Saturday, February 18, 2012

And away we go from religion to sex, the bane of so many people’s lives and with more horror stories than Hammer Films could dream up in a thousand years. Dealing with just one subject that seems to be summed up by the American fundamentalist bearing the banner “God hates gays.” Yes, folks it’s that old bugbear homosexuality yet again. If not good news, at least some encouraging news in various quarters where people seem to have come to their senses and accept what must be accepted. Washington is the latest American state to accept gay marriage though it still isn’t a certainty as opponents are threatening to wreck the bill before it can become law. Hilary Clinton said before a meeting of diplomats in Geneva, “Gay rights are human rights. It should never be a crime to be gay.” Shakespeare might have written “let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment” but I still wish that emotive word “marriage” had never been used for gay relationships. Australia too it seems is coming around to acceptance although evidently government is dragging its feet somewhat. Certain areas of the UK have greater concentrations of gay people and lesbians living there. But why?

The big cities like London, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, and New York are deemed to be more tolerant places, but how, for instance, has a small, peaceful market town like Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire become known as "the lesbian capital of the UK"? Hebden Bridge is a typical market town in many ways and was our home base for ten years. It has long been claimed that it has more lesbian people per head than anywhere else in the UK. I must go around with blinkers.

Sally Hines, director of the centre for interdisciplinary gender studies at the University of Leeds, says cities are not necessarily 'safe havens' - even ones with vibrant 'gay villages' - and rural areas are not intrinsically homophobic. Hebden Bridge's tolerance seems to go hand-in-hand with being considerably more bohemian than a typical market town. "It's nice to just be, without feeling you're in a minority or an exception," says Amy Mellis, 29, a lesbian entrepreneur working part-time in a bar while getting a textile business off the ground. "If you go anywhere else, you feel self-conscious holding hands with your partner but not here." People want to blend in somewhere, and even feel anonymous. "For many years, being gay meant running away from family to a place where you could be anonymous. You ran for anonymity. Brighton has for many years had a reputation as a place to run to because it is an open-minded place where you can be who you want to be," says gay writer and Brighton resident Simon Fanshawe. Manchester has a reputation as a gay-friendly city thanks to areas like Canal Street. Cities like London and Manchester and the seaside towns like Brighton, Blackpool and Bournemouth have earned reputations as gay-friendly places. But the reasons can be as much economic as anything else but whatever, it’s nice to know there are places where people are accepted for who they are not what they are.

Now the downside. Apart from Muslim and African countries that would be happy to see the death penalty for people being what they are, and some Ugandans want the 14 year sentence increased to life though they have at least no longer insisted on the death penalty, those in power in St. Petersburg, like Maggie with her clause 18, have decided that homosexuality should in no way be acknowledged, written about, or even discussed. In other words millions of people should not only be anonymous, they might as well no longer exist. Only then will the homophobes be able to relax- that is until they find something else to worry about.

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