Real Talk. News, views, and opinions about the big stories of the day.
Wherever you are in the world, there’s a lot going on – there’s a lot to keep up with.
Let’s take a look at some of the big stories from an LGBTQ perspective.
Yulia Tsvetkova is a 26-year-old woman who lives in Russia. She has been arrested and will face trial on 9 December, charged with offences relating to pornography and gay propaganda.
Tsvetkova has been on the radar of Russian authorities for some time. She’s a prominent feminist and advocate for eqaulity.
Her arrest seems to have been triggered by information she posted on her social media accounts – posts about a project that she’s leading called the Vagina Monologues. It’s a body-positive project designed to help women understand their bodies and feel more confident about themselves.
Jack Merritt was one of the victims of the knife attack at London Bridge on Friday. It’s fairly extraordinary – and mind-numbingly horrific – that his family have been compelled to issue a statement asking that people stop using the death of their son to pursue an “agenda of hate” that is everything that Jack was working against.
On one hand, it was inevitable that this attack was going to be politicised. It happened during a General Election campaign – politicians are going to be asked questions about it, asked to comment on it, they’re instinctively going to score political points. It’s what politicians do. On the other hand, there’s the Daily Mail – shamelessly using Jack’s death to encourage people to vote Tory.
What the London Bridge has clearly highlighted is that the realities of offender rehabilitation are complex, and cutting the budgets of the various components of our criminal justice system has real consequences. You don’t have to look hard to find criminal justice professionals stepping forward with the receipts to say that they warned decision-makers that budget cuts would increase the likelihood of this kind of thing happening.
Which brings us to the case of Alexander Lewis-Ranwell. Lewis-Ranwell killed three elderly men in Devon. He killed the men because he thought they were paedophiles – they weren’t. Today, a jury has acquitted Lewis-Ranwell – finding him Not Guilty on the grounds of insanity. Lewis-Ranwell suffers from paranoid schizophrenia – at the time of the killings he was experiencing an intense psychotic episode. He was released from custody just hours before his murderous attacks began.
Before returning their verdicts, the jury gave a note to the judge in which they raised their concerns about the “state of psychiatric services” in Devon and said they hoped that “failings in care in Alexander Lewis-Ranwell’s case” would be addressed.
No one’s rushing to politicise the case of Lewis-Ranwell, but it’s another clear warning sign that our criminal justice system needs urgent attention – not knee-jerk headlines or sound-bites intended to win votes.
Mark Zuckerberg stands by his decision to allow Facebook to accept fake ads intended to distort public opinion and the political process.
He seems determined to make himself the poster-boy for everything that’s gone wrong with Capitalism.
UK election – does the queer vote matter?
There was a thoughtful article by Jonathan Cooper in the Guardian over the weekend, looking at whether the Tory party is deliberately ignoring LGBTQ voters and whether this will have any impact on the election results.
While you could question Cooper’s assumptions and assertions about the impact of LGBTQ voters in elections, his comparison of the party manifestos is timely and telling.
Cooper’s conclusion is that the Tory party’s manifesto “gives LGBT people no reason to vote Conservative”, especially compared to the manifestos of Labor, the Lib Dems, and the Greens who all have comprehensive policies explicitly engaging with issues that matter to queer people.
That’s probably not news to anyone. As Cooper highlights, the Tory party has form on resisting LGBTQ equality:
“Senior Tories have in the past objected to the lifting of the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces. Others have said B&B owners should not be required to have gay people stay in their homes if they don’t want them. Equal marriage happened despite Conservative MPs. Most voted against. On top of that, they have already committed themselves to ditching the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, with its express right to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, if or when Brexit happens.”
All of that against the backdrop of Section 28 – the echoes of which are still very much with us today.
I’m not here to tell anyone how to vote, but it does really surprise me when I come across an LGBTQ person who says that they’re voting Tory. Granted, there’s not many of them, but they’re out there. I’m not sure what they’re prioritising over their identity as queer people, but it’s clearly something major.
Boris Johnson is on record referring to gay men as “tank-topped bum boys”. Not totally inaccurate, but not the kind of thing that’s going to get my vote.
No easy answer to systemic homophobia
Remember the homophobic attack on Christine Hannigan and Melania Geymonat? Two women, on their way home on the bus after a night out, were verbally and physically assaulted.
This week, three teenagers have appeared in court to answer charges relating to this assault. All three offenders – aged 17, 16, and 15 – have submitted guilty pleas to public order and hate crime offences.
So far, it’s only the 17-year-old that has been sentenced. Sentencing of the other two offenders will take place in December. The 17-year-old has been sentenced to a four-month youth rehabilitation order with a 20-hours of community service, and a two-week curfew.
According to official statistics, we are seeing a rise in hate crimes against LGBTQ people. We all have a right to feel safe, and not feel that we need to conceal who we are when out in public. Hannigan and Geymonat are admirably defiant – determined to keep being themselves – queer women who are unafraid of being proudly visible.
But will the sentencing of the offenders in this attack make them any less homophobic? Will it make them more or less tolerant of LGBTQ people? What is an appropriate punishment or rehabilitation for someone who had admitted to assaulting someone because of their sexuality?
Perhaps a bigger question is how do teenagers – these kids are 17, 16, and 15 – learn homophobia? This isn’t the 1950s. Where is their homophobia coming from? That’s what we need to try and identify and that’s what we need to try and tackle.
This is a time of year that generally involves sharing a meal with people that you might not see that often. If you’re trying to avoid politics, it can be tricky to keep the conversation on non-controversial topics. If one of your family members starts on a rant about pronouns, gender, or people who like to mix things up a bit, just try and keep your cool and answer any questions they’ve got. No one needs to get angry about gender-identity, let’s just educate each other what it’s all about.
Hey. Hey, you’re on the clock, tamale. Get to work!
Sad news today that Shelley Morrison – best known for playing Rosario on Will & Grace – has tied today. She was 83, and has had a great career. She died of heart failure.
Will & Grace played a big part in helping me to figure out who I was as a gay man, and a big part of the charm of the show was Rosario’s dead-pan bemusement queer world that she found herself within.