This Isn’t Goodbye

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A few short hours ago we said goodbye to my best friend, my hero and the best man I ever knew. My father passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family, holding my mother’s hand.

Our hearts break but you are no longer in pain, nor will you ever be again. A life too full of heartache but one filled with love. We will miss you every day Dad but the time for sleep has come at last and we send you into the arms of God with a glad heart. I am so proud to call you my Dad. Continue reading

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The DUP & SDLP Can’t Wrap Their Arms Around The Abortion Problem

 

In a recent leader’s debate on UTV the leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland were all asked about their response to the conviction and suspended sentence that was handed down to an unnamed young woman who had procured pills to induce an abortion – I’ll come to that in a second but here’s a bit of backstory for you. I like to get you all caught up before I delve into a serious rant. Continue reading

We Need A Radical, United Left

NOTE: This is a work of fiction and idealism and not a serious proposal for a new way of thinking.

Okay so we’ve all heard it before, a radical left wing alternative the austerity driven politics of the current mainstream Westminster clique. We’ve even heard from within the same clique in the vein of Jeremy Corbyn and his ability to command the respect of his own MPs never mind the country remains to be seen. We have too many left-wing alternatives in the UK and Ireland and frankly the watered down collective of barking opposition needs to come to a decision: either they unite as one movement with one vision and message or we fade away into obscurity, relegated to anti-war, anti-austerity and anti-cuts protests with no representation at a local, devolved or state level. Continue reading

To My Friend – Naomi Long

I got involved in local politics just after the General Election in 2010. I watched as the political landscape changed dramatically with the Lib Dems walking into Downing Street with David Cameron and the Conservatives. I also watched with astonishment as Alliance Party deputy leader Cllr Naomi Long MLA bounced from coming in third place to unseating DUP leader Peter Robinson in Belfast East. The idea that one person could defy the odds, against every possible prediction, poll, pundit and probability and make a difference inspired me to want to do the same. Continue reading

Big House Unionism Is Not Loyalism

I will probably court a bit of controversy with this piece but I need to make a few things clear first. I wouldn’t declare myself a Loyalist in the same sense of the word as Billy Hutchinson or Winkie Irvine but it’s definitely in my blood, it formed the backbone of my upbringing and cultural identity and I have my sympathies and a common heritage with Loyalism. I go to the Orange parades on the 12th July, I observe Remembrance Day, I go to the bonfires on the 11th night. I have my differences of opinion from many Loyalists on issues around parades, flags and paramilitarism and I have addressed those when I have been asked about them but I am a working class Protestant from East Belfast with family members serving in the security forces, Orange Order and Unionist organisations. Loyalism and its many facets has never been far from my own identity.  Continue reading

Will I Make It Home Tonight?

That is the thought that crosses the mind of every single gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans person each time they open the door to the night and look at the waiting taxi. That fleeting and sometimes not so fleeting thought that runs across your train of thought and sends an icy feeling roiling in your gut for a split second: “Am I going to get bashed tonight? Do I give myself away? Am I going to be murdered tonight because I’m queer?”

People will argue with me that this is an overreaction or that not all LGBT think this but I’m telling you that you do. It’s probably not even a conscious thing but it’s why you don’t hold your girlfriend’s hand when you’re walking through the shopping centre or why you don’t go and talk to that cute guy at the deli counter or why you’re not going to wear that t-shirt on casual Friday in case it draws the wrong sort of attention.

The thought that just because we are LGBT we may draw the attention of men of violence and invite that damage onto ourselves is one even the most confident militant queer contemplates each time they walk out the door. Even in the areas near the gay bars in Belfast I am still cautious about who I am with, where I am going and who is watching.  Even with guys that I am meeting with or that I have just met (I don’t know if the same applies to straight guys but I doubt it) and every time I meet a guy at a bar or when I hear about friends who have met a guy on Grindr for a once off I think “What if they had hurt you? What if that was a trap? What if they were setting you up?”

It’s a horrendous feeling and I am glad that Russel T Davies brought it up (even in such brutal fashion) on the last episode of Cucumber. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was that you came out or how comfortable you are with being gay there will always be that subtle and sinister and unwelcome Homophobia that dances along your train of thought for a moment or more and asks “Will I make it home tonight?”

That is the world we live in as openly LGBT people.  We owe it to ourselves to stop living like that.

All The Times The DUP Stood Up For The Gays

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The DUP’s Paul Givan claimed on the Nolan Show last week that the DUP aren’t against gay people. Let’s take a look back at all the times the DUP has stood up for the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland.

1977 – MP Rev Ian Paisley launches the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign in an effort to retain the ban on homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

1982 – DUP submits a response to the NI Office in respect of the proposed decriminalisation of homosexuality, claiming that The effect of the law as a restraint on bestiality, incest and rape will be further reduced.” and goes on to say the change will lead to “inevitable demands for a further lowering”, giving “impetus to the paedophile movement which is rampant within the homosexual movement today”.

22nd June 1998 – DUP MPs vote against the Government to lower the age of consent for gay sex from 18 to 16.

10th Feb 2000 – DUP MPs vote again to reject the Sexual Offences Bill to lower the age of consent for gay sex.

24th Oct 2001 – DUP MPs vote against a motion to bring forward a gender neutral Civil Registration Bill.

4th Nov 2002 – DUP MPs vote against an amendment to the Adoption & Children Bill to allow unmarried straight and gay couples to adopt children.

23rd Feb 2004 – DUP MPs vote against the second reading of the Gender Recognition Bill.

25th May 2004 – DUP MPs vote against the third reading of the Gender Recognition Bill.

12th Oct 2004 – DUP MPs vote against the second reading of the Civil Partnerships Bill

9th Nov 2004 – DUP MPs vote in favour of a wrecking motion to enable siblings to become Civil Partners under proposed legislation. They later vote against the third reading of the Civil Partnerships Bill.

18th Nov 2005 – Ballymena DUP Cllr Maurice Mills claims that gay people are to blame for Hurricane Katrina.

9th Jan 2007 – DUP’s Lord Morrow proposes a motion to defeat the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland).

21st March 2007 – DUP MPs vote against a Government Bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

21st Jan 2008 – DUP Peers vote to prevent a clause demanding the need for a ‘father’ from being removed in the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill. If this clause had remained then lesbian couples would have been unable to access IVF treatment.

20th Feb 2008 – DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots MLA calls the establishment of a gay rugby team in Belfast a form of ‘apartheid’.

20th May 2008 – DUP MPs vote against Government proposals to allow single mothers and lesbian couples access to IVF treatment – twice.

June 2008 – DUP MP & MLA Iris Robinson claims that homosexuality can be ‘cured’.

21st July 2008 – DUP MP & MLA Iris Robinson claims that homosexuality is ‘viler’ than child abuse in a speech to Parliament.

26th July 2011 – DUP MLA Jim Wells calls Belfast Pride ‘repugnant’.

2nd August 2012 – Lord Mayor of Belfast, the DUP Cllr Gavin Robinson, stands by his party’s opposition to gay rights at a panel debate during the Belfast Pride festival.

25th August 2012 – Magherafelt District DUP Cllr Paul McClean calls for homosexuality to be made illegal in Northern Ireland.

1st October 2012 – DUP MLAs block a motion brought forward to facilitate marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

25th October 2013 – DUP MLA Tom Buchanan tells school children attending a public event that homosexuality is an ‘abomination’.

October 2012 – DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA lodges an appeal against the NI High Court Ruling overturning the ban on gay couples being allowed to adopt.

5th Feb 2013 – DUP MPs vote against the second reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill and all technical motions to facilitate the passing of the Bill.

29th April 2013 – DUP MLAs block a second motion brought forward to facilitate marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

2st May 2013 – DUP MPs vote against the third reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

11th Oct 2013 – Despite an NI High Court ruling, DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA refuses to lift the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

13th Nov 2013 – DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA claims in the NI Assembly that the ‘natural order’ is for a child to be raised by a mother and father.

5th March 2014 (Busy day for the DUP) – DUP MPs vote against Government proposals to allow same-sex marriages to be annulled or for same-sex spouses to divorce. They also vote against plans to allow consenting places of worship being able to register and de-register their property as venues in which to conduct same-sex weddings. On the same day they vote against plans to allow the registration of Armed Forces chapels as venues in which to conduct same-sex weddings. That same day they vote against plans to allow same-sex weddings for British citizens to be conducted in UK Consulates in foreign nations, to allow same-sex marriages from England and Wales be recognised as Civil Partnerships in Scotland and against the right of UK Armed Forces personnel entering into a same-sex marriage whilst serving overseas. On a bit of a roll that day, weren’t they?

29th April 2014 – DUP MLAs block a third motion brought forward to facilitate marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

8th December 2014 – DUP MLA Paul Givan publishes a Bill (nicknamed the Conscience Clause) designed to allow religious people an opt out from equality legislation when providing goods and services to gay couples.

21st Jan 2015 – Health Minister Jim Wells MLA of the DUP announces that he will maintain the present ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

23rd April 2015 – During a hustings event in South Down, DUP Health Minister Jim Wells claimed “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That the child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.” (This later led to his resignation as Health Minister 3 days later.)

27th April 2015 – The DUP use a Petition of Concern to block a motion calling for equal marriage in the NI Assembly.

28th April 2015 – DUP Cllr Paul McLean called for homosexuality to be made illegal.

30th April 2015 – DUP Leader and First Minister of NI claims that Cllr McLean is ‘entitled to his views’ and that if homosexuality was illegal he hopes people ‘would obey that law’.

30th April 2015 – MLA and Westminster candidate Jonathan Bell sets out his opposition to same-sex marriage and to 3-person marriage which he dubs ‘Thruples’ during a hustings debate in South Belfast.

2nd November 2015 – The NI Assembly debates equal marriage for a fifth time and the measure passes by 1 vote however the DUP again use the Petition of Concern to block it.

27th October 2016 – DUP Leader Arlene Foster says her party will continue blocking equal marriage for the next five years with the Petition of Concern.

29th November 2016 – DUP MLA Trevor Clarke claims he didn’t know straight people could contract HIV during an Assembly debate.

April 21st 2017 – DUP MLA Jim Wells claims that the party will split if the leadership agrees to allowing same sex marriage during NI Executive formation talks.

You’re Right, It’s Not Natural

I want to dedicate this post to Leelah Alcorn.

I’m a little angry and here’s why: In 2014 and every year before that I have read story after story about young LGBT people taking their own lives, being locked up, turned out onto the streets and made homeless, fired from their jobs, being hospitalised, murdered.

I’m tired of the attitudes that dominate and facilitate the treatment of LGBT people, (people like me, my friends, my family) as second class, as lesser than and not valued or worthy as those who are not. Those that are ‘normal’.

How can you call yourself a Christian and stand over the countless overdoses, hangings and suicides that have smothered the flickering flames of so many beautiful young lives and taken them from us too soon? Taken them from themselves too soon? How can you call yourself a Christian and look away as bright sparks are bullied into the darkness by their own families, their own parents, family,  schools? Their churches?

They didn’t choose this life. We didn’t choose this life. How dare you stamp on the dreams and aspirations of young kids who haven’t yet had the opportunity that you had to flourish and sparkle. You fail those who preach peace, love and understanding when you walk past those kids who have to worry about where they’ll find their next bed, their next meal, their next source of income or simply the best place to get out of the rain when the sun sets.

I’m sick and furious when I hear those who stand behind a pulpit or the good book tell us that being LGBT isn’t natural. You preach prejudice and derision to impressionable young minds and then lament at their graveside like the hypocrites you are. They left us, too broken hearted at their wings being clipped before they had a chance to soar.

Every time you tell a young Trans girl that she isn’t real, that she isn’t natural or that she’s going to Hell you better hold your tongue and hold back your false indignation or sorrow the next time a girl like her takes her own life. You are as much to blame as the others who forced her into that corner and stripped her of her right to be free, to be happy and most importantly to feel safe and loved.

In 2015 I don’t want to read another headline, hear another story or find another article about a friend or some kid in some far away place or somewhere close that couldn’t bear to face the world because of who they are. Don’t be your child’s first bully. Think before you speak. Even if you don’t understand, reach out your hand and help them if they ask for it. You might just be saving a life.
Please if you need to speak to anyone or if you know someone who does please get in touch with Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.