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Wednesday 14 April 2010


Proclamations of the Red Queen

24th March 2010

“Advancement of Religion” and Charitable Trusts

Posted by: Craig Young

In the latest New Zealand Law Journal, Juliet Chevalier-Watts clarifies the law around ‘charitable trusts’ and the specific status of religious charitable trusts.

Religious charitable trusts are able to receive taxfree gifts and donations if their objective is the ‘advancement of religion.’ However, what does this actually mean? As one might guess, the United Kingdom acted as the original source for much subsequent New Zealand case law. Therefore, Commissioners for Special Purposes of the Income Tax v Pemsel [1891] provided a particularly useful and concise definition of ‘advancement of religion,’ stating that it had to be for the ‘public good.’ In New Zealand, Centrepoint Community Trust v Commissioner of Internal Revenue [1985] held that the law was neutral in terms of religious belief content or veracity, although it mattered whether or not religions had specific ‘beliefs, practices and observances,’  and were open to the general public. Religious conversion is a legitimate objective under this heading, as it may provide ameliorative results for some individuals involved in antisocial, criminal and dysfunctional lifestyles. Freemasonry is not a religion under this heading, though.

However, there are some limitations involved. In Gilmour v Coats [19498], it was found that there should be no solely sectarian or private religious observance involved in this context, thus a community of cloistered Catholic contemplative nuns could not establish a religious charitable trust on their own behalf. Unfortunately, no ‘exgay’ group has applied for religious charitable trust tax and donor exemptions in this context. Could it be argued that they are primarily oriented toward gay and conflicted fundamentalist Christians, as opposed to the general public, though? There is no case law to suggest whether that legal strategy would work for either side.  If a charity is involved in pursuit of actively illegal, harmful or detrimental public activities too, could it maintain its religious charitable trust status? This might potentially disqualify radical sectarian antiabortion groups engaged in trespass and clinic harrassment.

What about secular humanist social service providers in this context? It would require torturous logic to contort secular ethical frameworks for ameliorative social objectives under the heading of ‘religion’ although discriminatory practice could lead to conflicts related to the Bill of Rights in this context. It may be that the Charities Commission and Supreme Court will need to revisit the latter question and expand the ambit of charities legislation to meet this situation if and when it arises.

Recommended:

Juliet Chevalier-Watts: “Trusts for religious purposes” New Zealand Law Journal: March 2010: 55-58.

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

23rd March 2010

Review: Film: A Single Man (2008)

Posted by: Craig Young

In 1962, life was considerably different for a newly widowed gay man than it is today. However, that is exactly the situation that confronts Professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) in Tom Fords’ A Single Man, adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel.

Isherwood is best known for his tribute to the dying days of Weimar Berlin social and sexual liberalism, Cabaret. In A Single Man, though, it is the early sixties, in conservative Southern California. George Falconer is a university professor, who has just lost his younger lover Jim (Matt Goode) in a car accident. Because this is half a century ago, Jim’s formerly estranged homophobic family take over the funeral and deny George his moral status as widower and next of kin. He is even refused permission to attend the funeral. George resolves to try to commit suicide, going through the motions as his female friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and Kenny Potter (Nick Hoult), a younger and obsessed student, try to stop him. After paying Carlos (Juan Kortajarena), a male sex worker, for his time but not sex, George and Kenny meet in a bar. They go skinny dipping and return to George’s place, where Kenny puts him to bed but doesn’t join him, also hiding his gun. However, George has decided to give life another go…until he suddenly dies from a heart attack.

A Single Man was well-feted at the Venice International Film Festival in 2008. Colin Firth won best actor and the sumptously filmed movie also won the Vulpi Cup and Golden Lion awards for its cinematography- Ford is also responsible for the sixties-based advertising company US drama series Mad Men, which gives it a convincing period feel.

I need to address historical context here. A Single Man is a convincing portrait of the (unacceptable) way we were. In 1957, the UK Wolfenden Report had just been issued. While Labour MP Leo Abse was intent on introducing a bill based on its recommendations that would partially decriminalise male homosexuality (with severe restrictions and limitations), his Sexual Offences Act 1967 was still some years in the future- and this was also seven years before Stonewall erupted in New York in 1969, giving birth to contemporary lesbian and gay liberation in the United States. Like Another Country, Maurice and Wilde, this belongs to the British ‘heritage genre’ and so there is loving attention to sumptuous architectural surroundings, period furniture and dress and equally antique social attitudes. What distinguishes A Single Man from the above is that it occurs within living memory (insofar as some of our older readers are concerned. However, it is still an alien world. 

It was a time when male homosexuality per se was still a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment, in Britain and the United States alike. As a result, gay male personalities, social networks and relationships were warped and distorted by the burden of concealment and closetry, leading to homophobic violence without legal remedy and blackmail, ruined careers and reputations. Change was coming- in 1961, Victim had featured Dirk Bogarde as Melville Farr, a closeted and married gay lawyer, trying to locate the murderer of a gay accquaintance, Jack Barrett.

This was the way we were, until 1986 in the context of New Zealand when the Lange administration finally decriminalised male homosexuality after Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Act passed through Parliament, despite vitriol, hysteria and fascistic cries for our extermination from the Christian Right of that time.

Recommended:

Christopher Isherwood: A Single Man: New York: Simon and Schuster: 1964.

Victim (1961): Public Media Incorporated/ Janus Films: Michael Relph, Producer: Basil Dearden, Director: Screenplay: Janet Green and John McCormick: Length: 100 minutes (black and white).

Richard Dyer: “Victim: Hegemonic Project” in Richard Dyer (ed) The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation (2nd Edition): London: Routledge: 2002.

Patrick Higgins: Heterosexual Dictatorship: Male Homosexuality in Postwar Britain: London: Fourth Estate: 1996.

Stephen Jeffery-Poulter: Peers, Queers and Commons: The Struggle for Gay Law Reform: 1950 to the Present: London: Routledge: 1991.

Philip Kemp: “I Wanted Him: Revival-Victim” Sight and Sound: 15:8: (August 2005): 10.

→ 10 CommentsTags: Politics

11th March 2010

US: Obamaphobia, Neofascism and Racism

Posted by: Craig Young

From the United States comes troubling news from the US Southern Poverty Law Center, a valiant organisation opposed to racism, homophobia and the US far right. There have been some worrying developments amongst the anti-Obama movement in the United States.

I’ve seen the same before, in New Zealand’s own political past, during the Muldoon era of the seventies and early eighties, and the Christian Right backlash against homosexual law reform and improved abortion access in the mid-to-late eighties. At that time, human rights and civil liberties reached their nadir in this country, then rebounded under Lange. Due to Muldoon, there was a mushrooming of far right organisations- the League of Rights, Integrity Centre, Zenith Applied Philosophy, Tax Reduction Integrity Movement and Sunday Club, all of which had overlapping membership amongst themselves and the Christian Right of the eighties. Bear in mind that the League was a virulently anti-Semitic and racist group that had been investigated during the Second World War for Nazi and Axis sympathies in Australia. As a consequence of pandering to these extremists after homosexual law reform, the National Party lost any hope of winning urban liberal electoral seats in 1987 and lost its second consecutive election, only winning a single seat off the Lange-led Labour administration. Unfortunately, New Zealand First exploited “Rob’s Mob” to gain electoral traction and as David Garrett’s latest sterilisation outburst demonstrates, ACT is still divided between pragmatic libertarians and troglodyte populist social conservative interlopers.

In the United Kingdom, Thatcher’s tenure led to the poll tax backlash of the nineties, after which the Conservative Party descended into fratricidal internal conflict. After losing to Blair in 1997, the Tories have taken thirteen years to resolve their factionalism and repudiate their residual extremists, although some would argue that this process is still not complete.

And the United States? In prior Gaynz.Com Politics and Religion articles, I’ve referred to the “Tea Party” movement of libertarians and Republican hypocrites who happily supported Bush’s stimulus packages but now round on Obama, accusing the latter of rampant “statism” and did little to stop his predecessor’s sad legacy of economic mismanagement. As the Center notes too, though, there are other fellow travellers. The armed “militia” anti-government movement has begun resurgence, and harbours avowed and unreconstructed violent white supremacists, extreme elements of the firearms ownership lobby, fanatical anti-abortionists and sinister anti-immigrant vigilante group members. Some even deny that Barack Obama has US citizenship! They are aided and abetted by their own pack of croney advocacy pseudo-journalist conservative ideologues at FoxNews, WorldNetDaily, NewsMax and other palsied organs of ill professional repute. Could all this culminate in an assassination attempt against the forty-fourth US President?

As for the US Christian Right, demagogues like elderly Pat Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and televangelist and veteran Californian homophobe Louis Sheldon are often users of analogous conspiracist rhetoric. Thus far, US Christian Right terrorism has been restricted to the wilder fringes of the US anti-abortion movement. However, one such figure, anti-abortion terrorist Eric Rudolph, also bombed an Atlanta lesbian bar at the same time he was attacking local abortion clinics. Is direct US antigay terrorism so unthinkable?

Free speech is one thing, but actual advocacy of violent intimidation and threats of ‘retribution’ are incitements to antisocial and criminal activities and cross the line. Do anti-Obama extremists and the US Christian Right have any conscience or scruples about encouraging or condoning the use of violent force against their own democratically elected government? And how advanced is the fascist and white supremacist canker within anti-Obama circles within that country? Why aren’t any of them opposing it? And as if to emphasise the latent extremism within the Tea Party adherents, several participants launched racist and homophobic diatribes at three African-American Democrat Congresspeople and gay MHR Barney Frank during the fiery healthcare funding debate earlier this week…

Postscript: As if by unpleasant coincidence, antiabortion ‘justifiable homicide’ stalker website creator Neil Horseley threatened Elton John over the latter’s silly comments about Jesus as a ’super-intelligent gay man”. He’s now in police custody.

Postscript II: Reportedly, the Hutaree fundamentalist militia group was apprehended before it could kill a law enforcement official and attack police detachments at their funeral, the BBC reports. The Hutara militia were based in Indiana, Michigan and Idaho, basing their terrorist philosophy on paranoid premillenarian apocalyptic  fundamentalist beliefs…

Recommended:

Southern Poverty Law Center: Rage on the Right: http://www.SPLCenter.org

BBC News: Hutaree Militia:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8593975.stm

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

11th March 2010

US: Eat the Poor: Prosperity Gospellers Meet the Recession

Posted by: Craig Young

Given that the Bishop of Bling Brian Tamaki has been in the news lately, I thought it was time to have a look at divergent religious responses to the current global recession. One is commendable and compassionate, while the other is typical fundamentalist rort and cant.

Witness Reverend Tim Jones, a York Anglican minister in the United Kingdom, who provided a heartbreaking account of a recently released petty burglar with less than one hundred pounds to live on over Christmas, with no social welfare benefit access, propspects of employment and little assistance available from his probation officer. Loan shark borrowing, begging and vagrancy all carry risks, as well as sex work, which is illegal in the United Kingdom. Recidivist burglary and suicide are the only real ‘options’. So, Reverend Jones argues that those in this situation are morally entitled to shoplift from large corporates, given that governmental incompetence and delay lead some people to exactly that desperate pass for the sake of survival and subsistence.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, how are the Pentecostal purveyors of fundamentalist ‘prosperity gospel’ blingery faring? In a recent Harpers Magazine article, Ben Anastas profiles three African-American figures, one with a New Zealand linkage. Bishop Thomas Weeks (Global Outreach Ministries) is currently on probation after he assaulted his ex-wife, evangelist Juanita Bynum, and was evicted from his former Global Destiny Ministries after constant rent delinquency. Nevertheless, he recently held a “Global Entrepreneurial Anointing” of business cards.

Sounds bizarre? Massachuesetts Baptist Russell Cornwall was the originator of the concept that Christ was a small businessperson, as were the disciples. Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts and other televangelists realised that this was a pathway to riches, as indeed has our own beloved Brian Tamaki. There are some other telling correspondences with the Bishop of Bling here. Anastas cites another televangelist, Creflo Dollar (…) whose World Changers sect has few images of Christ or crosses, who urges his parishioners that hard work can surmount racist victimisation.

The third such figure is Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, a formerly affluent African-American community. Long is Tamaki’s ’shepherd’ although it must be said that his church offers a pastoral services division that provides corporate welfare for church members as well as budgeting advice and assistance when it comes to mortgage foreclosures. Despite that saving grace, Long also faced allegations in 2005 that his charity, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries, provided him with three million dollars in salaries, benefits and property use. although he maintains that he was owed it from royalties, speakers fees and large donations. More orthdox black churches question the absence of any semblance of social justice and community concern within their prosperity gospel counterparts.

No wonder our own Bishop of Bling is so crass. Look at his African-American role models! Meanwhile, our own Charities Commission is currently awaiting Destiny International’s documentation, now overdue since October 2009. Apparently, though, it’s Hannah Tamaki who has the business nous in the whanau and actually runs DestinyCorp, with her steely eye over the titheing revenues and operational aspects.Meanwhile, the Bishop of Bling is facing a new scandal over the antics of Destiny Church Taranaki leaders. One twenty nine year old male church member was allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with a thirteen year old girl.

Recommended:

Ben Anastas: “Mammon from Heaven” Harpers: 320: 1918: March 2010: 55-62.

Tim Jones: “Desperation Theology” Harpers: 320: 1918: March 2010: 16-17.

“A Life with Brian” Sunday Star Times: 21.03.10.

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

11th March 2010

Mexico: International Christian Right Organises Against LGBT Relationship Equality

Posted by: Craig Young

  

  

One would think that the Christian Right would have better things to do during the current recession than continually harping on about the alleged iniquities of same-sex marriage and civil unions. Unfortunately and predictably, that isn’t the case. Recently, the so-called “World Congress of Families”, an international Christian Right coalition of opponents of feminism, reproductive choice and LGBT rights met in Mexico City, just after it had opened same-sex marriage proper and adoptive parental responsibilities to lesbians and gay men.

Red Familia (Family Network- Mexico’s WCF affiliate) opposes the introduction of same-sex marriage in Mexico City and will present a petition to Government leaders.

US signers of the petition include Gary Bauer of “American Values”, Tom DeLay, former Republican Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives, Tony Perkins of the notoriously antigay Family Research Council, Dr Paige Patterson of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr Jerry Newcombe of Coral Ridge Ministries, Don Wildmon of the so-called American Family Association and Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, that country’s largest antifeminist group. One hopes that there were no New Zealand signatories…

Mexico City’s legislature approved same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption in late December  2009 (39-25). Five Mexican state governors subsequently sued Mexico City FD, for legalising same sex marriage. They stated tha the law was “unconstitutional” and would require their own state governments to recognise same-sex marriages despite their own opposition. Fortunately, the Mexican Supreme Court rejected the lawsuits of three of the states, although a ruling on the other two cases is still pending. However, the federal Mexican Attorney General’s  has filed its own complaint, arguing that it is “unconstitutional”. The suit is still ongoing.

“In the future, wherever judges or bureaucrats attempt to force homosexual marriage on a people, the international pro-family movement will be engaged,” vowed one spokesperson. “A threat to the natural family anywhere is a threat to the family everywhere.”  Really?! And recession, mortgage foreclosures, welfare privatisation, homelessness, government education and health cutbacks don’t, I suppose? Apparently not for the Christian Right, which obviously doesn’t care for real families in need, threatened by economic stringencies, not LGBT relationship equality. “Pro-family” indeed!

However, happily, the naysayers couldn’t stop Lol-Kin Castaneda (33) and Judith Vasquez (45) from their wedding, followed by four other lesbian and gay couples as the law took effect.

One can also forget about the “World” Congress angle, for that matter. Having visited their website, I noted that most of their speakers and constituent organisations hailed from the US Christian Right, with the exception of REAL Women and Endeavour Forum (Canadian and Australian antifeminists), and sundry Polish, Nigerian, Swiss, Latin American and Italian groups. However, its ‘internationalism’ is a farce!

Recommended:

“Gay Couple wed in Latin American first” NewsCorp: 12.03.10: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/breaking-news/gay-couple-wed-in-latin-american-first/story-e6frea73-1225839830335

Not recommended:

“Coalition vows to fight gay marriage”: Challenge Weekly: 08.03.2010: http://www.challengeweekly.co.nz/world/138-coalition-vows-to-fight-gay-marriage.html

“World” Congress of Families: http://www.worldcongress.org

→ 3 CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

9th March 2010

A Californian Outing

Posted by: Craig Young

In California, the ‘outing’ controversy has resurfaced, following the outing of a prominent Californian State Senator who has a consistent record who opposed LGBT rights initiatives.

State Senator Roy Ashburn (Republican) was elected in 2002. The divorced conservative Catholic (??) senator has a profoundly conservative antigay voting record, including voting against state recognition of out of state same-sex marriages, opposed a state legislature resolution condemning Proposition 8 (which repealed the right to same-sex marriage in that state), the expansion of state anti-discrimination laws and the declaration of Harvey Milk Day, commemorating the life of the slain San Francisco city supervisor and elected official.

Ashburn was arrested on drink driving charges in a Californian state government vehicle after apparently leaving Faces, a Sacramento gay pub. He had an unidentified male passenger with him. Ending speculation about his sexual orientation, he has since come out although he has also defended his antigay religious beliefs, arguing that his religious views and ‘responsibility to his constituents’ took ‘precedence’ over whatever his ‘personal’ views on LGBT issues might be. Ashburn has said he’ll retire after the end of this senatorial term and will not seek re-election.

All of this raises questions about the practice and ethics of outing someone previously closeted. Is it justifiable if the person had an antigay voting record, like Ashburn and the ‘bobblefooted’ Idaho federal Senator Larry Craig, arrested for allegedly ’soliciting’ public sex in an airport lavatory? What about the right to privacy in this context? And what about other aspects of someone’s life, like undisclosed or extreme fundamentalist Christian religious views?

Recommended:

Larry Gross: Contested Closets: The Politics and Ethics of Outing: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 1993.

Senator Ashburn’s Voting Record: http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=9694

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

3rd March 2010

Autoerotic Asphyxiation: Cause for Caution?

Posted by: Craig Young

Initial circumstantial evidence tentatively  suggested that it was possible that young gay BBC presenter Kristian Digby (32) died as a result of accidental autoerotic asphyxiation, although later findings suggested an ‘inconclusive’ result. However, what is this fetish/paraphilia?

Autoerotic asphyxiation is a paraphilia, listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV. It is involved in extreme BDSM play, in which carotid artery compression may result in ‘pleasurable’ sensations, hallucinations and intensified orgasm, derived from lack of oxygen inflow to the brain and cumulative carbon dioxide buildup. It has been known to exist for the last four centuries, as an extrapolation from postmortem tumescence on male corpses after hanging. Hanging, ligature abuse, gas or volatile solvent overdose, chest compression and other methods carry considerable risks. Each year, there are an estimated 250 to 1000 fatalities from this cause in the United States, Scandinavia and Germany.

Most casualties of autoerotic asphyxiation are male, and it usually occurs amongst men in their mid-twenties although, tragically, teenagers and some men over seventy have also died from cases of autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong. Before Kristian’s tragic death, one other prominent British case involved Stephen Milligan (1949-1994), Conservative MP for Eastleigh.

Recommended:

Sergey Sheleg and Edwin Ehrlich (ed) Autoerotic Asphyxiation: Forensic, Medical and Social Aspects: Tucson: Wheatmark: 2006.

Stephen Milligan: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/dates/stories/february/8/newsid=2538000/2538165.stm

→ No CommentsTags: Politics

3rd March 2010

Canada: HIV Criminalisation and Criminal Law LGBT Workshops

Posted by: Craig Young

Unfortunately, in the case of HIV transmission criminalisation, there’s evidence of a backlash. In 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada found that non-disclosure of HIV status and unprotected sex could open one to charges of aggravated assault. Since then, several HIV+ people have been charged with serious offences, including the aforementioned and even ‘murder.’

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange are providing forums and intervening in related litigation, hoping to insure that any such charges are moderated by evidence-based medical and scientific criteria.

While deliberate unprotected sex is reprehensible, HIV- men also need to face their own sexual irresponsibility in this context, and creeping criminalisation also interferes with prevention programmes.

Recommended:

Kevin Allen: “Forums on HIV Disclosure Underway Across Canada” Xtra: 01.03.10: http://www.xtra.ca/public/printStory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=1&STORY_ID=8309

HIV/AIDS Legal Network: http://www.aidslaw.ca

Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange:
http://www.catie.ca

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics

28th February 2010

Review:Alix Strauss: Death Becomes Them (2009)

Posted by: Craig Young

Alix Strauss: Death Becomes Them: New York: HarperCollins: 2009.

This book deals with the suicides of brilliant, famous or notorious celebrities…some of whom were lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Gay male youth suicide was a major concern in the New Zealand context, prompting the development of LGBT youth groups and active pursuit of inclusive school antibullying policies, resulting in a reduction in recent years. However, unlike Strauss, I don’t intend to go into excruciating detail about the methods used, so as not to provide unwanted information to those in a vulnerable state.

Celebrity suicides are particularly poignant due to the fact of past or present achievement and the sense of foregone wasted potential, coupled with the undoubted psychological stresses of fame, public visibility and absence of privacy. As for suicides per se, they are often the result of undiagnosed or treatment-resistant depression and/or bipolar disorder…and ’self-medication’ through alcohol and drug abuse. When someone reaches their psychological threshold of stressor tolerance, has access to instruments or methods of suicide readily at their disposal and experiences extreme agitation, as well as perceived exclusion and aversion to ‘burdening’ others, then suicide risks may be high.

Who kills themselves? Men often use firearms, while women cut themselves or overdose. Divorced men, older men, people in poor health, recently bereaved individuals and city dwellers all manifest elevated risk, while obese men, pregnant women and parents are least likely to end their own lives. Some plan their ends and write suicide notes as testimonials and explanations, while others do it spontaneously.

What about specific lesbian, gay and bisexual cases? Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is one of the most poignant examples. She was unfortunate enough to be born into a family that was genetically susceptible to depression and bipolar disorder and her experiences of sibling child sexual abuse didn’t assist matters. She lived with bipolar disorder and despite the devotion of her husband, Leonard Woolf and lover Vita Sackville-West, finally ended her life in 1941, convinced that the Nazis would invade Great Britain and take away Leonard, of Jewish descent. To avoid this scenario, she drowned herself.

Socrates (469-399 BC) used hemlock after the Athenian tyranny charged him with treason and the corruption of youth. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) had a heart attack, but her alcohol and drug dependency may have contributed to that end. Hart Crane (1899-1931) was gay, alcoholic and had just been gaybashed after making an unsuccessful pass at one of the sailors on the SS Orizba, bound from Mexico to New York. He drowned himself too. Robert Stewart (Viscount Castlereagh) (1769-1822) slashed his wrists in the bath after a male sex worker expose threatened to end his political career, added to his overall unpopularity.

Alan Turing (1912-1954) ended his own life after shameful mistreatment at the hands of the British state. Despite his pioneering role in cryptography and the development of information technology, his affair with burglar Arnold Murray (19) led to a sentence of chemical castration and his subsequent suicide. In 2009, current UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a public apology for that sequence of events.

Kenneth Halliwell (1926-1987) has some posthumous detractors within and outside the gay community. He is seen as the conservative failed older queen who couldn’t take the promiscuity and fame of Joe Orton, his lover. He murdered Orton in his Islington flat and then took a pill overdose. Simon Shepherd disagrees with this prognosis and has tried to rehabilitate Halliwell.

Thankfully, Drew Barrymore, Elton John and Greg Louganis’ suicide attempts all failed.

See also:

Vanessa Curtis: Virginia Woolf’s Women: Madison: University of Wisconsin Press: 2002.

Simon Shepherd: Because We’re Queers: The Lives of Joe Orton and Kenneth Hallliwell: London: Gay Men’s Press: 1989.

→ No CommentsTags: General

26th February 2010

LGBT Rights and Animal Politics

Posted by: Craig Young

Recently, Sydney Mardi Gras blocked an Animal Liberation New South Wales float from parade participation. What is the connection between the LGBT and animal rights movements?

yay.jpgFor the first generation of nineteenth century lesbian and gay activists, their utopian socialist morality combined sexual freedom, communitarian socialism, green politics, anti-imperialism, pacifism and womens suffrage…alongside ethical vegetarianism and animal rights politics. One such exemplary figure was Edward Carpenter, the nineteenth century Sheffield  gay utopian socialist author and activist.

Marxism gained ascendancy within socialist politics, refocusing it on class inequality, industrial relations and trade union militancy, though, relegating sexual freedom and animal welfare to liberal legislative reformists for most of the twentieth century, until the rise of the sixties New Left, which resurrected antiwar politics, feminism, ethnic minority civil rights and liberationist politics, socialist and anarchist militancy, LGBT rights…and a newly assertive animal liberation politics, especially after Australian philosopher Peter Singer wrote Animal Liberation in 1976. Apart from ethical vegetarianism, factory farming and consumer product testing, medical and scientific animal experimentation became one primary focus of the new movement.The animal rights movement varies from sedate animal anti-cruelty rescue providers to antiwhaling activist advocates of direct action to some instances of violence, harrassment and intimidation directed against scientists involved in animal experimentation. And therein lies the rub for many otherwise supportive LGBT folk.

How can we be sure that protease inhibitors, anticancer medication and gender reassignment drug testing weren’t tested on animals first? In this instance, then, LGBT human rights need to come first, particularly if it involves our community’s most vulnerable members- LGBT people with life-threatening illnesses and transitioning trans people. Granted, factory farming, endangered species advocacy and domestic companion animal/pet anticruelty legislation are subject to widespread public support and probably number substantial LGBT individuals amongst that population. Some animal experimentation is neccessary, but some animal causes can and should command support from amenable members of our community. However, for obvious reasons, I cannot ethically adopt an absolutist position that calls for an end to all animal experimentation and I unequivocally condemn ‘animal rights’ terrorism moreover.

Recommended:

Sheila Rowbotham: Edward Carpenter: London: Verso: 2008.

Peter Singer: Animal Liberation: New York: Avon: 1976.

Bruce Bagemihl: Biological Exuberance: New York: St Martins Press: 1999.

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics