Elephant

Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin

30 July 2015 / Comments Off on ‘Coming out was a bonus because it took a lot of weight off my shoulders,’ says Tom Daley

‘Coming out was a bonus because it took a lot of weight off my shoulders,’ says Tom Daley

TV news station CNN has interviewed Tom Daley, the diver who hit the international spotlight in 2008 as Great Britain’s youngest competitor at the Olympic Game. He talks about the fear he feels when walking towards the diving board, his early memories of diving, and his ambitions for Rio 2016.

Daley, who has won three Commonwealth medals and an Olympic Bronze, said: ‘I get scared every single time I am on the platform. Not scared like worried scared, but as an adrenaline fuelled thing.’ He says this adrenaline is necessary: ‘You have to have that because if you aren’t a little bit nervous and little bit pumped up then that’s when you are not sharp and you are going to make mistakes.’

I hit my head on the board… There was lots of blood in the pool – it looked a little bit like a shark attack

He began diving aged seven, after seeing people somersault from the board at his local pool. He tells the programme, ‘Other than when I first started, the big standout memory for me was when I hit my head on the board… There was lots of blood in the pool – it looked a little bit like a shark attack, and that’s why I’ve got that scar there on my forehead now.’

Mental challenges

‘Yes, the training is hard and you have to do lots of work in the gym and lots of work in the pool,’ he says. ‘But it’s actually really [mentally] draining because of the amount of time you have to think, and what you have to think about when you are on the end of the board – you have to make split-second decisions.

‘My dad took me to every single training session… he was always there flying his massive big Union Jack flag in the stands and I could know that he was there. It was really tough going to competitions after he passed away in 2011, and not seeing the flag there, but it gave me the extra motivation because I really wanted to make him proud and go out there and win an Olympic medal.’

Coming out

Daley, who revealed that he is gay by posting a video on his YouTube channel in 2013, says that the revelation was a release: ‘If anything it was a bonus because it took a lot of weight off my shoulders and I was able to compete and train as normal.’

He has more than 2.5m followers on Twitter, and says of social media: ‘I have grown up doing it, so it’s natural to me to engage with people on social networks … I don’t think about it, I just do it.’

I want to go into that competition with absolutely no regrets, in the best shape of my life, in the best possible position to try to win that Olympic gold medal

Looking ahead, Daley said: ‘My ultimate goal, dream, ambition whatever you want to call it is to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016. It’s what every athlete works towards and it’s what I am fighting for every single day in the gym, in the pool. I want to go into that competition with absolutely no regrets, in the best shape of my life, in the best possible position to try to win that Olympic gold medal.

I am going to take lots of time off to eat lots of cheesecake, eat lots of chips and probably put on a bit of weight!

‘Whatever happens after that happens after that, but all I know is that I am going to take lots of time off to eat lots of cheesecake, eat lots of chips and probably put on a bit of weight!’

Thanks to CNN / ‘Human To Hero’.

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22 July 2015 / Comments Off on Same-sex couples must be recognised, says European Court

Same-sex couples must be recognised, says European Court

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to be legally recognised. In a landmark ruling on Monday, the court said that Italy’s failure to provide any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples violated Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life.

Although the ruling is only legally binding on Italy, there are 22 other countries in the Council of Europe which do not legally acknowledge same-sex unions in any way. The judgment noted that the Italian Constitutional Court had previously pointed out the need to recognise same-sex couples in a 2010 case, and that promises by successive governments to act on the issue have come to nothing.

The court’s judgement urged the Italian government to introduce civil unions or registered partnership to resolve the inequality, and pointed out that 24 of the 47 Council of Europe member states provide same-sex couples with protection and recognition.

Paulo Corte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA Europe, said: ‘This judgment is a call for immediate action in Italy. The groundswell of positive public opinion and political support that was so evident in Italy following the Irish marriage equality referendum led to the promise of the long-anticipated partnership bill before the summer. We were very disappointed to see it delayed until the parliament returns in the autumn. This decision makes it clear that Italian politicians must act swiftly – and decisively.’

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15 July 2015 / Comments Off on Newcastle station lit in rainbow for Pride

Newcastle station lit in rainbow for Pride

Virgin Trains East Coast is lighting up Newcastle Central Station to celebrate this year’s Northern Pride in Newcastle.

From tonight through to Sunday morning, the exterior of the station’s portico will be illuminated in six vibrant rainbow colours. The lights will be officially turned on this evening by Mr Gay UK – Stuart Hatton, from South Shields.

Virgin Trains East Coast is 90 per cent owned by Stagecoach, whose chairman Brian Souter led a vociferous campaign to keep the anti-gay Section 28 in law.

The company is using lights and specially designed drapes, glitter balls and flags to create an extra special welcome to tens of thousands of visitors to the city this week. It is working with partners across Tyneside to add extra colour to the recently refurbished portico of the Grade One listed station, which was first opened by Queen Victoria in 1850.

More than 65,000 people are expected to visit Northern Pride this week. It is estimated that the festival will boost the regional economy by £8m.

David Horne, Virgin Trains East Coast Managing Director, said: ‘Newcastle Central Station is an iconic landmark in the city and we are proud to light up this historic building in such a bright and modern way. We are looking forward to welcoming the thousands of extra visitors that this event attracts, and hope that people will enjoy the extra sparkle we have added.’

Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive at destination marketing agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: ‘Newcastle/Gateshead is, by its very nature, a welcoming destination; we are renowned for the warmth of the people and the vibrant personality of the place. We’re delighted that our colleagues at Virgin Trains East Coast are embracing this and providing a very distinctive and colourful welcome for visitors travelling here for Newcastle Pride this weekend.

‘Newcastle Pride is a fantastic, inclusive event which continues to grow in popularity, attracting more than 65,000 visitors last year and is now one of the UK’s largest, free LGBT festivals. Events such as this really bring the city to life and provide a great atmosphere that local people and visitors alike can embrace and enjoy.’

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15 July 2015 / Comments Off on Watch: what happens when two men hold hands in Moscow

Watch: what happens when two men hold hands in Moscow

A few months ago, So So Gay reported on an experiment by the BBC to see what happens when two men go for a walk while holding hands in Luton. Now, two men have gone one further – risking assault or arrest – in Moscow, and have videoed the reaction they get when they walk the streets hand in hand.

Although many people ignore them, they are frequently stared at, and both verbally and physically abused, with one person telling them to ‘leave Russia’. Another threatens the couple, who filmed themselves for their YouTube page, and the ChebuRussiaTV page on social network VK.

‘I’m a little scared of his reaction, he hit hard,’ says one, after a passerby intentionally bashes into them. ‘Hey gays, there are too many of you nowadays,’ yells another man as they walk past. ‘What is happening in Russia? Leave Russia,’ shouts a third.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, homophobia is rife, and the Russian Parliament passed laws in 2013 banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ to children.

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13 July 2015 / Comments Off on Protesters rally against Turkish police violence

Protesters rally against Turkish police violence

LGBTI campaigners and allies rallied on 10 July outside the Turkish embassy in London, to protest against the last minute banning of Istanbul Pride, the violent police assaults on the marchers and escalating hate crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities in Turkey.

As So So Gay reported, Pride in Istanbul was shut down by police firing rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, which caused the hospitalisation of 75 people. The Istanbul Pride Committee accused the Turkish authorities of ‘deliberate injury, tormenting physical violence, abuse of duty, violating freedom of expression, using disproportionate force, opposing freedom and enforcing illegal orders.’ It demanded the police be prosecuted and put on trial.

Turkey Istanbul police water cannon

Pliny Soocoormanee from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who attended and spoke at the rally, said: ‘Since the Istanbul Pride assaults, the anti-LGBTI atmosphere has intensified, with Islamist posters calling for the killing of LGBTIs, the queer-bashing of three young gay men, cyber attacks on LGBTI websites and the rape and robbery of Kemal Ördek of the Red Umbrella Sexual Health & Human Rights Association. The police refused to take the assault seriously, colluded with the rapists and allowed them to walk free.’

Ceylan Begüm Yıldız, an LGBTI activist representing Istanbul Pride added: ‘The AKP (the governing conservative party in Turkey) is trying to ‘transform this into a question about religious belief, but in the process they are deliberately ignoring LGBTI Muslims. They are trying to create a false dichotomy between Islam and LGBTI people in order to claw back their conservative voters. We stand by the principle that being Muslim and LGBTI are not mutually exclusive.’

Below is a joint statement from the organisers and supporters of the London protest:

DAY-MER Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre
LGBTQIA Against Islamophobia
LGSM – Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners
Nar UK (Cypriot, Turkish, Kurdish Community LGBTQ Network)
Peter Tatchell Foundation
Turkish Kurdish Cypriot LGBTI Community in London

On June 28, the Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade was attacked by the Turkish state. Riot police bombarded the crowd with teargas and rubber bullets, and deployed their water cannons. But this did not drive LGBTI people off the streets of Istanbul. Instead, our brothers and sisters resisted the police attack and celebrated their march under the fog of tear gas. Although the authorities knew that the parade was going to take place, not a single official warning was received by the Pride Committee from the governor of Istanbul or the police. The governor and the police decided, illegally, to ban the parade at the last minute when thousands of people had already gathered for it. The police terrorised this peaceful gathering, using the holy month Ramadan as an excuse. However, last year, Istanbul Pride also took place during Ramadan without any problems whatsoever.

After losing so many votes in the last election, the AKP government is using violent force and the politics of hate to try and regain its supporters. The attacks on LGBTI people are directly connected to the attempts to provoke the Kurdish people and the continuous threats made against Rojava. This is a dangerous strategy. In the elections in June, the AKP’s campaign material proudly mentioned that the LGBTI parade had taken place in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan in order to counter criticisms that Turkey has been getting more and more conservative under AKP rule. We would like to ask to AKP officials and representatives what changed within less than a month. We are warning AKP representatives and its supporting media to be aware of the consequences of such a targeted campaign of hate speech and that they are engaging in hate crime. Their targeted campaign of hate speech has already started to affect the streets. Just a week after the attack on Pride, three young gay men in Istanbul were physically attacked, and taunted with the words ‘faggots, nonbelievers can’t come here.’ Police came late to the scene of crime and prolonged the process of taking statements. The hospital delayed treatment on the excuse that they didn’t have the right kind of quite basic scanning equipment.

The AKP is trying to transform this into a question about religious belief, but in the process they are deliberately ignoring LGBTI Muslims. They are trying to by create a false dichotomy between Islam and LGBTI people in order to claw back their conservative voters. We stand by that principle that being Muslim and LGBTI are not mutually exclusive. We know that this attack is not about Islam. It is about hate speech and hate crime. We reject this illusionary dichotomy and refuse to discuss the matter from this perspective.

After the attack when more than 75 people made official injury reports while in hospital. The Pride Committee itself has also filed a complaint against the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Sebahattin Öztürk, against Governor of Istanbul, Vasip Şahin and against the Istanbul Police Commissioner, Selami Altınok, on the grounds of having enforced illegal orders. In their own statement in front of the Court house, the Pride Committee demanded that ‘whoever is responsible for deliberate injury, tormenting, physical violence, abuse of duty, violating freedom of expression, using disproportionate force, opposing freedom and enforcing illegal orders ought be on trial.’

We, the Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot LGBTI community, and our friends and supporters in London, together with trade unions, condemn the brutal attack on the Pride Parade. We stand in solidarity with the LGBTI movement in Turkey and condemn the police attack, and the hate speech of governmental officials. We raise the Pride Committee’s demand in London to the Turkish Government Representatives. We call for trade unions, and the British government to condemn the attacks and make a public statement. We also call all LGBTI movements to everywhere to stand in solidarity with Istanbul Pride and to be more aware of police and military violence. We take the opportunity to remember that Stonewall was a riot against systematic police harassment, violence and repression.

We are here, get used to it!

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11 July 2015 / Comments Off on Addison Lee polishes its LGBT credentials with driver training

Addison Lee polishes its LGBT credentials with driver training

Cab company Addison Lee doesn’t exactly have a great reputation. A couple of years ago, they made the news when one of their drivers kicked out a gay couple for holding hands; they lost a government contract after telling their drivers to use bus lanes; and there was a suggestion in their staff magazine, Add Lib, that accidents on the road involving bikes are the fault of ‘untrained, inexperienced cyclists’.

But they’re trying to salvage their reputation. For Pride in London, they wrapped one of their cabs with rainbow colours; and they’ve even introduced a training programme for their drivers, trying to get them to recognise the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Liam Grimes is one of the driver trainers at the company. He explained to So So Gay that they’re aware they have a bad reputation, but that they want to improve it. But simply sacking the bad drivers isn’t the answer – after all, they’ll simply go to another cab company and continue their bad behaviour there.

‘We’re trying to stamp it out,’ he said. ‘We realise that there’s a specific issue with LGBT prejudice, and so we want to work on that, offering one-to-one coaching, rather than have them leave.’

If a passenger feels like a driver discriminated against them, they should first contact the call centre, where the call will immediately be escalated to a team manager. ‘Even if a complaint comes through in the small hours of the morning, we can give it immediate attention,’ Grimes added. ‘Client services will contact the passenger, and get their version of events.’

The driver is made ‘inactive’ – they are sent home and a formal investigation begun, for which they will be interviewed. The training department will also contact them, offering the opportunity to come in for extra training – with an incentive of points towards their car hire. The trainers can assess their body language as well as what they say, so that they can get a good idea of whether the driver is intentionally being difficult, or simply doesn’t know their behaviour was unacceptable.

The in-house driver training includes equality training, with participants shown the hard hitting Love has no Labels video, showing that we are all the same, regardless of race, religion or sexuality.

So far, 900 of their 3,500 drivers have passed their diploma, with mystery shoppers checking up on them, and even a couple of motorcycle riders who will shadow the cab until the passenger has been dropped off, then offer what Grimes describes as a ‘polite chat’.

Addison Lee has even become a member of the Stonewall ‘Diversity Champions’ scheme, giving them access to best practice sharing, networking opportunities and research from a wide range of organisations.

With the training department keen to stress how hard they’re working to get their drivers to be aware of equality, what’s your experience with Addison Lee? Have you had bad behaviour from them? Please let us know by tweeting @SoSoGay or in the comments below.

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10 July 2015 / Comments Off on THT fires its chief executive

THT fires its chief executive

HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has fired its chief executive, saying that ‘a change of leadership is needed for the next stage of the organisation’s development.’

Dr Rosemary Gillespie took over from founder Sir Nick Partridge just 15 months ago. In a statement, Robert Glick, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said that she has been the driving force in developing a new strategy for the charity, and in making certain they have ‘a solid organisational and financial footing for a more sustainable future.’

‘One of Rosemary’s most lasting legacies,’ he continued, ‘will be the exceptionally gifted and skilled team of executives she has recruited and managed, who together lead our talented and dedicated staff.’

The Board asked Gillespie to step down from her position with immediate effect. It is not known how much it will cost the charity in terms of redundancy money and legal fees.

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7 July 2015 / Comments Off on Sainsbury’s in hot water as they cover up Attitude – but leave lads’ mag alone

Sainsbury’s in hot water as they cover up Attitude – but leave lads’ mag alone

Sainsbury’s supermarket is once again in trouble, after they covered up this month’s copy of Attitude magazine – and left a scantily clad woman on the cover of a lads’ magazine alone.

Twitter user JP said he saw the magazine with a ‘modesty cover’ at Sainsbury’s High Holborn branch, opposite the company’s head office, at lunchtime today (Tuesday) – and added that he went instead to shop at nearby Marks & Spencer.

Sainsbury’s Twitter customer service said that they ‘use modesty covers for a range of publications – including Loaded, Zoo, Nuts, Bizarre, Front and Attitude‘ – but that this doesn’t stretch to FHM, regardless of how few clothes the female model is wearing.

The magazine, which was covered by a plastic sheet with the magazine’s name on, shows no nudity at all. Meanwhile, the WH Smith shop across the road had not covered this issue up, displaying it as clearly as any other on the shelf.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson told So So Gay: ‘We have previously contacted the distributor of Attitude magazine with a view to remove the modesty cover on this title. The distributor agreed that while the cover of this magazine is now generally suitable for display, there could be future issues where it may not be.

‘This is something we regularly review along with taking guidance from the Professional Publishers Association. On this occasion, FHM has been placed on a lower shelf by mistake. It should be displayed further back where the cover is less visible.’

Sainsbury’s has previously caused controversy by covering up Attitude but not FHM, as So So Gay reported back in 2012; and there were protests at their Brighton store in October last year, when a security guard ordered a female couple to stop kissing – because a woman had said that she was ‘concerned for the safety of her child’.

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6 July 2015 / Comments Off on Survey shows massive support for equal marriage in NI

Survey shows massive support for equal marriage in NI

An independent survey has found almost 70 per cent of people in favour of legalising equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

The survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI, found that 68 per cent of adults in the province believe that gay couples should be allowed to marry, a figure even higher than the 62 per cent who voted Yes in the recent marriage equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland. Following the Yes vote in May’s Irish referendum, Northern Ireland will now be the only part of the UK or Ireland where the right to civil marriage is denied to gay couples.

Amnesty International said the figures showed that Northern Ireland’s politicians were badly out of step with ordinary people on the issue and called on the Northern Ireland Executive to bring forward marriage equality legislation without further delay.

The survey found that 82 per cent of the 16 to 34 age group support gay marriage, with 75 per cent support among 35 to 54-year-olds. Only among people in the 55+ age bracket did they find less than 50 per cent in favour.

Among voters for the DUP, whose politicians have repeatedly blocked equal marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the poll shows that almost half – 45 per cent – support a change in the law to allow same sex couples to wed.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: ‘The people have spoken and it’s clear they don’t want Northern Ireland to be left behind on marriage equality. Northern Ireland’s politicians are badly out of step with the people on marriage equality.

‘Continuing resistance to bringing Northern Ireland in step with all our neighbours is unacceptable. It’s high time Northern Ireland said a big “we do too” to equality. The Stormont Executive should bring forward marriage equality legislation without further delay.’

Last month, an estimated 20,000 people marched through Belfast demanding marriage equality, in a demonstration organised by Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Rainbow Project, the region’s largest LGBTI group.

In January, So So Gay reported that a same sex couple were suing the Northern Ireland government in the courts for the right to marry.

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3 July 2015 / Comments Off on Demonstrators demand NHS access to PrEP

Demonstrators demand NHS access to PrEP

A long and diverse group of people formed a line outside the 56 Dean Street NHS health clinic last night, demanding access to PrEP – a daily pill that prevents HIV transmission.

Although 56 Dean Street is London’s busiest and most advanced sexual health clinic, the NHS does not let doctors at the clinic prescribe PrEP. Dressed in blue, the colour of the pills themselves, the line of protesters snaked around the corner to Old Compton Street, with passers-by stopping to ask what was happening.

PrEP has been available in the USA since 2012, with studies showing that the medicine is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission. Although results from the UK’s PROUD Study were so impressive that all participants were given PrEP in October 2014, with full results revealed in February, the NHS has yet to make clear when, if ever, PrEP will become available to more than just the people on the study.

Activist Seán McGovern said: ‘The UK should be leading the way in preventative medicine but instead it’s lagging behind. There are 500 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK every month. The government worries about the cost but what would they prefer? They can invest money in prevention now or end up paying for anti-retroviral drugs for the rest of a person’s life. What sounds better?’

ACT UP London has been campaigning for access to PrEP on the NHS for all who need it. Of the 545 participants on the study, all were identified as gay men. PrEP works – but not just for just for men who have sex with men. PrEP can be an effective tool for all men, women, trans*people, people of colour, migrants and anyone who needs it as a method of protection against HIV.

Demonstrator Christine Adams added: ‘The PROUD study results were conclusive. But Black African Women, who are the second highest number of HIV diagnoses in Britain, and the largest undiagnosed group, were not represented in the study. This medicine can be a form of empowerment, allowing different groups real, autonomous decision-making in their own lives.”

PrEP is seen as an important pillar of the most cutting edge prevention strategies which could finally end the HIV pandemic. A year ago New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a policy to increase access to PrEP and to end HIV infection in that state by 2020. No such target has been set by the UK.

Demonstrator Marco Antonio said: ‘The UK has world-class HIV treatment. But what it needs to do is set the example to the world by having the best prevention possible too. We know the doctors and nurses at 56 Dean Street are amazing. We want them to have the power to help in the fight against HIV, so we ask the government to act fast on this. Get PrEP on the NHS.’

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