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A Brit Queer: Why are people concerned about LGBTQ+ rights in the wake of the UK election?

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Hello and welcome to A Brit Queer, where a queer woman from Britain splits her time between discussing fun stuff like TV shows and events and serious stuff like the political and social issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in Britain.

Some columns will focus on the lighter side of being gay in the UK, like praising medical drama Holby City for tackling two separate storylines dedicated to same-sex couples at the same time because that level of representation was not something I expected.

However, this is not one of those times.

Today, we’re going to talk about the recent UK elections and what that means for the LGBTQ+ community. I know, I know, I’m a little late to the party, but give me a break, Travel Pride only just launched.

So you’ve probably seen some very confusing coverage of our June election (especially if you live outside of the UK) and I’ll try to break it down as quick as possible.

Wtf happened in the UK election?

House of Commons Chamber- UK Parliament via Wikipedia

First, no single party achieved the 326-seat majority needed to form a government, which resulted in a hung parliament (no, not like that).  You need to get 326 seats in the House of Commons (our elected legislative chamber) because that is exactly half the total seats plus one.

The Conservative Party did, however, get the most number of seats in the election (318) and therefore they get to form a government. They can either rule as a minority government and risk the all the other parties banding together to vote their bills down or seek an alliance with another political party.

Trouble is, our last coalition government was not particularly favourable (I mean, it’s referred to as the ConDem coalition) and the Liberal Democrats, who partnered with the Conservatives, have not really recovered.  In 2015, the first election after the coalition, the Lib Dems plummeted from over 50 seats in the HOC to just eight.

So, the Lib Dems haven’t really been champing at the bit to help out this time. Plus, their current (but soon-to-be-replaced) leader Tim Farron faced a lot of deserved criticism for the time he took to say that being gay wasn’t “sinful” and his voting record on LGBTQ+ rights.

Do not adjust your screen, this really is the 21st century.

So the Conservatives are seeking an alliance with is the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, who are the only other right-of-centre party to have seats in the HOC.

The trouble is, the DUP have views that are significant to the right of the Conservatives on a few issues, specifically women’s rights to reproductive health, LGBTQ+ rights in general, whether climate change is happening and whether evolution is real.

I’ll give you a minute to stop rolling your eyes.

What does this mean for LGBTQ+ rights?

People are rightly worried about what this means for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the environment, especially when you consider that the UK now has to start negotiating Brexit and gets to decide which laws from the EU that we will and will not keep.

Leaving aside, environmental rights and women’s rights for a hot second, many of the UK’s current LGBTQ+ protections are derived from the EU, such as the right not to be fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and if the DUP wanted, they could influence the Conservatives to weaken or scrap these laws.

I mean the DUP gained Northern Ireland’s exemption from the UK’s equal marriage ruling of 2013, when no one really wanted anything from them, despite the other political party in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, supporting same-sex marriage.

Luckily, as of yet, the DUP have not been given positions of power within the Cabinet. I mean, it was unlikely because Labour would not be able to form a majority, but it still scared me sh*tless on June 9. However, the DUP has just scored £1bn from the Conservatives and it is likely that over the course of the current Parliament, the DUP will want more.

Nigel Dodds MP- Northern Ireland Executive via Flickr

Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP for Belfast North, said, during the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new Parliament, that the money in his constituency would go towards mental health services in Northern Ireland.

That all sounds fantastic, but you know what? LGB people in the UK are twice as likely as straight people to suffer from depression, have suicidal thoughts, and attempt suicide and the rates are even higher for trans people.

Let’s be clear, there are many contributing factors for depression (and I don’t claim to be an expert) but I think we can all see that any existing depression is exacerbated when your elected official is voting against your f*cking rights and when others in his party are describing you as an “abomination”. Like…I can’t… It’s…Urrgh!

What can you do?

If you live in the UK, please write to your MP (especially if they’re a Tory) and explain why you are concerned about a #MayDUP coalition. Remember to be polite, even if you’re angry because it’s more likely they will take you seriously.

Outside of the UK but still worried about a homophobic, sexist voice in the ear of our Prime Minister? Share this with your British friends and ask them to contact their MP.

Tune in next week for a (hopefully) happier column of A Brit Queer, perhaps something about the 50 Shades of Gay Season on Channel 4.

Originally posted 2017-07-11 20:35:53.

Emma is a queer British freelance writer specializing in politics, travel, and entertainment. Barack Obama (yes, that one) follows her on Twitter and she’s never been sure why. She takes her coffee seriously and wears odd socks because life’s too short.

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Salem, MA: Connecting Queer History with our Queer Present

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Salem, Massachusetts is a city steeped in a rich, tragic history. Rather than shy away from the crimes and hysteria that made the city infamous, Salem has embraced the tragedy that plagued it that one summer in 1692, and has since committed itself to helping visitors learn from their ancestors’ mistakes.

The History of Salem

Salem was founded by Puritans from England in 1626. Originally split into Salem Town and Salem Village, the city had a clear distinction between the upper and lower classes, which was a huge factor in the mass hysteria that swept over the city in 1692.

The witch hunts that overtook Salem began when higher class girls accused lower class women of being witches and consorting with the devil. The accused women were helpless in numerous ways; their families had no money to pay for them to get out of jail, and there was a general and deep-seated distrust of the lower class, mixed with pervasive sexism. Low class women were already a disliked minority. When the accusations began, they became a hated minority.

The trials ended when the governor’s wife was accused of being a witch. Thus, the attitude towards the witch hunts changed completely. It was all right when a low class woman was accused because she could not defend or save herself, and it made sense that someone so low would betray their town and their religion by making deals with the devil. A higher class woman had the power to alter the conversation around the witch trials and ultimately bring them to an end.

Outcasts Unite

It’s no secret that Salem has a very queer history. That one odd summer put the city on the map as a home for the marginalized and the outcast, and therefore serves as a safe haven for minorities–especially the LGBT+ community–even today. Rainbow flags hang from every other store and restaurant window, and citizens walk comfortably in all manner of dress and costume.

The atmosphere in Salem makes it an extremely comforting place to live and visit. There is a complete lack of judgement that directly counters the city’s historical hysteria. What was once a place of fear has become a place of joy and acceptance.

We Are Not our Ancestors’ Mistakes

Since the trials, Salem has learned from their ancestors’ mistakes and have dedicated their city to educating tourists and natives alike about the dangers of mass hysteria and the susceptibility of minority groups. The constant message at the end of every historic tour or museum warns everyone to not let history repeat itself. Unchecked fear and distrust of minorities can only lead to the destruction of a town or city’s integrity.

Salem’s rich history and accepting atmosphere make it an amazing city to visit and learn more about the history of the oppressed. Share with someone you think will want to know more about the connection between Salem’s queer past and our queer present!

Originally posted 2017-10-31 19:24:41.

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The Innate Power of Travel: Benefits of Booking Your Next Getaway

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Traveling is an experience that can be collectively summed up in one word: Awesome.

Not only does everyone want it, but traveling is full of benefits that nourish every part of you- mind, body and soul. For many, travel is simply an aspiration, something that will happen someday. Due to the many advantages of it, travel should be prioritized as a necessity.

Traveling can help guide a wanderer or lost soul down the right path in life. When you travel, you’re met the the vastness of the world, and the realization of how small you are in it. If you’ve been feeling misguided lately, here are a few reasons to make travel a priority, if you haven’t already.

A Break in Schedule

When you’re away from home, you’ve cut all ties of your daily routines. This time leaves you with an independence that you don’t normally have. Use it. Traveling can pull you in directions that you may not have considered before, since you’re whisked away from your everyday normalcy. When your brain is replaying the same routine over and over, it can become dull. Take advantage of the break in schedule: How does it make you feel? What do you want to do most? What habits have you adopted during your time away?

Growth in decision making

When you’re traveling to a foreign place, you’re forced to put your best judgement forward and make on the spot decisions, and this helps you grow mentally. Whether it’s using the metro for the first time, hopping onto your connecting flight, or attempting to communicate in a foreign language, you are forced to rely on your knowledge and instincts. Whatever it is you’re doing, these lessons help you learn to take life one uncertainty at a time. With every step, you’re growing as you weave your way through your voyage. You’ll become more aware of yourself, too. As you view yourself from a 3rd perspective, take notes about yourself as person- what qualities have you let go of since you’ve been gone? Have you improved in certain areas? Lacked?

Human connectedness

When you’re around people of different cultural dynamics, there’s a deep understanding of humanity’s connection that happens. The paradigm of human connectedness, or as Lifehack reports, synchronicity and serendipity, becomes very distinguished during travel. Humans are connected through energy. This connection will foster, and fill you with a new appreciation for life. Since traveling is a permissive experience, you’ll acknowledge a new zest for life with every new experience that comes your way.

A trust in your senses

When you’re in unfamiliar territory, you’ll be able to explore life with more of your senses. You will master the know of how to act, who to trust, where to go. Follow your gut, your spirit, and most importantly, your heart. Within you, you find the answers to help discover a new, unfamiliar world.

Finding your inner self

We’ve all heard stories of running away to find your inner self. When you’re out in a place where you’re forced to be you, it becomes much easier for the real you to emerge. There are no need for masks and façades when you’re traveling; You are not at home, you aren’t being judged by the community around you, and you can let the compulsion of showing off who the world perceives you to be, go.

Allowing this freedom to envelop you will help you discover more about who you are. Your problems will seem minute. Those demons you’ve been battling within you the past couple months? Gone. Just like that. When you’re traveling, you recognize how very interstitial your world, and diversities, really are. Issues that originally seemed unforgivable seem to melt away with every scenic adventure.

A well-deserved rest

Your brain, like the rest of your body, needs rest. With how busy we are nowadays, it’s very easy to skip practicing mindfulness and giving your brain a well-deserved break. When you travel, your mind is able to enjoy a restful period of less stress, new discoveries and develop a deeper mental/spiritual connection with your body. Travel reduces stress as well as, surprise surprise, depression. Studies have shown that travel and emotional health are linked. If you’ve found yourself in a funk lately, embarking on a new travel-adventure will surely help you climb your way out of it.

When you’re trying to find meaning in your life, travel can certainly help point you towards the right direction. On your journey you will recognize the things that are most important to you. Take the snapshots, taste the cake, wake up the extra hour; The more memories the better. When you look back at these moments you’ll find that there was a purpose for each and every one.

Life is made up of many little adventures, but it’s up to you to make the most out of your destinations.

This article was originally posted on my personal blog.

Originally posted 2017-10-28 20:38:27.

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A “Brief” History of LGBT Book Censorship

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A few weeks ago was banned book week, a time where we celebrate and fondly read, a little out of rebel instinct, such classic banned books as Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. However, it is a good time to look at what books still get banned today. Yes, even in the Good Ol’ U.S.A we still ban books.

The trend in banned books in the 21st century is a little disturbing. According to the American Library Association (ALA) Top Ten List in 2016, half of the books on the top ten list, the top five to be exact, were challenged because of LGBT characters and mentioning trans characters. Books like This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jenning.

This is not the first time that LGBT books and writers have been banned or challenged by the public, since the Renaissance. So, for LGBT history week, let’s take a look at some of the popular and extreme classes of LGBT censorship.

The Poetry of Sappho 570 BC (but censorship probably happened during the 14th century)

Oh, if you have not heard of Sappho my friends, you are in for a treat. Sappho was a Greek poet who lived on the island of Lesbos, which, fun fact, is where we get the term Lesbian, because her poetry was all about loving women, in every sense of the word. In her day, her work was extremely popular, being required reading for Greek Citizens and praised by Plato himself as the tenth Muse. It’s said that she wrote nine volumes of poetry. Unfortunately, most of that is lost, with only fragments and one full poem remaining.

So what happened?

Censorship, that’s what. Historians suspect that Sappho’s work had been censored or destroyed by leaders of the early Roman Catholic and Byzantine churches in order to destroy Sappho’s message of erotic female love, paganism, and just female empowerment. It also could be assumed that, until the invention of the Gutenberg Press, most Ancient Writings was copied out by hand by monks, who were bothered and intimidated by Sappho and her lady love and refused to copy it, or censored out all the gay parts.

However, in 1960, Sappho was saved from obscurity when Mary Barnard, a poet, and English-to-Greek translator, reintroduced Sappho to the reading public by translating her work using fresh language that better reflected the clarity of Sappho’s lines, thus creating new interest in Sappho’s poetry, which you can find here.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855)

Leaves of Grass is a collection of poetry which, just like Sappho, was censored for its homosexual themes and sexual imagery. So much so that Walt Whitman could not get a publisher for his work and had to self-publish his poems. During his lifetime, his poetry was heavily critiqued. When the poetry collection was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior when his boss read it and found it offensive. Literary critics thought the homosexual themes and images in the collection were “disgusting.” However, Whitman always believed that he would be accepted by the American people, and today Leaves of Grass is considered one of the most important collections of American poetry.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde (1895)

It feels like Oscar Wilde was legit the embodiment of the term “Too Gay to Function.” When Wilde first took his book The Picture of Dorian Grey to publishers, they thought the book was good, but a little too gay for sensitive Victorian readers. So Wilde cut out about 500 words from his already short novel. It was published which led to a huge public outcry because it was “still too gay.” It was taken out of print and Wilde rewrote a lot of his novel, changing it from 13 chapters to 20 and doing much more character development. It was published again and the Victorian people rioted, “It’s still too damn gay!”

Oscar Wilde was gay and as open about it as a person living in Victorian times could be about it. Because of this openness, Wilde was put on trial not once, but three times, for being gay. During his three trials, the opposing side read aloud from “Dorian Grey” calling it a “sodomitical book.” Wilde tried to defend himself by saying the book is about art for art’s sake, not to have some kind of meaning, and that an artist’s rights should be defended. Basically kind of saying, “if you think it’s gay then you’re gay.”

This didn’t work. Wilde was sentenced to two years in prison and died in exile at the age of 46.

An article from the New Yorker may have put it best: Wilde went to prison not because he loved young men but because he flaunted that love, and “Dorian Gray” became the chief exhibit of his shamelessness.”

Screen Adaptions to Tennessee Williams’ Work (1950’s-1960’s)

I think my favorite saying of all time is “That’s not what happened in the book!” We are all familiar with certain changes that happen when we adapt a book into a movie. White-washing is a very popular (though it shouldn’t be) trend that happens. There is also a thing such as straight-washing, where a gay character is made straight or their sexuality isn’t stated, and that’s what happened with Tennessee Williams’ famous plays A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof when Hollywood got a hold of it.

Tennessee Williams was a gay playwright, active in the 1940’s-1970’s, where it was still not okay to be out. Williams channeled his own sexuality into his work, mentioning, or at least implying, gay characters in his work. For example, the main character, Brick, in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof who was in love with his now-dead best friend, Skipper, and the play itself having heavy homosexual themes. There is a rather long monologue in A Streetcar Named Desire where Blanche talks about her dead husband who killed himself after people found out he was gay.

These plays were extremely popular, so Hollywood quickly snatched them up to make them big pictures. However, due to the Hollywood mortally code at the time, they couldn’t mention homosexuality in any of their movies. So Blanche’s husband was cut, and Brick was made totally straight.  

Tennessee Williams was reportedly so upset with the changes made in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that he told people “This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!”

Tango Makes Three and Other Children’s Books (2000’s)

While books are no longer being banned on a government scale, they’re being challenged at the community level, in small libraries all over the country. Most of the books that are being challenged in America today are about gay families. The most famous example is the children’s book Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell, a story about two loving penguin parents that happen to both be male.

It’s number four on ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged books:2000-2009. Also challenged are the books “Heather has two mommies” and other stories that normalize LGBT families. To attack these books and try to get them out of libraries is an attack on the LGBT family.

Even though it’s 2017, we still have a lot of work to do to stop censorship. Because you can’t censor LGBT. Speak out against censorship, and read some banned books! 

Originally posted 2017-10-28 17:02:27.

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