23 February 2010

Milk you can’t drink and politicians you can’t trust

I have just realised to my horror that I haven’t posted anything on my blog for two whole weeks, so I thought I’d better do a bit of a catch up. I hate it when I click on someone’s blog and it hasn’t been updated for ages, it just looks a bit boring, so I’ve been a very bad superlative for letting it slip for so long.

Anyway, these are some of the things that I have been doing and thinking about recently:

I watched Milk a couple of weeks ago, having previously known virtually nothing about it. I was aware that Harvey Milk was some sort of gay politician from San Francisco, but that was only really because I’d had a couple of drinks in a bar called Harvey’s when we were there, and they had information up on the walls about him.

Anyway, the film was GREAT, as was the story of his life in general. He was the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States, and he was just so dedicated to improving the lot of gays and other minorities in his city. What was most shocking to me however was how recently it all took place: it is set from 1972 to 1978. Having been fortunate enough to grow up during a period when homosexuality started to be properly accepted in society, I hadn’t really realised how much I’ve taken for granted the freedoms I enjoy. In the mid-70s in San Francisco, it seems the police would regularly raid gay bars and arrest and beat up their patrons. This was the POLICE, the people you’re supposed to be able to call when someone assaults you! Even if homophobia was rife back then, I hadn’t really expected on duty police officers to be engaging in it.

Anyway, the film is about a lot more than just that, and although the ending is sad, I still found Harvey Milk’s courage and determination very uplifting. It made me feel like I could and should be doing more to overcome intolerance, and not just enjoy the benefits of the work done by others. I probably won’t of course, I’m fundamentally lazy and it was only a film, but it made me think at least and will keep me thinking in the future.

Political things
Sort of related to the above, I have been continuing to ponder my position as a gay man with semi-conservative views and the fast approaching general election. I still haven’t decided who I want to vote for, but I’ve still got a couple of months to go, and I’m quite enjoying researching the parties and thinking about it anyway.

Attitude magazine has published an interview with each of the three main party leaders over its last few issues, and I’ve found that very helpful. I’ve taken everything the leaders have said in the interviews with a pinch of salt, because of course they’re just going to say whatever they think will appeal to the magazine’s gay readership, but it was useful to see them address those kinds of questions specifically.

Overall I’d say Nick Clegg came off the best. I don’t like Gordon Brown, so he would have had to say something very special to change my mind, and he just didn’t. David Cameron’s interview and the accompanying articles they published were tremendously interesting, but only made me less inclined to vote Conservative than I had been before. It made David Cameron look very much like a ‘will say what you want to hear’ politician, even more than politicians are in general, and it was pretty absurd to read him denying he’d voted against gay adoption even while they waved Hansard under his nose showing that he did. I’m not going to base my vote particularly on what his party did in the 80s, but the voting record of the current Conservative front bench is important and doesn’t make for good reading.

Nick Clegg seemed the most straightforward and honest, and said some nice things about equalities for gay people. My only reservation is that of course he can easily make generous promises: he’s unlikely to become prime minister and ever have to live up to them. Even so, I’d say the Lib Dems are currently winning in my estimations.

On top of that, there is a debate going on this week about a bill the government is putting through parliament and its section on sex education in schools. After intense lobbying by religious groups, the Labour party has allowed an amendment to let religious schools teach sex education (including mandatory information on same sex relationships) ‘within their institution’s ethos’. So that means religious schools would be free to say “Yes there are same sex relationships. These are wrong, they are immoral, and they are inferior to heterosexual love and marriage”. I’m absolutely appalled by that and think it would be a big step backwards for the country. Some gay activists are even calling the amendment a modern Section 28.

How would a gay child in that class feel to be told they are inferior and immoral? Shouldn’t they be free to be taught the facts of sex education without judgement attached, so they can make up their own minds? That seems like a fundamental right to me, and I really hope the amendment is removed. Labour have proclaimed themselves the only party that has championed gay rights over the last two decades, and this would be a terrible stain on their record.

General bits and bobs
This post is going on a bit now, so I shall cut the rest short.

I’m very much looking forward to our holiday to New York in six weeks. So far we have booked to tour the Federal Reserve Gold Vault, where you can view $8billion of gold all stacked up, and we have bought tickets to see Chicago on Broadway. Both of those should be really good.

Life is otherwise fairly good at the moment, but work is interminably dull and it is starting to affect my moods in the evening again. This feeling of unfulfillment I get creeps into my home life, and I become terribly listless and depressed. So anyway, I’m trying to be more positive at work, to fill my days with activity instead of endlessly clicking Refresh on Twitter, and to do some studying and other things in the periods when I really haven’t got anything to do. It’s worked for the last two days anyway, so I shall try to keep it up.

08 February 2010

Sex and drugs and being called a faggot in the street

I had a lovely weekend, involving two lots of clubbing and a yummy lunch out on Sunday. There was no sex, or drugs, I just said that to get your attention, but I did get called a faggot in the street. More on that later though.

We thought we would give Don’t Stop Believin another try on Friday night, after last week’s enjoyable but rather under-populated launch night. Our friend Alice was quite keen to try it as the music they say they’ll play always sounds so good, so we thought it would be worth a go and hoped a few more people would be dancing this time. Unfortunately, there were actually even fewer people there this time than before, so it was a bit of a washout really.

We still had a nice time, and we sat upstairs in the bar area to start with while we had a couple of drinks, but then as soon as you move downstairs to the club bit it just turns into a very chilly and very empty evening. The music was fine, quite good even, but when you’re the only three people dancing it just doesn’t feel all that much fun. So I think we lasted until about 1am this week, by which point we were fairly sure hoards of people weren’t going to arrive at any moment, so we called it a night. It’s a shame, as I said last week, because the club night is right up our street in terms of atmosphere and the playlist. I might not go again though, at least not until I see that it has got a bit busier.

Then Saturday night was the FABULOUS Pop Kraft, which was much much busier, and was highly enjoyable. We had a few drinks at home, then waited for Alice to ditch her match.com date and come join us for our two-nights-in-a-row we’-re-still-young-aren’t-we trip to the Hanbury Ballroom. It was PACKED when we got there, which was a welcome contrast to the previous night. The music’s always really good there too, the Size Zero Albino and Boogaloo Stu both play really good stuff, and I think we’ve only ever had one night out at Pop Kraft that we haven’t really enjoyed.

There was one slight wobble when the bar managed to enrage Chris so much I thought he was going to batter someone to death, by running out of change during the first hour. So after queuing up for 20 minutes to get served he was told he could only have drinks if he had the right money. “Do you take cards?”, he asked. “No,” said the unapologetic barman. There’s a card machine there behind the bar at the Hanbury of course, there always is, but for some idiotic reason it’s NEVER working. “So what do you want me to do?”, Chris enquired. “I don’t know,” said barman. What the fuck is that?? Do they not WANT to make any money? That was the fault of the Hanbury as a venue though, not the people who run Pop Kraft. If they had no change, they should either have given you the £12 round for £10, or found some way of giving you additional drinks until it made a round number. Tsk. So we only had one round of drinks there all night, which was fine for us because it made it fantastically cheap, but ridiculous for any club to operate like that. GET A FUCKING CARD MACHINE HANBURY BALLROOM (I’m assuming they’ll read this, everyone does don’t they?).

Other than the No Drinks For You fiasco, we had a fab time. We acquired/stole some Glee facemasks of Sue Sylvester and Artie, which I’m sure will come in handy for… er… nothing, and we went fucking MENTAL when they played Don’t Stop Believing. As did the whole club actually, there was a bit of Glee fever going on in there that night. And we stayed until the end, which we don’t always do so I guess we must have been having a good time.

The three of us wandered back home through Kemptown singing Don’t Stop Believing quietly (loudly) to ourselves, and it was at this point that a charming young man decided to say “Faggots” at us as he walked past with his friends. Due to a combination of booze and the fact we were at a good bit in the song (the bit that goes ‘Somewhere in the NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT’) I didn’t actually care that much at the time, but once I got home I was quite annoyed. It’s only happened to me a handful of times that I’ve been homophobically abused in the street (once on the Isle of Wight, and couple of times near the Level, which is apparently a hotspot for cockmunchers in white transits to drive past and shout “Poofs” at you), so I’ve been quite lucky really. I’ve never been attacked or anything, and I don’t actually care if someone calls me a faggot. I know what I am and I like what I am, so you’d have about as much chance of insulting me if you called me tall. It’s the fact that this person obviously thinks they’re better than you because they like to put their penis into vaginas, and because the only reason they’re saying it is to show off in front of their friends. No one ever shouts that sort of thing when they’re on their own, it’s like a stupid schoolboy thing they do to look cool.

So that pissed me off a bit, because even in Brighton you apparently can’t escape from retarded idiocy. But it didn’t ruin my night, which was EXCELLENT.

And then we had a lovely lunch in Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Sunday where I stuffed my fat face with a massive chicken, camembert and cranberry burger. It was gorgeous.

All in all it was a lahvely weekend. We have such a nice life, I sometimes think, and I should be more grateful for it.

02 February 2010

A couple of pics of the sunset in Brighton last weekend

I love the camera on my phone, it takes gorgeous pictures without me even doing anything. Well, I have to point it and press the button, obviously.

01 February 2010

You’re entitled to your opinion – as long as it’s anti-Tory

I’ve been criticised a few times in the last few months for saying that I’m considering voting Conservative at the next general election. I have to confess that I do deliberately say it sometimes to people who I know will be shocked and appalled by it, just to see how they’ll respond. Even so, the reaction that you get for saying it, particularly when you’re gay, I think is somewhat excessive. It’s not like I’m saying I’m going to vote for the Kill Babies With A Spikey Stick Party. This is a mainstream political party, supported by a proportion of the population that’s either equal to or greater than that which supports the Labour Party (based on current opinion polls anyway).

I don’t mind people saying “You shouldn’t vote Conservative”; in fact I welcome it. I do wish though that they would say “You shouldn’t vote Conservative because…” and then give me some sort of reason other than the rather childish “they’re evil” or “they screwed the miners in the 80s”. I’m looking for proper reasons to help me decide which party to support at the next election. I intend to be a well-informed voter who goes to the polls knowing which party they think would be best to run the country, and which candidate would be best for my constituency. I can’t accept “They’re evil”, with no follow up or evidence, as a reason.

One person recently has drawn my attention to the voting record of the Conservative front bench on gay rights. Fine. Absolutely fine, because that gives me something to work with. As a gay man, it is rather distressing to see the attempts made to block the advancement of gay rights by senior Conservative MPs. I’m not going to base my vote on that one issue though; being gay is a very small part of who I am. I think I have a greater responsibility to vote for whichever party will be best for the country overall, rather than put the needs of my minority group first. If there were a Pink Party with a manifesto based solely around gay rights, I wouldn’t vote for it because it would most likely not have a clue how to run an economy, and I think that would be selfish and stupid of me.

I did swing quite far to the right earlier in the year, and felt fairly sure I would vote Conservative in May (or whenever it ends up being). That was based in large part on my dissatisfaction with the way Labour has performed, and because of some of the core political principles I hold most dear. Those are namely that I believe in individual responsibility for your actions and wellbeing; fairly small government; limited intervention by government into people’s private lives; and a tax system that rewards people for working hard and for saving. These are all quite Conservative things.

In addition to that though, I consider myself liberal socially. I believe in equality and equal rights. I believe religion should play no part in government or legislation. I believe in the right to express yourself freely, and I believe a government shouldn’t pass laws on what is moral and what is not, provided those activities aren’t hurting anyone.

What has concerned me most recently about the Conservative Party is their increasingly obvious method of saying-whatever-they-need-to-get-elected. So yes you’ll hear them say grand things about, for instance, gay rights. They’ll proclaim themselves a friend to gay people (I’m just picking one issue here for the sake of argument), but their actions in the recent past and present don’t seem to tally quite with that statement. I’m not concerned particularly with what the party stood for in the 80s, that’s irrelevant to me now because I believe people should be allowed to change their minds over time. But some of what the Conservative Party, and David Cameron, have said recently has begun to sound quite hollow and contrived to me.

I won’t vote Labour, as I really don’t approve of them. I find, especially with Gordon Brown, that they’ll just say anything, even in the face of it being completely untrue. An ‘end to boom and bust’, Gordon Brown said, during a period of happy prosperity for the country which was then followed by a massive bust that he hadn’t prepared for. A justified war, Tony Blair called the invasion Iraq, and which he maintained at this week’s Chilcot Inquiry, even though it is very apparent to most people now that it wasn’t justified, or at least wasn’t justified on the grounds they put forward at the time.

So then I’m left thinking should I vote Liberal Democrat again, as I have done before (I’ve never actually voted Conservative). It’s true that I do respect them as a party; I think they have been the most plain-spoken and believable on the economy; and I agree with a good number of their policies. Even with them though it is hard to understand everything they stand for, because you end up in reams of detail on their website and there is too much to wade through. There is also the problem of ‘making my vote count’. My constituency is marginal, but it is still likely to be a Labour or Conservative seat. If I don’t want Labour, should I vote Conservative to ensure they don’t win in my area? That seems somewhat spiteful, and potentially stupid if I don’t agree with the Conservatives on enough of the big issues. It’s a great shame to me that the only reason I know who my Liberal Democrat candidate is is because I looked it up myself. Where is the campaigning? Where is the information to help me make my decision? I know it’s early yet, but I’ve already received some information from the Conservatives.

So I don’t know, anyway. Some people will have read the first part of this post with horror at the very suggestion I may vote Conservative, and I might still do so. I did that deliberately to get people to read it really, as I knew it would hook some staunch lefties into an enraged excoriation against the Evil Tories. But if you did read it, and thought “God no, don’t vote Conservative”, please do leave a comment and tell me why. Constructive comments though please, with an actual reason.

Thanks very much.