Archive | September 2014

The Rainbow Referendum

38mm-badge-magentaMajority of Scots LGBT community back independence

Hello dears, as I write this, there is only one day to go until the Referendum on Scottish Independence on 18 September 2014.  And it pleases me greatly that Pink News held a poll in which 54% of the Scots LGBT community stated they would be voting Yes.

2163 Scottish readers of Pink News took part in the poll, in which 54% said they would vote Yes, 44% said they would vote No, and 2% were undecided.   When asked which party they would vote for in a Scottish election, 35% said Scottish National Party (SNP), 26% Labour, 10% Green, 9% Liberal Democrats, 7% Conservative, 5% Scottish Socialist Party, and 8% unsure.

The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), stated “I am delighted this PinkNews poll has produced a majority for the Yes campaign, as well as the opportunity to build a fairer country that comes with it. It is a fantastic response from Scotland’s LGBT community and is a further demonstration of the rise in support for a Yes vote we have seen across Scotland. An independent Scotland will herald a new era for equalities, enshrining rights and protections in a written constitution.”

Now, I have met Alex Salmond and he is a lovely man who can completely disarm people with his warm smile, and who could charm the birds out of the trees.  However, whilst it is all very well and good to speak of building a fairer country and enshrining rights in a new constitution, he may well want to end the funding of his party by the Stagecoach bus company boss, Brian Souter, a known homophobe who once launched a campaign to retain the notorious anti-gay Section 28.  He may also want to offload the many Holy Willies in his party who are equally homophobic and who would seek to push their own faith in an independent Scotland – that is NOT happening.  Those are just two reasons I am not and cannot be a member of your party, Alex Sweetie.

So, given the above, just how did we reach a situation where a poll shows that the majority would back independence and would vote SNP?  Well, I reckon LGBT people are pretty well switched on and tend to be very intelligent.  A great many will not have fallen for the rhetoric of the media who have continually tried to claim that the referendum is purely an SNP matter, when that is simply not the case.  The official campaign for Scottish independence is Yes Scotland, a non-partisan, grass roots organisation, of which the SNP are but one of many parties and individuals who support it.  Certainly, the SNP are the most vocal proponents of the independence campaign, but given they are the government in power in the Scottish Parliament and their raison d’etre is independence, it would be surprising if they were not.  But to even suggest that the SNP are the ones driving Yes is as untrue as to suggest that the Conservative Party are the driving force behind the official campaign against independence, Better Together.

I would therefore suggest that the LGBT community are well aware of this (probably more so than the cisgender, heterosexual majority) and that is why they don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Then there is the House of Lords question.  I happen to know for a fact that there are a number of LGBT people on both sides of the border who dislike the fact that there are 26 unelected Church of England bishops, the Lords Spiritual, many of whom are homophobic, who have the ability to vote and influence government legislation upon them.  We dislike it even more in Scotland, given that the Church of England is the English established church, and a minority faith in Scotland.  Little wonder then that Scots LGBT people should wish to remove themselves from that poisonous influence.

LGBT support for the SNP is little harder to explain.  The fact that England may have well have got same-sex marriage before Scotland, yet the Scottish government tabled their Bill first, may go some way towards doing so.  Besides which, the English Same Sex Marriage Act was booted through Westminster with indecent haste, with the result of all knee-jerk legislation, it is deeply flawed.  The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act, however, although it took much longer, is much more comprehensive and embracing of many more people.  The Scottish Government working hand-in-hand with the Equality Network to make it so may very well have wooed a number of LGBT supporters.

And despite their funding from Souter and anti-gay religionists, the SNP government’s support for the LGBT community during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow may have won a good deal of support as well.  In Glasgow an LGBT rainbow flag flew over the city – after Green Party and SNP Glasgow Councillors forced the ruling Labour administration, who had downright refused to fly the flag, into a u-turn.  The Scottish Government echoed this by flying a rainbow flag over the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh.  Then came the First Minister’s speech at the opening of the games, in which he openly condemned the persecution of LGBT people in many Commonwealth countries; a speech for which he was congratulated by none other than LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

All in all, it seems that the 54% are correct in their thinking, that only an independent Scotland can safeguard and further their rights.

And should Better Together shoulder any of the blame for their failure in this poll?  As much as I disagree with them, I would never suggest that Better Together as an organisation is homophobic.  As the old adage goes, however, politics makes strange bedfellows, and some of Better Together’s are not so much strange as odious.

At one point Better Together put a rainbow logo up on their Facebook page.  It had to be taken down less than 24 hours later, due to a barrage of homophobic abuse from their own members and supporters.  This does not in the least surprise me.  Better Together has attracted quite a number of followers from the extreme right.  It is to their credit that they refused the Orange Order membership and refused to have anything to do with the Orange march through Edinburgh opposing independence. They have not however distanced themselves from some other far-right organisations, such as the Britannica Party.  And if Better Together wish to dispute that, perhaps they could explain why Britannica Party Treasurer Max Dunbar, along with his BP cohorts, was canvassing on a street in Glasgow City Centre on 31 August 2014, with official Better Together banners and handing out Better Together literature.  That of course was the day he kicked a pregnant homeless woman in the stomach, before calling her an alcoholic or a drug addict – he has since been arrested for the assualt.  Yes, you never read about that one in the tabloids, did you dears.

As long as Better Together associate themselves with extreme right, often violent, and certainly homophobic individuals and organisations, is there any surprise then that the LGBT community will continue to be repelled by them?

Better Togther have also ran an extremely negative campaign, in which they have been caught out in many lies, used scaremongering, and their supporters tend to be argumentative, unhappy and often aggressive – as a Yes campaigner, I can confirm this, as I’ve been on the receiving end of it many times.  Compare that to the cheerfulness and often party atmosphere of Yes campaigns.  One in Glasgow on Saturday, 13 September, was almost carnival-like.  But again, you won’t read that in the tabloids.  It is little wonder then that Yes attracts people with our positive message, while Better Together’s negativity turns people off, whatever their sexuality and/or gender.

Whatever the rights and wrongs however, with really is just hours to go now, it seems that the LGBT Yes vote is in the bag, and I for one could only be happier if it were a sassy pink Prada bag, full of rainbow sequins.

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What’s in a name? Quite a lot in fact.

'Oh, Harold, , , How can I face our family and friends knowing you're a crossdresser'In the past I have seen posts by people on this interwebs thingy and other social media, making comments about crossdressers, transsexuals/transgenders, drag queens and others which are often mistaken, and all too often attempt to lump us all together.  You can’t do that, dears.  It is about as accurate as saying Socrates was mortal, cats are mortal, therefore Socrates was a cat.

I can’t condemn many who fail to make the distinction.  As my sisters here know full and well, all of us are not only shunned and condemned by society, the media all too often holds people like us to ridicule and make mistaken reports about us.

Therefore I shall attempt to give definitions of the different groups of people who do indeed crossdress.  Please excuse me if even I get some of this wrong; as I am fond of saying, even I don’t have all the answers and I’m still trying to work this damned thing out myself.

Crossdressers

Crossdressers are men or women who dress in clothes which are gender specific to the opposite sex.  They are mostly men, but there does exist a small minority of female to male crossdressers.  Contrary to popular belief, not all crossdressers are gay, nor are they transgender.  The prevelance of crossdressing encompasses all sexualities, and this is perhaps where the confusion comes in.  It has been recorded however that the vast majority, some 68%, of crossdressers are in fact cisgender, heterosexual men, most of whom are married and have families.  But others can be gay, bi, intersex, or even asexual.

Even I thought myself to be hetero at one time, but have finally admitted to myself that I am in fact pansexual – I love the person, not the gender.  It seems to me that bringing sexuality into the matter is where confusion often lies.  Certainly, crossdressing can have a sexual dynamic to it, and lead to really fun, kinky sex.  To think that the drive is primarily sexual, however, is vastly mistaken.  Crossdressers like myself merely have a drive within ourselves to explore the feminine side of our psyche, and that is no more sexual than any woman who dons her favourite pretty, feminine clothes.

Transgender / Transsexual

There have been attempts to claim that there are distinctions between transgender and transsexual people on grounds of gender v sexuality.  LIkewise some people, including those in the medical fraternity, sometimes attempt to define the difference by saying that transgender means “pre-op” (before gender reassignment surgery), whilst transsexual means “post-op”.  Yet given that I have also seen these definitions reveresed, this is clearly bollocks (or even lack thereof).  To save confusion therefore, I make no such distinction and generally refer to both groups by the all-encompassing term, “Trans”.

Trans people are those who have the psyche of one gender, born into the body of the opposite gender.  Given that, being trans is neither a choice nor a drive to ‘explore’ alternate gender and sexuality, but rather it is a need.  Basically trans people are born in the wrong bodies.  Given that, we see again that sexuality is not the main driving force of trans people, but rather the desire to right an abberation in nature, no different than someone born with a hare lip, say.  And again, trans people cover the whole gamut of sexual identities.  I know trans people who are hetero, and others who are lesbian.  There are also trans people who are intersex, pansexual, and even asexual.

Intersex

Intersex is a condition once mistakenly (and insultingly) referred to as hermaphroditism; whereby someone is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy which does not conform to the biological definitions of male or female.  This can mean examples such as a girl with an unusually large clitoris, or no vaginal opening, or a boy with a noticeably small penis (micropenis is the derogatory medical definition), or whose scrotum is divided to appear more like a labia.  In extreme cases an intersex person can have the genitals of both genders; such as a vaginal opening located behind the scrotum.

There have been many recorded cases of such children growing to become either men or women with the onset of puberty, whereby a child outwardly appearing to be male has developed breasts and more defined female genitalia, or those apparently female developing testes and a fully defined penis.  In other cases, however, people can have inward physiology of one gender opposite to that they identify with which is not identified until adulthood, if at all.  There have been people have lived entire lives as one gender or the other, only for post-mortem operations to prove them to be intersex.

Needless to say, an intersex person may identify with one gender or the other – or even both – and dress and act accordingly.  This does not mean, however, that intersex should ever be confused with transgender / transsexual, when they are clearly not one and the same thing.

Freedressing / Genderqueer

Freedressing is about challenging traditional binary gender roles in matters of dress and fashion.  This is quite different to crossdressing, trans and drag, all of which identify with one or other of the gender dichotomies.  Freedressing instead asserts that people should be free to wear what they want.  Probably one of the most famous advocates of freedressing is the flambouyant-dressing Eddie Izzard, who once stated they’re not women’s clothes, they’re my clothes, I bought them”.  And yet Eddie Izzard still gets mistakenly reported in the press as a drag queen.

And this is where I have a huge problem with many advocates of freedressing.  The Freedressing Campaign on Facebook officially states Promoting freedom of expression for genderqueer and gender nonconforming people, while countering transphobia and oppressive gender stereotypes.  Yet while they claim that, their entire mission seeks a wholly androgynous dress sense, and in fact is critical of trans and crossdressing people for adopting gender binaries.  Indeed, they insultingly go as far as to maintain that crossdressing and drag are one and the same thing. 

More bizarrely, they claim that freedressing could end eating disorders; “Hopefully one day we shall see the fashion industry shift as it did during the 80s, and males can be more confident in their personal appearance. This can in turn reinforce their body image and confer the willpower to combat the widespread epidemic of obesity and malnutrition in our culture.” Strangely enough, I didn’t notice eating disorders decline during the New Romantic era.  In fact, quite the opposite happened, with more women and men suffering anorexia and bullimia, in the search for the ‘perfect’ androgynous body.

And the male-oriented message of that quote, “males can be more confident”, has not escaped me.  Neither however is the entire message of the Freedressing campaign, which assumes that all crossdressers are male; “Unfortunately for males, challenging this sexist notion is classified as crossdressing.”

Freedressing is indeed a fine and admirable idea.  It seems to me, however, that if it is about challenging gender dichotomies, opposing transpobia, and giving people – male and female – the right to dress as they please, then trans and crossdressing people should be free to wear what we wish, and not be accused of reinforcing the gender binary, as the Freedressing Campaign accuses us of doing so.

Drag Queens and Drag Kings

This term mostly applies to men who dress in women’s clothing and make themselves up as women, usually in a slutty fashion, for the purposes of entertainment.  Most drag queens are gay men and act outrageously in their acts.  The singer and entertainer, Divine, was a prime example of this, as is Paul O’Grady, who used to play the trashy Liverpudlian woman, Lily Savage.  There are however drag queens who are hetero.  Danny la Rue was a good example of this, as is Barry Humphries, who plays the batty Australian woman, Dame Edna Everage.  Humphries is in fact married with seven children.

Although their is a much smaller prevelance, there are indeed very successful drag kings – women who dress as men for the purely for entertainment.  Historically drag kings were very popular in British music halls, the most famous being Ella Shields, who sang Burlington Bertie from Bow.  Shields, actually an American, was hetero and it was her husband, William Hargreaves, who wrote the song.  In more modern times the macho Murray Hill is played by entertainer Betsy Gallahger, while All the King’s Men are an 8-piece drag King ensemble from Boston.  Drag kings, are largely the opposite of drag queens, in that a great many are lesbian, although this is not always the case.

There is one thing for certain, however.  To ever refer to crossdressing, trans, or intersex people as drag queens or drag kings is in fact a derogatory term, and should be avoided.  We do not dress for the public’s entertainment.

Conclusion

In the immortal words of The Kinks, “Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world,”  There is often talk of places and people being ‘tolerant’ of genders and sexualities which differ from the cisgender heterosexual mainstream.  I would suggest that every person should not be merely ‘tolerated’, rather they should be afforded the respect which every human being on the face of the planet deserves. And that applies be they male, female, cisgender, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, crossdresser, intersex, genderqueer, pansexual, asexual, any mixtue of the above, or any other gender and/or sexuality.

My partner has just informed me that our relationship is described as “bigender”.  I’ve just told her “Hon, I’ve accepted I’m pansexual. No more labels, please.”

Many people dislike labels, yet it is part of the human condition to categorise and pigeonhole all things, and our fellow beings indeed come into that.  In a perfect world, there would be no need for labels.  Sadly, we live in a far from perfect world, and it may take centuries of education before they become superfluous.

Whether we like it or not therefore, we still have the labels and shall, and shall have to, continue to use them.  But why we do, let’s all make sure we get the terminology correct.  And while we are about it, let us all refer to each other by the most important and most appropriate label which clearly defines the behaviour, gender and sexuality of each and every one of us – human.