea is very common among the cure lobby (I can attest this was the case from my experience), but I would generally describe it now in my opinion as a pseudoscience. Interestingly, Patrick discussed that, during their sessions, Paul Miller admitted that he still masturbates over gay porn, despite assuring Patrick that he was himself cured using these methods. His other advice to Patrick was to get regular ‘male massages’, in an attempt to get ‘healthy’ male contact (I don’t quite understand how getting massages from a hot guy is somehow healthy male contact, as I wasn’t aware this was a common hetero-guy thing!), as well as being naked in front of a mirror, touching himself and affirming himself of his own masculinity. When done via Skype, it’s all a little creepy really.

It gets worse, after Patrick told him in a later session that his experiences with the mirror and masseuse were causing him to become aroused, he was told to “close your eyes and focus as I talk to you… ” whereupon Paul began to describe Patrick ‘s body, all the reasons it is attractive, as well as asking how Patrick feels about what he is saying. I mean, I get in context what Paul is doing fits with his idea of the treatment, but if it were some guy adding you on Skype, MSN or whatever and complimenting your body, talking about whether that gets you aroused…

Patrick lodges a complaint to the GMC; they commissioned a consultant psychiatrist who somehow concluded that conversion therapy is no better or worse than any form of therapy, as the evidence is just as good for it as other common therapies. Fortunately, Paul is now heavily sanctioned by his body – he how has to have a supervisor in all his sessions!

“Was I a difficult birth? I thought all births were!” – Patrick Strudwick

As I said, in parallel to Paul Miller, he was being seen, this time in person, by Lesley Pilkington; again, a wound hunt, was he bullied, abused, this time a bit more insidious; “I think it will be there,” she said. “It will likely be a family member” and that it will have been “repressed”. Very dangerous words from Lesley, reminiscent of stuff I’ve read about false memory syndrome. She prayed to God to ‘bring the memories to the surface’, as well as asking increasingly bizarre questions, any freemasonry in the family (apparently there is a correlation!!!), was he a difficult birth? (Patrick joked – ‘I thought all births were!’). Lesley instructed Patrick to pray every time he had a sexualised feeling about another man, again Patrick joked with the audience – “I don’t have time!” – which got some laughs.

Where the Lesley case got interesting was what I brushed on briefly earlier. She let it slip about her NHS connections, basically a means by which she got her patients to get referred to her by the NHS, thus leading to free treatment for them by her (oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned yet – they charge!). Regardless, after more complaints made, a hearing was scheduled and cancelled, citing apparent panel difficulties; apparently you can’t have people who are too religious nor “too pro-gay”. Patrick noted how silly this position was, comparing it to how if it was a race discussion you’d not try to avoid using people who were ‘too black’, in fact you’d definitely encourage them to be on such a panel!
The story was somehow leaked, despite anonymity involved, and claims were made of witness intimidation by parties close to Patrick. The Daily Mail reported on the “expert defence witness being intimidated”, despite the fact that in the proceedings, no witnesses had been lodged by the defence at all! Even during the ordeal, Lesley made claims that she could “still feel the need from [Patrick] to be cured”. Top tip – she lost, and was struck off from her professional body – her appeal failed this year!

Patrick commented on some of the other good changes on this front in the last while, such as Core Issues – in April Mike Davidson lost his professional standing after the radio show by William Crawley. In London, an advert series on buses was banned from showing their ex-gay posters. Adam Chambers – prominent in the organisation Exodus International – admitted recently that conversion therapy “doesn’t work in 99% of cases”. In fact, this resulted in a public spat on Facebook with Joseph Nicolosi, who stated words to the effect of “I never said I could cure someone; the attractions will persist in some manner for the remainder of their life”. A commonly cited researcher, Dr. Robert Spitzer (see? I was involved with these jokers!), apologises to the gay community for saying his research led people to believe same sex attraction was a condition to be cured, admitting that the work was flawed (which is clear from the get go, it was not initially peer-reviewed, and when it eventually got published, two-thirds of the reviews were critical of the paper). This makes it all the more ridiculous that organisations still cite his work! Bans and restrictions are happening for this kind of treatment these days – USA, Holland, age bans and health care coverage bans. Even the Omagh Council supporting marriage equality!

Patrick took some time to go onto the really dangerous world of gay cures, with such troubling practices as corrective rape, and religious exorcism. He highlighted that, whilst things are getting much better here, places like Malaysia have recently announced funding for curative methods of correction of SSA, with such statements as ‘curb this negative phenomenon’, or sending 50+ boys to gay cure camp to learn masculinity. In many cases, the choice is ‘jail or treatment’.
In South Africa, a 13-year-old girl was correctively raped for being out. Similarly in Jamaica – women who were repeatedly followed from village to village. This is absolutely abhorrent, and only made worse when a (of course male) US judge make stupid statements such as this, about allowing lesbians in the military – ‘giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream’. I mean, holy crazy-judges, Batman! That’s just mental!
How about at-home exorcism; kits and guides to how to ‘pray the gay away’?

So what keeps Patrick going? Meeting the victims, seeing the damage it has done, seeing self-harm scars, ‘psychological torture’ of those who have been through this. Powerful stuff.

His closing statement; We will never escape prejudice if the idea of choice still exists. That leaves us no better than a criminal who chooses to commit a crime.

The following is my notes on the Q&A session, again I tried my best to be accurate, paraphrasing but preserving what I can, and to see who asked, but I’m afraid I don’t know everyone who spoke!

William Crawley: “A freedom question – don’t they [the therapists] have the right to try, for those who aren’t happy being gay?”
Patrick Strudwick: “No, because it doesn’t work, and because it harms. It is right to help, but not with trying to turn them! For people struggling with accepting their orientation, you can work throught that issue, but not with the idea of a cure. If someone went to a doctor because they were black, saying they were unhappy being black and wanted skin bleaching treatments it would be clearly morally wrong to do so. They should follow the Hippocratic oath; and given that majority of those going through it are left psychologically worse off, it isn’t in the best interests of the patient. Conversion therapy breaks the entire process of good psychotherapy, as the therapist is imposing their values onto the patient. It’s worth noting that Joseph Nicolosi claims not to be religious but in fact is, and the majority, if not all, of this therapy is religious in nature.”

William Crawley:  “What effect has it had on you personally?”
Patrick Strudwick: “This isn’t about ‘me’, but I thought due to my liberal upbringing I would be impervious. But my enquiring nature means the ideas got in, and the messages started to ‘whir around his head’. Caught me off guard. I think to myself ‘Imagine the effect on someone extremely vulnerable?'”

William Crawley: “There are claims often made that this is entrapment?”
Patrick Strudwick: “No, don’t misunderstand. ‘To lure someone into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do’ is entrapment. It was very clear that, for these therapists, this is what they WOULD always do. The GMC reports of 1 in 6 therapists on their books that have tried or considered trying some form of this therapy. Given that, their reluctance to pursue the case might be a matter of ‘if we axe this guy, where does it end?'”

John O’ Doherty: “Were you ever asked to give money?”
Patrick Strudwick: “They don’t do it for free, I had to pay for it. When I first ‘hooked up’ with Paul Miller, the cost was quoted as approximately £150 per hour. When I told him I was an aspiring psychology student, his rate became £30 per hour. It’s a business, less so in UK, but in the US, it is very much about money. Consider particularly the African states, often offering up “the gays” as a scapegoat results in a very attractive proposition for governments and communities.”

Theresa Cullen: “Although its important to talk about third-world cases, we can’t ignore that things like corrective rape are happening closer to home.”
Patrick Strudwick: “High sexualisation of lesbians has happened amongst straight men due largely to porn, where the girls are typically joined by a man later – it gives the notion that lesbians are just ‘waiting for a man to come along and cure them of it’. We should also note the supply-demand loop they create; they claim that gays are unhappy and need treatment, making gays unhappy due to the homophobia in society!”

Unknown: “It isn’t us that need the help here, so how do we shift the focus onto them needing help?”
Patrick Strudwick: “Pathologising them is perhaps unhelpful, the important thing is to keep a positive campaign, saying we aren’t broken, and that all hate is wrong.
William Crawley: “I find it is important to personalise the issue, it’s easy to be homophobic about an abstract concept, but once you have a gay child, friends etc., well we can see what the studies show.”

P.A. MagLochlainn: “Has any connection been shown to the Christian Institute, who have a lot of money, and peddle lies using leaflets and other means?”
Patrick Strudwick: “I don’t know, but there is irrefutable evidence that the American Christian right fund organisations in the UK, they have a fighting fund to fight cases like mine in Europe and internationally. Even some third world pastors have built careers on homophobic rhetoric, because they get the funding that way. Unfortunately, fear pays.”

Unknown: “I feel that, to do a lot of harm, you simply have to be a little intellectually dishonest. Causation vs Correlation [my words] is in a lot of their arguments, particularly about the ideas of experiences that are common to many gays.”
Patrick Strudwick: “Its a way of luring in as a clever trick; questions like “Did you ever feel abandoned?” Well, who hasn’t! “Overbearing mother, distant father?” Again, pick a random person on the street, and they’ll agree! In the same way, horoscopes, cold reading, even religion! If you need something enough, you will find it in what’s said. It’s general enough that something will always apply to everybody. Abuse has been shown to have no effect on sexuality, but admittedly in some cases on, say, your drive for sex. But not sexuality.”

Unknown: “Has any research been done on GPs to guage THEIR prejudices?”
Patrick Strudwick: “Well, I’m not aware, no. GPs tend to not be well trained in psychology issues. I would like to see GPs and even psychologists go through specific LGBT training. Rules need tightened – anyone can currently call themselves a therapist; you don’t have to belong to a body, and even then you can charge for it!”

Fidelma Carolan: “Where do you feel there is a link between legislation and cultural change; will banning the therapy actually stop it?”
Patrick Strudwick: “Well, California has passed this law against performing any such therapy on under-18s. It should not be necessary, psychotherapy should be regulated on this and many other issues, and that would eliminate a lot of the problem.”

Unknown: “What about the ex-gays who say not that you can change, but instead just say you can be abstinent?”
Patrick Strudwick: “As a non-religious person, the idea of abstinence is difficult for me to comprehend. Abstinence means going against your natural instincts. ‘Tolerance of homosexuals but not their practice’ is an awful concept as you are denying many of your own followers real love. It isn’t the role of a therapist to bring someone to such a decision, if someone came to you saying they were being abstinent and wanted to talk about it, sure, help them through the associated issues, but never to recommend it or say that you can help them do it!”
William Crawley: “They see gay is an identity, and say let’s not take on that identity. They say gay does not exist, in the same way as a rapist, you don’t take the identity of a rapist. They view it like an addiction, and say let’s address that. However, some theologians are beginning to come out as pro-gay. I appreciate the off-the-record tradition but it’s happening, even here in Northern Ireland. So don’t talk about sex, talk about love as that is understandable to people, to congregations. It’s easy to dismiss sex, not so easy to dismiss love!”

Unknown: [Recounts a personal story of his religious parents cutting him off upon learning he is due to get married, including discussions with parents around biblical passages] “Gay marriage is not about religion but about love.”
Patrick Strudwick: “Thanks for your story, this is a reminder that it isn’t all ok now, it isn’t easy and fun to be gay. A lot of people go through a hard time. Isn’t it ironic, we are talking about love, and yet many religions reject it! If your god is about love, then what’s the problem? I’m an atheist, but I can’t understand the point of worshipping a god that only accepts certain definitions of love. We must also hold the word gay, as William said, the organisations don’t like the power of that word as they reject the concept, they are terrified of it.”

Gareth Johnston: “It is like a see-saw, and as a tipping point, yes you can take away from the bad side of things, but how do you add to the good side? How do we reinforce the liberal people of faith to influence their churches?”
William Crawley: “Well for a start, and this isn’t a silly point; go to church. In the USA, the statistics show that the more liberal a church, the greater chance of it closing. People (an organisation called Soulforge) actually mobilised to move across the country to the vicinity of the most homophobic church in the USA (next to the Westboro Baptists, at least), and join, and basically infiltrate and change it from within. Even in Northern Ireland, many churches are becoming, off-the-record, much more accepting of gay people. Many priests and leaders have a vested interest in not being public on their true beliefs, and if only they did, they would change the society around it.”


With that, the session was over, and it was only left to Patrick to sum up his thoughts on his message:

“The more people hear it, the happier I am.” – Patrick Strudwick


In closing this write-up, I’d just like to say that I found the entire discussion very interesting, whilst being very familiar with a lot of what was said, from my experience and from media coverage. It was great to hear it directly from the man involved, and I think that he has done a huge service to the LGBT community as well as the psychology community – because in my mind, ditching such dead weight associates can only be a good thing for their organisations!

Peace, out!

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Church of England on gay marriage – the consultation

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I’ve had all day to digest the latest reports, documented in many other reputable news sites (and some disreputable ones). I just wanted to go through and break down the Church of England’s argument all the way down, because it is such huge bullshit. For those not in the know, the UK government put out for public consultation the issue of full gay civil marriage, and this is the ‘official’ Church of England response to the consultation.

The response in full is much too long-winded and pointless for me to copypaste here, but if you want to, read the full document here.

Let’s make a start. First we have this:

Such a move [to introduce gay marriage] would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

Intrinsic? Intrinsic is a meaningless word in this context – marriage is not ‘intrinsic’ to humans as it is not itself a natural occurrence – it is a word which we use to describe a particular set of conditions, and a simple way to assign various legal and tax benefits on a blanket basis rather than a case-by-case one. So, let’s drop the emotive wording. Next I’ll be told flying in airplanes is intrinsic
Marriage DOES benefit society, and so why should gay people not also get these benefits, as you say, for promoting fidelity (which is something that, admittedly, the LGB community gets a bad rap on). And please, don’t tell me I CANNOT procreate. I assure you, I am capable, but I choose not to (for obvious reasons), just like many heterosexual couples. This ‘biological complementarity’ I hear so much about these days is a fabrication – the only complementarity is that, to be crass, round peg fits in the round hole. Dress it how you like, and again, I am perfectly capable of that, regardless of you finding my variety of it distasteful.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples

Bullshit. Are you kidding me? You opposed civil partnerships vehemently! What is that about bearing false witness?

To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships

When your neighbour gets married, does it devalue your marriage? When he’s onto his 6th marriage, is 75 and marrying a 24 year old, does it devalue your marriage? No.
Now, whilst they are correct in that it offers no obvious legal gains, it offers an important distinctive gain, whereby it stops intolerant straight couples from thinking they and their marriages are better than everyone elses. I mean, seriously, that is all this is about, protecting their ability to think they are better than the rest of us.

The Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh.

This is church talk for boning.

Marriage is given that husband and wife may comfort and help each other, living faithfully together in need and in plenty, in sorrow and in joy. It is given that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in love and through the joy of their bodily union may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. It is given as the foundation of family life in which children may be born and nurtured in accordance
with God’s will, to his praise and glory.
In marriage husband and wife belong to one another and they begin a new life together in the community. It is a way of life that all should honour and it must not be undertaken carelessly, lightly or selfishly but reverently, responsibly and after serious thought.

What part of this cannot and does not apply to loving gay couples? What exactly do these churches think we gay people DO behind our doors??? They think we don’t properly FEEL the same way as other people? That we are aliens or something? Maybe they actually just think we are deluded, and when we say we feel love, they go “Oh pish posh, that isn’t love!” in the same way a parent does to a teenager in terrible US comedies.

Who the fuck elected these people to determine how great, how accurate, how REAL my love is?

It is well known that there is a continuing debate within the Church of England about its declared view of sexually active homosexual relationships. It is important to understand that our response to the question of same-sex marriage does not prejudge the outcome of that continuing theological and ethical debate.

In other words, this response to the consultation was put forth not only by a small gathering at the top, but without the full backing of the Church of England, simply because even THEY don’t know their position! As the comment article from the Guardian points out, many CoE members are very accepting and keen to have equality!

This understanding [of union between man and woman] is deeply rooted in our social culture.

Not any more. Society has changed. This point is therefore invalid instantly.

but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society

I never hear quite how. Is this the same conviction that drove people to insist that black people were not good for society?

This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation. And, even where, for reasons of age, biology or simply choice, a marriage does not have issue, the distinctiveness of male and female is part of what gives marriage its unique social meaning.

So, let me understand and be clear – marriage between a man and a woman is unique because it can directly produce children except in the cases where it does not, but oh well? You can’t start by saying something key to the argument, and half a sentence later dismiss it as not really being important! (PS: this term fruitful I find absolutely disgusting, like people are just trees to grow things for consumption)

Marriage has from the beginning of history been the way in which societies have worked out and handled issues of sexual difference. To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged.
To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. It also undermines many of the arguments which support the deeper involvement of women in all social institutions on the grounds that a society cannot flourish without the specific and distinctive contributions of each gender.

Hoo boy… So, in one section, the church has decided that women are inequal, and purports to claim that they are trying to use marriage to make sure women still have a distinct place? How utterly sexist. Presumably they believe that the ‘sexual difference’ refers to a woman in the kitchen, except when she is spitting out babies for the church to indoctrinate.

The rest of the response is about trivial matters, such as current definitions of how marriages are consummated needing changed and it not being addressed. As I said, trivial.


I need say little else that hasn’t been said above. The Church of England is acting irrationally, not even at the will of their entire congregation as they freely admit. How exactly they can claim some sort of dominion over matters of morality, over matters of CIVIL marriage is audacious and mistakes their place in society. Don’t like that assessment? Get over it. Churches are not special, they are not better. Everyone can see that from all the greedy pageantry, the child abuse, the mistreatment of women and LGBT people. You lost your hallowed moral high ground long ago, and you have only yourselves to blame.

Cry somewhere else. Gay marriage WILL happen in the UK. It HAS happened elsewhere, and all these apocalyptic ideas have had not happened. Goodbye, sayonara, adios, hastalavista baby.

Peace, out!

– Matt

Stupidest Cardinal in the world?

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Hoo boy. I’ve reached a threshold of sorts about these religious nutbags.

Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien. You. Are. Not. Worthy. Of. RESPECT. And I will give you NONE. Deciding to take himself to the Sunday Telegraph to bash at gay marriage, this idiot basically trolled the entire country.

I’m working off the PinkNews articles on this issue, and I’m going to discuss his spewings in the order presented in those articles.

Cardinal O’Brien writes: “On the surface, the question of same-sex marriage may seem to be an innocuous one. Civil partnerships have been in place for several years now, allowing same-sex couples to register their relationship and enjoy a variety of legal protections. When these arrangements were introduced, supporters were at pains to point out that they didn’t want marriage, accepting that marriage had only ever meant the legal union of a man and a woman. Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnership, believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, warned that in time marriage would be demanded too. We were accused of scaremongering then, yet exactly such demands are upon us now.”

If we’d asked for marriage then, would you have given it to us? So to be honest, if some gays WERE sneaky and did it the way you are trying to imply, good on them. It isn’t like you haven’t used any dirty tricks, or worse, to us LGBT people, no? But that aside, do you honestly think your “warning” that marriage would be demanded matters at all, that “scaremongering” matters? If equal marriage is the RIGHT thing to do, does any amount of scaremongering on either side make a difference? No, it does not. Your argument is invalid.

Moreover, to suggest that SOMEHOW civil partnerships are “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved” is a profound and unbelievable ARROGANCE that I cannot believe you can even make. You, a dried-up, old, celibate, single priest somehow are telling me that my relationship is somehow harmful, not only spiritually (which was a totally expected statement from a priest) but both physically and mentally. Really? How exactly is my relationship at any more risk of either than a ‘straight’ relationship? I don’t mean offence, but many abusive or manipulative relationships occur in both straight and gay marriage. Shouldn’t you be against ALL relationships? Or is it ok when the relationships create some troubled or untroubled little children for your church to systematically neglect and abuse, sexually? Or did you forget that scandal in favour of a ‘blame the gays’ approach?

Mr O’Brien claims: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists. Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense. But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else? In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.”

Damn right. I don’t care. YES. It IS about redefining marriage. So what? Is your marriage so on-the-rocks that the slight ripple that gay marriage being legal will create will doom yours? And about fucking time that EQUALITY be taught in schools. For far too long, schools escape the rules that the rest of us have to abide by, able to turn a blind eye to bullying on grounds of LGBT, and in Northern Ireland, the ability to avoid equality legislation altogether.

Redefine society? Yep. How horrible that society will change for the better. How detestable that society will become more equal. You see, it isn’t about the LEGAL rights. It’s about how it sounds. Straight people get MARRIED, gay people get PARTNERED. How degrading. We’re second-class, with nothing like the respect that is given to the relationship between a man and a woman. If you can’t see that, well the priesthood must not really care for IQ much, does it?

Words get redefined all the time, and just because something has been around a long time does not protect it from being wrong and incorrect. And while we’re on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, please, quote the full Article, please:

  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
It does NOT say man + woman. It says men and women, plural, and it praises the family, not a defined parental unit of man + woman. Nothing I hate more than someone intentionally misquoting.

Mr O’Brien writes: “Their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right. There is no doubt that, as a society, we have become blasé about the importance of marriage as a stabilising influence and less inclined to prize it as a worthwhile institution. It has been damaged and undermined over the course of a generation, yet marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father.”

What an old-fashioned fool. Did you emerge from the 12th Century? Marriage is about producing children? What about whether people are suitable parents? What about infertile couples, should we nullify their marriages now?

“This brings us to the one perspective which seems to be completely lost or ignored: the point of view of the child. All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father; the evidence in favour of the stability and well-being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal. It cannot be provided by a same-sex couple, however well-intentioned they may be. Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.”

No, all children deserve to begin with a family that loves them, whatever that family is. Don’t use lies and bullshit studies to try to say that only man + woman can raise well-adjusted children, that viewpoint has long-since been refuted. I mean, have you even used Google? ^_^

Mr O’Brien also appears to suggest that gay marriage may lead to three way marriages: “Other dangers exist. If marriage can be redefined so that it no longer means a man and a woman but two men or two women, why stop there? Why not allow three men or a woman and two men to constitute a marriage, if they pledge their fidelity to one another? If marriage is simply about adults who love each other, on what basis can three adults who love each other be prevented from marrying?”

Absolutely. If three people love each other and pledge their fidelity to each other, you honestly think that preventing them from marrying is going to stop them? I’m not advocating for polygamy, but it probably already happens. But for now, that’s for another day. Saying that somehow allowing gay marriage will instantly allow all sorts of other stuff is scaremongering. Fucking hell, look at the fight we’ve had for gay marriage – just imagine having another decades-long fight for polygamy!!!

He also claims that schools will become forced to stock “homosexual fairy stories” in their libraries.

This sounds fantastic. But seriously, what exactly is a ‘homosexual’ fairy story? I don’t know about you, but the biggest fairy story I know, the Bible, is all over the place. Personally, I prefer a story with a happy ending, thanks 😀

He also compares gay marriage to legalising slavery. “No Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage. Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that ‘no one will be forced to keep a slave.’ Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?”

Keeping a slave = demeaning a person to the extent that, unpaid, you have them serve your every whim. If you keep a slave, you are a terrible, terrible human being. How exactly is allowing gay people to marry in any way equal to ordering another person around, with no hope of freedom? I mean, what a lie. It’s total FUD.


It’s people like this that get me angry at religion. You wonder why there are so many people without faith, when you are so out of touch and nausea-inducing?  As my friend Adam said, it’s almost the perfect pro-gay strategy. I’m not sure we need to even say anything, as people like that just look like absolute fools to, I hope, the majority of logical-thinking people. Go back under your rock. Get out of my life, let me live equally and stop thrusting your religion, your sexuality, down my throat. Sound familiar?

NoH8 Campaign – Models wanted!

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NoH8 CampaignDial back to 2008 in California. An idyllic place, where same sex marriage was OK, where there was no irrational fear, at least in the law. Unfortunately, the religious groups weren’t content to let LGBT people have equal rights – who would they hate for no reason? So, in November of 2008, a new piece of leglislation found its way onto the statute books, Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 amended the state’s Constitution to say that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. And, somehow, it passed.

In response, many many LGBT movements sprung up, and rightly so – opposing hatred is the only answer! Proposition 8 got dubbed Proposition H8, and emerged a photographer, in a partnership himself, who styled a type of photographic protest that has gone viral around the internet, called NoH8. The photos are of people, both everyday and celebrity, with duct tape over their mouths, to symbolise their voices being silenced by Proposition 8 and similar legislation around the world, and with “NOH8” painted on one cheek in protest.

An example of the NoH8 style
An example of the NoH8 style, with mouth taped and NOH8 message emblazoned on the cheek! Cute, too! 😛

According to their website, the campaign has grown to have over 20000 faces, and has now accumulated a large number of celebrity backers who have had their photos taken by Adam. The website accepts submissions from everybody, and so many users all around the world submit their faces.

It’s an incredibly simple and effective protest; it is instantly recognisable, and although it originated as a protest against Proposition 8, the message of No-Hate (NOH8) applies worldwide to all sorts of countries, laws, regimes. Yet, I haven’t seen any from any Northern Irish guys, such as the GLYNI members and Cara-Friend volunteers. So, I’d like to offer to anyone who’d like me to take a NOH8 picture for them and edit it, so that I can compile, for GLYNI, a set of our local faces to add to the NOH8 global movement.

Please, I’d like to get as many as possible, particularly from young people and GLYNI members – let’s show that we won’t tolerate hate anywhere, and especially not here!

– Peace, out
– Matt

Categories: lgbt politics

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