News, studies, political and social commentary brought to you by our community writers - this is an area for education and debate.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The L Wire's Review of 2013: December

Although ‘tis the season to be reading or watching A Christmas Carol, the opening line to another Dickens classic seems more appropriate.

In terms of LGBT+ rights and visibility, December really has been the best of times and the worst of times.

Have a look at our final review of 2013 to find out why…

Desperate times for LGBT+ rights in India and Uganda

There were protests in India as the country’s Supreme Court overturned a 2009 decision that decriminalised gay sex. This meant that consensual acts between two people of the same sex would once again be punishable by a period of imprisonment.

Campaigners and politicians alike aired their grievances with this step backwards and the India government has now filed a petition to have the decision overturned once again.

As we enter 2014, this story is one that I’m sure many LGBT+ campaigners in India and elsewhere will be keeping a close eye on.

Protester in India (

And going from bad to worse, the grave situation for LGBT+ in Uganda was compounded as the country’s anti-gay law was passed this month.

Not only does the Anti-Homosexuality Bill make being gay a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment, it also legislates that it is a crime to not report those known to be homosexual. That means that parents are expected to report their children, friends are to report their loved ones and doctors to report their patients.

In essence, the Bill calls for the complete isolation of LGBT+ people. It withdraws any legal way for them to look after their sexual health. It’s a violation of countless human rights and has been described by Barak Obama as “odious”.

As leading Uganda gay-rights activist Frank Mugisha put it: “I am officially illegal”.

Activist Frank Mugisha (

The Bill has yet to be signed into law by the President but is widely popular in the country and expected to be signed in the near future.

I’m certain that this will be another story that dominates LGBT+ news in 2014. In the meantime, I’d recommend everyone to watch “Call Me Kuchu”; a documentary that gives a heart-breaking insight into what it’s like to be a gay Ugandan.

A tale of two (more) coming out stories

Our review of January included two of 2013’s most noteworthy coming out stories and December saw two of its own.

The stories of Tom Daley and Maria Bello are not only significant because they are well known, but also because of how they chose to do it.

Tom Daley promoting his TV show, Splash! (

Each did it in their own words; Tom in a YouTube video and Maria in a New York Times column. What seemed to strike a chord with many in the LGBT+ community is that they did actually come out as anything other than two people in love with people of the same gender.

Whilst that didn’t stop a number of reports designating labels to them, it reignited the debate on whether such labels are always going to be necessary. I think that the experience of falling in love with someone quite unexpectedly or over an extended period of time—as Tom and Maria described—are closer to many people’s realities than the “waking up gay” epiphany that many people out-with the community expect us all to have had.

Maria Bello (

I’m sure that both Tom and Maria’s stories will have helped others to understand their own feelings a little better and to realise that it’s fine to choose labels for yourself, but that you shouldn’t let anyone else place them on you.

You can read a blog I wrote about Tom Daley coming out here.

December: The month of equal marriage

The “month of equal marriage” award could pretty much have gone any way this year. Not a month went by without a significant piece on legislation being either introduced or passed somewhere in the world.

It seems that December crept in at the last minute to claim the crown.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news. It started off so well in Australia, with 27 same-sex couples marrying in the first few days that the Australian Capital Territory passed a law at local level. This was short-lived, however, as the High Court in Canberra ruled the law to be incompatible at a Federal level, and therefore invalid.

And with that, the rights gained by those 27 married couples became invalid too.

Thankfully, there was better news elsewhere. The UK Government announced that March 29th 2014 would be the first date for same-sex marriages in England and Wales. Some couples have already bookedceremonies at a minute past midnight in the hope of being the first couple with equal marriage rights in the UK. 

The UK Government's "save the date" announcement (

And in the last week, all eyes interested in marriage equality have been looking at the United States.

On December 19th, equal marriage was legalised State-wide in New Mexico. Although this was celebrated, it didn’t come as much of a surprise as some counties within the State were already conducting same-sex marriages.

A day later in Utah, things were quite different. When Judge Robert Shelby ruled on Friday 20th December that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional on the basis that it would have no adverse effect on heterosexual unions, he caught many couples off guard.

As the word began to spread, couples met at government buildings across the State in scenes that the New York Times described as “joyful chaos”.

Queues of couples circled floors of Government buildings (

Seth Anderson and his partner Adam Ferguson became the first same-sex couple legally wed in Utah. Using the power of social media, Seth invited the whole world to his wedding by live-tweeting the story as it unfolded.

Seth and Adam; the first same-sex couple married in Utah (

On Monday morning, Judge Shelby made a second ruling. This time he denied a stay which would have seen marriages halted until a full appeal could be heard by the court. This meant that, until that appeal happens, same-sex couples can continue to get married in Utah.

The question of what the legal status of these marriages would be if the appeal should be accepted has been raised. I am by no means an expert in American law, but I do know that when same-sex marriages were legal in California and then banned again, those who got married during that six-month window maintained their legal rights as a married couple in the State.

At least one bride got her "white wedding" (

Perhaps this is why so many couples are currently queuing outside official buildings across Utah as I write. For many people, the dream wedding involves tuxedos and puffy white dresses, five course meals and a fortnight in the sun.

But for many gay and lesbian couples, the idea of getting married is a dream in itself.

And that’s why seeing these couples getting married in their work clothes or in shorts and t-shirts is just as beautiful, if not more, than the fairy-tale weddings we see on TV.

The smiles say it all (

Check out Buzzfeed’s "45 Moving Moments From The First Days Of Marriage EqualityIn Utah" for more brilliant photos from the events unfolding in Utah.

Students stand up (and sit down) for equality in Seattle

Our review of the year ends with a bitter-sweet story from Seattle.

The bitter part is that Mark Zmuda, a gay high-school teacher, lost his job after the school’s management learned he had married his partner. In doing so, he had contravened his contractual obligation to “uphold church teachings”.

The sweet part is how the student at his school, Eastside Catholic High School, responded.

Hundreds of students staged a sit-in in the school’s cafeteria and assembly halls, refusing to go to class and calling for “Mr Z” to be reinstated.

Students stage a sit in (

Word soon spread and students from a neighbouring Catholic school began their own protest in support.

The school’s position on the matter was that their hands were tied as they are governed by the Archdiocese of Seattle. A spokesperson for both the Archdiocese and the school said, “This has nothing to do with gay people. The fact that he was gay has nothing to do with this issue. It’s the fact that he entered into a same-sex marriage.”

Statement from the school (

One of the schools pupils was quick to point out the contradiction of the Catholic Church not recognising same-sex marriages, but recognising them just enough to force a man from his job.

Clever kid.

Banners of support for Mr Z. (

This story epitomises one of my favourite things to emerge from so many of the LGBT+ stories that have happened this year, and that is the fact that young people are turning out to be some of our best and most outspoken allies.

Long may that continue in 2014 and beyond...

That's a wrap for our LGBT+ review of 2013! I hope that everyone who celebrates it has a very merry Christmas and and happy 2014! I wonder what it has in store for us all...

What were your favourite LGBT+ moments of 2013? And what were your personal highlights? Did you come out? Get married? Do something life-changing? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow Julie Price on Twitter, @JuliePee

The L Wire's Review of 2013: November

November brought with it further progress in the equal marriage front as Hawaii and Illinois became the 15th and 16th American states to legalise same-sex marriage and Scotland’s Bill passed its first vote with a large majority.

It also saw campaigning organisation All Out launch a thought-provoking video ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics and Stonewall launch a campaign about homophobia happening closer to home.

Both of those, and more, will be examined in our review of…

“All Out” release a sad imagining of Sochi Games

All Out released a video this November that re-imagined a familiar scene from many previous Olympic Games. An athlete wins gold and wishes for nothing more than to celebrate with their partner who's watching in the crowd.

But what happens when that person is of the same sex and the games are taking place in a country with homophobia written into its laws? This:

The video me goose-bumps the first time I watched it and I’ve got them again now.

At the end it asks “What if living your dream meant living a lie?” and that’s a question that’s familiar to a lot of LGBT+ people; athletes in particular, I'd imagine. We saw back in February that Robbie Rogers felt unable to unite his identities as a footballer and a gay man and that led to him taking a break from the sport.

Perhaps the situation that is expected in Sochi is even worse though. Some people choose not to disclose their sexuality for whatever reason, and that's their choice. But in Sochi, athletes who have accepted their sexuality, who are out and who have brought their partner along for support are being forced, by law, to publicly deny their own identity and to deny who it is that they love. 

No one should have to pretend to be someone they’re not and love is not something that should be hidden. It’s sad and frightening to think that, were that video to be a glimpse into the future; a glimpse at the Sochi Games; that single moment of love between those women could see them both sent to prison.

Stonewall sets the meaning straight

Lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, Stonewall, have become increasingly well known for their slogan “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!”. It’s been seen on t-shirts, posters and even on the side of buses.

November saw the charity launch a new campaign: “Gay. Let’s Get Over It!”. The campaign aims to tackle the increasing use of homophobic language in schools. The terms “That’s so gay” and “You’re so gay” are now commonplace is British schools; according to Stonewall 99% of young people have heard such phrases and only 10% said that teachers intervened every time it happened. Whilst it might be the case that there is not always malicious intent behind the homophobic words, 84% of the young gay people questioned said that hearing such phrases caused them distress. 

One of the new campaign's posters (

And that's why this kind of campaign is so needed. 

Stonewall have been reaching out to 2,500 schools across the country and providing them with toolkits on how to challenge the use of such language. These include a series of posters challenging the use of the word gay as an insult. With the campaign in its earlier stages, it's a bit early to gauge any success, but the campaign is both necessarily and timely and will hopefully have as big an impact as their eye-catching posters.

Grammar lesson + anti-homophobia ad. = dream come true (

And, as the next story shows, casual use of homophobic language doesn't end in the classroom…

James Arthur criticised for using homophobic slur

Musician James Arthur was criticised in November for using homophobic language in a track he posted online following a Twitter spat with a rapper.

James Arthur (

Many Twitter users, including some famous names, were quick to criticise Arthur and his derogatory use of the word “queer”. Arthur apologised, categorically denied any homophobic intentions and took the track down soon after. But the thing with the internet is that what happens on it tends to stay on it.

Just when things seemed like they had started to settle down, fellow X-Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan posted screenshots of text messages sent from Arthur asking why she’d publicly criticised him. He said that it was a bit “over the top” to claim that people kill themselves on a daily basis due to homophobic language and asked whether she’s spoken out because she was a “gay rights activist”.  

Lucy Spraggan (

Following this, Spraggan posted a statement that clarified that she didn’t consider Arthur to be homophobic and never had, and I’m inclined to agree. People pull the "I can't be homophobic, I've got gay friends" card all the time, but, having seen Arthur interact with a number of gay contestants on X-Factor, it never crossed my mind, even during this incident, that he might actually have an issue with homosexuality.

I don't think that everyone who uses homophobic language and phrases such as "that's so gay" is actually homophobic in the true sense of the word. I think they can be ignorant and in need of a vocabulary lesson or two, but they don't necessarily bear ill-feelings towards LGBT+ people.

The thing that straight, non-homophobic people need to realise, though, is that if you choose to use the language of our bullies, then you may as well be one yourself. If you're not fighting with us, you're fighting against us. And allies don't keep quiet; they treat the fight as though it's their own.

I hope this incident has helped James Arthur, and those who've made similar comments, realise how powerful, and hurtful, their words can be. Every single LGBT+ person I know is thankful to our straight allies. Our numbers are relatively small and that makes it difficult for us to gain equality on our own. We need our allies to set a good example and to challenge those who don't make the grade; whether that’s in the classroom, the workplace, the pub or even at home.

And, trust me, we really appreciate it every single time you do.

Viral video show kids reaction to same-sex marriage proposals

In our reviews of September and October we saw two same-sex couples getting engaged in style.

In November, Fine Brothers Productions gathered together a few kids, let them watch both videos, filmed their reactions and then asked them a few more questions on the subject. The results, which have been viewed over 10 million times, are definitely worth a watch:

I was amazed at how articulate and clued up these young people, aged between five and 13, were and thought that some of the analogies they come up with were just gold.

Being realistic for a second (which I sometimes do), this was filmed in California and was obviously done with parental consent. It’s unlikely that any parent with strong anti-gay views would let their children be involved in such a project in the first place. Even still, the majority of these kids seem to get it and, not only that, they were, on the whole, able to justify why they felt the way they did.

Even if there is still that one kid saying “it’s bad to be gay” (although he doesn’t seem to know why), I think we can take hope from the fact that these children are our future adults and, some of them at least, will be future parents. These are the people who are going to make an individual's LGBT+ status as much of a non-issue as their eye colour.

Take the statement, “Even though that’s not my problem, I’ll still fight for it if I can.” 

You'd expected it to be attributed to a great civil rights hero, but it came from a polka-dot wearing pre-teen girl with a red ribbon in her hair.

Isn't it amazing to think that those two might actually end up being the same thing?

Can you believe that tomorrow is our final review (and also Christmas Day!)? With so much happening this December, I’m going have to cram it all in like I’m stuffing a turkey! Happy Christmas Eve, y'all!

What were your favourite LGBT+ moments of 2013? And what were your personal highlights? Did you come out? Get married? Do something life-changing? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow Julie Price on Twitter, @JuliePee