Periodical Political Post *115

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The view on homosexuality in 1980s Sunderland is more diverse than you might think

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A TV clip from 1980 showing people of Sunderland sharing their views on homosexuality reveals that public opinion was more divided than one might think. The footage was filmed a year before the first case of AIDS in the UK, and seven years before the introduction of Thatcher’s anti-gay Section 28 legislation in schools.

This era was notorious for demonising LGBT+ people, but the TV clip suggests public opinion at the beginning of the decade may have been more nuanced. Locals from the town in north-east England were asked: “What does homosexuality mean to you?”

At last, a generation of schoolchildren will grow up knowing it’s OK to be LGBT

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Students across England are heading back to school this week, and while this might not seem momentous, for Stonewall, this school year marks the beginning of the end of a decades-long campaign to get an inclusive education system in England.

In September 2020, new regulations for teaching relationships and sex education (RSE) in English schools come into force. It will be a landmark moment – a whole generation will attend schools that not only accept LGBT people and same-sex relationships, but also celebrate and offer support on the issues that young LGBT people face.

The guidance means that primary schools will teach about different families, which of course includes LGBT families. Contrary to what’s been said by some online and in the media, this is just about showing kids that families can have two mums or two dads. Or to put another way: different families, same love.

Read on…

 

Periodical Political Post *114

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Murray Hall: The politician who broke 19th Century gender rules

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He was a hard-drinking, twice-married businessman and politician in 19th Century New York – but Murray Hall had a secret which was only revealed after his death.

Murray Hall had a reputation for hard living – drinking, smoking, playing poker and even brawling with a policeman. He also had an active political career and a business as a bail bondsman.

So far, so ordinary for a man at the time. But one aspect of his life remained a secret until he died from cancer in 1901. That was when it first emerged that Hall had been assigned female at birth.

It was later reported that he had been born in Govan as Mary Anderson. According to a source quoted by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, he began dressing as a male in his teens, then fled to America when his first wife disclosed his gender to the police. It was there that he took the name Murray H Hall, before marrying for a second time and beginning his business and political career.

Writer and archivist Mel Reeve said there had been a “huge backlash” in the media after his death. “People were very angry and felt like they’d been betrayed, but obviously he was just living his life how he wanted to – which was as a man,” she said.

Newspapers reported breathlessly on the events in articles which reflected some of the attitudes of the times. The New York Times, for instance, accused him of “masquerading” in male attire. It said Hall had a reputation as “a ‘man about town’, a bon vivant, and all-around ‘good fellow’.”

One senator described how Hall used to “hobnob with the big guns of the County Democracy” and said that he “cut quite some figure as a politician”. He added: “He dressed like a man and talked like a very sensible one.”

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Periodical Political Post *113

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Beaten up for being gay

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I’m always debating if I should post videos like the one below. Many of us have so much to deal with in life as it is that it feels like a terrible idea to add to that anxiety by making gloomy posts about the discrimination and violence queer people still face today.

I’m always wondering at what point this onslaught of misery and bad news might hurt our mental health and outlook on life more than keeping up with it benefits us. But what would be the alternative? Ignoring the problems we have, pretending the pain of others in our community isn’t any of our business? That can’t be it either, right?

As long as some folks go around trying to convince us that the queer community achieved everything it possibly could, that the world right now is the best we could hope for it seems necessary to remind ourselves that there’s still a lot to do, that we’re not done here.

I’ll keep trying to find a balance between the bad news and the cute and fun stuff. Let’s hope that some day we’ll actually get to a point where we can all just sit down and enjoy the nice things in life and posts like this one won’t be needed anymore.

Periodical Political Post *111

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Yay! You’re gay! Now what?

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The light beneath the door of the closet is just a sliver. It’s enticing, though, and you’re eager to see what’s on the other side, finally ready to open that door and come out. In Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? a book for queer boys by Riyadh Khalaf, you’ll find some advice for doing it.

For awhile, months, maybe years, you’ve been “feeling different.” You think you might be gay and that’s “OK, it’s normal, and it’s not something you need to change.” Or you may be bi or pan or non-binary, “it simply comes down to how you feel” and it may have everything or nothing to do with the anatomy you got at birth. The thing to remember is that, “You cannot change who you are.”

This may cause a lot of worry, for yourself and for people you love. Recognize that anxiety before it goes wild and know how to break the cycle. Being gay, Khalaf says, is actually a “gift,” as you’ll eventually begin to see.

That’s a gift you can share or not, says Khalaf, because “you can come out whenever and however you want,” it’s your call. Yes, family members might freak out at first and your friends might retreat but you’ll find advice on how to cope with that and a reminder that “almost every relationship is salvageable.”

So let’s say you’re out, comfortable with it and you’re ready to find your first true love. It’s OK to go online and look but Khalaf says to be wary: you know how easy it is to pretend you’re someone you’re not when you’re on a computer, so be safe. Also be safe when you go to clubs or parties and remember that protecting your heart is important, too. Relationships can be different, your first kiss can be amazing and your body may respond in embarrassing ways to all of the above.

Here’s the first thing you’ll need to know about Yay! You’re Gay! Now What?: absolutely anyone can read it, including parents and allies, but it’s really geared toward gay teen boys and young men. Indeed, author Riyadh Khalaf includes pages expressly for those allies and parents, but later parts of the book are filled with valid information that may be more graphic than they’ll want.

Still, that info will speak directly to the heart and the health of young men just coming out in a way that’s not stuffy or clinical, but that’s more lightheartedly factual. Khalaf is gay and he uses his own personal anecdotes as tools to teach, but he’s not pious or pushy. Instead, there’s a whole lot of care and camaraderie in these pages, and the words “you are not alone” are not just written, they leap from each page.

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