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

Brighton & Hove

Bear Patrol

Focus on Bear-Patrol (First published in Positive Nation, December 2012.)

Bear-Patrol is the brainchild of local Brightonian, Danny Dwyer who initially formed the group as a way of getting a group of like minded people together for social gatherings.Danny D

I created a homepage so I could keep in touch with everyone more easily rather than texting to tell them where we would be starting out on a Saturday night; that was back in 2008/9 around the same time Facebook and the whole social media concept was coming into its own. From there the social meetings quickly grew which inspired me to create the social group Bear- Patrol which is open to everybody (you don’t need to be a bear to join) and we started organising trips out.

Danny Dwyer. Read more

Posted on by admin in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, Outdoors, Zhoosh Leave a comment

Church of the Poisoned Mind

Throughout the 1980’s schools were gagged from talking about homosexuality by the Conservative Government’s hated Clause 28. Fast forward to what many of us would like to think are enlightened times, with Clause 28 consigned to the history books and our knowledge of how HIV can be prevented through education and safer sex. David Cameron has apologised for the way the conservatives dealt with these issues in the past and now schools are legally obliged to condemn discrimination on the grounds of sexual-orientation, although there is still a long way to go with many schools not discussing enough but the issues of safer sex. However, last year Pope Benedict XVI has pulled off his blinkers to the AIDS crises and said that in exceptional circumstances, (male prostitutes ) condoms can be used. Hearing these things from such high power, one could almost believe things are getting better, but a report in the news recently has shown there are still those intent on peddling untruths and causing as much damage as they can with views on homosexuality. Last week it was reported that a US preacher has visited Catholic schools and peddling outdated hatred by distributing a booklet called: Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be. Within the pages the booklet suggest that feeling of homosexuality is a disorder against Gods wishes and that homosexual feelings in adolescence men may be a reaction to an unhealthy relationship with the young person’s father, an inability to relate to other young men, or even sexual abuse. The book goes on to say that “scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke”. Returning to Cameron and his rousing words at the time of the last election promising that his government would be a fairer, inclusive Britain; it would be hoped that he would step up to the plate and condemn these preacher’s words and ban him from peddling such hatred in schools. After all, we have seen just how fiercely he has come down on other preachers who peddle hatred with the likes of Abu Qatada under house arrest with the backroom boys working day and night to have him extradited. But unsurprisingly Cameron’s government have proven they are as eager as ever to continue discriminating as they have always done with education secretary Michael Gove saying, “The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.” A further statement from the Department for Education added, “Any school engaging in the promotion of homophobic material would be acting unlawfully.” But the row highlights a grey area over the teaching of sex education. A review intended to offer new guidelines on what was right for schools to teach was kicked into the long grass when the last election was called.” This in other words translates that the government don’t see this as a vote winner and hope that the issue will get pushed aside, even though chief executive Ben Summerskill has said, “It would certainly be helpful if there was clarity as to what is appropriate for young people of all ages, the water could no longer be muddied by people pushing age-inappropriate sex material on the one hand and fundamentalist anti-gay religious materials on the other.” Church leaders are continuing to bemoan that their views are being marginalised. Perhaps for one moment the likes of the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey should take a look at how his religion is being used to frighten, misinform and ruin lives and then take stock at how the Christian faith can be used for the better and not hate.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Flash Blogs, Human Rights, LGBT, Zhoosh 1 Comment

13 women. New Art Exhibition at Jubilee Library

The brilliant thing about living in Brighton is it’s  ability to continuously surprise you. Rather appropriately I stumbled across the temporary exhibition at Jubilee Library called 13 Women on International Women’s Day.  Each piece of work reflects the individual woman’s world, using a variety of mediums. Brighton as a town has never lived by the rules, and by having the exhibition within the Jubilee Library, is just another example of this. Within this setting the work reaches out to a wider audience and because of its wide open windows, it is almost impossible for anyone to not investigate the gold sequined chair (my favourite of the collection) hanging in midair by a gold link chain.

Curator Sarah Gillings says, 13 Women was born from the idea that ART can free you. Art is a powerful medium. Plans are afoot to extend the 13 Women show into an international tour, traveling through other and collecting new women artist along the way.  

Paintings, photography, poetry and ceramics make up this unique collection with each artist exploring the many sides of being a woman. since the exhibition opened at the beginning of the month, each artist has been a personal appearance, allowing visitors to ask questions and delve  deeper into the individuals artistic process.

those exhibiting their creations include, Moscow born, artist and designer, Olgar Foster. Foster’s beautiful painting, created using Acrylic/mixed media on canvas depicts a woman and child, which in turn reflects on Olgar’s own experience of “growing up and growing older; on being a mother; on a journey of love, inspiration, and sacrifice which is motherhood.

On the 13th March Brighton Artist Sarah Abbott will  be on hand to discuss her extremely arresting painting, Believe and Achieve, from Boudicca to Jodie Marsh. For those who have seen Jodie Marsh’s recent transformation from reality TV fodder, to her latest incarnation as a female bodybuilder will find Abbotts take on female power particularly interesting. “Female body-building always demands an opinoin. some may like it, most will a hate it, but you’ll want a second look. (Sarah Abbott.)

The exhibition is only on a short run and finishes on the 15th March, but hopefully it will prove popular enough to have an extended run when it returns in 2013. in the meantime do make a point of seeing these excellent creations and be sure to seek out the attending artists while you are there.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Leisure, Zhoosh Leave a comment

Brighton: A City to Visit, a Place to Call Home

From the moment Prince Regent drew up plans for his infamous weekend palace, The Royal Pavilion, and it’s surrounding gardenin the heart of Brighton, the city has gained itself a known as the place to go for a cheeky weekend away. However, since its promotion from a town to a city, its reputation as the place you must visit has lifted the city of Brighton above all other UK cities with many a tourists realising there is more to this little city then a stick of rock and a stroll along the prom. In fact a recent survey showed that a whopping 94% of Brighton residents live in a happy home, which reflects just what a great place Brighton is to live.

So what makes Brighton such a special place? For the people who live in Brighton and the vast amount of tourists alike, when it comes to shopping Brighton has the whole range covered. For the traditionalist, there’s Church Hill Square, and Western Road for a whole range of popular high street brands; but don’t be fooled into thinking that Brighton is just another identikit city, far from it. Just like the little islands that populate Venice, one just has to take a step to left or a jump to the right and suddenly you find yourself surrounded in a very different place. For example, there are Brighton’s famous lanes, a part of town that what many people regard as ‘the soul of the city’.

Here you will find narrow winding alleyways, with the old fisherman cottages turned into an array of outstanding quirky shops, selling everything from souvenir shops, military related paraphernalia, traditional and alternative jewellery to suit every taste. Mingled around are also a host of pubs and eateries for every occasions, from a quick bite and pint to something a little more special. Across the road there are even more to discover in the North Laine, where pop art, vintage clothes, and the alternative theatre, Komedia, merge into the legendary Kensington Gardens were everything and anything can be found; from herbal remedies, vintage clothes as well as a multitude of hidden gems under the roof of Snooper’s Paradise.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Brighton City has always been the way it welcomes everybody, regardless of race, creed, religion or sexual orientation. For those who come and visit Brighton they quickly realise there is something special going on 365 days a year covering all bases. From the Brighton festival, children’s parade, LGBT pride, traditional, alternative and street theatres, famous bands, up and coming bands and food fares galore. And unlike many a seaside town that closes when winter sets in, Brighton still has a few surprises. From the ‘ghost’ and ‘infamous murders’ walks, World Book Night, winter solstice Burning of the Clocks and there’s now even a Zombie March so even the undead don’t feel left out from this very special city we call Brighton.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Fiction & Books, Flash Blogs, Gothic horror, Leisure, LGBT, Literature, Outdoors, Plants and Gardens, QueenSpark Books, Zhoosh 2 Comments

LGBT Sports: A Blog of Two Halves.

LGBT and Sport: A Story of Two Halves.

I really look forward to the day when words like, brave, shocked or courageous are no longer used when sportsperson tells the public that their sexuality isn’t heterosexual. Having watched the Channel Four programme, Britain’s Gay footballers (a misleading title as apparently there aren’t any) saw Amal Fashanu, niece of  Justin Fashanu, go out on the field to find out why there hasn’t been any ‘out’ gay footballer’s before or after her uncle.

Over the last twenty years this same question has been asked time and time again, with the same reason being reeled out that it is either fear of the fans chanting homophobic abuse, or that it is the footballer’s managers keeping the idea alive that an ‘out’ gay footballer would be less bankable. Of course this belief is only kept true while premier league footballers are discouraged from ‘coming out’; and as for the chanting? Well to a degree that is part and parcel of the game, something Amal witnessed when she went to a home game at Brighton football stadium. Here the chants were more tongue in cheek, with the Brighton football team hearing cries of “We can see you holding hands” and “Does your boyfriend know you’re out”. Neither of these battle cries were directed at a particular football player, and in reality, not homophobic. However, when Sol Campbell (a heterosexual footballer) defected from Tottenham to their bitter rivals, Arsenal United back in 2001, he found himself the target of an extremely vile chant from the Tottenham supporters: “Sol, Sol, wherever you may be, you’re on the verge of lunacy and we won’t give a fuck when you’re hanging from a tree, you Judas c**t with HIV. Campbell rightfully complained and said if this was shouted out on the street then that group would be arrested. At first the police said it would be impossible to make any arrests due to the vast number of the crowd, however, video footage was later used with several Tottenham fans receiving a fine and a three-year ban from all matches. With arrests now being made against fans who chant homophobic abuse from the terreaces, along with Premier footballers being slapped with huge fines for sending homophobic tweets, we can at last see gay hate within football being taken seriously.

Of course, chanting is all part of the game, it’s what makes football special, but there is no room for racial or homophobic abuse in sport in the Twenty-first Century. There has been a drive to bring up the issue of homophobia in football with Red Card Homophobia in a similar way that the  Kick it Out campaign tackles racism in football, but no high-profile (straight) football player has been willing to back the Red Card Homophobia campaign for fear of being thought of as gay. Although the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) are taking some notice of tackling Homophobia in football with a new poster campaign, but they seem to still be dragging their feet saying it will take many years for all those involved in football to change their views on there being an out footballer playing for a premier league.

This idea that all those involved in premiership football can keep saying the time isn’t right, maybe in five, ten fifteen years time we will see an ‘out’ footballer player is just allowing homophobia to continue to thrive. The majority of other sports people who have decided to stop hiding their sexuality and have ‘come out’ have said it’s the best thing they have ever done, simply because they can be themselves. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait another twenty years for a footballer to come out. Who knows, a forward thinking manager may take the reins soon and see that a promising gay footballer player can be out and proud about his sexuality and when he does his sexuality will be secondary to his ability to play a great game of football.  

Second Half.

February 2012 is LGBT history month and to coincide with the upcoming Olympics for the second year running the focus is on sport. With only another 161 days to go, the world will be focused on London and the opening event. Even those who hardly give sports the time of day will surely have a sense of pride as we all come together and root for our UK sports men and women to gain as many gold medals as possible.

Of course there will be many LGBT people, myself included, who will be reminded that sometimes sport can make us feel excluded. I can still remember standing in the freezing rain on the school sport field, knowing that I will be last to be picked for the football team. A humiliation made all the worse as I watch Adrian Scarf being picked before me, even though he had chronic asthma and no sense of direction. But then I discovered I was rather good at other sports like hurdles, relay, discus and javelin. By achieving in these areas I was able to dismiss the idea that I didn’t like sports, I just didn’t like being singled out as being rubbish at contact sports.

Admittedly, when I left school and discovered the gay pubs and clubs I left all interest of sports behind me and would only mention the Adrian Scarf story, dismissing sports altogether, (let’s face it, a camp story will usually overide a converstaion about school sports!). I’m sure many other LGBT people have told simular tales, which have helped feed into the myth  that LGBT people have little or no interest in sport. However, over the last couple of decades this view has been challenged in a variety of ways. Back in 1982, San Francisco saw the start of the now hugely successful Gay Games, while here in the UK there are now  gay rugby teams including , the Kings Cross Steelers, Bristol Bisons RFC  football teams, London Romans Football Club, London Lesbian Kickabout and trans swimming group, Marlin Swimming Group  and more locally the LGBT sports organisation, BLAGS, showing  that there is a thriving LGBT sports community. Another important element in changing the perception that sport and LGBT people don’t mix is having high-profile sports men and women publicly ‘coming out’.

Away from the football stadium, it would seem that such rampant homophobia is not as prevalent in other sports, there are at least one LGBT sportsperson who is openly gay in their chosen sport. In the UK the most recognisable out sportspeople to recently come out include, International Rugby Referee, Nigel Owens, BBC sports presenter, journalist and jockey, Clare Balding, Welsh Rugby player Gareth Thomas, Power-lifter Chris Morgan and England’s cricket wicket keeper, Steven Davies. Premier footballers should take note; Rugby didn’t fall into disrepute, Cricket wasn’t swallowed into a pit of despair and most importantly, sports fans continue to love, praise and support their chosen game and sportsperson regardless of the players sexuality.

It may take a very long time for some people in sport and supporters, particularly football, to pull their knuckles off the floor, and raise their eyes to the light and see we are no longer living in the dark ages and that there are some fantastic sports people out there who just happen to kick, throw, lift, dive or even bat for the other team.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, LGBT, Zhoosh 8 Comments

Happy 60th Birthday Peter Tatchell

Happy 60th Birthday Peter Tatchell.

To some, Peter Tatchell is the People’s Protester, to other’s he is an annoyance, for this author he is a hero. Citing his constant campaigns for human rights, highlighting environmental issues with his role as the Green Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Oxford East, and for being the one man brave enough to twice attempt a citizen’s arrest on evil tyrant and outspoken homophobe, Robert Mugabe.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, today Peter celebrates his 60th birthday. Within this time he has dedicated much of his life to highlighting the atrocities dealt out by one human to another, exposing hypocrisies, while making us all take a moment to really stop and think.

Aged just fifteen he campaigned against the death penalty, later he turned his attention to demanding equal rights for Aborigine people. In 1971, Tatchell moved to London and joined the UK branch of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF); the origins of this group began in New York with the now legendary Stonewall Riots. By the time Tatchell joined the UK Gay Liberation Front, the national press were taking notice. The GLC ideals would have a huge influence on Tatchell, as they campaigned not only for gay rights, but for an end to the strangulation gender norms held over everybody, regardless of their sexuality.

In 1983 Tatchell stood as a labour candidate for the Labour party in the Bermondsey by-election. Looking back, many people, including those in government and the press, consider the way Tatchell was vilified at a very dark time in political history. Although Tatchell was seen as a popular candidate, the hate campaign led by the press and other political parties led to Tatchell being afraid for his life.

While the papers made up lies with headlines screaming out, ‘Tatchell: Militant Gay Rights Extremist’, four words to strike fear in to the far right readers hearts, they printed altered photos so it would appear that Tatchell was wearing black lipstick and eyeliner, (a technique Tatchell would turn on its head in his own campaigns) further appeasing to the homophobic voter. The press also claimed that Tatchell had “burst into tears”, suggesting he was weak, after being beaten up while staging a gay rights protest in East Berlin. The truth was Tatchell had been arrested and interrogated by the secret police in East Berlin while staging the first ever gay rights protest in a communist country. It doesn’t take much to see how the national press were baying for Tatchell’s blood, which goes to show just how frightened they were of this man.

Just as shocking came the homophobic tactics used by Tatchell’s political opponents. Overnight graffiti appeared all over the constituency, with the slogan:Tatchell is a communist poof’. Tatchell political campaign would be further undermined with thousands of leaflets pushed through voters letterboxes depicting a picture of Tatchell and the Queen, with the headline   “Which Queen Will You Vote For?” Even the Liberal Party joined in, sporting lapel stickers saying, “I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell”, again another attempt to gain votes from the homophobic voters.

The outcome from all of this resulted in Tatchell being inundated with hate mail, abusive phone calls, death threats and hundreds of physical, violent assaults. All this resulted in Tatchell boarding up his flat and sleeping with a fire extinguisher and rope ladder by his bed.

Tatchell would later say, although the experience was terrifying, it changed the way politicians and Trade unionist viewed gay rights. For Tatchell it also showed him the power of the press and how he could promote LGBT rights through public media stunts, many of which he is now best known for.

As well as setting up organisation UK AIDS Vigil Organisation (UKAVO) promoting issues around HIV and AIDS, he was also a prominent influence in the London-based AIDS activist group ACT UP. These two groups would subsequently lead him to launch the more radical, and in many people’s eyes the contentious protest group OutRage.

In 1994 Tatchell and OutRage ‘outed’ ten Church of England bishops, demanding they admit that they were homosexual, while hypocritically supporting anti-gay policies. Once again he came under attack from the government of and the national press labelled him a ‘homosexual terrorist’ and ‘public enemy number one.’

In 1998 Tatchell once again hit the headline when he burst in on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter sermon in Canterbury Cathedral. Tatchell verbally attacked the archbishop, Dr. George Carey’s advocacy of discrimination against Lesbians and gay men.

In London, on the 30th September 1999, Tatchell and three members of outrage made their first attempt to make a citizen’s arrest on Robert Mugabe, a man famous for his disgust of homosexuals, saying; “Lesbians and gays are “sexual perverts” who are “lower than dogs and pigs”. Mugabe continues to urge his people to expose anyone they think is gay or lesbian; this in turn has stirred up more hatred, causing all LGBT Zimbabwean’s to live in daily fear of their lives. It is this violation of Human rights Tatchell has used in his bid to arrest Mugabe, accusing him of “murder, torture, detention without trial, and the abuse of gay human rights”.

“Military interrogators beat both men all over their bodies with fists, wooden planks and rubber sticks, particularly on the soles of their feet, and gave them electric shocks all over the body, including the genitals. The men were also subjected to ‘the submarine’ – having their heads wrapped in plastic bags and submerged in a water tank until they suffocated”. (Amnesty International news release, 21 January 1999).

Tatchell attempted another citizen’s arrests when Mugabe was visiting Brussels in March 2001, this time he was badly beaten by Mugabe’s henchmen, but Tatchell’s actions helped highlight Mugabe’s atrocities against his own people.

Last year, Tatchell, joined international gay rights supporters Andy Thayer, Dan Choi and Louis-Georges Tin; plus Moscow Gay Pride committee member, Anna Komarova and other Russian gay activists as they attempted to march through Moscow, highlighting the right to hold a Gay Pride March. Once again they found themselves under attack from Neo-Nazis, while the Moscow police turned a blind eye.

Our suspicion is that many of the neo-Nazis were actually plainclothes police officers, who did to us what their uniformed colleagues dared not do in front of the world’s media. Either that, or the police were actively facilitating the right-wing extremists with transport to the protest.     Peter Tatchell

Tatchell, along with Dennis L Carney, Vice-Chair of the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group (BGMAG) in London, campaigned and won the battle that stopped reggae stars, Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton from performing their songs that incited hatred towards gays and lesbians.

“The singers’ rejection of homophobia and sexism is an important milestone. We rejoice at their new commitment to music without prejudice,” said Mr Tatchell.

Whatever your thoughts on Tatchell, his commitment to highlight human right abuses, corrupt governments and LGBT equalities have been phenomenal. Happy Sixtieth Birthday Peter, I for one think you’re amazing.

 

 

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Posted on by Glenn Stevens in HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, Zhoosh 3 Comments

Stupid Tweet.

The way we can now all communicate via social networks, like Facebook, Twitter etc has opened the world to some great debates as well as some really banal tweets. I’m still puzzled why Stephen Fry’s tweet that he was stuck in a lift a few years back made the Six O Clock news, I guess it must have been a slow day for news reports, but come on, who really cared?

 

Since the social network phenomenon started, there have been a fair number of celebrities and people becoming infamous for airing their views; particularly those who have pressed the wrong button and found there comments going worldwide. Last week we had labour MP Diane Abbott back tracking on a tweet that had her in hot water with her boss Ed Miliband, while the latest public sports figure, Oxford City striker Lee Steele has found to his detriment that casual homophobia is not acceptable.

 

While watching Celerbity Big Brother Steele tweeted about former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, (a contestant on the show) saying: “Wouldn’t fancy the bed next to Gareth Thomas #padlock my arse”. Apart from the homophobia, there is this tired presumption from straight men that they would be found sexually attractive in the first place, (personally, Steele looks like Rickie Gervais’ less attractive sibling).   Thankfully Steele has found that in the Twenty-First Century to public express such remarks are no longer acceptable. Although not surprising, the message boards have been flooded with comments from people supporting Steele’s words with many of them making more direct homophobic comments, including:  These freaks of nature are all terribly sensitive­ aren’t they!

 

It would seem that there is still a long way to go to stamp out homophobia, particularly within football. Part of the problem may lay in the fact that gay hate is rife not only on the terraces, but by the players as well. Thankfully Oxford City management team have been swift to act and have sacked Steele from the team:

 “The Oxford City board have decided to release Lee Steele in view of his recent comment via social media which is considered seriously contrary to the ethos of the club.”

I think it’s brilliant that we have these social networks that allow all of us to express our feelings, but to band about words that can incite hatred must be stamped out in exactly the same way as sexism and racial hatred has been tackled.  

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Human Rights, Zhoosh 4 Comments

It’s Christmas Time, There’s No Need To Be Afraid…(Scrap that, Be Afraid, be Very Afraid).

On the television ads, there are hordes of people who still manage not to bump into each other as they find just what they want for Christmas; and if not, there is always a handsome/beautiful/pretty/homely (delete as you wish) sales person who acts as if they were modelled on the film set of the Stepford Wives. As many of you will by this time will know, this is the world of the ad-(wo)man’s fantasy. In fact, a trip to the shops has been compared more like that to a 1990’s club nights at Trade,as you tried to push past all those sweaty bulked up men who were too butch (or stoned on steroids) to move out of your way as you squeeze along “Muscle Alley.”

The savvier shopper of course does all their shopping on-line, ticks the optional “Would you like your purchase gift wrapped” and has the presents delivered to their work, making their colleges, all the more envious as you cry out “Another present? I never knew I was so popular.” This may have the effect of getting you laid at the Christmas party, or totally ignored for being too smug. Of course the way out of the latter situation is once everybody is plied with booze, is to take them to the nearest gay club and pull out a bottle of poppers. As the advert (the one I made up in my head anyway) goes “You’re never alone with a bottle poppers.” There will be the cry of “Ohh, it smells of old socks” but once they get past the first hit and Y.M.C.A booms from the speakers, everyone, including that stuffy woman from accounts and that miserable bloke who no one knows quite what he does at the office, will be begging for a second, third, fourth and fifth sniff. Who knew that for £5.99 you could bond the whole staff group in one night, that a week in North Wales trying to create a raft from a thousand plastic straws and twenty-eight empty yogurt pots never could.

The next day you will wake up with a taste resembling dog deodorant (imagine) in your mouth and images crawling around the peripheral of your soggy, aching mind from the night before. Believe me, you want to bury all those images in that dark part of your head and throw away the key, because if you don’t you’ll end up by the nearest seashore, stripping off Reggie Perrin style and just keep on walking into the sea

With one nightmare out of the way, you then have Christmas Day to face, with Little Mix from  X-factor being at the number one spot, but at least that will stop Cliff Richard trying to compete. There are those who use the day to keep the world at bay, wrap up in loads of blankets, have a truck of chocolates, mince pies and er…more chocolate by their side, happy to have full control of the remote control and sit back and enjoy THEIR day as THEY see fit….they are the lucky ones. For others there is the trip to the in-laws. All year it has been ringed round the calendar, a promise sealed from the year before when you dared to have the special day together on your own, only to be pounded with guilt when your partner spent four hours on the phone persuading his mother not to overdose on Emva Cream.

So, you’ve packed enough outfits for every event, knowing full well there will never be an occasion in Ipswich to wear those hot pants and matching vest, but hey, it’s good to be an optimist. Once settled in, you may be under the illusion that your help in the kitchen is needed; but only the brave would offer to cook the Christmas dinner for the in-laws. For many mother’s this is the one time they can remind their offspring that no one cooks like them, and only the insane would try to prove otherwise. keep reminding yourself, you may think a sprinkling of edible glitter on the roast potatoes and sprouts, would be the best thing ever, but the reality is this could well be the proverbial straw that sends your mother in law marching towards WW3. In most cases it’s always best to offer to either peel the mountain of spuds, sprouts and carrots needed the night before or better still, say you’ll do the washing up, particularly if all you need do is load the dishwasher.

Parlour games can be fun, but stay away from anything competitive, particularly if that ‘must-win-at-all-cost’ gene is hardwired into you. No one likes to see you punching the air when you have beaten your partner’s eight year old niece at Tennis Wii, and no one will forgive you for frying grandad’s pacemaker just because you thought wiring Operation to the mains would make things a little more interesting.

In the words of Aretha Franklin, r.e.s.p.e.c.t is the name of the game, so when it comes to bed time, leave the full on kinky sex for when you get back home, no one wants to have to take a hockey stick to the sheets to get them in the washing machine.

And so you come to the end of the holiday, and hopefully you’ll look back on it more like the last few pages of a Charles Dickens novel and less like the middle bit of a Christmas episode of East Enders. Either way, congratulate yourself for surviving this once a year celebration, safe in the knowledge that you have the next twelve months before you have to do it all againMerry Christmas Everyone!

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Zhoosh 1 Comment

Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!

“Politicians, ugly buildings and whores, they all get respectable if they last long enough.” These words from actor john Huston in the film Chinatown, feel rather appropriate when considering the release of The Iron Lady, starring the scarily convincing Meryl Streep, as Maggie Thatcher.

Now that Thatcher no longer has the ability to breathe fire of fear into anyone, there will no doubt be those who will watch this film, championing the girl of a grocer, who came to power and promised her voters to make the world a better place…

Of course there are many who benefitted from Thatcher’s breaking up of the unions, selling off our utilities, and giving many people the opportunity to buy their council homes; but all to quickly the dream turned sour, with a generation now paying for a decade of excess and greed. But there is also a more sickening legacy from Thatcher’s era that the film makers have glossed over. These include; the introduction of Clause 28 and the lack of care or understanding regarding the devastating effect the AIDS crises would have on the UK’s gay community.

At the beginning of the AIDs epidemic in 1981 when large groups of gay men, drug users and hemophiliacs, began getting rapidly ill and dying, both Thatcher and Ronald Regan decided to ignore the impact this new disease was having. The national press was quick to flame the fire calling AIDS a ‘Gay Plague’. Those diagnosed with HIV found themselves treated with fear by the general public as well as the health professionals. For example in the early days of the disease, those seeking treatment would find health professionals using the  barrier method, wearing gloves, masks, gowns and hats; making those already feeling alienated even worse. However, there was a huge response from the LGBT community, with support groups springing up, doing much of the work that was lacking from the Conservative Government.

Six years into the epidemic, the Conservative Government brought us the Don’t Die of Ignorance campaign, which basically said ‘Abstain from sex and you’ll be fine.’ The campaign failed to address the real issues and year on year those diagnosed HIV+ has continued to rise.

In 1994 a new AIDS campaign was produced at the cost of £2 million pounds including a pocket guide “Your Pocket Guide to Sex” aimed at educating 16 – 25 year olds on safer sex. However, the Conservative Government got all hot under the collar and had the whole project deleted from existence, much to the disgust of its author, Nick Fisher.

“I don’t believe this government has teenagers’ interests at heart, it has become a political exercise to be seen to be stamping on things that are considered rude. Have they actually thought about how many teenagers are getting pregnant, how many are screwed up because they don’t know whether they are gay or straight, how many are not using condoms because they don’t know where to buy them or how to use them properly? If people are so messed up about sex that they deny its existence on such a massive scale, then there really is something wrong.”                             Nick Fisher.

Fast forward to present day and we find that once again Thatcher’s legacy living on, with the Conservative Government unwilling to provide funding for HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.

With funding for HIV treatment costing the NHS 1bn per annum, there seems little reason to celebrate the mass destruction Thatcher has caused in her lifetime; and then there’s section 28.

Things first kicked off with the Daily Mail newspaper ranting that there was a campaign by the liberal left to pursued children to be homosexual, feeding the public with the idea that homosexuality was a choice which people could be persuaded to make. Books like Jenny lives with Eric and Martin were used in the propaganda war, with suggestions that such books were being used to undermine the heterosexual family.

Although no school was prosecuted, Clause 28 stopped many schools from teaching or talking about alternative sexualities, which without doubt had an effect on many young people growing up as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender with feelings that they are in some way wrong to have these feelings. It is all too easy to think there are many support groups like the brilliant Diversity Role Models for young LGBT teenagers to get in contact with, but back then there was no internet and just a couple of gay magazines which were only marketed at the older LGBT groups.

One of the best things to come from Section 28 was the way the LGBT community pulled together, stood united and fought back. Lesbians assailed into parliament, while others stormed onto the live set of the BBC’s Six O Clock News, with one woman managed to chain herself to Sue Lawley’s chair. From here, MP’s and famous actors like Sir Ian McKellen came out, as did film director, Derrick Jarman about being HIV positive. These high-profile people added their voices of support and helped form LGBT action support groups including Stonewall and OutRage and even a couple of protest songs

When the Labour Government came to power, they began to pave the way for the Clause to be removed from the statutory books. It is worth noting that those unelected people in power in the House of Lords tried time and time again to keep Clause 28 in place, however, the Clause was eventually scrapped by the Labour Government pushed through the abolishment of the clause on the 18th November, 2003.

Interestingly, when David Cameron was an unelected Conservative member, he spoke out against a repeal of Clause 28 and accused Tony Blair of being ‘anti family’. Although he has since apologized and said equality should be taught in schools, the new legislation, Sex and Relationship Education (SRE), guide mentions that schools are obliged as a minimum to talk on issues of HIV and AIDS, but there is still no legal requirement for schools to talk about LGBT relationships. This may certainly leave many young people believing the way they feel is wrong and unacceptable, showing just how Thatcher’s legacy continues to do more harm than good.

Instead of spending money on seeing Meryl do an impersonation of Thatcher, I have invested my money in the Chumbawamba single, a celebration of Thatcher’s demise to be released on the day she pops her steely clogs.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in film, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, Zhoosh 4 Comments

Gays Gone By….

When Madonna sang “Time goes by, so slowly” she really wasn’t telling the truth. Time flies by, but within that time there are hundreds of special Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender moments that we have all captured on an electronic device or even on an old Box Brownie (ask you your elders to explain that one). From club night, beach days, Pride and World AIDS day there are so many memories that the good people at QueenSpark Books would like you to share with the rest of the world. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Leisure, LGBT, QueenSpark Books, Zhoosh Leave a comment