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Progression, regression – at least it’s developing?

28 Nov

We wanted to draw attention to a couple of recent events in the struggle for equality. Good news and bad news, but either way it’s good to highlight the wins when they come to give context to any steps back that may happen in other areas. Just keeping on walking.

The beginning of the month saw the European Court of Justice issue a preliminary ruling on an EU Directive relating to minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals or Stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection. For those unfamiliar with this judicial process, national courts can refer questions of interpretation of EU law that come up in cases brought before them to the ECJ for clarification on the legal rule. The ECJ issues its judgement, which is binding, and then the national courts decide the case before them based on that interpretation. (That’s a very simplified version of the process…) So the ECJ was asked by the courts in the Netherlands a series of questions, including whether foreign nationals with a homosexual orientation form a particular social group for the purposes of the EU Directive in question and as such entitled to protection. The ECJ ruled they did. The Court held “it is common ground that a person’s sexual orientation is a characteristic so fundamental to his identity that he should not be forced to renounce it”. The existence of criminal laws in the countries were the claimants where nationals specifically targeting homosexuals further supported the finding that those persons must be regarded as forming part of a particular social group. The ECJ ruling is obviously not the final step in the process, but as the ECJ’s ruling is binding on all other EU Member States, it could have significant impact on the implementation of these standards across the EU.

At the end of the month, there’s been an important decision on discrimination based on sexual orientation in the UK. For all the news that the UK seems to be winding back to the 17th century in many respects, but particularly in relation to the protection of human rights protection, yesterday’s judgement by the Supreme Court came as somewhat of a relief to those still holding on to modern principles. A couple who ran a small private hotel refused to provide a homosexual couple a double bedroom. The hoteliers hold strong religious beliefs and have a policy that they only provide double bedrooms to “heterosexual married couples”. By an oversight, the guests were not informed of the policy. The majority held that the policy was direct discrimination and, even if it was indirect discrimination, was not justified. It is still within living memory that such acts would not be considered to be discrimination, so quite a fantastic progression in many respects. (Press release here, for those with scarce time.)

Final thing to draw to your attention – the Swedish riksdag (parliament) today signed into law legislation that would prohibit advertising of infant formula and require packets to be labelled indicating that breastfeeding has benefits (among other things). Not all political parties supported the legislation but the reasoning behind it is that it transposes (or incorporates into Swedish law) an EU Directive (2006/141/EC), which does set out these requirements and which EU Member States are therefore bound to incorporate into their domestic legal systems. Whilst this all clearly stems from very important concerns relating to the health interests of children, it does make you wonder whether such a heavy emphasis neglects the pressures faced by women in early motherhood and their genuine right to choose for themselves what’s best for their bodies and their child, rather than have it dictated to them by a government.  Legislating on biological “truths” as some of this has been presented, similar to legislation on historical “truths”, always feels a little uncomfortable. The general conclusion seems to be an overall feeling of discomfort.

Still, a couple of steps forward. Let’s hope we all can keep on walking.

Am I being left alone in Pervertville?

25 Apr

First of all don’t get me wrong: I am very happy that some countries are legalizing gay marriage and that it is happening in my lifetime. I feel kind of weirdly blessed, not like a slave who was set free, but maybe like a woman who has just been allowed to vote.

But the thing is: I am not that fond of marriage in the first place. I mean, I love wedding parties, but then there is alcohol and a perfect excuse for my friends to get together, and there is music, and dance, and more alcohol. The institution of marriage, however, is not something I give much value to. Still, here I am fighting (well, not exactly fighting, but I do write on a blog, don’t I?) for this right. And I wonder sometimes, in all my honesty, why do I care?

When I ask this question, a big word comes to mind: EQUALITY. Yeah, right, but then, equality reminds me of uniform, which is not as lovely a word when you point it to lifestyles. After the “why me (being gay)?” phase in adolescence, I stopped dreaming about being the equal. And I actually take great pride of that.

Being gay is a part of this pride of being different. Undeniably, there is this sense of David against Goliath (oh, the bible, such a lovely book.) in the act of being a fag. Edmund White (http://www.edmundwhite.com/) puts it very well in some of his books, but maybe especially at “City Boy”, an autobiography of his New York years in the seventies and eighties. I don’t have the book with me right now to point out the specific section which comes to my mind, but more or less in the middle of the book he talks about a guy he used to see on regular basis. This being pre-Stonewall and they’re being not much older than twenty, they did not see their “thing” as a relationship and fidelity was never an issue. These concepts were entirely foreign for them and, I believe, for many gay “things” in general at the time. This fact shocked me when I read it.

Stonewall changed everything, for sure. And there is no denying that it was for the best. But still, I get myself wondering: “wow, how would it feel to have a “thing” for which there is no common term?” “How free must it have felt?” “If Stonewall hadn’t happened, how would the gay “things” have evolved?”

But now, in a few countries, gays “things” are proper relationships, which can even be sanctioned as proper marriages. And I am happy for the gays who always dreamed of being married and just couldn’t. Hell, I might be one of those guys someday (and I never wore a tuxedo and that could be the perfect excuse for it. Or maybe I would wear a kilt again. Oh, I love kilts).

The yellow light, however, keeps blinking in my conscience. If I had lived in the sixties or in the seventies, I probably would have defended free love. But we are fifty years ahead of that and what I see is marriage conquering us all (with me helping, sort of).

Sometimes I even forget about the fact that marriage is not really my problem as a gay person. But ultimately, I cannot relate to that. So, every time a country accepts same sex marriage I feel very happy for the gay movement and for myself, but it is not a victory I can surely call my own.

Olympic games and sexual repression in Brazil

13 Aug
Watching the Olympics and reading the comments about it in the online newspapers, Facebook and Twitter can be a weirdly revealing experience.
After a Brazilian victory in any sport (specially after a tough match), it has grown increasingly common for people to tell the loser to “suck it” (“chupa” in portuguese) in an angry, punishing tone. Although there is nothing new about it (people have told losers to “suck it” for a long time), it was something you would not say it in front of everybody here. Now it actually became quite trendy in this BRIC of a country.
I wonder why. Are people more open to talk about their sexual desires in front of everybody? Definitely, yes. Is it easier to spread ignorance nowadays? Another resounding yes. But this does not prevent me to question: do people really hate to suck it so much that they want to impose this punishment on the losing Olympians? NO!
Truth is, many people like to suck. (And yes, we are talking about penises here. It’s never about lollipops and you know it.) The simple fact is that most people actually like (or loooove) to be involved in the penis sucking practice.
So, why are the Brazilians growing so fond on telling the losers to suck their penises? Pure and unconscious (or conscious) prejudice. That’s because, even if most people practice oral sex, the ones who actually suck penises are women and gay men. So, when Brazilians tell the losers to “suck it”, they are just telling them to go to an inferior human position: become a woman or a gay man. Meanwhile, their alpha male status is confirmed. “Yeah, I’m the man” is the subliminal message behind “chupa”.
Ironically, based on Brazil’s performance at this year’s Olympics, we should be sucking more penises than any other country. But then, we ARE known for our sexual drive, aren’t we?
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