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Saturday 10 October 2009

Proclamations of the Red Queen

9th October 2009

Maxim Institute: No to CIRs?

Posted by: Craig Young

In the clearest sign yet that the Maxim Institute is rapidly diverging from the Christian Right over public policy issues, the centre-right public policy thinktank has just issued an extraordinary Real Issues newsletter in which it repudiates the Christian Right orthodoxy over binding citizens initiated referenda.

Entitled “Government shouldn’t change the law just because of a referendum“,  the startling piece deals with the questions of populist referenda and representative democracy, firmly coming down on the side of the latter.  The Institute sees some dangers in this:

However, direct democracy is not the ideal, and we shouldn’t base our institutions on it or expect our representatives to simply translate popular sentiment into law. The purpose of government is to secure the common good—to enable us to live together in peace under conditions that allow us to flourish. Whatever form of government we adopt has to be able to make good laws that will achieve this goal, even when this is unpopular.Direct popular control over the content of the law is not likely to produce good law. Lawmaking requires careful thought in response to detailed facts. On many issues, voters do not have the time or resources to consider everything relevant. The electorate cannot frame alternative proposals but just responds to a yes/no take-it-or- leave-it question. The experience from the United States shows why we shouldn’t extend binding citizen-initiated referenda to New Zealand. There, special interests capture the direct law-making process, manipulating poorly informed majorities to make laws in the interests of the promoters. Also, voters in a series of referenda may well adopt inconsistent positions. In California, for example, voters in 1978 effectively froze taxes but then in later years approved a number of specific funding commitments, contributing to their present budgetary crisis.

This is what I’ve been saying for ages.

That is why we should model our institutions on representative democracy, not direct democracy. Representative democracy gives lawmakers the job of thinking carefully and independently about the best course of action. It avoids the pitfalls of direct democracy, because an assembly of full-time lawmakers has the capacity to consider relevant facts and arguments, including a range of alternatives, not just one take-it-or-leave-it proposal. And if their decisions prove unsatisfactory, they can easily revisit them. There is accountability—voters select the legislators, who have good reason in a competitive electorate to consult them and to make law after a public process that is open to popular participation.

This all sounds quite sane and mainstream. I agree. We write submissions, we appear before select committees, we represent our views derived from evidence-based medical and social scientific data and it affects resultant legislation.

While representative democracy is better than direct democracy, for it to fulfil its promise, it is vital that legislators deliberate publicly and carefully. Otherwise, they are unlikely to legislate well. Unfortunately, our Parliament doesn’t always make room for careful deliberation. Parliament gives itself the best chance of considering issues deeply and fully, and coming up with lasting solutions that people will accept, when it takes its time. This includes genuine opportunities for public input and consultation, allowing thoughtful public reflection on the issues. This allows flaws and unintended consequences in a bill to be identified, and gives the facts and underlying worldviews a chance to be well-ventilated. And, as much as it is ever possible to do so, it insulates a proposed law from sheer political expediency. 

However, there are some points of disagreement:

 Most recently, a mere two weeks was allowed for submissions on the bill repealing the criminal defence of provocation.

True, but there is the Law Commission’s existing paper to guide public debate.

For good reason, we have the structure of a representative democracy. It would be wrong for Parliament to change the “anti-smacking” law just because of the referendum.

It ends by suggesting that we take “legislative deliberation” seriously.

I never, ever thought I’d hear myself say this…but well done, Maxim.


Richard Ekins and Alex Penk: “Government shouldn’t change the law just because of a referendum” Maxim Institute:

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8th October 2009

Review: Shank (2009)

Posted by: Craig Young

At Outtakes 2009, Shank (UK, 2009) provided a disturbing look at the intersection between ‘underclass’ affiliation and homosexuality. How realistic is it?

movieshank21.jpgFor those who haven’t seen it, here’s a plot summary. It focuses on the plight of Cal (19), who participates in a youth gang with Jonno and Nessa, who are hiding their own secrets. Cal is first seen having sex with teacher Scott, before he then assaults him. The gang then attacks Olivier, one of Scott’s students. However, Cal is strongly attracted to Olivier, turns on his erstwhile friends, takes him home and has sex with him- whereupon they enter a relationship. Shortly afterward, Nessa and Jonno break into Cal’s flat and find a cellphone record of his earlier gay sex with Scott, which provokes homophobic reactions in them. The two try to have sex in a graveyard, but it is obvious that Jonno is suppressing his own homoerotic interest in Cal. They assault and abduct Olivier, forcing him to lure Cal to a secluded area. I won’t give away what happens next…

But what does Shank say about homosexuality and economic marginality? Never the twain shall meet? Cal uses opportunist interpersonal violence to achieve petty criminal goals and initially submerges his own sexual and emotional needs as a young gay man before he meets Olivier and ultimately chooses him over his gang affiliations.

It’s not the first time the vexed question of gay underclass life has been posed. In Shameless (Channel 4, UK), there are at least four such dysfunctional denizens of Chatsworth estate in Manchester. Ian Gallagher has now reached twenty. He tended to have relationships with older men, is out to his family and is now employed as a barman. Mickey Maguire is the offspring of drug dealers and has a gay uncle- his dad’s twin! He’s aggressive, violent, paranoid and has a hard time dealing with his gay sexuality. He writes smut and went to polytech to do film studies. Of the two, he seems less reconciled with any apparent contradiction between class and sexuality.  Ian must have got the gay gene from his mum’s side, given that Monica is bisexual and left her no-hoper alkie husband Frank to take up with a lesbian truckie before returning to the gormless git. Unfortunately, aforesaid lesbian truckie is pining for her and is becoming increasingly like a dyke version of Frank (scary…)

Is it that way in real life? In some cases, underclass origins and gay sex tend to be splattered together with the lubrication of excessive amounts of alcohol consumption. Indeed, alcohol and severe drug abuse may lead to a situation where the alcoholic or drug-addicted individual prioritises their dysfunctional family/whanau or alcoholic/drug abuser networks and engages in interpersonal violence against other community members, verbal abuse or other antisocial behaviour, probably due to the fact that early intervention didn’t occur in their past lives to provide them with different role models.

Problem is, in our own post-deviant LGBT communities, we’ve come to be less tolerant of the above harmful and antisocial behaviour from individuals who refuse to change their behaviour. Do we therefore need upskilled LGBT welfare and social services to deal with these individuals, if, like Cal ultimately does, they do want rehabilitation and mainstream social existence? What happens if they refuse such intervention and remain habituated to their criminal and antisocial networks?

What boundaries can and should LGBT communities set in such circumstances?

See Shank’s trailer here:


Ren Walters: “Shank” Sight and Sound 19.10 (October 2009): 74-75.

Shameless linksite:

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8th October 2009

Fiction: Theia.

Posted by: Craig Young

Mission Log: TFV Radclyffe Hall: Subject: Theia.

Orbiting red dwarf star Groombridge 148, Theia should have had a long planetary existence, huddled close to its primary. Sadly, evolution and culture played cruel tricks on this charnel house world. As its testimonial probe tells us, its dominant species was avianoid. They experienced high fertility, although infant mortality moderated that before it made developments in medical technology that enabled greater infant survival. A fertility cult, the Rigorists, preached against birth control and abortion. However, unlike Earth, Theia was an areoform world and rapidly ran out of marine plankton in its limited oceans and rainforest carbon reservoirs.

Kevilaa, a religious reformer, led a revolution against the Rigorist dictatorship, but it was much too late. Theia’s biosphere had already begun to collapse from ecological trauma, resource exhaustion, overpopulation, famine, pandemic disease and war, even if she hadn’t been felled by an assassin’s bullet.  In the existential vacuum, an ecstatic thanatophile cult, Dereliktos, filled the void. It valorised infanticide and cannibalism, much to the horror of the Sanctified, the samesexer shamans and priestesses that practised an alternative faith and were widely respected. Unfortunately, the incidence of homosexuality amongst the Theian species was far lower than here.  Dereliktos’ efforts were to no avail. Eventually, a mutated GEV from a brushfire war triggered an extinction event. Before that happened, the Sanctified constructed a geneark to preserve the last traces of their species and ruined biosphere.

We never met them. All that happened five centuries ago.

As the Radclyffe orbits this desolation, still too contaminated for anything other than a remote AI survey, we are chilled by what might all too easily have happened in our own recent past. In some alternate quantum variant to our own, are other species orbiting a devastated Earth, Hestia, Cassius, Cronus or Minerva?

Captain Artemis Pyrethe CO, TFV Radclyffe Hall.

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8th October 2009

Canada: Prostitution Law Reform and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Posted by: Craig Young

From the BBC comes the exciting news that Canada’s sex workers are challenging the country’s hidebound and punitive laws against prostitution.

Ontario’s Superior Court is about to hear a case brought by three female sex workers, who argue that current curbs “violate their constitutional rights [under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms- C] and threatens their physical safety”.

If the sex workers case succeeds, laws against brothels, sex advertising and prostitutes living off their earnings will be struck down, as they were under New Zealand’s Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003.

The Crown will defend the laws and argue that decriminalisation would encourage “sex tourism.” Like it hasn’t here…???

As occurred in New Zealand,  if Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws are struck down, sex workers would be more likely to go the police if they are attacked or face any problems. Sex workers rights advocates also say provisions preventing prostitutes from “running or occupying a bawdy house (brothel)” force them into unsafe working conditions.

As might be expected, Canada’s LGBT Xtra newspaper chain had more comments to make on the subject. After hearing from witnesses in June the constitutional challenge is back in court from Oct 6 to 9 for final  arguments.

“It’ll be our legal team and the crown’s duking it out,” says Valerie Scott, executive director of Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC).

Scott, Terri Jean Bedford and Amy Lebovitch filed the case in 2007. As noted above, they intend to challenge several sections of the Canadian Criminal Code that criminalise sex work, arguing that these sections violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is legal to sell sex in Canada, although many of the associated activities related to sex work are criminalised.

SPOC’s case particularly centres on Section 213(1)(c), which makes it illegal to communicate for the purposes of prostitution. It also questions an anti-brothel provision,  Section 210, which makes it illegal to run a common bawdy house. Finally, they are also seeking to have Section 212(1)(j) struck down, as it makes it illegal to live off the sex work of others.

As a result, Canadian sex workers cannot hire security staff or work in groups.

According to Scott, the current law is a godsend for rapists: “Sexual predators are well aware that the law is a gift to them,” she says. “It serves us up on a silver platter to them because we’re too afraid to call the police. We’re too afraid to work together, we’re always alone and isolated.”

Canadian Christian Right organizations  (Christian Legal Fellowship, Real Women of Canada (antifeminists) and the Catholic Civil Rights League) won an appeal on Sep 22 against their initial exclusion. The groups will begin presentations to the judge in the case, Justice Susan Himel, beginning Oct 19.

They have a real substantial and identifiable interest in the subject matter of the application and, as acknowledged by the Attorney General of Canada, an important perspective different from the parties,” states the decision.

Scott is annoyed: ”The logic of this case has nothing to do with morality. It has everything to do with safety.”

Following the Christian Right’s anti-sexworker presentations, there will be a chance for rebuttals by SPOC’s senior lawyer, Osgoode Hall law school professor Alan Young.

There may be a verdict in early 2010. “There’s a lot there’s an awful lot to wade through and come up with a decision… it’s going to take [Himel] several months,” she says.

If the decision is at all favourable to us for certain the Crown, the Attorney General of Canada, will appeal,” she says. “If the decision is unfavourable to us then we scramble to find more money and then we go to appeal court where we ask for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Good luck, SPOC.


“Prostitutes challenge Canada laws” BBC News:

Julia Garro: “Sex work laws on trial” Xtra: 05.10.09:…/Sex_work_laws_on_trial-7594.aspx

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2nd October 2009

Exclusive Brethren: Pedophilia and Electoral Manipulation

Posted by: Craig Young

In Australia, the Exclusive Brethren are back in the news…but not in a nice way, at all. In Tasmania, the Tasmanian Mercury has just reported a long-term case of pedophile abuse by a member of the shadowy sect. The alleged victim told the court that the alleged pedophile in question would try to isolate him from his family, when the abuse took place, over an eight year period, before he was seventeen (Tasmania’s age of consent).  Sect isolation may have contributed to the case not being reported beforehand.

Given this latest abhorrent revelation, how can our own Justice Minister, Simon Power, possibly be serious about allowing (admittedly counter-productive) covert ’smear’ tactic electoral campaigning against Labour and the Greens, as happened here in our general election (2005) and in Tasmania (2004) and the last Australian federal election (2007)?  Mr Power, I think your party should take Crosby/Textor’s latest tactical advice and steer well clear of the sect in question. Do the words “bull” and “china shop” ring any bells?


“Exclusive Brethren on boy rape charge” Daily Telegraph: 01.10.09:…/exclusive-brethren…/story-e6freuz0-1225781631251

“Proposed electoral law changes meet opposition” New Zealand Herald: 29.09.09:

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1st October 2009

Metaphorical Communities: Vampires, Telepaths and Mutants, Oh My!

Posted by: Craig Young

True Blood seems to be flavour of the month in Gaynz.Com’s TV forum postings, but what does our inteerest in its vampire denizens actually mean?

It’s like this. In this near-future/alternate universe dark fantasy world, vampires have ‘come out of the coffin’, so to speak. They do drink blood (or synthetic blood substitutes if they’re trying to mainstream), they only come out at night or in suitably sheltered environments and they’re attractive and immortal. Unfortunately, this comes with some downers- sunlight vulnerability and pesky haemophobes with sharp stakes, as well as those unscrupulous mere mortals who use vampire blood (V) as a stimulant. In this world, antivampire hate crimes happen, there’s a national vampire rights lobby group, controversies about vampire/human relationships and a downright nasty “Fellowship of the Son” antivampire fundamentalist group which behaves like a cross between Fred Phelps and the more psychotic fringes (?) of the US anti-abortion movement.  That’s right, we’ve seen the haemovores and they’re a metaphor for conventional LGBT mere mortals.

(So okay, Sam, Eric and Ryan are hot too, but guy candy is a secondary consideration… No, really it is!)

This is nothing new in science fiction, fantasy and horror as a genre. And they aren’t the only metaphorical communities that resemble us. Marvel’s X-Men series has mutants (homo superior) as a persecuted minority. For all their metahuman abilities (and anomalous physiologies), they face hate crimes, an anti-mutant registration bill and widespread anti-mutant discrimination in the Marvel Universe.

In Babylon 5, telepaths had the advantage of antidiscrimination laws, commercial and security agency employment- but it was very much a gilded cage, and Psi Corps policed telepaths, forcing them to take drugs that suppressed their abilities. It was repressive tolerance and uneasy security. Again, sound familiar?

Metaphorical communities are cool. They offer refracted mirrors to ourselves, demonstrating how our lives are affected by depicting metaphors for our own situation, whether as a result of evolution or physiologically based discrimination.

Think of them as cousins, once removed…

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29th September 2009

Bangladesh and Its Section 377

Posted by: Craig Young

Like India and Pakistan, Bangladesh also its colonial era Indian Penal Code “Section 377″, although it hasn’t been enforced for the last two decades. What is life like for its LGBT communities?

With 162 million inhabitants, Bangladesh is the seventh most populous nation in the world. Until 1971, it was “East Pakistan,” until neglect and nationalist pressures trumped religious solidarity with Pakistan to its far west, a thousand miles away. It was hit by famine shortly after its war of independence (1974-5) and then languished under military dictatorship for nearly eleven years (1979-1990). Since then, it has been run by two women who alternate as Prime Ministers- Khaledia Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League. Unfortunately, political violence and corruption seem widespread. Most Bangladeshis (89%) are Sunni Muslims, with a further nine percent Hindu affiliated (9.2%).

Section 377 extends to LGBT organisational membership, although this hasn’t stopped the rise of at least three LGBT Bangladeshi organisations- Bangladesh Association of Gays, Boys Only Bangladesh and Shakiyani for lesbians and bisexual women. Furthermore, hijras exist here as they do in the rest of South Asia, situational male homosexuality is commonplace, as is gay sex between male cousins and brothers in law, according to Gary Dowsett’s co-authored report on the area. Safe sex education occurs for sex workers, IV drug users and man who have sex with men, and condoms are available although usually discussed only in the context of contraception, with some religious and cultural taboos dampening discussion. Against this, Bangladesh has no shariah law.


Gary Dowsett, Jeff Grierson and Stephen MacNally: A Review of Knowledge About the Sexual Networks and Behaviour of MSMs in South Asia: Melbourne University: 2004:

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24th September 2009

British Columbia: Polygamy Case Thrown Out, But…

Posted by: Craig Young

Polygamist B.C. religious leaders Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler for polygamy may not face further criminal charges, after B.C. Supreme Court Judge Sunni Stromberg-Stein decided that ex-provincial Attorney-General Wally Oppal had no standing to have lawyer Terry Robertson appointed as a special prosecutor. This appointment was in itself illegal and Mr. Robertson’s consequent prosecution “was therefore unlawful,” she wrote in a 34-page decision released today.

The Blackmore-Oler case would have tested Canada’s anti-polygamy laws, passed in the nineteenth century,  for the first time under  Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Blackmore is the former bishop of the British Columbian offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was charged with being in a polygamous relationship with nineteen women, while Oler faced charges of polygamy for marriages to three women.

Mr. Blackmore has said that he believed the Charter provisions guaranteeing freedom of religion provided protection form criminal charges. However, as the case will now not proceed, that point is mute. It may not therefore be the case that polygamy has been decriminalised until another, more definitive verdict is made.


Robert Matas:”Polygamy charges thrown out against BC religious leader”: Globe and Mail: 22.09.09:…/polygamy-charges…/article1298771/

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23rd September 2009

Indonesia: Aceh and Conservative Islamism

Posted by: Craig Young

indonesia.jpgIndonesia has two hundred and thirty million people, six hundred and seventy ethnic groups, and an estimated ninety percent of the population is Muslim, although significant Hindu and Buddhist minorities exist on some of its six thousand inhabited islands. The archipelago has had a troubled history. For its first two decades of independence from Dutch colonialism, Sukarno ruled an Indonesia that was oriented toward the non-aligned movement, until Major General Soeharto overthrew him in a bloody coup in 1965, massacring an estimated five hundred thousand members of the Communist Party of Indonesia. In his turn, he was overthrown in 1998, and the archipelago returned to democratic rule.

What about its lesbi and gay inhabitants? Under Article 292 of the Indonesian Penal Code, it would appear that while same-sex rape and paedophilia are illegal, male homosexuality per se has been effectively decriminalised, a considerable advance on its homophobic neighbour, Malaysia. Like urban gay men anywhere else in the world, our Indonesian counterparts go clubbing, cruising, and congregate in tempat ngebers, specific social spaces for interaction amidst parks, city squares, bridges, wharves and bus stations.

While things are relatively laid-back on Bali and in Jakarta, not all of Indonesia’s archipelago is gay-friendly, although Islam also has to contend with Buddhism and Hinduism. On Sulawesi, for example, traditional transgender gay male bissu shamans had to deal with conservative Islamist pressure groups that denounced their cross-dressing and effeminacy as “unislamic.”

Indonesia’s restive Aceh province is perhaps the best example of conservative Islamist influence, however. Long believed to be the birthplace of Indonesian Islam, this Sumatran enclave retained independence through most of the colonial era until Dutch colonialism tentatively triumphed after a twenty year war. In 1959, Indonesia recognised it as a ’special territory’ -until US oil exploration and Suharto regime repression led to the rise of the Islamist Free Aceh movement. After the regime’s fall, autonomy was restored in 2001, the tsunami claimed 200,000 lives in 2004 and in 2003, their right to shariah law was proclaimed- leading to current problems related to antigay corporal punishment.


Tom Boellstorff: The Gay Archipelago: Princeton University Press, 2005

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20th September 2009

Serbia: Pride March Cancelled.

Posted by: Craig Young

In Serbia, a planned Belgrade Pride march has been called off. Serbia’s prime minister Mirko Cvetkovic had urged organisers to change tomorrow’s planned rally from the Serbian capital, but the proposal was “unacceptable”. President Boris Tadic supported the march and said that he would  protect the participants, however, which is an advance from the Milosevic regime of the nineties.  A Pride march was attempted in 2001, but far right thugs insured that it descnded into chaos.

“Pride parades are traditionally organised in the main streets of big cities,” replied Dragana Vuckovic, a parade organiser

Anti-gay groups had threatened violence if the march were allowed to go ahead. Threatening posters read: “We’re expecting you“.

Nationalist and religious leaders have opposed a Serbian anti-discrimination bill that bans discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

The far right Serb Popular Movement 1389 hailed the cancellation of Sunday’s march as “a great victory for “normal” Serbia”.

“In our city infidels and Satanists will not pass,” it added.

Why is it so bad there? Latvian LGBT activist Kristine Gavina explained that Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Moldova all have one unifying characteristic- before World War I, they were members of the Tsarist Russian or Austro-Hungarian Empires, and never had a chance to develop stable democratic institutions before being engulfed by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact during and after the Second World War.

As a result, these states lacked the exposure to the sexual revolution and cultural liberalisation that Hungary, the Czech Republic, East Germany and Slovenia experienced by default, as well as missing out on the enrichment of civil society and cultural and political diversity that occurred in the context of New Left social movements like independent feminism, and LGBT rights. Western Europe, Canada and Australasia underwent those experiences over the last forty years, leading to progressive social change in areas like violence against women, reproductive freedom, and LGBT rights.

Added to this, few of their dominant religious institutions experienced anything like the outgrowth of religious pluralism and secularisation that occurred in the west, which permeated to adjacent Eastern European states, but then petered out. In far Eastern Europe, Catholicism and Orthodoxy never experienced the eighteenth and nineteenth century Enlightenment or gradual, unforced secularisation, leaving them prey to right-wing and nationalist influences. Because of all of these cultural, religious and political influences, it isn’t surprising that many far Eastern European states have decriminalised male homosexuality but have gone no further. As Garina notes in her report on Latvia, it is not uncommon to hear talk of “homosexual propaganda.”

This betrays a certain vintage, and is reminiscent of the abandoned UK Clause 28 of the late eighties and nineties, which talked similarly about “promoting homosexuality” as if it weren’t “hardwired” into place by either genetic causes and/or early infantile child development already. Regardless of scientific rationalism, the right-wing nationalist governments and social movements of “Little Europe” noted above refer to LGBT rights as if it were a menacing external concept attacking their conservative states, which is convenient, because it provides a handle for resistance to European Community reform initiatives and exploits ignorance about LGBT history and social movements within far Eastern Europe.

Serbia decriminalised male homosexuality in 1994, and passed anti-discrimination laws in 2005. However, it forbids lesbians and gay men from military service, does not recognise the spousal rights of same-sex couples and banned same-sex marriage in 2006. Belgrade is an unfriendly place, particularly if you’re trying to secure war reparations for ethnic minorities, belong to an identified feminist group, and police ignore gaybashings. Feminist antiwar group Women in Black is trans-inclusive.

Homosexuality in Serbia is still far from accepted, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Belgrade.

The gay scene is underground and members of the community are regularly the target of discrimination.

“The state has failed the fundamental test,” it says in a statement. “The next exam period is approaching fast. The Republic of Serbia has capitulated. We have not.”


“Serbian gay parade is called off” BBC News: 19.09.09:

Kristine Garina: “East is East” Gay Times 355 (April 2008): 98-100.

John Loughran “This isn’t New York” Gay Times 348 (September 2007): 110-112

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