More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

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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

Zombies invade Brighton (again)

Vacant stares, feet shuffling aimlessly as you following the crowd, low moans filling the air. No I’m not talking about the Saturday night pub crowd stumbling up St James Street at 3am, but the rather brilliant Beach of the Dead invasion, that will be hitting the streets of Brighton on Saturday 22nd October.

Judging by the hoards of zombies that took to the street last year, it is safe to say that the Zombie fest, Beach of the Dead will now be an annual fixture in Brighton’s “must do” calendar. For those who missed it, what a treat you missed! Last year the streets were awash with every conservable members of the un-dead as you could possible imagine, from the stereotypical Dawn of the Dead, white faced, torn shirt brigaded, to some extremely imaginative creations; including a bride and groom zombie fighting over a severed hand, a Where’s Wally, and even a Hunter S. Thompson/Jonny Depp ala Fear and loathing in Las Vegas Zombie.

As we slouched through the daylight streets, people cheered rather than ran off with screams of fear…well except for one woman who was caught up in a gang of zombies banging on the side of the bus as she called out, “I’m not a zombie, I really do want to get the 26 to Fiveways.” Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, film, Gothic horror, Zhoosh 2 Comments

Speak Out Against Homophobia.

Here in the UK, the LGBT community can celebrate the many rights we have all fought for and won over the last few decades, from having homosexuality abolished as a criminal offence, the equal age of consent and most recently the right for same sex couples to have their union together acknowledged in the form of civil partnerships. Looking at such ground breaking achievements it would be easy to think that we can sit back and relax because all the big battles have been won; but this really is not the case.

For every outdated piece of legislation that has been overturned there are still those who see homosexuality as second class to their straight counterparts and this is passed down to the next generation through a variety of ways. Last week it immerged that Google had rolled out a new app giving mums the opportunity to answer twenty cliché questions to determine if their son is gay.

Some of the ridiculous questions that the makers claimed would determine the outcome of their son’s sexuality included,

  • Is he a fan of divas (Madonna, Britney Spears)?
  • Does he spend time getting ready before being seen in public?
  • Does he like musical comedies?

So what if someone, gay or straight, takes a while to get dressed up to see Madonna in a musical comedy, but the way these questions are backed up by,

  • Does he like football?
  • Does he read the sports page in the newspaper?
  • Has he ever been in a fight?

It become perfectly clear that the people who put the app together are suggesting that if someone’s son doesn’t conform to the outdated gender norms, they are less of a man and as such are seen as inferior to others in society. Of course the people behind the app would say that such questions should not be taken so seriously and they are just a bit of fun; but it is these same outdated views that bullies use to undermine their peers from the playground to the workplace and keep many people from declaring proudly that they are gay.

A prime example can be seen in football. At present there is a campaign DVD due to be launched, titled; Homophobia: Let’s Tackle It! with the makers hoping to follow the success of, ‘Show Racism the Red Card’. The makers had wanted a gay footballer to front the DVD, but have been greeted by a brick wall. Not since Justin Fashanu, (who committed suicide in1998) has there been another professional footballer ‘come out’ as gay. They also found it impossible to get a straight footballer to speak out against homophobia, for fear of a backlash from the terraces and in the press.

It is without doubt that the main reason for such an absence of ‘out’ footballers speaking out on the issue isn’t down to gay men, as the app questions would suggest, not being any good at sport but more to do with homophobia still being rive within the ‘beautiful game’.

In the same week there was a conference for the Orlando Republican presidential debate. During the session Stephen Hill, a US soldier serving in Iraq, spoke via video link saying he was pleased he was able to be open about his homosexuality now President Obama had abolished the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that had meant gay and lesbian service men and women would be fired from their post if their sexuality was exposed. The response from the chair came that should the Republican Party take office again, the ban on homosexuals in the forces would be put firmly back in place. The people behind such thinking are fully aware that there are hundreds of gay and lesbian people working in the arm forces, but to show that gay men and women are working in environments outside the clichéd stereotypes would show that the only thing different between sexualities is the gender we decided to sleep with.

These are just a few examples of how a part of society believes that to be gay is something that must be ridiculed, hated and stamped out. We may have won some big battles, but we must keep our voices heard loud, expose gay hate in all its forms, and stamp out the hatred so the next generation will only find homophobia in the history books.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Human Rights, Leisure, Zhoosh 1 Comment

Homophobic Hate Contiunes…

When I wrote about Jamie Rodemeyer taking his own life after years of being bullied at school for being bisexual, in the back of my head I really believed that the children who had targeted him would wake up to their words of hate and realise that they had been the cause of a 14 year old boy taking his life. Astonishingly this has not been the case. Instead the bullies have started a new campaign of hate and are now picking on Jamie’s sister, yelling at her that they are pleased her brother took his own life. I believe that it is up to all of us to stand up against bullying in all its forms and to make people of all ages face up to their actions and understand the full consequences. Please take a moment to follow the link to Jamie’s school and ask the adults to help stamp out bullying in their school.http://www.williamsvillek12.org/contact.cfm Let’s hope the message gets through to other schools that just because someone shouts out words of hate they can still kill. https://www.facebook.com/RIPJameyslaw
http://youtu.be/vTu9XBt6SPI

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Human Rights, LGBT Leave a comment

Authors Asked to Erase Gay Character.

Stop discrimination

You’re a writer, you have worked hard on developing a plot for your young adult, fictional novel. You have created a character you love and you know will reach out to your readership. The excitement builds as you get a call from a literary agent who says they love the book but… for the manuscript to be more palatable to the publishers they want you to write out the black character and make him white. The outcry would be huge, with such an idea hitting the six O clock news. Yet it was only twenty years ago when children’s author Malorie Blackman was asked to do just that.

 So when she was told that last week, two American writers, Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown, were told by a literary agent that their young adult, post-apocalyptic novel, Stranger, was of interest, but only on the proviso that they re-wrote the gay characters as a heterosexual couple; her adamant response was, “Are we still not over this nonsense? Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, Human Rights, LGBT, Literature, Zhoosh 11 Comments

Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing.

All of us from time to time will have days when we just can’t find a smile to put on our face. Having a blue day, feeling under the weather, (particularly if that weather is stormy and grey) a bit depressing. Thankfully the majority of the time we find that by the end of the day we have found some way in resolving such matters and are able to wake up the next day with that smile firmly in place.

However, for some people getting up in the morning can become a daily challenge as they feel they can not face the world and in turn find themselves trapped. Such feeling may stem from, problems at work, money worries, relationship difficulties, coming to terms with your sexuality, particularly for those who are LGBT and living in a household that have expressed a dislike for all things “queer”. For others it may be receiving an HIV diagnoses and all the mixed emotions that can be potentially thrown up. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh 5 Comments

30 Year Ban on Gay Men Giving Blood to be Lifted.

After thirty years, the lifelong ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood is set to be lifted later this year…with certain conditions attached. The main one being that a gay/bisexual man will only be allowed to donate blood as long as he has abstained from any sexual intercourse with another man for twelve months. The reason for such a time limit is due to what is known as the window of opportunity infection. For example, someone who may have had unprotected sex (sex without a condom) may take an HIV test and receive a negative HIV diagnoses, but this does not mean that HIV is not present in the blood. A further test, twelve months later is the only sure indication that the person is not carrying the virus.   Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh 3 Comments

Outdoor Positive: a walking group for eveyone affected by HIV.

Outdoor Positive.

The idea for Outdoor Positive, a group for anybody affected by HIV first came about when David, one of the main organisers of the group, got talking to a nurse at the Sussex Beacon.

“The conversation got round to the benefits of outdoor walks. I spoke about my time as a youth in the scout movement with many activities involving getting out into the countryside and the enjoyment I got from such activities.”

            David: Outdoor Positive.

Other people said how they didn’t really identify with the pub/ club scene so much and found the only time they connected with other HIV positive people was either through visits to the Sussex Beacon or the Lawson unit clinic. From this initial conversation a group was put together with the simple ethos meeting up away from the bars and clubs and to take a walk around the countryside of East Sussex. Word quickly got round of the new group and its first walk last year in March taking in the sights of Stanmer Park and the surrounding area. The team behind Lunch Positive were on hand to provide the refreshments with around thirty people turning up on the day. The feedback was extremely positive with many people saying how nice it was to get out and see parts of countryside that they had wanted to explore but would never have done so on their own. Since then Outdoor Positive have explored many different parts of East Sussex’s country side, with all the starting and finishing points accessible via public transport. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, Leisure, LGBT, Zhoosh Leave a comment

Everthing you wanted to know about S&M sex but were afraid to ask…

Red Hankie

Red, Yellow, Black and Blue.

For those who know there hanky code, the title will prick up their ears (was the last word a typing error?)For the experienced, and novices alike when it comes to all things S&M, THT and CHAPS have                    re-launched the excellent  Hardcell

Hardcell (http://hardcell.org.uk) is an extremely well informed website looking at the more diverse side of sex play. The site is split into five areas each answering nearly every question you wanted to ask about S&M sex but was too afraid to ask.

The playroom looks at S&M games covering everything from corporal punishment, body modification, breath controls to sex toys. The site is easy to navigate around giving sound advice on how to get the best from each sexual activity, keeping you and your partner safe and how some of the activities are perceived by the law. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Leisure, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh Leave a comment

THT Super Hero Fund Raising and Beyond!

THT Super Heros: Photo by Vincent lcq

As part of their ongoing strategy to keep the message of safer sex and HIV in the public’s mind, the team at Terrence Higgins Trust have embarked on a range of fun fundraising activities. On the 15th May THT joined the event “Brighton’s Hero’s Run”, organised by the charity “Passing It On”, a charity that helps help build funds for Schools in Africa, along with host of other fundraising groups dressed in an array of costumes. Amoug the many Supermen, super women were Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble complete with their stone-age car and even Super Gran. As well as being a lot of fun, THT raised an impressive £2000 on the day. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Brighton & Hove, Health, Human Rights, Leisure, LGBT, THT, Zhoosh Leave a comment