10 June 2018

Something That's Never Discussed About Coming Out

Seeing as it’s Pride month, I thought I’d write something along the lines of being queer, but something that isn’t discussed that often. When we’re born, every little girl is expected to grow up and find her prince charming, get married, have 2.4 children and live the stereotypical heterosexual lifestyle that is so commonly referred to as a ‘normal life’. The same can be said for little boys, except they’re expected to find their princess instead of prince charming. Even from a young age, family members will describe little boys as heart-breakers due to them being potentially good looking and women will be falling at their feet. It’s very, very rare that parents and family members expect their child to be queer. When do you ever hear a dad talking with his mates at the pub about his newly born son growing up and having men fall at his feet? Unless of course, they’re talking about him being the next Maradona. Essentially, what I’m saying is, children are born and expected to be straight. 

When children grow up, go through puberty and begin to realise who they are, it can be extremely confusing, emotional and incredibly hard to realise that they’re queer, when their entire life, they’ve been told they’d grow up and live a heterosexual life. This isn't the fault of the parents, of course, it’s just how society and life is. Why would we assume a baby will grow up to be queer when the vast majority of human beings are ‘straight’? What this means is, there comes a point for queer folk, usually in their teens but sometimes later, to have to explain to their loved ones that they aren’t straight. Coming out is a huge thing to do. It’s more nerve-racking than a job interview, driving test or public speaking. It’s hard for the person involved, but it can also hard for the parents if they’re not as liberal as you’d hope. 

So, once you come out, that’s it, right? Wrong. If you’re queer and it isn’t particularly obvious, you will spend your entire life coming out. You think once you come out that’s it and you can move on. But it’s not and coming out only gets slightly easier. The first time will always be the hardest but the tenth, twentieth and fiftieth times are as difficult as the second. Whenever you meet new people and you’re not overtly camp or feminine, they will assume that you’re straight. If you’re a man, they will ask you if you have a girlfriend, and if you’re a women, they will ask you if you have a boyfriend. It’s very rare to meet someone new, say at a new job, where they ask you, ‘do you have a partner?’. Occasionally people ask ‘are you seeing anyone?’, which is good. But that’s often followed up by ‘what’s his/her name?’ as they assume you’re straight. I’ve often been in situations with overtly masculine guys who speak to me about ‘birds’ and try and joke about meeting girls as they assume I’m straight. I usually jump in and that’s when I have to come out again, but sometimes they don’t let you speak and they continue, which is only slightly hilarious. 

I don’t think this is something that will ever change. Queer people will always have to come out and if you’re not obviously queer, you will have to come out over and over again throughout your life. It’s just one of those things, but I don’t feel like this is something that isn’t often discussed. There are countless coming out videos on YouTube and the act of coming out is widely spoken about. However, having to come out to every new person you meet isn’t something I’ve ever seen or heard discussed. I know some people don’t feel the need to come out because it doesn’t ‘define’ them as a person, but I feel like if you don’t discuss personal things such as relationships, there’s only so far you can go to get to know that person. Coming out is a part of being queer and it should be embraced. Even if you have to do it every time you meet someone new.

excuse me what GIF by Mashable

5 May 2018

Can We Have an Objective and Impartial Media?

The recent local elections were reported by the news broadcasters as a dismal performance from Labour and a somewhat fine result for the Conservatives. According to certain television anchors, Labour had a tragic night as they didn’t make as many gains as they’d hoped to. Looking at the stats, on the surface, Labour had the best local election in London since the 1970s. They won in places where they never thought they’d win and won over 50% of the seats. The UKIP vote completely collapsed and their vote share naturally went the way of the Tories, which is why the Conservatives looked to have had a mediocre night for an incumbent party. This, of course, wasn’t mentioned by the media as they focused on Labour’s apparent stagnation since the general election in 2017. But, as I mentioned, Labour had the best results in London since the 1970s. So, why is the media talking it down?

I know it’s a huge cliché for the left to blame the media for things or to suggest the media are harsh on us, but let’s forget about the stereotype for the moment and ask one question: can the media be objective when it comes to politics? 

Although I despise the likes of The Sun and The Daily Mail, I don’t have a problem with them being completely anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour or anti-left because everyone is aware of their agenda and support for the Conservatives, the right and Brexit. The wider public doesn’t pick up a copy of The Sun, read something about Corbyn being a communist and take it as gospel. They know they’re biased and take it with a pinch of salt. What I do have an issue with is the apparent neutrality of the mainstream news broadcasters. The likes of the BBC and Sky News are viewed by the wider public as being objective and impartial. We’re told they don’t have agendas and don’t hold any bias. However, I don’t believe this to be true. Yes, going back to what I said about the left moaning about the mainstream media. But, believe it or not, it’s a thing.

I have an issue with the apparently neutral broadcasters peddling their right wing bias and anti-Corbyn dogma because the wider public believes that these media companies are neutral. In all aspects of their reporting, there are opinions, bias, slurs and falsehoods, or should I say FAKE NEWS?! I have an issue with this because the wider public holds these broadcasters in high stead, especially the BBC whose entire foundation is on the basis that they inform and educate, and take what they say as the truth and nothing but. The difference between the broadcasters and the press is accountability, ownership and management. We know who owns the papers, we know the agendas, we don’t have to purchase the papers if we don’t agree with the content. As the likes of the BBC and Channel 4 are owned by us, and we have no choice but to pay for it if we want to watch television, the accountability falls on the management who sneakily peddle their agendas. 

In essence, I don’t believe we can have an impartial media. It’s almost impossible for human beings to remain neutral when it comes to politics. Actually, it’s quite impossible for human beings to remain impartial about anything. Opinion pieces should remain in newspapers and on websites where everyone is aware of their political beliefs. So, in answer to my question, no, you can’t have an objective and impartial media. That’s simply never going to happen.

If you’re still reading this and haven’t thrown your phone down in annoyance at another lefty moaning about the state of the bias press, I thank you. If you are still reading this but rolled your eyes a few times, you have the choice not to revisit my blog. Like the press, you know my political agenda and can choose not to read my content. It’s a shame the broadcasters aren’t like that, isn’t it? 

3 March 2018

Should We Have a Second Referendum?

The idea of a second referendum was mentioned immediately after the first as the losing side were not happy with the Leave side’s bus figure, to name one thing. Since then, it is one of the most discussed topics on television, radio and print. Even the king of Brexit, Nigel Farage, has hinted that a second referendum should happen if certain outcomes were not agreed. So, essentially, what we have is Remainers stating that Leave lied and misled the public during the campaign and Leavers stating that the government are not trying for a hard Brexit. Perhaps there should be a second referendum then, right?

In reality, the general public do not want a second referendum. In reality, we are all Brenda from Bristol. We’ve had enough politics, enough votes, enough campaigning for the next five years. We don’t want to have to debate with our colleagues, shout at the TV screen, receive dozens of leaflets through our doors or go to the local polling station. We have had enough. This is partly why there is a disconnect between the general public and politicians. The latter vote on things almost every day. It’s their job to campaign, to debate and to post leaflets. They don’t see an issue with another vote because, quite frankly, they enjoy it. We the people do not care. In all honesty, most of us are fine with voting in a general election every five years and couldn't give a toss about local elections, European elections, assembly elections, mayoral elections, PCC elections - Parklife.

So, that’s the reality and here’s the issue. We shouldn't be in a position where there are calls for a second referendum because the first should've been done properly. We’re in a position now where the country is bitterly divided. Where Leave won 51.89 per cent and Remain won 48.1 per cent. Rounded, both numbers are 50 and you have a result that doesn't factor out people who didn't care about the result or people who didn't really understand what they were voting for. What should've happened was the winning side should've had to have won 60 per cent of the vote or a supermajority. This would've meant the winning side would've had a clear victory and calls for a second referendum wouldn't be a thing. Yes, people would've moaned that the majority of people voted to leave, but perhaps you shouldn’t change the course of the country with such a small majority, where almost half the population are not wanting that change. 

I also don’t think we’d be in this position now if the campaigning was done properly. What we had were two ‘official’ groups talking for either side. Neither had a plan for Brexit and both sides were saying things that other people within those sides didn't agree with. What we needed was for the main parties to have published Brexit manifestos even if they weren't campaigning to leave. Or, at least, the government should’ve. Then, voters would have had an official argument for both sides instead of lots of lies, manipulations and scaremonger (on both sides). Politicians wonder why the public hates them.

I think it would be very messy to have a second referendum now considering the government have already begun talks with the EU and triggered Article 50. Even having a public vote about the outcome when the government officially announce the plan will be messy because the discussions would have to start all over again. I know, a lot of people on both sides aren't going to be happy with the outcome. Hard Leavers will complain about Brexit being too soft and Remainers will complain about not being given a vote on the outcome. Like I said, we should've never have been in this position. A second referendum now would be messy, annoying and costly. You’d probably see a drop in turnout and I’d predict Remain would win due to the anti-establishment votes not turning up. Then what do you do? Best of three? I think we should just let this Tory government get on with it and wait and see what happens. After all, most of us are simply waiting for one thing…

11 February 2018

Bernie 2020 - Why Not?

Although Trump is only in his second year as the 45th President of the United States, it is quickly becoming that time when we speculate who will challenge him at the next election. It seems very soon to be talking about the next election already, but it’s one of those topics that never stops getting discussed. Partly due to the excitement that an election entails, but specifically this year, it’s almost definitely the eagerness and will of the people to see the back of Trump. Realistically, we will know who most of the candidates are by the autumn of 2019. 

Back in 2016, Hillary Clinton was fighting tooth and nail to try and stop an old independent Jewish socialist from beating her in the Democratic primaries. At times, she struggled to win big against Bernie Sanders in states that she thought were hers by default, and during the debates, she was battered and bruised by the enigmatic Senator from Vermont. One of Clinton’s biggest mistakes against Sanders was assuming the nomination was hers. Clinton came across as if she believed that she deserved the nomination and was the heir apparent to Obama. Unfortunately, for her, Bernie Sanders stole the hearts and minds of a nation. He stood up against the most establishment candidate to have ever run in the Democratic primaries. Clinton eventually beat Sanders, but news surfaced soon afterwards that the Democratic Party were never going to let Sanders win. In fact, it turns out, they attempted to rig the primaries and unfairly gave Clinton the nomination.

A battered Hillary Clinton went on to fight against the winner of the Republican primaries, and now 45th President of the USA, Donald J. Trump. Although Clinton won by quite some votes (a couple of million to be more specific) she failed to beat Trump in the electoral college, which meant Trump took the presidency. A once joke candidate beat the assumed heir apparent. People were in shock as they watched Trump win. Their cockiness and ignorance assumed that people wouldn't possibly vote for Trump. How wrong they could've been. However, Trump is officially the least popular president of all time and people are wondering who can beat him in 2020. Moreover, that’s not just Democrats. Republicans too long to replace the Alt-right Trump. 

Typically, but probably more so now because of Trump, rumours of celebrities running for the presidency have been discussed. Not least after the Gold Globes and Oprah’s magnificent speech. Along with Oprah, Tom Hanks, Ellen Degeneres, Kanye, Lady Gaga and the Rock have all been spoken about as potential candidates for the Democratic nomination. Of course, they will all probably stay as rumours and the celebrities won’t attempt to take on President Trump. Although, tell Kayne not to do something and he’ll probably end up trying to do it…

Naturally, there will be numerous senators and governors declaring their candidacy in the end. American politicians on both sides who we’ve never heard of before. And, of course, there’ll be the unlucky losers of last year’s primaries who will have a second/third attempt. People such as Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker. Also, other notable politicians such as Joe Biden, Paul Ryan and Elizabeth Warren will all probably throw their hat in the ring. However, there’s only one person I care about for 2020. That person is Bernie Sanders.

The thing is, if it wasn’t for the rigged Democratic Primaries, I think #BernieWouldveWon. Without going into the technicalities of why he would've won, it’s clear that Bernie has started a revolution in American politics. As I mention in my latest book, We the Extremists, Bernie Sanders represents the leftwing populism that is attempting to counter the rightwing populism of Donald Trump. We have two extremes in American politics at the moment. You have the new socialist left and the alt-right. (In the middle, the conservatives and neoliberals sit crying about how it’s not fair) As Trump knew his target voter, so did Bernie Sanders. What’s more, like all populism, the populist right can easily be won-over by the populist left. At the end of the day, populism targets disenfranchised voters. Trump’s populism uses messages of fear. Bernie’s populism uses messages of hope. Both sides say they’re on the side of the worker but they choose different reasonings to explain why the worker is worse off and how they can fix it. 

By polling day 2020, Bernie Sanders will be a prestigious 79-years-old. I bring that up because some people suggest that he’ll be too old to run; too old to be president. I can understand why people would think that. A president should be of good health - both physically and mentally. A president should be at the top of their game. A president is expected to travel a lot and work long days. It’s natural that people would doubt a 79-year-old man’s capability. However, Bernie Sanders is of great health, he campaigned immensely hard in 2016 and visited far more places than Hillary did. 79 sounds old and by the time he finishes his first term, he’ll be 83. Maybe then people should doubt whether he’d be fit enough for a second term. But late seventies doesn't mean wheelchair bound, in a home and losing your mind. I believe Sanders will be up for the job in 2020 and shouldn't be pushed aside. Let’s face it, William Gladstone was 82 when he was appointed Prime Minister in 1892 for the fourth time and Churchill was 80 when he left office in 1955. 

bernie sanders GIF

23 January 2018

Misguided Abuse

Currently, in England, men who have had sex with men in the last three months (with or without a condom) can’t donate blood. Women who have had sex with a man who has slept with a man in the last three months also can’t give blood. Ten years ago, men who had sex with men were completely banned from donating blood. That changed in 2011 when men who had sex with men could donate blood if they abstained from sex for a year. The law was adjusted to three months back in 2017 and was welcomed by charities and the NHS. 

It was pointed out by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall that although this was an important step, there’s still a long way to go regarding this law. Many gay and bisexual men are still exempt from donating blood. Many other equality charities also suggested that men who are considered low risk (not likely to catch HIV) are still banned from donating blood. 

Although the law on gay and bisexual men giving blood has shifted in trending with liberal views on gay rights, many people still aren't happy with the current laws. Essentially, the current law forbids gay and bisexual men, who are in stable and long-term relationships, from giving blood. The fact that these men are low risk and simply won’t catch HIV from having sex with each other doesn't change the fact that they’d have to abstain from sex for three months before they're able to donate blood. 

I’m writing this article because of tweets that I’ve recently seen sent to @GiveBloodNHS. This Twitter account is the main handle for NHS blood donation. Naturally, as they do on TV, radio and with posters, they campaign and advertise in order to encourage blood donation. My issue isn't with this NHS Twitter account, my issue is with other Twitter users stating why they can’t give blood.

A typical post from @GiveBloodNHS is something like: ‘Do something amazing! Give blood and save up to three lives.’ This seems like quite an inspiring tweet that would potentially encourage people to give blood. However, as seen below, a lot of people direct their anger towards the NHS because of the current law on gay and bisexual men giving blood. One person said: ‘Shame I’m gay and I can’t due to outdated stigma’. Another said: ‘I’d love to but you still needlessly discriminate against me because I think men are hot…’ 

My issue isn’t with what these people have to say. I simply find it strange that these people direct their dissatisfaction with the law towards the NHS. It’s understandable that these people are angry due to being unfairly discriminated against due to their sexuality, however, directing this hate towards the NHS is not simply sad but also incredibly pointless. There is nothing the NHS can do about this law. It’s not like they can open up the donation centre one day and rewrite British legislation. Directing these messages towards the NHS is like telling your local Tesco to sell weed. Perhaps people at Tesco would like to sell weed but it would be against the law to do so, and it wouldn't be up to Tesco to change the law regarding the sale of cannabis. 

Perhaps this law is still outdated and it discriminates against gay and bisexual men, however, these messages should be directed at the government and the health minister if you want to see the law changed. Directing these messages towards the NHS isn't doing anyone any good.