A year on from the EU Referendum and Brexit Britain remains as divided as ever – inflation is up, nurses are down, hate crime is up, wages remain down, banks like HSBC, Barclays, Nomura are moving staff to Dublin and Frankfurt. With 2 years, at least, to go of this 3-10 year once-in-a-half-century change, one consensus is emerging – Britain, on the whole, is against “Hard Brexit“. Where is Theresa May steering Britannia, towards exactly that! What is Jeremy Corbyn doing? In words, he is against a hard Brexit, but in action, he is facilitating it, as more Shadow Cabinet MPs take a stand against Brexit, in favour of their Remain constituencies. Indeed, a new political party is needed, and is forming, to block Brexit or campaign for early re-entry, for it is clear that in a few years, if not now, the majority will swing once more in favour of EU membership, as a majority of people under 45, businesses, and Londoners – the engine of economic Britain’s prosperity, already desire.
Latest Polling Statistics
85% of youth want to remain in EU
80% of Londoners want to maintain the same rights
66% think “No Deal” would be a “Bad Deal”
60% of Britons now want to stay EU citizens
58% are against leaving the EU without a deal
55% are in favour of a “soft” Brexit
55% think a coalition of parties should negotiate with EU
51% would now vote remain, against 49% for leave
48% are in favour and 43% against a referendum on EU deal
45% think Leaving is wrong decision, 44% the right decision
44% more people think we should fight to Remain in EU than 2 weeks ago (36% v 25%)
37% have confidence in the PM’s ability to negotiate Brexit
31% expect a poor deal, 26% a good EU deal & 15% no deal
22% think that the government is doing a good job on Brexit
37% of the UK (those who voted Leave) have made this BrexitShambles happen, but perhaps the fault lies with 100% of the Tory decision makers who created the situation and the naively simple “Yes/No” referendum when it is clear that people had more complex questions they wanted answering, i.e., immigration, sovereignty, trade, justice, education, arts/science/cultural exchange, reciprocal EU rights etc.
Rights of EU Citizens living in the UK
“73% of voters would like either to protect or extend the rights that current citizens from other EU countries have to vote in the UK; 48% wanted to see the right to vote extended from local elections to general elections, while 25% wished to keep the status quo. Only 10% supported the government’s position of withdrawing EU citizens’ right to vote in local elections.” – The Guardian
The Brexit Gamble
Brexit remains a gamble, and one we are losing. We are bargaining with our citizens, youth, businesses, and EU workers. The tide is turning towards remaining or at least avoiding Hard Brexit. If not now, then in 5-10 years, the increasing youth vote and decreasing elderly vote would ensure a majority want EU membership. A short term decision last year to avoid Tory votes being lost to UKIP will have lasting repercussions on people at the beginnings of their educational, cultural, and economic working lives. We need to think about the future, not the past.
A week really is a long time in politics, as Labour surge and Tories entrench to fight onto their minority Government. The latest post-election polling has Labour on 45% (+5) and the Conservative Party on 39% (-3) that means in another election Labour would win, but in all likelihood still fall short of a majority – making a progressive rather than DUP regressive coalition the best way forward. All this is another reason the Tories are shoring up deals with the devil to stay in power. The poll was in the Mail on Sunday and from Survation who had the Tories on 41 and Labour on 40 on 7 June predicting a hung parliament, and hence the most accurate poll.
Theresa May’s Leadership
Whilst “strong and stable” is clearly parked like the hastily hidden away EdStone in 2015, Theresa May still feels like she can hang on whilst the Tory Titanic sinks.
Just 38% now think Theresa May should stay on as Prime Minister, 49% think she should resign.
Whilst the Tories stubbornly call for ever harder Brexit, the DUP and Scottish Conservatives want a softer one. If this was an election called to confirm a strong majority for Brexit negotiations, then May has lost her mandate for it.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, may be tempted to break away from the English and Welsh Tories in order to fight for a very soft Brexit and to campaign against the DUP amidst their anti-LGBT and women views.
“The pattern of seat results suggests that seats in Remain areas saw significant defections away from the Conservatives.” – Electoral Calculus
Tactical voting clearly played its part with people moving from minority parties to the main two in order to vote “anything but Tory” or for BluKIP, i.e., UKIP voters hoping to shore up the Tories. Seemingly, many UKIP voters also returned to Labour.
Goats for Votes?
Goats have often been used to persuade people to register to vote for the first time. My old university, UCL, did this year, and local to me, UEA, has done in the past.
Today, old goats were in the news, not because climate sceptic Michael Gove was made Environment Secretary – right up Donald Trump and DUP‘s street, but because the Queen’s Speech may be delayed. It turns out that the speech is written on goatskin (well heavy parchment now) and it takes 7 days to dry the ink and so the whole political process has ground to a halt. And so, #goatgate is born!
Back to the Future?
Whilst the Tories criticised Labour for appearing to go back to the 1970s, their own manifesto programme of a return to the 1950s – fox hunting and pre-EU, has now been torn up. It was clear that young people voted for a Jeremy Corbyn future in droves.
Theresa May has today apologised to the Tory 1922 Committee (who feel that 2017 is way too modern) saying,
“I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out of it”. – Theresa May
More Laurel and Hardy than Strong and Stable!
Perhaps, foxhunting, OAP hounding, goatskin, will mean the swansong of the pigheaded Tories and Theresa “Kitten Heels”. (Any more animal allusions I could get in there?)
Just how representative of the UK population as a whole were prospective parliamentary candidates and elected MPs in terms of gender, sexuality, disability, religion and colour/race/ethnicity? 97 new MPs joined the house, and Ken Clarke MP was re-elected as its oldest member and Father of the House. It is well known that, hitherto, the UK had the most LGB ‘out’ Parliament in the world, but not the most gender balanced, how has that changed after Theresa May‘s snap general election?
2017 sees 208 female Members of Parliament, up from 191 in 2015 (196 after by-elections). There were many seats where both the main candidates standing were female. 29% of candidates were women, 32% of those elected were – both records for the UK but not the world.
We were 46th in the world tables, we are now 39th. Guess who is first? Rwanda with 61% women, second is Bolivia with 53%. All others are less than 50%. Sweden (#6), Finland (#9), and Norway (#12=) are the top European nations, all Scandinavian. The first Western European nation is Spain at 14th and Belgium at 19th. Germany is 22nd but France 63rd! At this rate, 2062 would see gender balance in the UK Parliament.
Labourfielded 40% women, the Green Party 35% (statistically, of course, 100% of their MPs are female!), UKIP had 13%. Of those elected, there is wide variation among the political parties. Labour have 45% (119) and their leader in Scotland but never England (except as caretaker). Meanwhile, there are just 21% (67) among Conservative MPs despite a history of two Prime Ministers and their leader in Scotland.
Interesting that the DUP, the Conservatives in Scotland, and the Tories in England and Wales are all led by right-wing women, one of whom is anti-gay, another is gay, and another shifted to same-sex equality (through persuasion by a female LibDem MP) after a prior voting and campaigning record against it. Being a woman, it seems, is little impediment to political power in the UK. Indeed, add in Plaid Cymru, SNP, and for two weeks, even UKIP, only Labour (England and Wales) and LibDems haven’t been led by a woman.
Being female is no guarantee that one will hold pro-equality, pro-LGBT views. We now have a triumvirate of female-led parties forming a “confidence and supply” alliance to keep the Tories in power that may be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.
LGBTIQ Sexuality & Gender Identity
With 45 openly LGB MPs (19 Tory, 19 Labour, 7 SNP) that’s also a record and 6 up from 2015 – at 6.9% that’s close to the supposed 6% openly LGB numbers in the population (much higher among young people, of course). None among the 12 LibDems, though their female MPs balance at 4 out of 12 is somewhat restored.
Seven Trans and two Non-Binary candidates stood (just 4 in 2015, so, more than doubling) but none were elected, several have stood in council elections before. Eddie Izzard continues to hint that he may stand as an MP.
UK LGB MPs are the highest proportion anywhere in the world. We have the most rainbow Parliament – quite an affront to the homophobic DUP with whom 19 LGB Tory MPs may now have to do electoral business with.
Since 4.5% of the people standing for election (147/3304) were openly LGBTQ, it means that LGB candidates are up to 1.5x more likely to win. Tories and Labour had 7% LGBT candidates, SNP 17% and 20% of their elected MPs, despite reduced numbers. Surprisingly, only 2% of Greens (same as UKIP!) and 4% of LibDems were. White gay men outweigh any other LGBTQ demographic 5x and are the most likely to be elected. Curiously almost zero LGBT candidates stood in Greater East Anglia! There’s an opening for me yet 😉
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic MPs
Of the 147 LGBTQ candidates, just one was BME, in 2015 that was two – both shamefully low, though we don’t know the number of non-out candidates. However, 51 BME MPs were elected on 8 June – an increase of 10. At 7.8% this is just over half of the 14% general population representation.
Britain also elected its first MP of Palestinian heritage as Layla Moran for the LibDems “overturned a Conservative majority of almost 10,000 votes to win the Oxford West and Abingdon. Moran won the closely contested election by only 816, gaining 26,252 votes.”
Just four openly physically disabled MPs were elected, 0.6% of Parliament, compared with 16% of the UK. Mental health is so stigmatised, one wonders if it were possible for someone to be ‘out’ with a diagnosed long term condition and an MP, other than depression and anxiety that affect 1-in-4 of us, and undoubtedly affect MPs similarly. It would be great to see a bipolar MP, to show it is possible to manage a bipolar life.
The new Parliament sees the UK’s first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill and its first turbaned male Sikh, Tanmanjeet Dhesi. Both are Labour MPs. In the past we’ve had 5 Sikh MPs in the last 15 years but never wearing a turban in the House of Commons.
In the wake of the Manchester concert bombing, it is perhaps significant that the city elected its first Muslim MP, Afzal Khan – who was also ten years ago their youngest and first British Pakistani and Muslim, Mayor of Manchester.
It shouldn’t matter, but it is interesting nonetheless with accusations that the Tories were run by the Eton and Bullingdon Club set, and even many who stood as Labour leader being Oxbridge educated.
The Sutton Trust believes that 51% of MPs were educated in comprehensive schools, and just 29% at public schools (ie privately educated). It is still disproportionately biased to private education, therefore.
In conclusion, our LGB representation continues to be the highest in the world, across the three largest parties – but not elsewhere, and close to the assumed proportion of the general population. Several Trans, Non-Binary and similar, stood but at 9 out of 3300, they are about 10x underrepresented in standing, and to date unelectable; are they being stood as no-risk candidates in unelectable areas, that’s an analysis I’ve not done yet. On gender, we are getting there slowly, but ranking 39th in the world is a poor result, albeit an improved one. Realistically with parenting issues, 45% of Parliament would be a good showing for women, rather than the 32% we have. BME and disability remain woefully underrepresented. How a Tory deal with the DUP, who are anti-diversity on just about every count, can be squared with Parliament and the electorate’s ever-progressive diversity, remains to be seen.
It’s a beautiful day outside but it was an ugly night. The terrorist incident overnight in London brought out the best in the many and the worst from a few. Three perpetrators are now shot dead. Seven innocents (at this time) are counted among the dead and nearly 50 in hospital, several critical including a number of police officers. Whilst “London Bridge is Falling” may have trended on ISIS channels, #HopeNotHate, #LondonIsOpen and #SofaForLondon did here.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Hope and Hospitality
Most of London resorted to opening their homes in response, a taxi driver tried to run down one of the attackers, a policeman lies in hospital injured during the 8-minute long initial and immediate response to prevent further carnage. The London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and several politicians called for “normality” and not changing our way of life.
Khan is emblematic of London’s diversity, its first ethnic minority and Muslim Mayor. I lived in central London for 7 years and it’s a place of community and cohesion despite its differences. The Blitz spirit lives on 77 years later, though the Londoners who embody it are more diverse but no less united against attacks on their open city.
Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary said we need to:
“defend the essence of London as a multicultural and multiracial city.”
The political campaign and election on 8 June must go ahead, as democracy is part of our culture that needs defending. Needless to say, some will be calling for clampdowns on immigration, increased surveillance and security, and Muslim bans, like Donald Trump has. What we need is not necessarily less immigration, but more integration, more community, less conflict. I live in Norwich, a city whose response to hate is community and cooperation. Our security should be intelligence-led, not driven by fear.
More Love, less Hate
Back in 2012, Norway suffered an extremist attack on its young people. No, not an Islamist terrorist, but a far right xenophobe, Anders Breivik. There are many kinds of terrorist – but the response to them all should be along the lines of their Prime Minister:
“Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity…We will answer hatred with love.” – Jens Stoltenberg
Hate and Islamophobia
Whilst messages of hate and hope circulated on social media, Katie Hopkins called for the incarceration of “the lot of them”, deportation, and even blamed the attacks in mock humour on food deprivation during Ramadan fasting. Who are this “lot”? All Muslims? When the IRA used to bomb London we didn’t round up all the Irish!
That’s the language of Donald Trump’s white and right Christian America, who nonetheless just returned from visiting Saudi Arabia and like the UK exchanging arms contracts worth billions.
Faith and Ideology
Friday, I was invited to a Shabbat meal at which another ideology’s desire to kill a people of an alternate belief was discussed, today many will go to church and pray. Yesterday evening Sikh Gurdwaras opened to people in need during the terror attack, as did many Londoners. Faith or no faith, nationalism or internationalism, it’s the actions and adherents of extremist ideologies, the interpretations and “twistings” of beliefs that lead a few to latch hold of isolated texts as justification to kill and maim. Those texts only excuse fighting if “oppressed” or denied freedom of expression of Islam – take away the oppression and the justification of military jihad is gone.
The fact that last night’s terrorists wore fake suicide bomb vests makes me think these were “inspired by” ISIS rather than orchestrated by.
The issue remains that they recruit, radicalise, foment extremism. They are able to celebrate terror on social media with virtual impunity. Free speech should never include hate speech and incitement to violence and terrorism. But even if we stop that, terror preaching behind closed doors wouldn’t stop. The funding of terror needs to stop too.
“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons. That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith.” – Muslim Council of Britain
Practising Muslims in Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain condemn these attacks each time, so we can be clear this is not Islam attacking the West.
“There will always be particular groups which take views that are different from the mainstream but what is clear over the weekend is the extraordinary level of condemnation by every significant Muslim leader we know and every significant Muslim body we know.” – Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Kabul should be indicative of that too, with 100 killed in the last few days there during Ramadan and a funeral, Muslims are the majority victims of extremist Islamist terror. They are waging war within Islam more than they are waging war outside of it. The violence is as much sectarian and territorial as it done “in the name of Allah”, a claim opposed by the majority of other Muslims.
“Kabul has just suffered one of the bloodiest weeks in years, leaving its streets devoid of life and its residents gripped by fear – and feeling unprotected.” – Al Jazeera
Historically, Christians killed Christians in the name of interpretative differences, empire and territorial gain. They also targeted Muslims in the past and as recently as Bosnia. The story is repeated across most religions and ideologies. Settling differences by destruction not constructive dialogue.
True Muslims, yesterday, were praying and fasting not killing and maiming. They were celebrating Ummah – the “community” of its faith, not the extremism of its terrorist false prophets who seek to divide and destroy by preying on the vulnerable with the promise of heavenly gain after earthly jihadist carnage.
“Yes, there are evil Muslims who have carried out acts of terror, which are totally un-Islamic. The sooner we stop giving any credence to these evil people by attaching the label of the religion to their evil the better it will be for us, because by giving them that label we are giving them a platform that they seek to legitimise their evil ways.” – MCB
Practice peace, preach peace, encourage love not hate. Engage and educate!
Discriminate too – YES, yes discriminate between terrorists and people of faith, don’t tarnish all people with the same brush. Hate against Muslims rose five-fold after Manchester. Let it not deteriorate further.
Origins of Terrorism
The reasons people become terrorists are complex and though they include taking a cut and paste approach to the out of context and out of time scriptures of a religion, they also include revenge for bombings on family members by Western interventions in the Middle East.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. – The Bible, John 8:7
It is undeniable that Saudi Arabia, Iran and others have contributed to the rise of extremist ‘Islamist in name’ terrorism, but also that the USA encouraged Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the past, then invaded Iraq, Afghanistan etc; the West including Britain bombed Libya and Syria – the primary recruiting grounds of recent terror attacks.
Using military might to crush terrorism by creating more collateral damage victims only recruits more terrorists who’ve lost a brother, mother, daughter in a less-than-precision bombing raid.
A better way?
I don’t have answers, but what is clear is that returning hate for hate and bomb for bomb is not working. It is only perpetuating and escalating.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Einstein
You don’t solve an issue or many conflicts in any permanent way using the same weapons with which they are being waged. There is no lowest common denominator to which we must sink, it’s not a race to the bottom and basest instincts of people. We need a higher level of consciousness and rising above with which to end the recruitment to humanity as its most hopeless when it seeks to take the lives of others in the name of any ideology of hatred.
LYLM is a campaign to celebrate and make relevant our markets. The oldest form of commercial trade, many have suffered from superstores, out of town shopping parks, and the online revolution. Keeping them fresh and vibrant remains a challenge. That said, many entrepreneurial migrant people have established stalls and brought international flavours and variety to traditional trades and ownership.
Today is #LYLM2017 day at Norwich Market from 10-4pm. Historic Norwich Market is especially loveable! It’s mentioned in the Domesday Book, and one of the oldest and largest in the country. It’s been in its present location for 900 years pre-dating the surrounding buildings.
St Peter Mancroft was financed by the market’s merchants and its graveyard expanded taking in a row of the market because of 14th-century bubonic plague and famine deaths. All stallholders retain the right to hold their weddings in the church and to be buried there.
St Peter’s Street used to be called Over Row and Gentleman’s Walk, Nether Row. Haymarket, Maddermarket, Timber Hill and elsewhere held additional city markets.
In the 16th-Century there were 37 butchers alongside the oranges and lemons, sugar, figs and prunes – then considered exotic international imports. Also, somewhat exotic, the 17th-Century saw lions, tigers, camels and jackals, displayed at the market, alongside “unusual people”.
Public punishments were also carried out at the market at its Guildhall end where the stocks and pillory were located.
Norwich Union (Aviva) was founded, over 200 years ago, to provide fire insurance to stalls and shops around the market.
The market now, once again, celebrates an international city with food and provisions from many countries as well as organic, vegan, and community-social enterprises. You can also buy hoover parts, DMs, flowers, clothes and more… Support and love your local market today.
On the eve of BBC Question Time in Norwich, not just one political demo but two protests against the Government took place. One was anti-austerity/Tory and gathered outside The Open where filming was taking place.
The other was anti-Brexit whose centrepiece was a German carnival float with the sensitivity of a French Charlie Hebdo cover in the spirit of Spitting Image satire – how about that for European unity!
French artist but UK resident for 30 years, Laure Olivier Minns, drew attention to the sad state of the satirical statue, in an interview with the Norwich Evening News:
“Look at the state of her head already, it’s a sign that she isn’t strong and stable.” – Laure Ollivier Minns,EDP
The humour was not to everyone’s taste, and as someone who has experienced suicide attempts, I found the subject matter challenging. The image of Theresa May shooting herself in the mouth was meant to be about Britain committing political suicide by Brexit. Instead, the image was profoundly personal evoking strong reactions.
Perhaps, it should have been Britain shooting itself in the foot, rather than the mouth, it may even be seen as an own-goal. Some erstwhile Remainers refused to attend the rally as a result, others like myself had mixed feelings.
During the evening I had several conversations with passers-by about suicide but few about Brexit. One car driver stopped and said he agreed with what we were doing and supported Remain but having lost a family member to suicide found the imagery distasteful.
Another person found that it conjured up allusions of male-on-female violence. I critiqued that view and pointed out that male suicide by gun is a much higher figure than female suicide fatalities. Well, it created a debate, but perhaps not the one intended. Much as Antony Gormley’s recent rooftop-edge human sculptures up at UEA.
Laure defended the choice to bring the float to Norwich and use it as one expression among many of people’s feelings about Brexit. She said:
“The message is clear: BREXIT IS TOXIC. And that I guess is at least something we all agree on. So this May’s float might not be everyone’s cup of tea in terms of ‘bad taste’ for some, however, I truly believe that it is so important for FREEDOM OF SPEECH to be respected and protected.
Visuals such as the float or other creative means like some ingenious cartoons show humour through carrying angry voices and it is a way to soften anger too strong for words and at the same time be totally spot on in delivering a strong message. Humour is so important to cherish and use through tragedies and political dilemmas to also lighten up the atmosphere. Likewise many creative placards that are conveying strong messages through cartoons of sorts, make an important impact in seconds and make people smile relating to that message or/and provoke a reaction. So what? I think it should. It is a way to be heard.
We can’t expect everyone to agree on each of those creative means to carry our voice forward and it does not mean that the placard of Billy-next-door is a reflection on what we all stand for. We all have our own individual way of expression, shared by other groups or not, and we should remind ourselves that we are marching for the same goal: Pro-EU / stop Brexit > which are both about MAKING OUR VOICE HEARD whatever slogan one chose or art form used.”
Nonetheless, the satire also made the point that most provocative art and humour do, that life is sometimes messy and uncomfortable, opinions differ and divide; it was certainly a talking point – whether it was Remainers shooting themselves in the foot with a tactless float, or Brexiters committing political suicide, we’ll have to wait and see…
The float is currently on a British tour and arrived in Norwich on the same day as the BBC’s Question Time took place at The Open.
Satire or Serious Message?
Düsseldorf’s Karneval regularly features political satire but this year with Donald Trump, Netherlands’ Wilders, France’s Le Pen, Turkey’s Erdogan, along with Britain’s Brexit, there was plenty of material.
The stodgy stereotypical image of German humour is clearly way off the mark as these floats were right up Charlie Hebdo‘s street and could have walked off the Spitting Image TV set. Humour, like art, both protests and provokes. I hope the conversation shifts away from the rather visible satirical attack on Theresa May and instead remains about the political and personal damage that Brexit may do to European relations and EU nationals living here, as well as threats to Britain’s prosperity and cultural tapestry.
Norwich Anti-Austerity Protest
The serious message about austerity and cuts and their impact on the disabled, the poor, and the most vulnerable was also protested outside the BBC filming by Vince Laws, Jan McLachlan, Tim Hughes and many others.
“If the system cripples you, you must cripple the system” – Oscar Wilde
OK, so Vince made that one up, but the #fakenews quote got you thinking and googling its source! What Oscar Wilde did say was – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”.
Happy IDAHO – IDAHOT – IDAHOBIT Day, perhaps now IDAHOBNoBIT Day! For the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, needs further evolution to embrace the increasingly prevalent eNByphobia (Non-Binary).
In the last few months, I both started a non-binary meetup and discussion group and also witnessed increased enbyphobia – mainly online. That it is coming from people whom you would otherwise expect to be intersectional and LGBT+ allies is worrying.
It has come from the same feminists and others who oppose transgender women (mainly) but also trans men (erasing butch lesbians, apparently), as well as from some 50-something gay men and women, and even trans women in the public eye such as India Willoughby.
Good Morning Britain‘s Piers Morgan seems to be the go-to bigot/Kelvin Mackenzie on all things offensive these days, despite saying he accepts trans people and their rights – so long as they’re not non-binary. Last week, he mocked Emma Watson after she accepted MTV’s first ‘gender neutral’ acting Award. This week it’s non-binary trans persons Fox Fisher and Owl Stefania who he argued were just talking gobbledygook and he could just declare himself a black woman or an elephant and demand elephant rights to be given a room at the zoo.
Piers took to mockery, yesterday, too:
I am now identifying as a black non-binary 4ft astronaut. @GMB
“It’s an all girls’ school in this country and in one year, there are now eight non-binary students who do not identify as girl,” he said. “I think that’s dangerous. It’s creeping and it’s creeping fast. I don’t think that’s right.” – Piers Morgan, describing his friend’s daughter’s school
Non-Binary “not a thing”
The irony that some feminists who oppose gender roles and see it as a social construct would turn round and say that non-binary doesn’t exist, “it’s not a thing”, there are only two sexes and gender is social, seems somewhat biologically essentialist and reductive. Not to mention, only true to a limited extent. Yes, most babies take 2 differently sexed parents to be conceived, although 3-parent babies are now possible.
Some people can also be intersexed, as many as 1.75% of people. These can include dozens of chromosome and endocrine variations producing differences in primary and secondary characteristics. Genetic sex chromosomes are far from limited to X and Y, since around 20 viable combinations from XO to XXXXY and XYYYY can occur. Perhaps, the ‘I’ in IDAHOBiT should be for Interphobia and not Biphobia?
I’ve done a lecture at SOAS and UEA universities titled “Around the World in 80 Genders” looking at non-Western interpretations of “third gender” identities. Afterwards, I often get asked, “just how many genders are there?” My usual reply is, “around 7 billion”. Gender, and even sex, is more dissimilar than it is stereotypically binary.
Non-binary people don’t know their sexuality
Just this week, I’ve been told that as I’m non-binary or even wrongly misunderstood to be genderfluid, there’s a small chance that I may be heterosexual, either all the time or some of the time. As a result, I should not be invited to speak at LGBT events. The same surely applies to trans people – who can be non-binary too.
Surely, our issue is a common oppression, not an identical gender or sexuality identity? We are intersectionally united by not being a part of cis heteronormativity and the freedoms and rights that brings but which those who are different may not enjoy to the same extent.
When it comes from binary LGBT folk it is especially galling that our brothers and sisters are engaging in intra-community division and discrimination.
International Day Against Homophobia
The annual, since 2005, IDAHO Day celebrates the 1990 removal of homosexuality from the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD). That it took 17 years from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) initial tentative removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) demonstrates how long change in these areas can take. Aspects of gender dysphoria including autogynephilia (sexual arousal by thoughts, images of self as a female), autoandrophilia, and transvestic disorder, “unwanted” same-sex attraction, and even asexuality remain in the DSM and ICD.
May 17 was first known as the “International Day against Homophobia” and mainstreamed through its acronym “I.DA.HO”.
In 2009, Transphobia was added explicitly in the title of the name, in the recognition of the very different issues at stake between sexual orientation and gender expression. “IDAHOT” became another popular acronym used alongside the initial one.
Since 2015, biphobia is added to the title, to acknowledge the specific issues faced by bisexual people. A new acronym, IDAHOBIT, has started to be used by groups in Australia and the UK mostly. To acknowledge this diversity, we use increasingly all three acronyms in our communications.
Wherever we can only use one acronym, we favor the acronym IDAHOT, as being the one most in use at global level*
To ensure even more inclusion and reflect the diversity of sexual and gender minorities, we have created at global level the baseline “A global celebration of sexual and gender diversities”. This is probably the only “solution” to the issue of inclusion and reflection of other diversities, such as Queer, Asexual, Pansexual and regional identities such as Hijras, Weres, Two-Spirit, etc. – IDAHO
Ban on sexist forced workplace dress codes abandoned
The Government has backed down from enforcing a review of the law regarding workplace dress codes where they discriminate on gendered lines, such as requiring makeup, skirts and high heels for women but only clean shaven, suits and flats for men.
“Forcing women to wear high heels at work is medieval – and no better than calling us witches” – The Daily Telegraph
Instead, the Government says that existing equality legislation is sufficient to the task so long as men are required to dress to an “equivalent level of smartness“.
“No employer should discriminate against workers on grounds of gender – it is unacceptable and is against the law. Dress codes must include equivalent requirements for both men and women.”
Equivalent? What would that look like in reality if applied in the workplace or tested legally? Men in ballet pumps, cramping their feet and allowing them to stand en pointe to reach the tallest shelves at work? No baggy suits, only tailored ones to every pectoral muscle, firm behind or indeed bulge, looking like someone from the Chippendales before the striptease music begins? Perhaps, the phraseology should be an “equivalent level of sexualisation”.
Nicola Thorp, PwC and Piers Morgan
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) briefly employed Nicola Thorp as a front facing receptionist temp, but sent her home when she came to work in flats not heels. It set off a petition attracting 150k signatures. When it came to her being interviewed by Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain she acquitted herself brilliantly against the sexist Piers Morgan who said:
“If you’re the gatekeeper to meetings and you’re taking very important clients with besuited guys (oh and er women and whatever)…is it actually sexist for the company to say ‘we’d like you to look fantastic as well and to look glamorous and wear heels and set a kind of whoah'”.
“Certain jobs, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them (the employers) to say we don’t want you in flats showing visitors around.”
Thorp replied “High heels are designed to make women look sexier not more professional. Piers was rightly slammed by viewers after his sexist suggestions.
Health and Safety alone would ban High Heels in continued usage, as indeed the NHS does. Evidence suggests that wearing them can lead to osteoarthritis.
“Wearing high heels when you go out in the evening is unlikely to be harmful. However, wearing them all week at work may damage your feet, particularly if your job involves a lot of walking or standing.” – NHS Preventing Heel Pain
“High heels aren’t glamorous, they are physically damaging and requiring women to wear them is sick” – The Daily Telegraph
Theresa May’s Kitten Heels
Theresa May’s footwear has long been noticed, and she is no kitten as her predatory early election calling has shown.
Even when paired with skirt suits and high cut tops, the Daily Mail‘s “Who won Legs-it” headline focus shows where the eye, the attention, and the comment goes…
Well heeled History
High heels were originally worn by men and women – of status, hence the expression “well-heeled” indicating wealth, and in Europe, at least, can be traced back to the 16th century. In the late 17th century “King Louis XIV of France decreed that only nobility could wear heels, and that only members of his specific court could wear red ones!” Christian Louboutin eat your heart out, or perhaps your ‘sole’.
Like anything, it’s about choice. Feminism is about choice. Equality is about men and women having similar choices. Wearing high heels should be a choice – except on a hospital A&E ward or a building site.
From Remain to Leave, from a 2020 election to a 2017 election, from the Fixed-term Parliament Act to PM’s whim. This Prime Minister is for turning.
Markets have reacted to uncertainty as usual with the FTSE-100 down nearly 2.5% but the Pound also jumping over 1.5% against the Dollar.
Polls and Psephology
Psephologists and pollsters suggest she is odds-on favourite for an increased majority and mandate. Polls suggest a 15-20% point lead over Labour, a collapsed UKIP campaign as they’ve no longer Brexit to call for and many UKIPpers returning to the Tory fold as May goes for Hard Brexit or broke.
Be in no doubt this election is to crush Brexit (and any internal Tory) opposition – the very opposition she said at Easter didn’t exist because the country was united behind Brexit:
“a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead” – Theresa May, Easter message
Hijacking a religious festival for a political message? Will she stop at nothing?
Falsely describing the country as united but Parliament, as divided, is disingenuous and erasing of the 48%, of the tens and hundreds of thousands who continue to turn out for pro-EU/anti-Brexit rallies.
“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
She is referring to the SNP, LibDems, Labour and even the Lords, vowing to fight any bad deal with the EU. Surely, their opposition is in all our interests, even Leave voters, as nobody wants a bad deal. Again, it’s suspect since Article 50 was passed by Parliament, despite the narrow 52% EU Referendum majority and MPs being denied a free vote. Meantime, an election is the one surefire thing to divide the country afresh!
Whilst some may want an end to Leave-Remain bickering, some are opposed to a “hard” Brexit and may also vote against giving Theresa May a carte blanche to withdraw from the EU so drastically.
“Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
A Second Referendum?
Inadvertently perhaps, Theresa May has just called a second EU Referendum:
“So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the Government’s vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament – This is your moment to show you mean it.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
Single Issue Politics
Despite Audre Lorde saying, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”, nevertheless, this may well be a single issue election.
Remainers will be tempted to vote LibDem, even many students with memories of betrayal over student loans or concerns about Tim Farron’s evangelical Christian faith and opposition to abortion and gay sex – that said, he has been quoted as saying he will follow party policy on the matter.
For the SNP, too, it will be about Brexit and a Scottish second independence referendum, because of it.
The LibDems – who gained 1000 new members an hour after May’s announcement, and Tim Farron are trending on Twitter, Labour are not. Labour MP Alan Johnson is trending, but that’s because, along with others, he is standing down.
Perhaps it is time for strategic voting as June will be seen as an ironclad Brexit mandate and a 5-year window to negotiate with EU pre- and post-Brexit. Labour are down but also voting for the early election. Greens and LibDems are slowly rising in support and membership since the EU Referendum. LibDem marginals winning back seats from Tories in pro-Remain areas are the likely possible cause of an upset. As a past Labour voter, conceited statements that the choice is between the Tories and Labour ignore the possibility of a third pro-EU force emerging, backing Greens and/or LibDems or independent candidates. Anyone with an EU partner, like myself and many friends, will be thinking this. We’ve had 40 years of integrating EU people, policies and partners into our society, and they remain a headline issue in this forthcoming election campaign.
Betting odds on the next leaders to replace the current batch are Labour: 4-1 Keir Starmer, 6-1 Clive Lewis, LibDems: 4-1 Norman Lamb, Tories: 4-1 Boris Johnson. Odds on the next PM: Theresa May 1-10 and on Corbyn 7-1. Tim Farron was 50-1 now 25-1. 7-4 odds on Labour losing 50 seats and LibDems gaining 10-20. Either way, doesn’t look good. Plan A is still strategic voting for the best opposition party/candidate in each locale. (Ladbrokes | Paddy Power | OddsChecker)
“So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for Government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands.” – Theresa May, Election call [full speech text | video]
The last few nights have seen protests in London at the Russian Embassy and around the country because of the 100 detainees. Norwich held its protest with around 50-60 attendees last night on the City Hall steps. The supporters were addressed by Norwich Pride’s Nick O’Brien, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green’s Lesley Grahame, Katy Jon Went, Julie Bremner, Andy Futter, and Di Cunningham. (Gallery here)
We can keep the victims in the media eye, gain diplomatic and human rights traction by our voices, standing up for those who’ve lost their liberty because of their sexuality. This is poignant coming, as it does, on the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.
Sadly, over 70 nations worldwide still criminalise homosexuality and male on male sex which includes bisexuality, so let’s not forget that those imprisoned and beaten, even killed, may include gay and bi men, and trans – anyone who is an affront to the macho traditional image of Mother Russia and the two major religions in its regions, the Russian Orthodox Church and Islam.
Chechnya: Men detained for being perceived to be gay must be immediately released & their abuse/persecution ended https://t.co/DbbnIVQbSf
One victim described how Interior Ministry SOBR police officers:
“stripped me naked. One filmed me on his telephone. Three of them beat me. They kicked me, broke my jaw. They said that this is a gay and that there shouldn’t be defects like this in Chechnya.”
Rounding up the “defects”, the “abnormal”, speaks of sexuality eugenics and group genocide.
These are not just rumours, the Guardian spoke to two victims who were “subjected to torture on a daily basis” and activists report this is happening in multiple towns across the region. Helplines have been set up to help LGBT people leave the country and journalists who have reported on it are also fearing for their lives after threats and considering that the rare independent voice of Novaya Gazeta has had several of its staff murdered.
We have no Gays!
Denial that is happening is part and parcel of how this kind of abuse works. Spokesman, Alvi Karimov, for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov described the Novaya Gazeta report as “absolute lies and disinformation”, saying also that there were no gay people in Chechnya:
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic. If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
According to the Guardian, Chechen television is reporting that thousands gathered at Grozny’s central mosque to pass a resolution against the “lies and libel” in the Novaya Gazeta stories – “chiefly for suggesting there are gay men in Chechnya”!
“The centuries-old traditions of Chechen society, the dignity of Chechen men, and our faith have all been insulted, and we promise that those behind it will face reprisals, whoever they are and wherever they are.” – Chechen Resolution
Why forget and erase the history of your own great LGBT+ persons?
From Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, probably Stravinsky, the son of Rimsky Korsakov, Gogol, numerous artists, dancers like Nijinsky and Nureyev, to Ivan the Terrible with 7 straight marriages but a preference for cross-dressed men. Not to mention dozens of counts and princes of Russia’s past who were bisexual, open or closeted gay Russians.
Legal Prohibition of Homosexuality
Apart from religious condemnation of homosexuality in orthodox Christianity and Islam, I’ve encountered a secular Russian traditionalism that also condemns being LGBT on the basis that it destroys the family, the national image, and is just plain “abnormal”.
In June 2013, Russia brought in a law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality among minors”, not unlike the UK’s Section 28, but given the street-based homophobia much more dangerous. Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act stated that councils should not “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.
Homosexuality “in private” was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but plenty of discrimination and prejudice remains. Actually, it was decriminalised in 1917 but re-criminalised in 1933. That’s a stark reminder that equality rights won can be lost again, just look at India and Uganda too. Russia is at least 25 years behind the UK on LGBT rights.
The law banning spreading “non-traditional” sexual propaganda to minors is so loosely worded that almost anything could be seen as illegal. Locals say they fear even holding hands or kissing in public for the risk of attracting a £100 fine or worse. Prides in Moscow (2006-2011) have been beset by homophobic violence and since 2012 banned for 100 years by Moscow courts.
Russia’s second-largest and hitherto most open city, St Petersburg, has seen a deterioration with city council members since 2012 pushing Putin to harder lines on LGBT freedoms. Marked homophobia and transphobia worsened in 2016 with LGBT persons and their supporters being hounded out of their jobs, attacked in the street, and denied civil freedoms.
Vladimir Putin, himself, has linked homosexuality to paedophilia and stated strongly that Russia needs to “cleanse” itself of gays if it wants to increase its birth rate. The tagging of population growth on the end of that statement in no way minimises the echoes of a homosexual holocaust that was part of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ in “cleansing” 1930s Nazi Germany of Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, and non-conformists, alike.
Chechen Laws and Attitudes
Chechnya, in 1997, implemented Article 148 of the Criminal Code punishing “anal sexual intercourse between a man and a woman or a man and a man”. The punishment was caning but upon a third conviction, the death penalty by shooting, stoning or beheading. Since 1996 and repeatedly reaffirmed, Russia under pressure from the Council of Europe has had a moratorium on the death penalty despite a persistent majority of the population wanting its reinstatement. The death penalty thus remains on the books but not enacted since 1996.
In 2011, the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, is quoted as saying:
“I have the right to criticise my wife. She doesn’t. With us [in Chechen society], a wife is a housewife. A woman should know her place. A woman should give her love to us [men]… She would be [man’s] property. And the man is the owner. Here, if a woman does not behave properly, her husband, father, and brother are responsible. According to our tradition, if a woman fools around, her family members kill her… That’s how it happens, a brother kills his sister or a husband kills his wife… As a president, I cannot allow for them to kill. So, let women not wear shorts…”
With these kinds of archaic gender stereotype attitudes is it any wonder that LGBT people are ostracised, given up, locked up, with little internal national complaint?
Freedom House included Chechnya in the “Worst of the Worst” list (2009) of most repressive societies in the world, together with Burma, North Korea, Tibet.
Toxic intolerance of Homosexuality
From the Russian Orthodox Church to Conservative Islam and extremist Islamism, religion, tradition and ideology are involved in the toxic intolerance of homosexuality in Russia and Chechnya.
We must support open-minded inclusive faith and practice, but not the closed-minded homophobia of secular and religious pronouncements and laws.