Ehe Fuer Alle ~ Germany Votes for Equal Marriage

30-germany.w710.h473Another European domino falls.

In a move which has surprised many, Germany has held a snap vote which has approved same-sex marriage and adoption.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democrat Party (CDU) is in a coalition with the Social Democrat Party (SPD), has previously been strenuously against equal marriage on the grounds of “children’s welfare” and admitted to having a “hard time” with the issue. However, on 26 June in an interview with women’s magazine Brigette, Chancellor Merkel said she had a “life-changing experience” when she had dinner with a lesbian couple who are fostering eight children, and would allow a free vote on the issue in the future.

As the news spread supporters of equal marriage spread the message on social media, including sharing the hashtag #EheFeurAlle (Marriage for all) on Twitter, and calling for a vote as soon as possible. The SPD seized this initiative by calling for a vote by the time the German parliament went into recess by the week ending 30 June 2017. Although the SPD are trailing the CDU in the polls for the upcoming German election, they had signalled that there would by no future coalitions unless marriage reform was agreed upon. The Green Party, the far-left Linke Party, and the pro-business Free Democrats said likewise.

So it was, amidst Angela Merkel claiming she had been “ambushed” that the vote took place on Friday, 30 June, and was passed by 393 to 226, with four abstentions. Chancellor Merkel voted against, and said afterwards that she still believed “marriage was between a man and a woman” but did add that the passing of the bill would bring more “social cohesion and peace”.

Germany now joins the club of European nations which have legalised equal marriage. The others are;

Belgium (2003)
Denmark (2012)
England (2013)
Finland (2017)
France (2013)
Iceland (2010)
Ireland (2015)
Luxembourg (2015)
Netherlands (2001)
Norway (2009)
Portugal (2010)
Scotland (2014)
Spain (2005)
Sweden (2009)

Other types of civil partnerships are recognised by:

Andorra (2014)
Austria (2010)
Croatia (2014)
Czech Republic (2006)
Cyprus (2015)
Greece (2015)
Hungary (2009)
Italy (2016)
Liechtenstein (2011)
Slovenia (2006)
Switzerland (2007)

The tiny state of San Marino has recognised unregistered cohabitation since 2012.

There is no recognition of equal marriage in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Monaco, Romania, Russia, Turkey and the Vatican City. Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine have specific constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Malta’s new Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, has committed his government to passing same-sex marriage this summer.

In the UK, equal marriage is now law in the UK bases of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on Cyprus, in Gibraltar, the UK dependencies of Gibraltar, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. Alderney recognises same-sex foreign marriage, the tiny island of Sark has no recognition, while the Bailiwick of Jersey and the province of Northern Ireland have civil partnerships, with the latter stalwartly holding out against equal marriage.

That’s Northern Ireland where the UK government just recently squeaked into power after giving a £1 billion bribe to the homophobic, transphobic, anti-abortion, Biblical creationist, climate change denying Democratic Unionist Party  to support them, dears.

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Schoolboys Protest No Shorts Rule – By Wearing Skirts

Isca Boys

Boys at Isca Academy

And my faith in humanity is restored.

As temperatures in the south of England soared to over 30C (86F) recently, 15-year-old Ryan Lambeth was one of many boys attending Isca Academy, Exeter, (Isca being the Roman name for Exeter) who complained of the heat in the long black trousers which are part of the compulsory school uniform, and requested to wear shorts to know avail. It was Ryan’s mother, Claire (43) who asked one teacher that if girls can wear skirts, why can’t the boys wear shorts? But the school refused to move on the issue.

His mother’s actions did however give Ryan an idea. He decided to borrow and wear an Isca Academy uniform skirt, and contacting his friends, so did five others that morning.

The idea may also have come from a 14-year-old who wanted to wear shorts and was sarcastically told by the headteacher “Well, you can wear a skirt if you like”. Whatever, the idea took off as more and more boys borrowed uniform skirts from girlfriends and sisters, braving the giggles and taunts from others. By Thursday, 22 June, around 30 boys turned up in Isca Academy girls skirts. Not one boy was punished, and as the idea took off, the taunts soon died away and the boys were being championed for their stance. Only one boy was pulled up for his skirt exposing too much of his hairy legs. Some other boys had reportedly shaved their legs.

Even as temperatures dropped to more liveable 20C (70F), the boys continued to wear the skirts, partially to keep up the protest to wear shorts and partially because some prefer the air and freedom which the female uniform affords them. By this time the headteacher, Aimee Mitchell announced that the school was prepared to think again.

“We recognise that the last few days have been exceptionally hot and we are doing our utmost to enable both students and staff to remain as comfortable as possible, Ms Mitchell said, “Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys, and I would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families. However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.”

There are echoes here of a story I reported four years ago, when Swedish train drivers complaining of heat in their cabs reaching 35C (95F) were refused shorts and instead turned to wearing uniform skirts. The train operating company could not touch them, as doing so would be a discriminatory move and thereby illegal (see https://xandradurward.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/training-skirts-takes-on-a-new-meaning/). Likewise French bus drivers in Nantes have followed the same lead, turning to wearing skirts as temperatures soared to 38C (100F).

What really impresses me about the Isca Academy story however, is the way that the idea took off, and how the boys were able to carry out their protest without fear of bullying. That has got to be a positive move, which shows that perhaps the younger generation has a more accepting attitude to dress choice of others. In England 120 schools have adopted a gender-neutral policy towards uniforms, allowing pupils to explore and express their own gender identity by choosing whether to wear trousers or skirts. This is part of a move to combat homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying. Sadly, there are no similar figures for Scotland.

When the Isca Academy story broke, some here in Scotland suggested that if schoolboys up here wore kilts, few would even bat an eyelid. They may not, but I would suggest those saying that have never worn a kilt, or are at least forgetting a couple of things about them. For a start, kilts are not skirts; there is a distinction between the two. The modern small kilt, the philabeag, grew out of military wear (no, it was not invented by an English mill-owner – that is an anti-Scottish myth), and had drawstrings to form the pleats at the rear. It was itself adapted from the long plaid great kilt, the philamhor, which was a robe going back in antiquity to many other types of robes worn mainly by men.

But moreover, the kilt is a very heavy garment. A normal philabeag is 8 yards of heavy, tightly woven wool, which is wrapped around the body. Yes, it can be airy (particularly if a man wearing it is a “true scotsman”, if you get my meaning), but anyone who has ever worn a kilt, myslef included, will soon tell you just how warm it gets in the kilt. I most certainly would not have wanted to wear a kilt in the recent high temperatures, particularly as my family tartan, like most tartans, is dark and thereby draws the heat.

The light blue and black tartan (while are so many school skirts, even in England and the USA tartan?) of the Isca Academy uniform would not draw so much heat, and as the skirts are obviously made of much lighter material than a kilt, they seem to be the obvious answer for hot weather, for all genders.

Kinda cute skirts actually – I would wear one.

Xandra 100

100XandraHello Dears,

Well, a while since I’ve been in here.  Naughty Xandra!  I need a sound spanking (please).  But when I did log back in, imagine my surprise that I now have 100 followers.  You are all such darlings, and I am overwhelmed at having so many people following me.  I am truly touched (but we all knew that) and it will galvanise me to get back here and keep posting.

Meanwhile, a huge thank you to all my followers and hugs and kisses to each and every one of you.  I love you all.

Loves,

Xandra.  xxxx

 

Whatever He Said, Bill Nye Does Not Speak For My Gender

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Nope. He never said that.

And he would be first to admit that.

There has been a debacle about Bill Nye allegedly contradicting himself in his show Bill Nye Saves the World, in which he says that gender is on a spectrum, with some claiming that in his 1996 show Bill Nye the Science Guy he said that gender is determined by chromosones. It did not take long for the transphobes to get to work, one of whom produced a meme from the show of Bill with the caption “Gender is determined by your chromosones”.

Despite the meme being roundly debunked by Snopes and many other sources on the internet, there are still some trying to claim it was genuine, and denying the gender spectrum.

Let’s get this clear right away. Bill Nye never said one thing about gender being determined by chromosones ~ ever, end of. On the episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy etitled “Genes”, Bill said;

“Our genes are stored in parts of our cells called chromosomes. They look like this. Chromosomes contain all of the genetic information, all of the instructions you need to make a person. Now humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.”

This is what the bigots have latched onto, along with one sentence, not from Nye but rather from actress Amy Broder in a later episode entitled “Possibilities” in which she said;

“You’re either X and X. Girl. Or X and Y. Boy. The chance of becoming either a boy or a girl is always 1 in 2.”

Neither Bill Nye nor Amy Broder were talking about gender at all, they were talking about biological sex. That is what is determined by chromosones, not gender.

But even then the episode in which Broder was speaking was fatally flawed, as it maintains that there is only a biological sex binary. The very existence of babies born intersex tells us this is not so.

In the episode of Bill Nye Saves the World entitled “The Sexual Spectrum”, Bill corrects this by stating;

“Females usually have two Xs and males usually have an X and a Y. But it turns out, about 1 in every 400 pregnancies have a different number of sex chromosomes. Some people only have one sex chromosome, some people have 3, 4 or even 5. For me, I usually feel like I have a lot.”

But then we can be forgiveable to Bill, for the understanding of biological sex was a lot different in 1996 than it is today, and in “The Sexual Spectrum” Bill himself states;

“If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’re still learning about this field of science. We used to think that there were just two settings. Male and female. But it’s actually a lot sexier than that,”

And…

“Take sex. We used to think it was pretty straightforward. X and a Y chromosome for males. Two Xs for females. But we see more combinations than that in real life… …We have to listen to the science. And the science says that we’re all on a spectrum.”

So, Bill Nye himself admits that he is still learning and he is no expert in the field of human biology and gender. And this is important. Let us for a moment imagine that Bill Nye had said that chromosones determine gender.

I really admire Bill Nye for his intelligence, his biting wit and great sense of humour, but just what are his qualifications? Well, Bill is in fact a graduate in mechanical engineering, with all his other scientific knowledge having absolutely no academic qualifications. He also has a hugely successful comedy career behind him.

So in other words ~ and I’m not being cruel here, just truthful ~ Bill Nye is no more qualified to speak about my gender than I am to teach him about the hydraulic resonance suppression tubes he invented for Boeing 747 aircraft, or how to deliver comedy lines to an audience. As an objective scientist, I’m pretty sure Bill himself would agree with that estimation.

Same goes for Amy Broder. She is no more qualified to speak on my gender than I am to teach her about acting. Actually, on second thoughts, having seen her perhaps I could (saucer of milk for Xandra).

And of course, Bill Nye is absolutely correct that science has taken great steps in 21 years, and we now have a much greater understanding of sexuality and gender than we did a generation ago. Hell, as someone over 40 (I’m not saying by how much, dears), I had not even heard of the terms genderfluid and pansexual until a few years ago, generally because they were still relatively unheard of. But when I read up on both, having lived in confusion all my life, they hit me straight between the eyes and I realised “This is ME.” Like Bill, even I am still trying to make sense of it. I’m pretty sure most genderfluid and/or pansexual people feel the same way.

Yet there are those ignoramuses who will continue to deny that there is a gender spectrum and that there is only a gender binary. This makes it especially hard for the genderfluid, because we face this ignorant prejudice and hatred not only from the cishet majority, but also from some within the LGBTQI community, including some transgender people who outright deny the very possibility of someone being genderfluid.

But what such people do not realise is they are playing the bigots game for them. The gender binary argument using chromosones was not too long ago also used by homophobes denying homosexuality or bisexuality. It is still prevalant today among some religious bigots who use the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” line.

People, and science, were wrong about sexuality then. Just as it now known that they were wrong about gender.

And this is the part that infuriates me; that many people, including some very intelligent and otherwise very liberal ones, simply cannot seem to get it into their heads that biological sex and gender are not one and the same thing. They are not and never were. The genitalia on a foetus forms weeks before the brain develops. And despite the fact that there are many guys (both straight and gay) who seem to think through their dicks, it is in the brain that gender is determined, not the genitalia. That is as true for gender as it is for sexuality.

The fact is that there is only one person who is the true expert on their gender; YOU. That is true for all of us, be we cis, transgender, genderfluid, whateva. Therefore not one person has the right to judge, discriminate, or decry the gender identity of another.

Even though I actually think it’s cishet people who are the weird ones, and who are missing out on a whole lot of fun.

The ‘Homophobic’ Tweet Which Never Was So

aaaa-mundelltweet

Nasty? Yes.  Homophobic?  Get a grip, dears.  Just another “SNP BAD!” non-story.

“Tory minister slams SNP blogger over homophobic tweet” screams the headline in Pink News.

Except that the blogger in question, Reverend Stuart Campbell – who posted the Tweet under his “Wings Over Scotland” Twitter page – is not an SNP spokesperson, is not even a member of the Scottish National Party, and even makes the point on the Wings Over Scotland website;

“The site advocates Scottish independence, but is not affiliated or connected in any way to the SNP, and neither gives to or receives money from the party, nor indeed any other party.”

Still, I suppose it’s better than the enormous gaffe that Pink New came up with earlier, where their headline read “Tory minister slams conservative blogger”.

So to the offensive tweet itself. It surrounds Oliver Mundell MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), the son of Secretary of State for Scotland, and Scotland’s only Conservative Member of Parliament, David Mundell, who after being closeted most of his adult life, came out as gay in January 2015.

The supposedly “homophobic” Wings Over Scotland tweet read “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad embraced his homosexuality sooner.”

If that is at all homophobic, I for one am failing to see it. It is certainly quite nasty to wish someone had never been born, and that is quite a low blow for Rev Stuart Campbell, an ordained Christian minister, and I do believe that Stuart should apologise ~ on those grounds. If it were meant as a joke, it’s not even funny. But was it homophobic? I don’t think so. I’m certainly not offended by it ~ and you’d have to go to great lengths to find a bigger Scottish poof than me.

aaaa-afluffy

David “Fluffy” Mundell

Nonetheless that did not stop David Mundell (known as “Fluffy” to Scots Nats ~ a reference to his hair and beard, NOT his sexuality) from immediately playing the homophobia card;

 

“This sort of behaviour has to be called out. We’re not going to face down homophobia unless we call out people who practice it” said the Scottish Secretary.

No show without Punch, his son Oliver, who was elected as Conservative MSP for Dumfriesshire in 2016 was not long in answering either. And like Pink News, chose to take the opportunity to smear the SNP;

“It is really important they call out this kind of behaviour. There are lots of reasonable people within the independence movement. But there are still some unpleasant figures who get given airtime by senior people within the SNP,” he said, “This is an individual who has interacted with SNP MSPs and MPs, and distributed material in the last independence campaign. There is duty for all of us in politics to call out those within their own ranks who are offensive and unpleasant… …I get a lot of abuse online. There are certain individuals you don’t want to give oxygen to but sometimes comments people make just cross the line.

“For other families who have gone through similar situations, comments like that make it more difficult for people to be who they are,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the kind of Scotland anyone wants to live in.”

Of course, Rev Campbell is not in the SNP ranks, and by his own admission in Wings Over Scotland, has no affiliation to them. But don’t ever let those troubling little facts get in the way of a Tory “SNP BAD!” story. It is also interesting to note that Stuart Campbell has since tweeted that several people have approached the SNP for a comment – or an apology – for the tweet, but not one person has approached him.

For my money, homophobia is a problem in Scotland and one which is all too often ignored or brushed under the carpet. And the independence camp are far from blameless in this. During the campaign for the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, openly lesbian Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson came under attack from an online troll who made some thoroughly disgusting comments about her sexuality.

It is worth noting however, that it was members of the SNP and Yes Scotland who were first to immediately rally behind Ruth and distance themselves from the troll, they exposed his true identity, shamed him into apologising, and had him kicked out of both the SNP and Yes. Ruth Davidson tweeted that she felt that the Scots Nats defending her treated her “with gallantry”.

But then, the unionists were not so angelic either. The official unionist campaign, Better Together, once put an LGBT rainbow banner up on their Facebook page. Less than 24 hours later they had to remove it, due to vile homophobic comments ~ from their own supporters.

And of course, the Tories have not always been the champions of the LGBT+ community. Quite the opposite, historically and traditionally the Conservative Party have been deeply homophobic, transphobic, and one of the greatest obstacles to LGBT+ rights in the UK ~ and in some quarters within their party, remain very much so.

But homophobia is such a serious problem that to make false claims of it are also potentially damaging. It is like the person of colour who plays the race card where no mention of their race has been made or inferred, or the Israeli (or pro-Israeli) who reacts to valid criticism of the state of Israel by claiming anti-Semitism and bringing up the Holocaust.

Remember the boy who cried ‘Wolf’? Nobody listened to him in the end. Therefore, as odious as Rev Campbell’s tweet was in wishing Oliver Mundell had not been born (and which he really should apologise for), it was by no means homophobic, and to claim it was can only ultimately harm Scotland’s LGBT+ community.

Finally, Oliver Mundell is correct; no-one wants to live in an intolerant Scotland, or UK for that matter. We had enough of that when the notorious Section 28 made it illegal to ‘promote’ ~ i.e. have publications about or even discuss ~ homosexuality in schools.

Introduced in 1988, it was eventually repealed in Scotland in 2000, despite opposition from many Conservative MSPs ~ including David Mundell.

Yes, Fluffy ~ I’m no slouch at smear tactics either, dear.

Michael / Joanna / Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark; An American Hero

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Micheal Clark, US Navy / Joanna Clark, US Army

I have been reading of one of the most remarkable people transgender people ever born; Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, formerly Joanna Michelle Clark, formerly Michael Clark.

Michael Clark was born on 16 June 1938 in Pontiac, Michigan, USA. From 3-years-old he found he felt he was different from other boys, he preferred the company of girls, and even tried to emulate them. “I tried to talk and act like a girl instead of a boy,” said Michael in an interview, “I believed I was one of them – even though I knew I had a male anatomy. When I started going to elementary school, the other boys called me a sissy because I walked without ‘macho’ stride and carried my schoolbooks like a girl.”

By the time he reached junior high school, Michael tried to discuss his transgender feelings, but could not make them understand. Obviously there was a great deal of prejudice at the time, and Michael tried to be what he perceived as normal, joining the US Naval Cadets while in High School. When he left school in 1957, he went into the USN full-time as an avionics technician, eventually rising to Chief Petty Officer and an Instructor/Evaluator in anti-submarine warfare, scuba diving and sea survival in Hawaii, and serving on active duty in Vietnam.

Michael married his first wife in 1961, still trying to prove he was ‘normal’. However, although fathering a son, he could never satisfy his wife, and of course suffered the frustrations of not being sexually fulfilled himself, which led to him throwing himself further into his Naval career. The couple divorced in 1972, and he never saw his son again.

Still blinded by the prejudice of others, Michael married again, and this time found a partner who was not only sympathetic to his plight, was to be instrumental in changing his life.

“My new wife was a girl that I really intensely loved as a person. I still love her today. We liked the same things – hiking, concerts. But she needed more from me than I could give. And she started having a guilt trip over our situation, thinking she was at fault. Finally I said to myself: ‘My God, I’m reining this beautiful woman’s life by keeping my secret from her.’ So I broke down and told her I was a transsexual – a woman trapped in a man’s body. Instead of making me feel ashamed, she talked about what we had to do.”

Clark’s wife encouraged him to tell his parents, who far from rejecting him as he feared, all too fully understood (good parents know, dears). Thereafter he underwent psychological evaluation, which must have been groundbreaking for the 1970s, as it confirmed that Michael was a woman inside.

The downside is that someone blew the whistle about Mark’s evaluation to the US Navy. He was discharged upon the spot, and although it was an Honourable Discharge, it left Mark “angry and bitter”. And quite rightly so; Mark had often been commended, had excelled in everything he did, his work undoubtedly saved lives, and he can thereby be considered an American Naval hero.

Michael Clark underwent hormone therapy and in June 1975 underwent gender reassignment surgery, emerging under her new name of Joanna Michelle Clerk. She then divorced her wife, and moved in with her parents in San Juan, California, and got a job as a clerk-typist. In 1976 she enlisted in the US Army as a Staff training assistant, acting supervisor Fort MacArthur. She rose to Sargent First Class in the WACS, but after the authorities became aware of her background, Joanna was dismissed from the Army Reserve 18 months later. This time Joanna decided she was not going to take it lying down a second time and took the US Army to court. It was eventually settled out of court with a stipulation that details of the settlement not be made public. However, it is known that Joanna received an Honourable Discharge, with credit for time served in the Reserve.

This put Michael / Joanna Clark in the unique position of having served in the US Navy and the US Army, as both a man and a woman. The only person in history to have done so. But there was more to come…

Having realised all too painfully how transgender rights are trodden upon, Joanna Clark successfully lobbied in 1977 for replacement birth certificates and driving licenses to be made available for transgender people in California. She wrote Legal Aspects of Transsexualism, an important document which continues to be referenced by the law fraternity in the USA to this day. She founded the ACLU Transsexual Rights Committee, which she chaired for many years, working endlessly for the legal rights and status of TS persons. In the early 1980s she worked with transgender campaigner Jude Patton as a TS advisor.

By the late 1980s, Joanna’s life became more spiritual and in 1988 she took her vows as a Nun and founded the Order of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a non-profit Episcopalian order. She transferred to the Order of St Michael of the American Catholic Church in 1997.

In 1990 Sister Mary Elizabeth founded AEGIS; AIDS Education Global Information System, the largest HIV/AIDS online information and website and BBS, which supplies reference material, information and an online meeting place for people worldwide.  Sister Mary Elizabeth has won several awards for her work fighting for LGBT+ rights, and HIV/AIDS awareness, and in 2005 was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

As Michael Clark, Joanna Michelle Clark, and as Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, this is a truly remarkable woman, who despite giving everything she has done her utmost, often pushing the limits of endurance, and often for others with little thought for herself, remains nonetheless humble. Someone I think we can all, whatever our gender, can look up to.

“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, military-wise, or working with children, I don’t think I’ve had anything in my life that I’ve had more passion for. I really can’t put it into words. When you see letters from people and you know that you’re helping them, that’s what it’s all about.”

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Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark