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Monday, 15 March 2010

On screen and online – the movies and the magazine

The British Film Institute (BFI) has quite a line-up for this year’s annual Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the 24th, which begins in London on Wednesday – and it includes a world premiere: The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, which will be screened at the Odeon in the West End.

There are several set pieces, including I Killed My Mother, written, produced, directed by and starring 20-year-old Xavier Dolan. The festival ends on 31 March with Children of God, Kareem J Mortimer’s “gorgeously photographed” (according to the BFI) first feature, which tells the classic tale of love unfolding against a backdrop of violent homophobia and social unease in the Bahamas.

The festival will present 75 feature-length films and documentaries, many of which have won awards at other international events, including Brotherhood, Nicolo Donatto’s story of gays in the neo-Nazi movement, and Ander, Roberto Castón’s portrayal of gay rural life in the Basque country.

One of Britain’s oldest gay-campaigning groups, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, is at the festival for a second year, presenting the CHE Film Prize, which offers a £2,000 prize to the film that best reflects the values and objectives of CHE in its fight for social justice.


Talking of films, although this has nothing to do with the festival, have a look at Stephen Blake’s article in the latest Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine on a film called FIT, which looks at homophobia.

Homophobic bullying is rife in Britain’s schools, and it affects gay and straight children alike. This new film by Rikki Beadle-Blair aims to tackle it head on.

Of his own early years, Blake says in the article, “Any young person in this situation [being gay] knows how lonely, debilitating a desperate life can become. It can affect how well a person succeeds at school, and in later life, their self-esteem and how well they get on with their family or friends.”

So it’s a film that’s FIT for purpose, you might say.


Have a look at the other stuff in the magazine, too (just click on any of the logos you see throughout this post). Not surprisingly, the Pope comes in for some fierce criticism, and is compared to Adolf Hitler.

He’s due to come to Britain in September, and the magazine’s writers are not too pleased about it. How, G&LH asks, can Britain reconcile what it would claim is a much-needed increase in value-added tax – or VAT – with a costly visit from the Vatican (the other Vat in the magazine’s theme this time)?

“British taxpayers woke up on 1 January to a New Year present from their New Labour government – a massive tax increase in the shape of a whopping 2.5% rise in VAT,” writes editor Mike Foxwell.

“Of course, in fairness to the government, this followed a temporary reduction last year, allegedly to help the economy, and now the party was over. Back to reality. Great Britain PLC is in a financial mess and can no longer afford such indulgent largesse. ‘Tough decisions’ needed to be made if Britain were to get back on its financial feet.

“One’s mind can only boggle, then,” Foxwell continues, “at the toughness of the government’s decision to pledge an estimated £20 million of hard-pressed public resources to a state-sponsored jamboree for Catholics by inviting the Pope over for a state visit later this year. Of course, the real cost is going to be much higher and the government has indicated its preparedness to sign a blank cheque. Probably quite a big one, as the 2008 Australian papal visit cost nearly six times the £20 million estimate for Britain.

“I wonder why the word ‘hypocrisy’ comes into my head.

“It might just about be possible to stomach such public-spending caprice if the Pope were a force for national unity, be it political or social. But, of course, he is quite the opposite. The Pope has recently single-handedly scuppered the Equality Bill that would have given protection to those gay people unfortunate enough to be employed, or seek to be employed, by religious organisations. I have often wondered about the Orwellian connotation of the ‘New’ in ‘New Labour’ – under their administration, everyone is to be equal, but some will be more equal than others.”

Foxwell continues: “Not content with this, His Hatefulness now wants to ensure that pupils of ‘faith’ schools are kept in the dark about essential sexual-health information, which doesn't accord with the strictures of the fantasy world that is organised religion. And this is exactly what will happen if the pernicious amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill now going through Parliament is not scraped.

“I seem to remember that Geert Wilders, a democratically elected European politician, was denied entry to Britain because he was said, rightly or wrongly, by the government to be socially divisive.

“Again, why does the word hypocrisy come to mind?”

Pope likened to Hitler

In the mag’s keynote feature this time, therefore, your humble blogger (er, that’s me, folks) reports on the opposition to the official visit of a man who has shielded child-abusing priests, been responsible for countless deaths in Africa and elsewhere of people who could have been saved from disease and pregnancy through the use of condoms, and created a living hell on earth for gay people, many of whom end up as suicide statistics.

Many gay people who end up taking their own lives are young – often very young – and homophobic bullying at school is a significant factor in many of these tragedies.

The Pope is a monster, he says, but, since most heinous things are carried out in total sincerity, how does Joseph Ratzinger differ in this regard from Adolf Hitler?

Young freethinkers

It is a significant shame that children and young people have so little opportunity to have their voices heard, and are, thereby, under-represented in all debates – even ones that affect them directly! Sadly, this is also the case within the mainstream freethought movement. In our “Blogwatch” feature, Michael Campbell explains how submitting work to the big names in the rationalist press can be daunting for young freethinkers like himself, which is why he set up Young Freethought. This new blog has created a lot of interest and has received a message of support from Richard Dawkins.

Coercive religion

That religion is essentially coercive, judgemental and self-serving is hardly news to most readers of G&LH, but is it necessarily so? Mike Foxwell says: “I have always taken the view that I have no problem with what someone chooses to believe in so long as they don’t expect special privileges because of it, or coerce or harm others with it.”

In a very personal story of his early experience of this phenomenon as a child (in his article “Religious abuse”), Neil Richardson expounds a similar view. Richardson, an ordained Anglican priest, believes that abusive religion follows on naturally from false claims to understand the mind of God, to the exclusion of other interpretations, and the desperate need to build a membership of following that will shelter and sustain their own interpretation and maintain a purity of doctrine. This description applies perfectly to the Catholic Church and its “infallible” Pope, as well as the happy-clappy evangelicals.

Gay Jesus?

Groucho Marx famously said he would refuse to join any club that would have him as a member. Although he didn’t say whether he would join one that didn’t want him, which is exactly what gay Christians seem intent on doing! Many of them reconcile the irreconcilable by dint of denial: they pretend that the Church isn’t really homophobic at all. Others, such as Elton John, who has claimed recently that Jesus was gay, resort to plain delusion. As George Broadhead reveals in his article, “Right to lie”, there simply is no evidence that Jesus was gay or even gay-friendly, but plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Gays in sport

Somewhere else where gay people are not particularly welcome is sport. Particularly the brutal macho-man varieties such as rugby. How ironic that the ancient Athenian games, the forerunner of modern sport and athletics, were essentially a homosexual celebration of maleness – all women were excluded from the precinct of Olympia on pain of death!

It’s hardly much of a surprise, really, that this all had to change following Emperor Theodosius’s statute of 390, which punished gay male sex with death. He followed this act of barbarism a year later by ordering Bishop Theophilus to destroy the Great Library of Alexandria. The destruction of this, the greatest storehouse of knowledge and scholarship in the world, marked the beginning of the Roman Church’s Dark Ages, the greatest intellectual and cultural catastrophe to befall humankind, from which the world has not yet recovered.

For sure, sport has certainly not yet emerged from the Dark Ages, and homophobia is rife in all sport today. So, it takes a brave sportsman or -woman to come out and challenge this anti-gay orthodoxy. Such a man is Gareth Thomas: the most capped Welsh rugby player of all time, currently playing for Cardiff Blues, has come out as gay. In my feature, “Out in touch”, your humble blogger (again) tell the full story of how Thomas has become the patron of UK LGBT History Month and his hope that being visible as an openly gay man will help younger players.

Things looked to be improving in the world of soccer, too, with a much anticipated anti-homophobia film, which was due to be launched by the Football Association (FA) at Wembley Stadium on Thursday, 11 February. Unfortunately, the film was not shown. In “FAgs”, Peter Tatchell tells of the consternation caused by this “postponement” among both football and gay groups, and the controversy over claims that the film itself is actually homophobic.

Manly mag

While on the subject of male bastions, even if you are a bio-male (or not!), are you a “real man”? Are you even sure what “being a man” actually means? The more you try to answer this question, the more confusing it all becomes. But worry not: there’s a new magazine called Spunk!

Spunk is troubled that so few bio-men in our communities are openly questioning, (re)interpreting or disrupting their own and others’ privileged positions and practices. We are inheritors of a range of traditions; from sissy-boys and radical effeminacy, to “straight-acting”, gay hyper-masculinity, butch and dominant straight-male gender roles. Spunk wants to question how we relate to our masculinities. Read more in “Spunk”.

Paul Cadmus

Male nudes were a favourite subject of the artist Paul Cadmus, who died ten years ago. Cadmus is featured in our “Out of print” article by Warren Allen Smith, which first appeared in G&LH, Spring 2000. Smith tells us of Cadmus’s life and work and of how the two of them became friends.

To the woods!

Woodland burial is a subject G&LH has touched on in the past. As green awareness and more enlightened religion-free spirituality grows, it is becoming a far more popular funeral option. Regular contributor Neil Richardson attended the opening of the Chiltern Woodland Burial Park, situated at Potkiln Lane, Jordans, in Buckinghamshire. In “Dead wood”, he presents some beautiful photographs of the facility and tells how the park’s policy is one of respect for people of all origins, cultures, faiths and beliefs.


The plight of gay people in Iran is well known, where many live in fear of homophobic attacks and even death. Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) works tirelessly to find asylum in the West for gay Iranian refugees. In “Railroad’s journey”, Arsham Parsi, IRQR’s executive director, tells of the organisation’s work, its desperate need for funding and how people can become an IRQR supporter for less that the cost of a cup of coffee.

Pole polishing

Finally, even Steven Dean has been driven up the pole by news of the pontiff’s visit to Britain. Find out why he’s no lover of Polish Catholics but has had more kiełbasa than a delicatessen!

Meanwhile, you can catch up on what’s been happening in the news in our regular “News Watch”, “World Watch” and “On the blog” columns.

Once you’ve entered the magazine, just click on the links down the left-hand side to get to these features.

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