J is for Janice

J is for Janice From the day she was born, Janice was given everything she wanted. She didn’t need to cry for too long before either her doting father or loving mother would be at her side, fussing over her with reassuring words of comfort and kisses on her forehead. From this moment on Janice knew that she was a very special person and because of that she could have Read more

I is for Impossible

I is for impossible. Having blown out her one hundred candles, with a slight relieve that her dentures didn’t come flying out covering the butter icing, Alice was quite exhausted and glad to be back in the solitary of her room, where she lit up a stogie and sat back in her chair. As much as everyone had made a great fuss over her centenary birthday, with just as many making Read more

H is for Hipster

H is for Hipster. The reason the new eatery stood out so much to Donald, was its choice of setting up shop in a part of town where the most exotic experience to be had was a mangey charity shop for a local cat charity. But that’s how these Hipster cafe’s start isn’t it, they move into a place with low rent and once they are established others move in. Read more

G is for Glenn

G is for Glenn. I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, Read more

F is for Fur

F is for Fur. Roger lay in bed, every time he opened his eyes the room span madly making him shut his eyes tight again. Downstairs he could hear the others getting on and knew that he too had to get up. Ever so gradually, Roger held both hands tight round his face as he lifted his head off the pillow. With his eyes still tightly shut he made the familiar Read more

Gscene

Gscene piece: November 2016

th-1In my last column, I wrote about how their has been a steady change in segregation in the gay bars and clubs, with a younger generation seeing men only/women only places as a relic from the past. Although there will always be a need (I think) for some kind of segregation, we certainly have come a long way from the time I remember back in the 1980s, I can clearly remember some men being mortified if a woman wandered into their watering-hole and out would come the vile, flippant  misogynist comment from some of the older gay men, with their description of lesbian’s as well, I’ll reinterpret the vile line as, ‘fruits de la mer’. There was also a pub in Hove tried to implement a policy were women were only allowed if they were accompanied by a gay man.
It would take the catastrophic horrors of AIDS to bring these two communities together which was recalled in the amazing documentary, We Were Here, about the arrival of the AIDS Epidemic in the USA. With an urgent need for blood transfusions, lesbians in California garnered themselves together and gave blood. Here in the UK, I remember many lesbians came forward to volunteer in any way they could to support the gay men who were suffering in large numbers to the horrifying effects of AIDS; along with an onslaught of hatred and stigma from the tabloid press which fed in to the fear and anxiety of the wider public.th-2Thirty-four years on since, Terry Higgins, one of the first people to die from AIDS, we really have come along way with anti-retroviral treatments. The divisions within the LGBT community has shrunk considerably and when we work together we achieve amazing things as we will once again witness on December 1st, World AIDS Day. Unfortunately there is so much more to be done to tackle the stigma of living with an HIV+ diagnoses, particularly with HIV positive and HIV negative gay men.
For me, this issue has been brought sharply into focus with the increase of HIV+ dating apps. I really understand the need for such apps which allow HIV+ people to feel comfortable about their HIV+ status without fear of stigma or abuse but we are living in a time when we have a real opportunity to eradicate HIV through use of condoms, antiretroviral drugs, PrEP and a heavy dose of compassion.
HIV+ stigma seriously needs stamping out if we are to reach a time when HIV is assigned to the history books.
THT have been running a brilliant advertisement campaign, It Starts With Me, urging every sexually active individual to take responsibility for their own sexual health. Together as a community we can make a positive difference, if people change their negative attitude about those living with an HIV+ diagnose.
So from today let’s do that, let’s take responsibility for not only our individual sexual health, but start treating everyone with respect, regardless of their HIV status.

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Over the Rainbow (Fund)

Over the last few weeks there has been much to celebrate and remember within the LGBTQ community, which is really important to make note of.

This year while waiting (and waiting) to get into this years  Brighton Pride, I heard a lot of people complaining about how long it took to get into the event and the price of tickets. 

To be fair, those organising the event had to ensure security me suers were in place, so long queues were inevitable. On the plus side of things, the sun was shining and once inside the park there were just about every kind of visual entreatment you could possible wish for. Personally, I thought the early bird ticket price of £9.00 was a bargain

More importantly and something that many people perhaps are unaware of is £1.00 from each ticket was ring-fenced for the Rainbow Fund which, along with a host of other individuals and groups including: Bear-Patrol’s, ‘Bear Weekender’, Legends, Tony Chapman, Queens Arms, A-Bar, Charle’s Street, David Raven, James Ledward, The Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and Many more helped raise over £41,000 for local HIV/LGBTQ charities.

For the uninitiated, The Rainbow Fund was initially set up by Gscene’s James Ledward and Paul Elgood to help fund the development and construction Brighton’s AIDS Memorial, with local artist Romany Mark Bruce giving all his time for free in creating the finished piece.

Since then, The Rainbow Fund has been the hub for excepting donations which in turn are given out as grants to local LGBTQ/HIV charity organisations, who each apply via a vigorous process ensuring the funds are used to help benefit the individual groups maxim potential in all areas.

This year The Brighton Writer attended The Rainbow Fund annual awards ceremony, hosted by the irrepressible Lola Lasagne aka Stephen Richards, along with many familiar faces from Brighton, including, Gary Pargeter (Lunch Positive) James Ledward (Gscene) Cllr Bill Randall, Deputy Mayor of Brighton & Hove, David Raven and Romany Mark Bruce, Jennie Castell, Davian Sparkle, David Harvie (Brighton Bear Weekend) and Philip Marini (Rainbow Fund) who were all on hand to present the grants to the following organisations.

Allsorts – £5.000 For a youth engagement worker to support the Transformer Group for young Trans* people.

Clare Project – £4,640 to extend their psychotherapy and speech therapy sessions Trans* people.

Brighton Gems – £4.000 towards support cost for befriending & support work for older gay men.

LGBT community Safety Forum –  £7.000 towards hate crime advocacy.

LGBT Switchboard – £2.500 towards clinical supervision for counsellors.

Lunch Positive – £7,000 towards food, venue hire and lunch club running cost for people with HIV.

MindOut – £7.000 towards peer support groups and housing advice for people with mental health issues.

IMG_0050Peer Action – £5.000 for health and wellbeing activities for those living with HIV.

 

 

 

 

Sussex Beacon – £4.000 towards a new occupational therapy project.The remaining funds were earmarked for a feasibility study to develop a funding needs assessment of all LGBT organisations, the service they provide and their future grant needs.

Individuals from each of the groups took to the stage to talk a little about how the grants awarded their group is so important and what a difference it will make in the coming year.

 The evening was a great success and an important event to remind us all that although the queue at Pride was a little tedious, by buying our ticket we each contributed in helping some amazing LGBTQ/HIV groups continue in making a huge difference to many people all year round. 

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Russia’s LGBTQ Comminity, You Are Not Forgotten!

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Although it is still frustrating that the big news corporations still hold the capital on what they decided to be newsworthy, Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like have paved the way for all of us to exchange a much wider selection of  news, views and the occasional skateboarding cat. Despite the numerous chances for any of the main channels to show the brutality many of Russian’s LGBTQ community are facing. For the last few weeks there has been no reports on the draconian law Putin passed, stating that it is against the law to promote homosexuality in  any form. It seems only that the major news channels are only giving a small snapshot of this problem, referring to the Human Rights Act, when the brutality the LGBTQ Russian community is facing is not being fully addressed. Read more

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Russian LGBT Commuinty, You Are Not Forgotten!

russia-gay-pride[1]

Although it is still frustrating that the big news corporations still hold the capital on what they decided to be newsworthy, Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like have paved the way for all of us to exchange a much wider selection of  news, views and the occasional skateboarding cat. Despite the numerous chances for any of the main channels to show the brutality many of Russian’s LGBTQ community are facing. For the last few weeks there has been no reports on the draconian law Putin passed, stating that it is against the law to promote homosexuality in  any form. It seems only that the major news channels are only giving a small snapshot of this problem, referring to the Human Rights Act, when the brutality the LGBTQ Russian community is facing is not being fully addressed

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There could be an argument made that the fact the Russian Government are not the only country in the world to have such draconian laws passed against people who do not identify as heterosexual, when so many other countries have used homosexuals as scapegoats. In the past anti-homosexual legislation has been used as a smoke screen to try and appease the masses about their countries catalogue of economic failings. ‘ In the UK, we only have to look back to 1988 and see just how backward thinking our own Conservative Government was with their introduction of Clause 28 as a way of trying to divert the general public from the disastrous economic situation at the time.  Back then, with no internet to help, it took a team of feisty lesbians to invade the BBC newsroom to make the dissatisfied voices of the LGBTQ community to be heard.

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What is really exciting here and now is the way many of people are taking to the internet to help the Russian LGBTQ community, who are being silenced through a mixture of legislation, intimidation and force a loud and clear voice.

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It is without doubt that President Putin and his team of advisors truly believed that they could carry on attacking a minority group and no one outside of their jurisdiction would much care and in turn make a little fuss. After all, for the last few years they have allowed the Neo-Nazi faction within Russia to thrive and commit random acts of brutality on anyone who tried to hold a peaceful Pride March through the city. More recently there have been widespread reports of similar right-wing groups luring young gay men to a meeting place. Once captured, these groups then record themselves sexually torturing and humiliating these young men. The recordings are then posted on the internet along with the young men’s personal details and contact address. This has led to one of the victim taking his own life. Another report to come out of Russia was about a gay man who was raped with a beer bottle and had his head smashed in with a rock. Apart from the outraged reports in the LGBTQ press, such acts of violence have had little impact on the main news channels and so the brutality continues, thrives and now it has reached the point where the torture and murder of someone over their sexuality is practically sanctioned by law.

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What the Russian bureaucrats hadn’t quite banked on was the backlash from Russia passing these anti-gay laws, while also preparing to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. This has been were the online community has come into its own. Not a day passes without another thread being uploaded detailing the rise and rise of online petitions against the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi.

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Stephen Fry is well known to have thousands of followers on twitter, so when he posted an open letter to the Olympic Committee, comparing Putin to Hitler. The  news of the plight of the LGBTQ community in Russia reached a mass audience which the main news corporations could not ignore. On Friday there was a small mention on the main news channels about the growing dissent, mainly focusing on the safety of LGBT athletes and their supporters competing in Russia Winter Olympics.

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This in turn forced the Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko to public say, “Calm down.” (who does he think he is, Michel Winner?) He went on to say that no LGBT athlete would come to harm while visiting Russia. A u-turn of what has been previously said from Russian officials. What the news channels have also conveniently left out of their report is the comment made by Alexander Mikhailov from Siberia’s Zabaikalsk region.

“I want to call on people to get a healthy perspective of this disgrace (homosexuality). Our district needs a law that would give troops the right to grab gays on the street and drag them to the city square, where Cossacks would whip them,”

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A few years ago, none of us would have hoped to believe that we the LGBTQ community would have the equality rules being passed through government. Positive change is happening in the UK, with the public opinion turning against the views of the dinosaurs still roaming around the back passages of Parliament and the House of Lords. Thanks to social media the homophobes views are being exposed and in turn the voice of the dissident is gathering memento.  As a community we can pull together and help combated the hate and ensure the Russian LGBTQ community can in turn make a difference. At the time of writing this, the BBC lunch time news has mentioned the human rights laws being broken in Russia; our voice of protest is getting louder, let’s insure it becomes too loud to ignore. Post a message of support to the LGBTQ Russian Community. Comment and repost news reports about the brutality the LGBTQ Russian community are facing. sign the petition below. together we will bring a positive change and stamp out homophobia.

http://chn.ge/13jhR37

– See more at: http://www.thebrightonwriter.co.uk/?p=2008&preview=true#sthash.Y6EzClwq.dpuf

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Countdown to Brighton LGBT Pride.

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In just over a month’s time, Brighton will be awash with people from all over the LGBT community, celebrating what is set to be a fantastic LGBT Pride. With this year’s theme, Gay Icons, expect the parade to be filled with troupes of’ Marilyn’s; both seven year itch and 80’s icon variety, along with a few Madonna’s, Divines, and a smattering of Diana’s; Dors, Rigg, Princes.   

 

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The Long Winding Equality Road to Same Sex Marriage and Beyond.

Equal Marriage Bill On 27 July 1967, a bill was passed in the House of Commons, legalizing homosexuality between two men, over the age of 21, in private, with the proviso that when in public, homosexual men should:

“Show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behavior now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… [And] make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done” (Lord Arran)

Although the bill was greatly received by gay men in the UK, the fact that the age of consent  was unequal to their heterosexual counterparts, gay men still encountered discrimination from their family,  in the work place and on the streets if they were identified as being gay.  

Since then, the road to equality has been long and slow but over the last few decades positive changes in the law have been made: from homosexuality no longer  being classed as a mental illness, (May 1990), civil partnerships rights for gay men and lesbians (December 2005),  same-sex couples given same adoption rights as heterosexuals, (June 2005), and most recently  the passing of the equal age of consent, act to 16 for homosexual and heterosexuals  (June 2008). Read more

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Equality Tidal Wave

Zachary QuintoA couple of weeks ago, I found myself watching the Jonathan Ross show, (not a regular habit as I find Ross’ style of interviewing a bit crass and a very self-absorbed). However, on this occasions I was pleasantly surprised to listen to the actor Zachary Quinto, (Star Trek, Heroes, American Horror Story) talking about being a successful actor in Hollywood, while being open and proud about being a gay man. Quinto spoke most eloquently about his need to come out two years ago, after hearing about a rash of young American teenagers had committed suicide because they were bullied for being gay. Read more

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Remembering Ruby

Maurice, Ann and Peter, Hankie Quilt Project

 

Today I saw a message on Facebook from Maurice, one of the founders of the Hankie Quilt Project, reminding us that it has been a year since the launch of this brilliant idea. HIV isn’t just about on World AIDS Day, it’s here 365 days of the year, and so are the memories of the people we have all lost to AIDS; here is my memory of one of those people, my lovely friend, Mark Royston, aka Ruby Two-Shoes.

When I was twenty years old, I ran away to sea; well I got a job on the newly refurbished QE2 and2013-04-24 13.09.20

joined the ship in Germany. On my first, night, while sharing a small cabin with three straight men,2013-04-24 12.43.11 I began to wonder if I was the only gay on board, when I heard someone shout, “Mark’s in the corridor and he’s wearing a dress!” My heart leapt as I ran out to see my saviour in sequins, Mark Roysten, aka Ms. Ruby Two-shoes.

Mark and I became friends instantly and I quickly packed my belongings and swapped cabins with a straight guy (both of us were greatly relived) and moved in with Mark and two other gay men, David and Nigel.

Apart from having to wake up in shifts to shower and avoid any squabbles over the one mirror in the cabin, sharing that cramped space was filled with much fun and laughter.

During our time at sea, Mark said he wanted to put together a drag revue show for the staff party. Mark’s passion for the show saw him enrol our cabin mates David and Nigel and we became the Ruby Sisters. Mark was the type of person who made things happen; he gained us a budget for our drag and wigs (which we bought in New York) had our dance routine put together by two of the women from the Peter Gordino dance troupe and our wigs where back combed to heavenly heights and make-up thickly applied by the prestigious Steiner Salon hairdressers/beauticians.

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The show went down so well, we were asked to perform it again that same night for the customers. Just as we had brought the house down for the staff do, as we came dancing down the sweeping stair case to “We Are What We Are”, the effect was even greater when our customers suddenly twigged that their professional stewards, who had given them a five star service in the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, were now transformed into glamorous drag queens. The show was such a successes, that we performed it for next few transatlantic crossings.

Mark and I worked together, played together and shared a cabin 24/7 for eight months, then we both came back to dry land. Mark and I stayed very close, with me visiting him in London or him coming down for a weekend in Brighton and even doing a few ad-hoc shows for friends and one memorable alcohol fuelled show in a London bar.

The months flew by with so many laughs and boozy nights out, we thought it would be like that forever; then one day I had a call to say that Mark had been taken ill.

AIDS swallowed Mark too quickly. Within a month he was taken into the Mildmay Hospital. Mark was defiant to the end, propped up in bed, cigarette poised just above his left shoulder, delivering his ever cutting wit, but it was obvious I would never see him alive again.

At his funeral he had a flower tribute of the QE2 on his coffin and a pair of red high heels, while his favourite song, ‘Cabaret’ played as his body  was brought in.

Even after all these years I still miss Mark a lot. I guess I just want to say. ‘Thank you’ to Maurice and Peter for creating the Hankie Quilt Project, it has been a privilege to make a panel for Mark, aka Ms. Ruby Two-Shoes, a lovely, lovely, man who will never be forgotten.  

Glenn and Mark

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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Jodie Foster, Golden Globes[1]Earlier this year, I watched Jodie Foster’s rambling speech as she kind of told the world that she was gay. Although for many, such news about Foster’s sexuality has been an open secret; for Foster, being in the public eye from a very young age, she has been fiercely protective over her private life, seeing it as the one thing she has full control off. Of course, there is also the added factor that Foster grew up in a time when homosexuality, particularly in Hollywood, was not celebrated in quite the same way it is today. With this in mind, I imagine when Foster left that stage, a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders, or at least I hope so.

            In my lifetime I have met men who have kept their sexuality a secret from either their families or work colleagues for any number of reasons, from fear of being rejected, or thought of as not a real man, whatever that may mean. Read more

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Role Models & The New Normal….

For all of us, when growing up, regardless of our sexuality, we seek role models in a variety of ways, the most obvious place to start is with our parents or guardians and then our wider family and the friends we choose to be with. Beyond that we turn to the media, be it famous people in magazines pop stars or actors and personalities on the television, or world leaders, people in power….personally, with very few gay role models around when I was growing up, I settled on Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones as my perfect male icon.

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Thankfully, television and those that make the programs happen, have been more willing to embrace peoples differences; admittedly it has taken years, but at least this media is moving in the right direction.     Read more

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