Friday, 22 May 2015

Printers 'Facing Action' For Refusing To Make Civil Partnership Invitations

On the same day that the Republic of Ireland is voting on same-sex marriage rights yet another case of a couple receiving discrimination based on their sexuality has moved to the equalities tribunal.

Partners Jonathon Brennan and John Kierans were reportedly turned away when they asked for a printers to make invitations for their civil partnership ceremony at Beulah Print, Drogheda.

In a case that mirrors the now infamous Ashers Bakers incident the young couple were refused service based on the religious views of the business owners, who stated 'We are not against homosexuals, however, we do not support same sex marriage which printing wedding invitations would do'.

They say this despite the fact that Mr Brennan and Mr Kierans were not seeking invitations to a wedding, but a civil partnership, which is totally separate from same sex marriage and entirely legal in the Republic of Ireland.

The case is now in the hands of the equality tribunal and further action may take place if an agreement cannot be reached between the two parties.


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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Americas Openly Gay Envoy For LGBT Rights To Visit Uganda

American President Barack Obama earlier this year created the position of Special Envoy for LGBT Rights in order to fight anti-LGBT legislation around the world and appointed openly gay senior diplomat Randy Berry to the role.

In one of his first assignments Berry will be facing an incredibly tough challenge as he travels to Uganda this summer, a country with very harsh homosexuality laws where being gay can lead to a sentence of life in prison.

Uganda passed a harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act last year, which increased their already harsh penalties for same-sex relationships.

Despite the law being struck down by Uganda's Constitutional Court after finding that Parliamentary procedures had been abused to pass the law illegally, lawmakers are still planning to pass an even harsher law to replace it.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has fiercely defended his countries politics and their stance on LGBT issues, though by having already stated that he does not want to 'kill our trading opportunities' it may be possible that Berry might be able to convince him to reconsider his stance if given the proper incentive.


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Texas University Bans Athletes From Same-Sex Relationships

LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas has just updated their handbook for student athletes, and have made some shocking changes.

According to reports on a number of media websites, it now reads 'Consistent with our desire to celebrate and model a scriptural approach to sexuality, the university prohibits same-sex dating, behaviours and public advocacy for the position that sex outside of a biblical defined marriage is acceptable.'

Whilst some reports have pointed out that the specific ban on students expressing their support for same-sex relationships in public seems to go against the US First Amendment right to free speech it is worth noting that LeTourneau is a private Christian university.  Private universities are not covered by the First Amendment and have a legal right to suppress certain forms of speech.

LeTourneau is not the first American university to speak out against gay rights, earlier thus month Hillside College in Michigan sent a fear mongering email to its student body calling for them to help assist the university to 'destroy the evil' of same-sex marriage.

With same-sex marriage debate's still running across many states in America you have to ask is it truly appropriate for influential organisations such as universities to try and force their views onto their student.


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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

How I Got Stonewall To Change Their Website And How Your Voice Is Important

I'm sure many of you will know about the organisation Stonewall, the LGBT charity in the UK named after the Stonewall Riots.  Stonewall has been around since 1989, and the organisation is actually celebrating it's 26th birthday today.

Despite having been around for so long I was shocked to learn that the organisation hasn't included the transgender community for the majority of its lifetime, having only just announced their plans to campaign for trans equality since mid February this year.

What really shocked me, however, was that despite including the treansgender community in their mission statement for three months their website barely makes mention of transgender people or the charities support for the community.

I read through their 'Brief Overview of Stonewall', 'How We Work' and 'Stonewall Key Priorities' pages and found plenty of mentions of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people, but nothing about transgender people.  I knew that some of what they were talking about on the site is in reference to the Section 28 Laws, that specifically apply to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people, but there were incidences on the site where they talk about the LGBT community in a general way, but don't talk about the T.

If I'm being honest I didn't like this.  If I'm being brutally honest, it hurt.  Here is an organisation who I believe in, whose praises I have sung and they seem to be ignoring me and people like me.  I didn't like that.

I went to their website and I took pictures of their pages where they left transgender people out, highlighted it ans posted it on Twitter.

I tagged Stonewall's Twitter in the posts, used the Stonewall hashtag and even came up with one of my own, #WheresTheTrans?  I didn't expect much to happen, I thought that maybe a handful of people would see it and that it might get around a little.  What I wasn't expecting though was for Stonewall itself to respond to me within an hour of the first tweet going online.

Stonewall thanked me for pointing out the lack of inclusion of trans people and promised that they would be looking at correcting their website.

The next day I checked their site and found that the changes had not been made, so I once again started Tweeting on the subject.  Some people replied that it had only been a day, that it hadn't been enough time.  I argued that a day was more then enough time to go into a website and add a few words here and there.

It looks like my complaining paid of a second time though as Stonewall responded fast, telling me that they had updated the pages and made the changes.  I checked again and they were true to their word, Transgender was now a part of their website.

Unfortunately there is still one page on their site that so far doesn't mention transgender people where it should, and I have once again pointed it out to Stonewall in a public manner, and hopefully it will again result in changes being made.

I was shocked that a group like Stonewall took the time to listen to my one small voice, and even more surprised that it resulted in change.

But then that's one of the things that I've been telling people for a long time now, that a single voice and make a difference.  One person can get another person talking, and them another, and another and on and on it goes.  Sometimes one lone person pointing out a mistake or challenging a wrong doing can lead to change.

Please let this be a small example to you, don't stay quiet, speak out, fight for what's right because sometimes a single person can make a difference, no matter how small.


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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Nerd Block Subscription Service Segregating Packages Into Girls and Boys

I'm sure the geeks amongst you out there will have seen the myriad of subscription services available on the Internet that send you a box of random toys, comics and merchandise once a month for an annual fee.  A couple of friends of mine have signed up to one particular service, Loot Crate, and I've seen some of the very cool stuff that they've received through it.

The one thing that I've noticed about these services though is that its a lot of luck to whether you're going to get something that interests you or not.  One month you'll get a box full of fantasy stuff, another it'll be sci-fi, so it's not always guaranteed to be to everyone's tastes.

One service, Nerd Block, however, has attempted to address that by allowing people to choose the type of packages they want to receive.  There's one for video game fans, one for comic book readers, one for horror fans and there's even one for boys and one for girls.  Wait, what?

Unfortunately you read that right.  Nerd Block has made separate packages for children, splitting them by gender. 

The bright pink girls package includes toys such as Furby, Moshy Monsters and My Little Pony whilst the boys package comes in bright blue and contains Star Wars, Pokemon and Angry birds.

Now, I know a little girl that would pick the items from the boys list every single time over the girls, just as I know some boys who think that Furbys are cool or who are into My Little Pony.  I mean, what are you supposed to do if you want to receive My Little Pony toys along with Star Wars merchandise, get two packages?

The forced gendering of children's toys is a ridiculous practice that is massively outdated.  Pink for girls and blue for boys is stupid.  Saying that only boys like Star Wars whilst only girls like cute animals is ludicrous.  I find the whole concept insulting!

7 year old Maggie Cole made headlines for pointing out Tesco's gender segregation.
I know some of you will remember how in November last year a seven year old girl made headline news after her mother Tweeted a photo of her angry at Tesco advertising the Marvel toys she wanted as 'for boys'. 

Some of you aren't going to get this, you're reading this article and you're thinking that it's stupid or pointless or that it doesn't even matter.  But it does matter.  By telling people, especially children, that some things are for males and some things are for females you're helping to re enforce rigid gender roles and stereotypes.  Do you know who benefits from such roles?  Men. 

Men who want women to be subservient to them.  Men who want women to be second to them.  Men who want women's voices to mean less then men's.  Men who want women in the home cooking and cleaning.  Men who don't want things to be equal.

We're living in a society where women are supposed to have 'equal rights' to men, but unfortunately that's just not true.  Men get paid more than women, men get more respect then women, men get more power then women.  Things need to be equal across the genders.  No one should be on top, no one is better than anyone else.

This will be the point where some of you roll your eyes thinking 'shut up you man hating feminist', or some of you might be shrugging your shoulders thinking 'how does this little thing make any difference?'  Well it has nothing to do with hating men, or making women better.  We all need to be the same, that's why it's called equality.  And it does make a difference.  It might not seem like it to you, but by playing along with these kinds of gender segregating views you're not helping to make a better world for the children whose sexist toys you're buying.

Also, Nerd Block, you should be ashamed for making those packages.  Please stop it and be a better company.


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Monday, 18 May 2015

11 Year Old Girl Told She Is Gay And Will Burn In Hell By School Bus Driver

A bus driver in Missouri has been fired from her job at First Student following allegations of ill treatment towards an 11 year old girl.

Maurissa Rushing says that the school bus driver saw her and her friend playing a game together on the bus that involved the two of them chasing their fingers across each others arms.  Once the driver had let the other students off the bus she forced Maurissa and her friend to stay behind. 

Apparently, at this point she told the girls that they were touching each other too much and that it meant they were gay.  Yep, two elven year old girls touching each other means that they're gay.

In a tearful video that you can see here Maurissa told Fox News that 'The bus driver, she took us to the back of the bus.  We sat down.  She said we are going to burn in hell real bad.  I didn't expect it to happen.  She was talking really bad to me and I didn't like that.  She hurt my feelings very bad.  She's the worst bus driver I've ever had.'

The company that employed the driver ended her employment with them the moment that they were informed of the incident, but Maurissa's parents feel that this action is not enough. 

Her mother Patricia says 'She was left all day by herself dealing with it.  How do you deal with that when you're 11?  She's been through so much, she did not deserve to be put in that situation.  It's not fair.'

The school, Pathway Academy, claims that it is not their responsibility to inform parents of incidents that occur on the bus, but falls to the bus company to do so, and as such her parents were not made aware of the incident until Maurissa herself told them about it.

Maurissa's parents are currently exploring legal action and have stated an intention to sue the driver for her actions.


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Facebook Group For Black Lesbians Forced To Shut Down AFter Racist and Homophobic Abuse

There is a popular new trend amongst Facebook users where people click that they are attending events they have no intention of going to in order to raise awareness of certain events or individuals.  This practice has had some positive outcomes, Californian student Azeem Ward received Internet fame following the sharing of his flute recital, with thousands pledging to attend the event only intended for one hundred.

Unfortunately, like everything else on the Internet there is a darker side to this new trend.  When thousands of Internet users, mostly white men, clicked to attend an even in Claifornia for Black Lesbians United, the group was quickly over run by racist and homophobic abuse.

The group were subjected to comments such as people asking if they can attend because they 'know a black guy' and offering to 'bring the KFC'.  Some Facebook users posted links to hardcore lesbian porn, whilst one individual commented 'I'm a straight whit boy having ambitions to one day be a black lesbian.'

Following the massive amounts of abuse the group were subjected to they chose to remove the events page from Facebook, though the event itself is still planned to go ahead.

To be honest though, I'm not shocked that the group were subjected to this kind of abuse, we all know that there are a lot of very nasty and very narrow minded people on the Internet, and social media especially.  What does shock me though is that once again Facebook is allowing people to get away with posting abuse of this level. 

There are so many people and pages being reported every single day for spreading hate speech and abusing other Facebook users that you'd think the company would be quicker to step in when situations like this occur.  Facebook needs to address these kinds of issues.  They need to employ more people to stop this kind of thing from happening and they need to shut down the accounts of users that engage in these kinds of acts, not waiting for the victims to leave because they can't take anymore abuse.

Fortunately not ever person who left comments on the Black Lesbians United page was there to cause harm.  One commenter wrote, 'To the black lesbians who only came to this page to find happiness and acceptance in their sexuality I want to give a sincere apology for the twisted sick people who have written racist or homophobic comments to you.

'Nobody deserves to be treated that way, no matter how fucking funny those idiots think they are.  Keep being proud of who you are and don't listen to the insecure people below.  One again I am truly sorry.'


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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Disgusting Homophobic Game 'Kill The Faggot' Removed From Steam

In shockingly disturbing news a horribly violent and anti-LGBT video game has been removed from the online video games store Steam.  The game, which encourages the player to kill as many gay and transgender people as they can was available for purchase on Steam Greenlight, a system that allowed players to vote on games in order to approve them into the store without any vetting or moderation from Steam itself.

The description for the point and click shooting game read as follows, 'Hate gays?  Want to unleashyour frustration on the 'LGBT' community?  Well now is your chance.  Murder gays and transgenders, whilst avoiding straight people.  Get as many points before the time runs out.'

The game gives you points for killing 'gay homo fags', more points for killing 'transgender freaks', but deducts points from your total score if you kill 'innocent' straight people.

The break down of points scoring in the game.
The creation of the game is credited to failed christian shoe promoter, Randall Herman, who in the past launched a kickstarter to develop a range of shoes designed to 'promote the words and teachings of Jesus Christ through quality footwear'.  Yes folks, that's the level of idiot we have to thank for this abomination of a game.

Despite violating the Steam terms of service, Herman paid out the $100 fee to place the game on Steam in an attempt to promote his anti-LGBT views.  In an interview Herman had this to say on the subject, 'These people think that if you are even remotely homophobic, you are 'hateful' and a 'bigot', and do everything they can to destroy you in every vicious way possible.  So I decided to go down a path that most developers are afraid to go down: to piss these people off by making the most overly offensive game possible to these idiots to prove a point'.

'Kill The Faggot' Creator Randall Herman
Herman has also claimed to the press that he has recieved e-mails 'wishing physical harm on me' as a direct response to the game, though he has of yet been unable to produce any evidence of these messages.

Despite only neing available on the Steam store for a few hours before being pulled it was long enough to garner several negative reviews, and for video game critic Jim Sterling to make a video preview of the game.

This is not the first time that independant games have made fun at, or used violence against the LGBT community as a selling tactic, such as 'Ass Hunters', a game where you are made to hunt down gays, that was removed from the Google app store.

I doubt that 'Kill the Faggot' will be the last of these such games, especially as long as websites like Steam allow users to upload content with no moderation.  Rather than reacting after the fact once they have recieved complaints these companies should be preventing this kind of content from even becoming available.


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Monday, 4 May 2015

I'm In A Polyamorous Relationship And Should Be Given The Right To Marry Too

One of the things that I've seen a lot of lately is articles covering the idea of giving polyamorous relationships the same rights as other relationships and allowing those within them to marry under the eyes of the law.

The Green Party in the UK are open to the idea of one day legalising multi-partner marriages, and this has created a lot of talk, both for the idea and against.

The part of the debate that has sprung up that has really left me baffled, however, is the amount of members of the LGBT community who are condemning the idea.  Here is a group that is still very much fighting for the rights to marry and they're turning around to another group of people and saying that they shouldn't be able to marry.  It just doesn't make sense to me.

I'm in a polyamorous relationship, I have two partners and the three of us are in a relationship together, I'm not an add-on to anyone else's relationship or someones 'bit on the side', the three of us are all in a relationship with each other, and none of us sees any inherent problem with this.  Okay, sometimes it's harder to split things by thirds rather than half and more space is needed when sleeping, but other than that our relationship is no different from anyone else's, so why do people feel that there is something majorly wrong with poly relationships?

I've seen all kinds of arguments against three or more people being in relationships, that it's all just about sex, that people are being greedy, or even that it's akin to cheating.  I can't speak for every poly relationship in the world, I can only draw on what I've heard others say and what I know from my own relationship, but these arguments are all wrong.

Yes, polyamorous relationships involve sex, just as monogamous relationships do, but it doesn't mean that that's all that these relationships have.  Polyamorous relationship are built on love and caring for your partners as mush as monogamous relationships.

It's greed?  Well no, if you love more than one person how is that being greedy?  You can't help who you love, and if you love two people, or more, and everyone is okay with that then what does it matter?  And to those who might turn around and say that you cannot possibly love more than one person, can a parent love their child as well as their partner?  Can a parent love more than one child?  There is not a limited amount of love in the world, if you love more than one person that should be celebrated, not condemned.  One of the 'it's being greedy' arguments I heard personally was that 'everyone should have one before anyone else goes back for seconds', well I'm sorry, but if you can't 'get one' I'm not going to put my relationship on hold because of that.

Thirdly, a relationship with three or more consenting partners is nothing like cheating.  When it comes to polyamorous relationships everyone involved is filly informed and consenting, there is no cheating going on whatsoever.  To equate the two is no different than when people compare being homosexual as merely experimenting or being confused.  It shows lack of knowledge or respect.

In an article on Pink News polyamorous activist and writer Jon Barrett urges people to look at equal marriage rights for poly couples as the next stage in the equal rights battle.  He makes some very compelling points as to why it's important for multi-partnered relationships to have the same rights as single partnered ones.  For example, some people in poly relationships would not be allowed to visit their partner when they're in hospital.

The thing that disturbed me most about the article were some of the comments left behind by the readers.  Remember, that the majority of the people who read Pink News are members of the LGBT community, people who are fighting for equal rights, who know the struggle of having their relationships belittled and dismissed.  Instead of presenting as a united front on this issue it would seem that the LGBT community are just as divided as the hetrosexual community in their distaste for polyamorous relationships.

Here are just a few of the comments made that I was able to pick out within two minutes of looking through the comments section.

The argument that wanting certain rights will just give those who oppose us more reasons to hate us and more ammunition to use against us, therefore we should not pursue it is utterly ridiculous.  If lesbians were told not to demand further rights as women have it hard enough being treated equally would that be acceptable?  Is it okay to put one group of peoples comfort and rights above others?  No, that's what cis white men have been doing for hundreds of years and that's why people all over the world are fighting for equality even today, because one group put itself above others. 

Yep, because we all need to take a number in order to get our equal rights, like at a deli counter.  I mean, why should all people want to be equal when we can fight one battle at a time.  I mean, it's just like how we're not looking into a cure for cancer at the moment because we're still looking for a cure to the common cold right?  Also, as a transgender, pansexual person in a polyamorous relationship what rights should I be fighting for first?  I wouldn't want to rock the boat and wanted to be treated fully like a human being when I can do it in stages so that I can still be discriminated against in some way.

First of all, referring to having more than one partner as having an 'affair' when it is in a polyamorous relationship is massively disrespectful and shows no understanding of just what a poly relationship is.  Also, where is the study that shows that divorce would increase by 100% just by legalising poly marriages?  Or are you just pulling that fact out of your arse like those people who claim that legalising homosexuality would lead to peadophillia and beastitality?

Luckily there were some positive reactions to the article too, as there are some people in the world who support the idea of legalising polyamorous relationships.

This commenter makes the point that I raised earlier on in this article, that many of the people who are opposed to this suggestion are the very same people who were once fighting for their own marriage to be legalised, or in some parts of the world still are.  To use arguments that you have used in order to show that your relationships are no different than hetrosexual ones, what gives you the right to say what is or isn't a real or normal relationship?  No one is saying that legalising poly marriage could be done overnight, it'd take a lot of figuring out, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be allowed.  You've been fighting for your rights, why shouldn't we fight for ours?

Once again, it's being pointed out just how hypocritical it is for members of the LGBT community to condemn certain people for wanting the rights to marry those that they love, and it points out something that I have seen a lot in comments on this topic, the 'I'm not against poly relationships, but...' argument.  If you don't want poly people to have the right to marry then like it or not you are discriminating, you are polyphobic, it's as simple as that.

Like I said, I'm transgender, pansexual and polyamorous, I know what it's like to fight for respect and rights, but at what point am I supposed to stop fighting for my rights?  Am I supposed to say, 'okay, I've been accepted as a transgender person but don't have any rights in my relationship, oh well I can't win them all'?  Am I supposed to deny myself the ability to marry someone that I love because it might make life harder for others?

No, that's wrong.  You cannot demand that you be given certain rights whilst denying those same rights to other.  Whether you do so because you disagree with the 'lifestyle choices' being made by that group or because you think that it might effect your own rights it's still wrong.

My relationship doesn't harm anyone else, it doesn't deny anyone else happiness, it doesn't make anyone else's relationship less legitimate.  So why would that suddenly change if I was given right, a piece of paper and a ring?  It wouldn't.  People need to stop putting one group of rights above others and see that to be equal we all need to be equal.


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