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Topics - Johan

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Open Board / Hypocrisy, homophobia and the neoliberal ruling class
« on: October 28, 2014, 03:03:21 AM »
From a socialist site, but I like that they're pointing out the extreme hypocrisy of critics of Russia and the exploitation of gay people.

As the Sochi Olympics began, many politicians and multinationals have statements supporting LGBT rights and condemning Russia’s homophobic government. But Colin Wilson raises some doubts about these new friends of equality.

The opening of the Sochi games saw an unprecedented wave of support for LGBT struggles against Russian government homophobia. Google and the Guardian both incorporated rainbows into their logos. Channel 4 produced a camp “bear mountain” video. AT&T condemned the Russian government.

February is LGBT History Month ­– and the month’s official magazine was distributed with the Sunday Telegraph. It begins with a letter of support from David Cameron, reminding everyone that his government had legalised gay marriage. Adverts promote Santander, EDF and JP Morgan, who reassure readers: “We support your right to be yourself.” (Banks as champions of individual self-expression!) The front cover condemns Russia, as does a back page advert from Stonewall inviting donations for their international work.

The White House tells the same takes, stressing President Obama’s commitment to LGBT equality, his track record in repealing the ban on LGBT people serving openly in the US military, and in ending the homophobic Defence of Marriage Act.

Yet Cameron voted against gay adoption in 2002, against repeal of Section 28 in 2003 and against giving lesbians the right to in vitro fertilisation treatment in 2008. Obama opposed same-sex marriage during the 2008 presidential race. Both leaders have no doubt changed their public positions in response to ongoing shifts in public opinion which make homophobia a liability. But there’s no sign that they favour changes needed for more fundamental LGBT equality.

Last week the Observer reported that LGBT asylum seekers were asked to give details of their sexual activities, and to respond to questions like: “What is it about men’s backsides that attracts you?” Asylum seekers are often deported on the grounds that they cannot prove that they are LGBT.

Meanwhile, eight US states have laws which ban the “promotion of homosexuality” – similar to those in Russia. The US imprisons more of its population than any other country on earth – including a disproportionate number of black people – yet condoms are available in a tiny minority of prisons, so that infections including HIV are spread through gay sex. In both Britain and the US, while attitudes towards LGBT people have improved enormously, experiences of abuse and violence remain common.

All this means that we have to challenge the dominant narrative in the media – that countries like Britain and America accept LGBT people and have supportive governments, while countries like Russia or those in the Middle East and Africa are ignorant and homophobic. On the contrary, there is still plenty of homophobia and transphobia in Britain. Far from Africa being universally homophobic, South Africa was the first country in the world to include lesbian and gay rights in its constitution.

We can’t accept a neo-colonial account of the world which pits “civilised” Europe and America against “barbaric” Russia, Asia and Africa. We can’t agree with organisers of a protest against Russia outside Downing Street last year when they claimed success because David Cameron had raise LGBT issues at an international summit. Cameron is not going to liberate LGBT people in Russia or anyone else.

While we welcome the fact that people have come out to protest against homophobia, we also have to reject the politics that dominates the protests – a willingness to side more or less uncritically with “our” government against the governments of other countries. Obama has killed over 2,000 people with drones; Cameron has reduced thousands in Britain to dependence on food banks. It’s absurd to regard them as champions of human rights.

We should treat corporate support for LGBT people with the same scepticism. Is Google a progressive company? Not according to unions representing the company’s security guards. Google’s outsources security to a company that employs 80% of its staff part-time without sick pay. Google runs a fleet of private buses that ferry senior employees, typically paid $100,000 a year or more, from downtown San Francisco to work in Silicon Valley. (After protests and attacks, the buses now have security guards.)

Those senior employees can pay high rents, forcing others who can’t afford such prices out of San Francisco. The average price of a flat in the city is now an extraordinary $3,000 a month.

This widening class divide affects LGBT people too – San Francisco has always been a refuge for those fleeing the homophobic mid-West, but now that refuge is increasingly accessible only to the rich.
Meanwhile, at Apple, openly gay Tim Cooke is the best-paid chief executive in the world, receiving a total of $378 million in 2012.

It’s only recently that openly LGBT people have been able to occupy such positions as multinational executives, army officers, senior civil servants and so on. But this is a growing trend, particularly for gay men. It’s a positive development that more people can come out, but this also means increasing class division among LGBT people, and the growth of an openly LGBT section of the ruling class.

The current chair of Pride London, for example, is Michael Salter. His day job is political head of broadcasting at 10 Downing Street. Of course, people like Tim Cooke and Michael Salter oppose LGBT oppression, but typically as a single issue campaign that leaves the rest of capitalism entirely untouched.

This phenomenon – the emergence of out LGBT sections of ruling and middle classes in the context of neoliberalism – explains the curious development of pro-LGBT rhetoric from multinationals and Tory prime ministers. Their approach involves isolating the fight against oppression from the struggle against capitalism as a whole, or at least for reforms under captialism. Instead we are encouraged to “accept diversity” while capitalism presides over huge and increasing disparities of wealth and power, between nations and between individuals within them.

This strategy can win better lives for a tiny minority of privileged LGBT people. It has little to offer the rest of us. We need to look to the struggles of million of ordinary people, LGBT and straight. After all, it has been those struggles that have changed attitudes in the last forty years, and made the LGBT-friendly corporate and out gay CEO possible in the first place.

The Western media is having a field day during the Sochi Olympics — attacking Russian president Vladimir Putin for his stand against so-called gay “propaganda.” But the media have a way of overlooking countries that are far more aggressive in outlawing homosexuals.

Take Nigeria, for example. It recently brought in laws that are much worse than those in Russia.

Nigeria, which has a population of 168 million, adopted a law that imposes a 14-year prison term for anyone entering into a same-sex relationship, as well as a 10-year sentence for anyone found to support gay clubs or meetings. Even public displays of affection by gays and lesbians is considered a crime.

Indeed, homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries.

In contrast, Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson, who is openly homosexual, spent time in Sochi earlier this month at a gay bar, which operates without official sanction.

The West has always got a kick out of attacking Russia, partly for its old Soviet ties and ongoing authoritarianism. And there is little concern in the West about being called “racist” for mocking Russians, since most of the world’s 148 million Russians are white. Many are also Russian Orthodox, a denomination that is not strong in the West.

But what really explains the relative silence about the much more extreme laws against homosexuals in places such as Nigeria, which is almost entirely made up of blacks, Christians and Muslims?

Cameroon, Tanzania and Uganda have similarly brutish laws.

An excellent story by Religion News Service writer David Gibson points to the division among Catholic church leaders in Africa over the anti-homosexual law in Nigeria, where one of the country’s top Catholics enthusiastically supporting it. This is in a whole different category about what you hear regarding Russia and homosexuals. Here’s an excerpt from the RNS piece:

    In Nigeria the leader of the Catholic hierarchy fully supported that country’s new law, which prompted a wave of violence against gays when it passed.
    Nigeria's Roman Catholic archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

    Nigeria’s Roman Catholic archbishop Ignatius Kaigama called it “courageous and wise” to send people in homosexual relationships to jail. Russia’s laws are far less draconian.

    In a January letter on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for his “courageous and wise decision” in signing the legislation.

    Kaigama said it would protect Nigeria “against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices.”

    A few days later, however, a strongly worded editorial in the The Southern Cross, a newspaper run jointly by the bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, took aim at the new law, calling on the Catholic Church in Africa “to stand with the powerless” and “sound the alarm at the advance throughout Africa of draconian legislation aimed at criminalizing homosexuals.”

On a related note, Der Spiegel has just published a brilliant editorial headlined: “Sochi Schadenfreude: ‘Ha Ha, The Russians Screwed It Up Again!’

The editorial in the excellent German news magazine questions why journalists in the West are working so hard to bash Russia’s Winter Games, especially given that the citizens of the host city and country are trying very hard to be hospitable.

Someone on Facebook also directed me to an article on the way American journalists in particular are hammering Russia, Sochi and Putin (not that the latter, in particular, doesn’t deserve criticism). It’s called “Distorting Russia.”

Open Board / UK diver Tom Daley
« on: December 05, 2013, 06:16:51 AM »
So! He has been in the news a lot this week. He made a video in which he reveals that he's in a relationship with a guy. He doesn't identify himself as gay or bisexual, but he does say that he still fancies girls.

He first shot to fame in 2008 when he took part in Olympics. Part of his appeal is from his looks.

Anyway, here's the video :

Open Board / Bisexuality Seen by Some As Illegitimate, Study Finds
« on: November 30, 2013, 08:10:12 PM »
Bisexuals are people who are sexually attracted to both men and women. But not everyone believes they exist, new research finds.

Nearly 15 percent of adults in a new survey declared bisexuality "not a legitimate sexual orientation," according to a study presented Tuesday (Nov. 5) at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Boston. Straight men were the least likely to believe in bisexuals, but gay and lesbian participants also showed a thread of negativity toward bisexuality, the survey found.

About 1.8 percent of the U.S. population identifies as bisexual, according to a 2011 report by the University of California, Los Angeles' Williams Institute. Nevertheless, the orientation is often seen as a stopover on the way to homosexuality, or a way for those confused about their attractions to define themselves. In 2005, researchers studying bisexual men even suggested the identity didn't exist, and that bisexual men are simply gay men in denial. In 2011, the researchers who conducted that study reversed those findings after conducting research on a better-defined group of bisexuals.

Even though science has made strides in finally accepting bisexuality, public opinion still hasn't entirely caught up. Mackey Friedman, a researcher with the University of Pittsburgh school of public health, first surveyed hundreds of college students, asking them to free-associate words that came to mind in relation to bisexuality. "Confused," "experimental" and "different" were among the results. [5 Myths About Polyamory Debunked]

Next, Friedman and his colleagues used those responses to create a 33-question survey on attitudes toward bisexuality, which they administered to 1,500 people via the Internet.

They found that about 15 percent of the sample overall disagreed that bisexuality was a real sexual orientation. Straight men were three times more likely than any other group to disbelieve in bisexuality. Women, white people and people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual showed the least amount of anti-bisexual bias. However, the researchers cautioned, gays and lesbians were more negative about bisexuality than bisexuals themselves, suggesting that prejudice against bisexuality still exists in the gay community. Male bisexuals were viewed more negatively than female bisexuals. (Women are more likely than men to identify as bisexual.)

Stigma can make it hard for bisexual people to feel socially connected, Friedman said in a statement.

"Having hard data to back up why a bisexual person might feel the need to be secretive about sexual orientation, something that can lead to higher depression and many other negative health outcomes, is very useful to people trying to fight stigma and marginalization," he said. "For example, this information can guide social marketing interventions and outreach to reduce that stigma, and improve rates of HIV prevention, testing and treatment within the bisexual community."

Open Board / Yoo Hoo?!
« on: September 13, 2013, 08:24:54 AM »
What is your name? How old are you? Where do you live?

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