Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘homophobia’

When Will America Reject Guns?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th June, 2016

The massacre of clubbers at a gay venue in Orlando, Florida, is the worst mass killing by a gunman in US history. Fifty people are dead and several others wounded; across the world there have been spontaneous vigils and acts of mourning. The gunman’s ex-wife says he has a personality disorder, which underlines why there need to be stricter controls on who can get access to guns and other weapons. Personally, I don’t think anyone outside the armed forces should have the ability to purchase a weapon that can slaughter so many people (and the armed forces should only have them for defence). Inevitably, there has been much comment — not least on social media — about the fact that the mass murderer, Omar Mateen, is Muslim and that he was said to have been offended recently by the sight of two men kissing. It is true that there are what in modern terms would be called homophobic passages in the Koran, just as there are in the Jewish and Christian bibles, but it would be wrong to use this incident as a stick with which to beat Muslims in general, especially during this holy month of Ramadan. I was pleased to see that Islamic groups in America have been among the first to offer condolences and material relief. Any people who might like to claim that Christianity is so much more enlightened when it comes to LGBT issues should examine how fundamentalist US churches promoted the hateful anti-gay legislation in Uganda and other parts of Africa, or look at the evangelicals in America who parade with signs saying “God Hates Fags”. What is clear is that the fight for LGBT rights and equality is far from over, both within religious communities and in the wider world. But for me the most striking thing about this dreadful incident is that yet again the United States has shown that its adherence to the “freedom” to bear arms has murderous consequences. I would argue that religious intolerance of homosexuality is an anachronism that needs to be confronted, but so too, sure;y, is America’s love of guns, more appropriate to the frontier age of the 19th century than to the postmodern 21st century. Until that issue is addressed, there will be more shootings by hateful or deranged individuals. And although the Orlando shootings have beaten the record for the number of dead, sometime before too long another atrocity will top that figure. While offering the Orlando victims, their families and friends our deepest condolences, we can only hope that one day the American public and legislators will see sense on gun control.

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Diversity Role Models

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 31st May, 2014

Diversity Role ModelsOne of the joys of living in a big city like London (not that anywhere else is quite like London) is the constant discovery of new people, new place, new organisations. My latest new discovery, thanks to a presentation by Suran Dickson at a gathering of Gay Professionals Network, to which I was invited, is Diversity Role Models, whose mission is to give young people the confidence to be who they are and allow others to do the same. Britain has made great strides in gender and LGBT+ awareness in recent years, but homophobic bullying in schools is still a problem in some instances, which is why Diversity Role Models’ work is so important. The organisation sends both LGBT and straight role models into schools (with the school’s cooperation, of course) to speak directly to the pupils about their own experiences. The youngsters are then able to ask questions or make comments and through this experience they gain a greater understanding of the impact of homophobia and transphobia as well as of the positive contribution that they can make. I’m pleased that the Coalition Government (including Home Secretary Theresa May) have backed Diversity Role Models, but it is a charity and therefore relies heavily on donations. Hearing Suran talking about her work and reading some of the anonymous post-it questions that schoolchildren had written, I couldn’t help think back to my own school, where we never got even the most basic sex education, let alone any introduction to diversity. Not surprising, ignorance, confusion and prejudice reigned.

Link: http://www.diversityrolemodels.org

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IDAHO

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th May, 2009

IDAHOToday is the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). Some people in Britain and other parts of Western Europe might think such an event is unnecessary, as great advances have been made here in countering discrimination against peope on grounds of their sexual orientation. But the rough handling of Gay Pride activists in Moscow only hours before yesterday’s Eurovision Song Contest was a timely but unpleasant reminder of the prejudice and injustice that still exists in parts of eastern Europe, let alone beyond.

Liberal Democrats, such as Evan Harris MP and the MEPs Sarah Ludford and Sharon Bowles, have been in the forefront of action in both the House of Commons and the European Parliament to get proper legislation guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities, as well as countering homophobia. I have pledged that if I am elected on 4 June, I will press for European legislation to ensure the mutual recognition of civil partnerships between EU member states that have them, as this is not the case at present. Liberal Youth and DELGA (the LibDems’ LGBT group) have also been particularly strong in raising awareness and campaigning about homophobic bullying in schools.

In some countries of the the Middle East, the situation  for LGBT people has seriously deteriorated, not least in Iraq, where killings are now common — yet another negative consequence of the US-led illegal war. So, IDAHO is important, to remind us all of human rights abuses targeted at people solely on the grounds of their sexuality. 

Links: www.homophobiaday.org and www.idaho.org.uk

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Joan Smith and Maureen Freely at Toynbee Hall

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 3rd October, 2008

Last night I went to Toynbee Hall in Tower Hamlets for the first time for 20 years — since I attended Quaker Meeting there, in fact. The late John Profumo was still working there at the time. A lot of things have changed since then and perhaps the most positive novelty is Arts Admin, which now puts on a lively range of cutting-edge artistic and literary events. I was there last night to attend a ‘conversation’ between the writers Joan Smith and Maureen Freely, both of whom I have collaborated with on the Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN. Both have worked as journalists and in Maureen’s case, as a translator too.

Most of their conversation (ably moderated by Lucy Popescu) was about their novels, What Will Survive and Enlightenment , set respectively in southern Lebanon and Turkey. A common theme is the predicament of a female protagonist finding hereself in a complex political situation she does not fully understand. Inevitably the discussion turned to the menacingly surreal atmosphere surrounding Turkish trials of writers and publishers accused of defaming the state, Turkishness or the military — some of which I have sat in on myself. Joan and Maureen were both at the trial of Orhan Pamuk — who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature — and they felt the full brunt of the ultra-nationalist (perhaps one should say neo-fascist) heavies who gather at these events.

Interestingly, another, much larger, meeting was going on in the main hall, attended almost exclusively by Muslims. I noted in the programme that one of Arts Admin’s vents later this month is a show by DV8 ‘To Be Straight with You’, which is billed as an exploration of tolerance, intolerance, religion and sexuality, which is burningly topical in a borough where there have been a spate of recent homophobic attacks by young Bengalis, as well as some instances of islamophobia.

Link: www.artsadmin.co.uk

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