This year’s “Google goes gay” search style for Pride Month and the Stonewall Inn riots anniversary was a tessellated rainbow background strip to their website menu bar. This is the 7th year running Google has demonstrated its diversity and made the none too subtle statement of support worldwide.
Enter terms like “Gay Pride”, “Stonewall riots”, “Pride month”, “London Pride”, “Same-sex marriage” and the strip would visibly transform before your eyes and produce tens of millions of results. Curiously and sadly “Gay Pride” dominated and “LGBT Pride” was ignored. Searches for LGBT, GLBT or LGBTQ were rainbow styled but not the more inclusive LGBTI or LGBTIQ/LGBTQIA, excluding Intersex people from the gender and sexuality spectrum terminology despite inclusive advances elsewhere, such as in Europe, with the shift to LGBTI/Q.
Google has gone “gay” before, last year same-sex marriage was highlighted during Pride Month because of the US Supreme Court Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop 8 rulings. Outside of LGBT calendar events Google has also been political in support of LGBT gay rights. It has created 2000+ Google doodles over the years and for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it added a far from subtle LGBT activism to its logo doodle by using the 6-banded rainbow flag colours behind various sports events images. The search box would also come up with the Olympic Charter words highlighting inclusivity in sport as an obvious dig at Putin’s anti-gay education laws:
“The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” – Olympic Charter www.google.ru/#q=olympic+Charter
This year, someone has also discovered an “Easter Egg” or hidden coding within Google Docs Sheet (similar to Excel) that turns the entire spreadsheet’s column background colours rainbow hues simply by typing P in Cell A1, R in Cell A2, I in Cell A 3, D in Cell A4 and E in Cell A5, spelling out “PRIDE” across the first row columns.
Microsoft’s older Excel versions have long had hidden Easter Egg programs buried within, several were full blown racing or Doom style games. Meanwhile, during this year’s Pride weekend, Twitter has interpolated a mini rainbow flag image anytime the hashtag #Pride was used.
Search Engine Land monitors Google’s annual LGBT activist and temporary re-branding of search results. Personally, I think it’s great, but it’s also clearly far from neutral, or non-partisan. It shows the world’s largest search engine is on side, but also political which makes one worry in what other ways it manipulates results and opinion. Read more about this year’s Pride parades and Stonewall Inn riot anniversary. [An earlier version of this article first appeared here]
Without warning Facebook terror has struck, well Facebook error at least, and with thousands taking to Twitter to inform us of what we already knew, but at least it confirmed it was global and not a purge of ailurophile account holders – that’s cat lovers to you and me.
The dystopic vision of life for over 1.25 billion people without Facebook is over, as after 30 minutes down Facebook was back. For 30 minutes this morning around 9am GMT in the UK, as everyone logged onto their computers at work – and checked their Facebook accounts first, the site crashed rendering just a 2013 error page saying “Sorry, something went wrong – We’re working on getting this fixed as soon as we can.”
The irony of having to use rival Twitter to announce a Facebook error meltdown, which included the mobile platform too, was tracked in tens of thousands of tweets and trending hashtags #facebookdown as well as “facebook error”, and then after ‘THE EVENT’, via #WhenFacebookWasDown and #facebookup. A TEOTWAWKI moment if ever there wasn’t (“The end of the world as we know it”).
Dear fellow Indonesians, Facebook is down!! DEFCON 1, PEOPLE!! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!! (anyone still using facebook, btw?) — Hanif Widyanto (@followhan) June 19, 2014
There was no sign of an immediate crash in the share price after its near 2% rise the day before, just a drop of 1.9% in trading later that day when the NYSE/NASDAQ opened. Longer term, advertisers and shareholders may reflect on the downtime of something that in barely over 10 years people have come to regard as universally available and as synonymous with life’s daily essentials as having a phone, electricity or the Internet.
For many, instead of the morning login to check cute cats, messages and memes, it was a case of having to read a paper, talk to your partner or work colleague, or go for a walk and enjoy nature, even do some work.
For a productivity increase to really happen, Twitter and Pinterest would also have to go down.
Funny how we forget the simple things and it takes the denial of service of some technology to realise we survived half our lives or more without it. Indeed, Facebook has only been around a decade, and thus February 2004, the birth of Facebook, was year zero, I was born 37 BF (Before Facebook), today is 10 AF (Anno Facebook).
When #facebookup became news. Reflecting on how pervasive & essential #facebook has become, 2004 is year 0, I was born 37 BF, today is 10 AF — Katy-Jon Went (@katyjon) June 19, 2014
All the Sci-Fi films of the past predicted androids, utopias, flying cars – none of which have fully happened, and none foresaw how endemic and pervasive a social media platform might become and how technology would be part and parcel of being social. Star Trek communicator “badges” never had the option for “Klingons on the starboard bow” – Share this on Facebook.
I remember, as a kid, a television show called “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead?” The 1973 TV show actually ran until 1995 with Russell T Davies of Doctor Who fame being at one point a producer and director of it. Again, the irony, as a television programme self-referenced turning itself off so that we would go and play outside during the school holidays rather than be glued to the gogglebox. The BBC itself said “If the programme had actually succeeded of course then it wouldn’t have had an audience.”
According to analytics by the Guardian, users didn’t just switch off and do something off social media, instead they simply switched channels from Facebook to Twitter. Some, “Apparently, … even went to Google+.”
News sites seemed relatively unaware at first, papers that publish throughout the day like London’s Metro were quick to publish after the site was restored but with little response from Facebook yet other than this:
“Earlier this morning, we experienced an issue that prevented people from posting to Facebook for a brief period of time. We resolved the issue quickly, and we are now back to 100%. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused… This doesn’t happen often, but when it does we make sure we learn from the experience so we can make Facebook that much more reliable.”
Back in 2010 when the site was down for 2.5 hours Facebook issued an apology or rather an unintelligible engineering explanation for it. The Independent reported that people were complaining about having to spend time with their offspring or go on to Pinterest for inspirational quotes. They quote the movie about the founding of Facebook, ‘The Social Network’, where Mark Zuckerberg proudly said “Facebook would never go down.”
The dilemma is that for many business models Facebook has become one of the leading referrers for business traffic, alongside Google, Pinterest etc. So 30 minutes downtime is 30 minutes lost business, losing millions worldwide. “Publishers” in particular “saw referral traffic from Facebook fall off a cliff as the outage hit”, the Guardian reported.
The Metro was also quick to jump on the ever pervasive lists bandwagon with “Five ways we used the crash to our advantage“, it won’t be long before the blogs have “Ten things to do when you can’t get on Facebook”. The Nestlé KitKat Philippines Twitter account @kitkat_ph was quick to take advantage “Looks like #Facebook is having a BREAK right now. Have a BREAK, too! :)”.
Can business behemoths end bigoted prejudice in conservative cultures? Can this assist people power movements, or is corporate collaboration selling out?
We all like to blame big business and banks especially for the financial crisis and resulting austerity, not to mention bonus culture and tax avoidance, but can they be a force for good too? Are they big enough to effect change and shift cultures in otherwise more conservative or religious societies that may discriminate against LGBTI+ people or women, not only in employment, but in life? By being openly supportive of LGBTI+ and other minority employees, creating safe spaces for them at work, helping stem existing employment prejudices, can change happen?
Goldman Sachs has a strong track record on diversity with positive employee networks such as their Disability Interest Forum, Women’s Network, and LGBT Network.
Alongside Goldman Sachs are similar stances by JP Morgan, Google, Barclays and BP. Barclays Bank were not my favourite bank in 1970s/80s student politics with their pro-Apartheid trading, the University Union I was then at, UCL, refused to take Barclays payment cards in protest. In 1977 after UN embargoes on South Africa, Barclays pledged support for Botha’s racist regime. Yet now, here in Norwich, Barclays boasts several gay bank managers and proudly marches with Norwich LGBT Pride. The University of London Union, the biggest in Europe with 120,000 members now acts on issues such as Palestine.
We acknowledge people power, indeed we have the power to change bad corporate practice, worker exploitation, tax avoidance, for example by boycotting their products, be they Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon, Apple etc, but do we? UK Uncut, the Occupy movement, showed the power we have as consumers – if we follow through. To paraphrase Plato’s “The price of apathy toward public affairs is to be ruled by evil men” our hypocritical inaction as consumers going for cheap over ethical, image over substance, is to be ruled over by Tescos and High Street coffee shop clones.
Capitalism is not inherently evil for it carries with it the power of its own demise or change. Consumer choice, people power, stockholder revolts, pay package rejection, the freedom to form unions. When the banks failed us in 2008-9 we failed ourselves by rescuing them, indeed it was a so-called Socialist, well ‘new’ Labour government that here in the UK aided their rescue. Unbridled free market capitalism would have effected change by allowing them to fail and something new and better form and take their place. But we, and I include myself here, are all hypocrites, still selecting the cheapest deal, not investigating their ethics and practices. When we buy from Amazon we destroy smaller, local businesses, we lose our bookshops. It is evolution, but of business, and as consumers we are partly responsible.
So can corporations be beneficial too? Certainly, with all their power they have some degree of moral responsibility and diversity in the workplace is an economic benefit, aiding creativity and bringing alternative perspectives, rethinking outside the box.
Goldman Sachs’ positive employment policy in Singapore and support of the emerging LGBTI rights movements there such as Pink Dot are a powerful force for freedom. Technically, homosexuality is still illegal in Singapore but Pink Dot and its inclusive promotion of “freedom to love, regardless of sexual orientation” has seen its inaugural gathering in 2009 grow tenfold in just 4 years, with the next Pink Dot, now jokingly called the Pink Whale – due to aerial views of its event growth, due to be held 28 June.
Google, for all their domination of Internet search, privacy questions and more, also have profoundly positive employment policies and with subtle changes of their logo doodle each day can send messages to billions. They’ve even done special rainbow styling on LGBT and equal marriage searches during big votes on the issue.
Though, are companies like Goldman Sachs meddling with local culture by being brazenly equality-minded? Is it a throwback to Western colonialist imposition or patronisingly paternalist interference? Certainly, we haven’t got equality right in our own countries yet. Gay British footballers don’t feel safe to come out yet. Lord Browne, the former chair of BP, never felt it acceptable to be ‘out’ at work, indeed he only did so after resigning when he was about to be ‘outed’ by an ex-lover.
Again, it works both ways, we as consumers and as corporates have the power to effect change. Mozilla’s CEO was forced out, no not in that sense, he wasn’t gay, he lost his job for supporting an anti-gay marriage campaign in the US. Boycotts of their browser by LGBT campaigners and staff forced him to quit. In reaction, conservative groups in America boycotted the Firefox browser for its support of equal marriage.
Corporate sponsorship is not evil of itself and can help people recognise inclusive employers that are safe to work for. In some societies where equality is still an emerging issue, it can be a risky stance to take, but globalisation can bring equality benefits to all countries where companies have representation. Check out the statements of the likes of Google, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and BP on Pink Dot’s website.
Egyptian Wael Ghonim, just 33 years of age, has worked for Google in Egypt and UAE since 2008, though took time out in 2011 during the Egyptian Revolution as part of the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East. He was detained and interrogated by Police for 11 days during the pro-democracy rallies having been a prime mover behind some of the social media, Facebook and Twitter, harnessing of people power.
Ghonim was interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes saying:
“Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don’t know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.”
Ghonim was Time magazine’s no#1 on their annual world’s 100 most influential people in 2011. In the same year he was awarded the Press Freedom prize on World Press Freedom Day.
“Revolution 2.0 – The power of the people is greater than the people in power”, is also the title of Ghonim’s 2012 book, described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a gripping chronicle of how a fear-frozen society finally topples its oppressors with the help of social media”.
Philanthropic capitalists have also searched for Capitalism 2.0, a “creative capitalism” that sacrifices profits for public welfare, as Bill Gates said in 2008. The 400+ billionaires of the Giving Pledge who have volunteered to give away more than half their wealth, some as much as 95% of it, are definitely have the power to change things. Milton Friedman might have argued that profit was the only motivation in business, but green businesses, community interest companies and the realisation that good PR, ethics and equality, can actually raise profits, are changing that.
London, 27 May 2014, saw a conference on so-called “Inclusive Capitalism“. Focused on renewing trust, one could easily dismiss the initiative given the likes of Rothschild and Bill Clinton’s involvement. Indeed, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, writing in the Guardian, called it PR spin and a “Trojan Horse” to quell a coming global revolt. So is corporate inclusivity to be trusted?
Rarely, too, are situations simplistic. take Starbucks, they have used legal methods to avoid tax liabilities and yet have also paid Ethiopian coffee farmers a 75% premium over market prices as corporate welfare. Fair Trade schemes may appear to benefit third world producers but in some countries they are not the most beneficial or ethical system and stringent label certification can lock out smaller producers and increase inequality.
South Africa is the largest producer of Fairtrade wine in the world and yet, even there, concerns about traditional FairTrade labelling and its insufficient benefits to workers have led to rival schemes such as Fair for Life and others that go further, offering housing, healthcare and education to employees. Stellar Organics is one such winery where it is 26% owned by the workforce and Fair for life certified.
It is both complex and simple, we can use social media to produce “The People 2.0”, informatise and organise, communitise and unionise, we have the power… make corporates recognise that, and society and governments can and will change.
Montage of Pink Dot Singapore photos 2009-2014 http://pinkdotmtl.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2009-2011-Size-Matters.jpg
http://teryndriver.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/the-power-of-the-people-3/ unattributed image with Wael Ghonim quote added by myself
Historical NUS/University of London Union Boycott Barclays student union poster http://africanactivist.msu.edu/image.php?objectid=32-131-2B3
“This house will become a shrine, and punks and skins and rastas will all gather round and hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader. And all the grown-ups will say: “But why are the kids crying?” And the kids will say: “Haven’t you heard? Rik is dead! The People’s Poet is dead!”” – The Young Ones
“Bum”, I mean “Bottom“, Rik Mayall has died a Young One at just 56, the B’stard. The near-30 year married family man was a comedy genius and genuine talent. He will be sorely missed and was working right up to the sudden end, despite his own near-death experience on a quad bike back in 1998 that left him in a coma for days and with epilepsy. Ironically, his most recent project was a Lupus Films/Channel 4 animated comedy about the joys of being dead – “Don’t Fear Death“!
Death “is your passport to complete and utter freedom. No pulse, no responsibilities. Carpe mortem – seize death”
Mayall and Ade Edmondson were contemporaries at Manchester University – where they also met writing partner Ben Elton, and performed together as 20th Century Coyote, their first performance was an improv called “Dead Funny“. As members dropped (not dead) off, the comedy group became a duo, renamed to The Dangerous Brothers, and shifted to London’s Comedy Store, where Alexei Sayle compered. Later they started their own comedy club, The Comic Strip Club, which ran out of Soho porn baron Paul Raymond’s Revue Bar, whilst conventional adult strip acts performed on the other two stages. This is also where they met Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, who Edmondson later married in 1985.
Together they formed the TV series “The Comic Strip Presents…” which ran from 1982, 5 years before French and Saunders aired as a separate series. Their first episode was a parody of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures as “Five Go Mad in Dorset“.
In 1981 Mayall played “Rest Home” Ricky in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show follow up musical film: “Shock Treatment“. Curiously, Rik has managed to play a Rick, a Ricky and also a Richie, aka Richard Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap (1986).
In 1991 he got to play a Fred, the eponymous mischievous imaginary friend in the film “Drop Dead Fred“. He also squeezed in a Micky in “Eat the Rich” (1987), a Mathias in “Little Noises” (1991), a Marty in “Bring me the Head of Mavis Davis” (1997) and a Mario in “Eldorado” (2012). Not to mention the voice of Prince Froglip in “The Princess and the Goblin” (1991) and Mr Toad in “The Wind in the Willows” (1995).
Another animated character he played was was the voice of Kehaar in the series version of “Watership Down” (1999) and Edwin the Eagle in the spellbinding “Shoebox Zoo” (2004-5). He also played an unnamed man in the pub in “An American Werewolf in London” (1981). In 2000 he managed to play character opposites Robin Hood in “Blackadder: Back & Forth” and King Herod in “Jesus Christ Superstar“!
The Young Ones first aired in 1982, the BBC was not entirely convinced, but went ahead to compete with the emerging popularity of Channel 4. Spike Milligan, commenting on Mayall’s farting, nose-picking “Rick”, described him as the “arsehole of British comedy”. (Quoted in McSmith, Andy, No Such Thing As Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s, Constable & Robinson, p149)
Until then most successful comedians and comedy writers had emerged from establishment universities like Oxford and especially Cambridge. Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson stemmed from Oxford, whilst Cambridge and its Footlights Theatre produced talent that went on to make Monty Python, The Goodies,Yes Minister, Bremner, Bird and Fortune, Alas Smith and Jones, Fry and Laurie, Newman and Baddiel, Punt and Dennis, and more recent acts like Mitchell and Webb, Armstrong and Miller, Mel and Sue.
Rik portrayed the crude, pompous poet, anti-establishment anarchist and redbrick university sociology student, “Rick” with great energy and voracious vulgarity. In the “Bambi” episode, somehow the four students end up on University Challenge, appropriately competing against Footlights College.
On the show Rick’s namecard has a scrawled ‘P’ added to it and Vyvyan jokes that his name has a silent ‘P’ before it. In the same episode Neil reads out graffiti from Rick’s ‘O’ Level History text book – “Prick is a wonker – signed, the rest of the class”, although Rick dismisses this as classroom banter until Neil then reads out a further scribble – “I agree with the rest of the class – signed teacher”.
“I live on the limit, Vyvyan. The limit, because I’m a rider at the gates of dawn and I take no prisoners!” – Rick in The Young Ones
For all his character’s pseudo-anarchy Rick seemed to have a conservative background and was a Cliff Richard fan. He didn’t seem to know much about the politics he claimed to believe in and was a lazy socialist, in terms of political theory.
“If you’re a wild eyed loner at the gates of oblivion then hitch a ride with us, because we are riding on the last freedom moped out of nowhere and we haven’t even told our parents what time we are coming home…” from the introduction by Rick to Cliff Richard’s “Living Doll” for Comic Relief (1.5m views)
It was no surprise when Rik evolved Rick into slimy sleazy scheming Conservative politician Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman, which ran on ITV from 1987 to 1992 for 4 series. I completely forgot that Vyv’s surname was also Basterd in the Young Ones.
Rik Mayall also reprised Alan B’Stard MP, or rather PM, in a political advertising campaign by the No2AV group in 2011. Parodying David Cameron and Nick Clegg entering into coalition and office together he promised no tax or tuition fees, free housing and electricity, and then gleefully burnt the manifesto and its promises.
“You know the really great thing about a fudged coalition is that neither of us need to carry out a single promise of our election manifestos.”
At the same time as the New Stateman was airing Rik also popped up in Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth, playing the loud lecherous bragging Lord Flashheart. In 2006 he returned to the nobility as Lord Reginald in “SpongeBob SquarePants” (2006).
Whilst Flashheart was crude in an upper class slimy sexist way, Rik returned to the gutters again for “Bottom” (1991-1995). Mostly containing scenes of frying pan bashing and slapstick violence akin to classic Laurel and Hardy or old Warner Bros cartoons. For all its base comedy, Rik and Ade had acted together in Waiting for Godot in 1991 and created Bottom as a crude take on the play. The characters, again a Richie, Richard “Richie” Richard, and Edmonson playing flatmate Eddie Elizabeth Hitler, went on to appear in four series, a film “Guest House Paradiso” (1999) playing Richard Twat, and a touring stage show – “Bottom: Live“, which left them in hospital, on occasion! Bottom last toured in 2003 but the 1997 stage version, “Bottom Live 3: Hooligan’s Island” nearly made it back to our screens in 2013, but was cancelled due to competing projects that Ade Edmondson wanted to pursue.
One of my favourite banal Bottomscenes from Season 2 Episode 2, bemoaning what to do in the absence of television…
Richie: What about “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”?
Eddie: We haven’t got a donkey.
Richie: Well, “Pin the Tail on the Chicken”
Eddie: We haven’t got a tail.
Richie: Oh. Well, “Pin the Sausage on the Chicken”?
Eddie: We haven’t got a chicken.
Richie: (Annoyed) Well, “Pin the Sausage on the Fridge”.
Eddie: Or a pin.
Richie: (Angrier) “Sellotape a Sausage to the Fridge”!
Eddie: We haven’t got a sausage!
Richie: (shouting) “Put a Bit of Sellotape on the Fridge”!
Eddie: (Beat) It’s not much of a game, is it?
[Richie and Eddie have just played stick a piece of sellotape on the fridge. Eddie won]
Eddie: Who won?
Richie: Ha ha ha ha. Eddie, it matters not who won or lost, but how you play the game.
Eddie: Oh, you mean I won? Ha! Ha-ha. [wets his finger, draws a figure 1 in the air, waves his hands in the air]
Richie: Yes, I suppose so, yeah, I mean if it’s so important to you, yes. Yes, you did win. I mean for Heaven’s sake, Eddie, it’s only a game! [walking away, to himself] Shit, shit
Waiting for Godot, was not his only conventional acting role, he also made a “brilliant debut” as Ivan in Gogol’s The Government Inspector at the Olivier Theatre in 1985. Indeed, The Telegraph ran an article back in April this year on the 2012 film Eldorado, “the worst film ever made…weapons-grade awful”, in which Mayall played a Verdi-singing, cannibalistic chef, Mario – in contrast to the dire film, his scene stood out as “fairly watchable”!
During the 2000s Mayall was marketed by Playstation on games and ads, to be seen as more “edgy” over Sega‘s success. The money he made from this bought him a house which he jokingly named “Nintendo Towers“.
Such a shame, that like Faulty Towers there were just 12 episodes of the Young Ones, a 1980s classic “sign of the times” series – it always felt like there were many more, I wish there were, and now there won’t be a comeback series as The Old Ones, perhaps “only the good die young”. The Young Ones page on Facebook has nearly a million likes.
Ade Edmondson had this to say of his long time friend and creative collaborator:
“There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.”
Nigel Planer, hippie Neil in The Young Ones, described him as:
“…inspirational, bonkers, and a great life force”.
The Guardian described Mayall’s characters as “full of life” and “vast mad scribbles, jammed to the margins with noise and energy”.
The level of talent portraying anarchist poet Rick and punk revolutionary Vyvyan, and their reprised characters in Bottom is clear when one realises that both men went on to conventional marriage and fatherhood. They both married in 1985 and had 3 kids each. Prior to, and overlapping, that, Mayall had been in a relationship with Lise Mayer, co-creator and writer of The Young Ones, and who is now married to Angus Deayton. He leaves behind his wife, Barbara Robbin, and three children, who if they were ever told how to behave after seeing daddy in The Young Ones and Bottom, must have been a struggle to get to behave!
Bonnie Mayall, Rik’s youngest daughter, posted on Facebook:
“We will never forget him and neither will the world, R.I.P to the man, the myth, the legend – my wonderful, generous, foul mouthed and hysterical father.”
For a man whose career went from “Dead Funny” to “Don’t Fear Death” via a near-death experience in 1998, Rik Mayall died full of life, love and laughter. He leaves behind a comedy legacy that will keep us laughing for many years to come.
[An earlier version of this article appeared here]
Third/Non-Gender passport options could be debated in the UK Parliament following a lengthy campaign by people outside the male-female gender binary who feel erased and discriminated against.
[UPDATE – Government “considering” changes to gender identity laws, passport and driving licence changes. Maria Miller, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities committee, said a person’s sex was “not relevant” on official documents, and it created an “unconscious bias” in job applications. Gender details on passports also do not assist with identification, she added. The committee will publish a report on transgender discrimination in January 2016. In an interview with The Times, Miller said gender stereotyping can be as “damaging” for men as women.]
A motion was tabled yesterday (5 June 2014) in the UK Parliament to allow non-binary M/F passport gender markers in the UK, to aid those that identify as non-gender, non-binary, agender, bigender, or intergender – or simply hate gender construct labels. The internationally allowed X marker already allows this, not as some compulsory trans or third gender marker which could be used to reduce people’s rights as citizens, but as a self-selected optional marker for those that feel they do not fit the only 2 options given in UK and most nation’s passports. Australia and New Zealand accept the non-gender specific X passport as do India, Nepal and Pakistan. Canada is debating change; Malaysia are allegedly considering removing gender from all passports. Argentina makes switching between Male & Female easy, without legal-medical requirements for trans, intersex, genderqueer, or anyone else for that matter – a move, it has been announced, that Denmark looks set to follow.
This motion is essentially a re-tabling of previous attempts, but taking advantage of a new Parliamentary session – it will need hundreds of signatures to even trigger a full debate.
“Although there is very little prospect of EDMs being debated, many attract a great deal of public interest and frequently receive media coverage … In an average session only six or seven EDMs reach over two hundred signatures. Around seventy or eighty get over one hundred signatures. The majority will attract only one or two signatures. An EDM is not likely to be debated even if it gains a large number of signatures.” Parliament.uk
The move follows LibDem sponsored Government reviews into this since 2011, and yet progress had stalled. The new early day motion has been sponsored by Julian Huppert (LibDem) and is supported by Jeremy Corbyn (Labour). Non-gendered Christie Elan-cane has long fought for non-gendered passports and had her case taken up by MPs such as David Blunkett (Lab), Liberal Democrat MPs Lynne Featherstone and Simon Hughes and Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP.
Some of the last 3 years’ history on this has been blogged about here.
One might think that just two options M/F on passports prejudices just trans, intersex and genderqueer people but if part of a family then gay, lesbian and trans are also affected as the designated parents on child passports. Some countries, including the US have thus adopted gender-neutral parenting option on children’s passports, not mother/father but parent 1/parent 2.
The words “mother” and “father” were being removed from American passport applications and replaced with gender neutral terminology, the US State Department said in 2011. The UK and Australia were said to be following suit.
Legal documents that reflect a person’s gender – or non-gender identity are a basic human right. Denying them, restricts, travel, identification, and citizen rights such as voting or access to welfare benefits.
“The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered“ – Christie Elan-Cane
Elan-Cane prefers ‘per’ in place of him or her and the honorific title Pr, short for Person, neither Mr nor Ms. Shouldn’t we all be entitled to be seen as persons first, and not primarily gendered categories?
Facebook now has some 50+ gender options, why do we need any on official documentation? The military does not use gender as a means of identification, just name and rank. Height, eyes, and finger prints should be sufficient on biometric passports. Gender, race and identifying marks are invasive, insufficient and inappropriate. Nationality, for the sake of legal travel rights and repatriation. But I cannot see how gender matters.
[An early version of this article first appeared here.]
Update on “X” Gender not specified UK Passports
During the current April-May 2015 General Election campaign, several parties, initially just the Greens and LibDems, but now both Ed Miliband (Labour) and David Cameron (Conservative) have pledged to re-examine X-Gender passports:
“The Conservative leader also said he would consider following Australia and New Zealand in introducing ‘Gender X’ passports for people who do not identify as male or female – after Ed Miliband also pledged to review the issue in his PinkNews Q&A“