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Posts for March, 2010

UK Scouts Condemn Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

March 1st, 2010
Uganda's top scout: MP David Bahati is honored during an East African scouting conference in Kampala. (Click to enlarge)

Uganda's top scout: MP David Bahati is honored during an East African scouting conference in Kampala. (Click to enlarge)

On first blush, that’s doesn’t look like a headline that would strike fear in the hearts of those who support Uganda’s proposed “kill the gays” bill, but there is an important angle to it. Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, sponsor of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also happens to be chairman of Uganda’s Scouts Board.

According to a press release from UK LGBT advocate Peter Tatchell, the Chief Executive of the Scout Association UK, Derek Twine, has condemned the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill as “discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, [and] completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.” Twine continues:

We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee.”

Tatchell adds:

“Scouting is very big in Uganda and Mr Bahati derives great prestige from his position as Chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda. If we can get him removed from office it will be a significant personal blow to him. He’ll be weakened and his credibility undermined.

“OutRage! is urging the disaffiliation of the Ugandan scout organisation from the world scouting movement, as a way of adding further pressure on the Ugandan government to drop the Bill. Our request for disaffiliation was immediately forwarded by the Scout Association UK to the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Geneva.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

BBC Faces Furor in UK’s Parliament

Jim Burroway

January 4th, 2010

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British newspapers are reporting that the BBC is facing mounting criticism in the UK’s Parliament over an online poll which asked, “Should homosexuals face execution?” The online forum elicited 206 published comments before it was closed.

Labour’s Eric Joyce, who told MPs about the online forum, said he was “completely mystified” as to why it had been set up. “We should be looking at what is going on in Uganda with abhorrence,” he said. “The BBC are probably thinking they are communicating with people in Africa. As it happens, everyone who has replied comes from somewhere else.”

Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem youth and equality spokesman, said: “Suggesting the state-sponsored murder of gay people is OK as a legitimate topic for debate is deeply offensive. The BBC are only fanning the flames of hatred. They must act and apologise for their gross insensitivity.’

The debate was published by the World Service Africa Have Your Say forum, which is part of the BBC’s main news website. Its editor David Stead last night insisted he had thought long and hard about posing the question.

Well, as long as they thought long and hard about it, I guess that makes it all okay then. Incredibly, despite the worldwide outcry a BBC spokesman claimed that it had not yet received an official complaint about the question.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

BBC: “Should Homosexuals Face Execution?”

Jim Burroway

December 16th, 2009
Screen capture of the BBC web site, via Pink News (click to enlarge)

Screen capture of the BBC web site, via Pink News (click to enlarge)

It’s hard to imagine any reputable news outlet posing such a question, but that’s what the BBC asked in an online “Have Your Say” forum late yesterday. And to make matters worse, BBC’s editors have defended the decision.

But in response to the furor the the question sparked on Twitter, the internet, and among the forums own respondents, BBC’s editors have since changed the question. It now reads “Should Uganda debate gay execution?” The forum is now closed for comments, but from the outrage expressed by many respondents, it appears that virtually all of them were responding to the original question, “Should homosexuals face execution?”

Most of the comments appear to be a resounding “no!” But there are a few along the lines of this one, from “NF” of Alberta, Canada:

Can I move to Uganda? At least one country in the world is taking moral values seriously (as well as the health of their citizens). It may sound extreme, but that shock value will allow more people to think about their actions beforehand.

And another one from Freetown (no country given):

Bravo to the Ugandians for this wise decision, a bright step in eliminating this menace from your society. We hope other African nations will also follow your bold step.

Next question: Should Kosovars be rounded up an shot?

UK PM Gordon Brown Denounces Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2009

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reportedly met with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place this weekend at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. According to The Telegraph, Brown met one-on-one with Museveni and denounced the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act which is now before Uganda’s Parliament. No details of the conversation were provided, but an unnamed Downing Street source said in a typically understated British fashion, “The Prime Minister did raise it and you can take it that he was not supportive of the idea.”

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

A True Hero Gets an Apology

Timothy Kincaid

September 10th, 2009

TuringThere are not many people who have changed the course of political history or impacted the day to day lives of nearly every person on the planet. Alan Mathison Turing did both.

In 1936, two years out of college, Turing presented the paper, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. In this, he proposed that a machine could perform mathematical computations if presented as an algorithm. These Turing Machines (in practice, theoretical) were programmable and could replicate the function of any other machine.

During the Second World War, the German superpower communicated by means of an encryption device call the Enigma. With British and other allied sources unable to decrypt communications, Germany was free to engage in warfare that was immediate and reactive.

England found it essential that these codes be conquered and turned to Turing. Turing and his associates at the Government Code and Cypher School created a series of machines that were about to intercept and decrypt Germany’s military messages, an endeavor that was incalculably valuable. Turing even traveled the the United States to work with U.S. Navy cryptanalysts and to assist with the development of secure speech devices.

It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war.

After the war, Turing returned his attention to computing. He extrapolated on his earlier work, presenting papers on how to create a programmable machine – or computer – and on artificial intelligence, among other contributions.

So influential was Turing to your ability to read what I’m writing that he is considered by many to be the father of modern computer science. And the most prestigious award given to contributions to computer science is the A.M. Turing Award.

An appreciative world should have thrown flowers at his feet. But Turing had a flaw that 1950′s western civilization could not find forgivable. Turing was gay.

In January 1952, Turing met a charming young man, Arnold Murray. Murray accepted an invitation to stay the night at Turing’s home, but he had other than amorous motives. During the night, he let in an accomplice to rob the place.

When Turing reported the incident to the police, the investigation revealed that Turing and Murray had a sexual encounter. This being illegal, Turing was convicted under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.

England found that it’s appreciation for his war efforts on its behalf was far less compelling than its disapproval of his orientation. So his government gave Turing a choice, imprisonment or chemical castration.

After two years of oestrogen hormone injections, during which Turing grew breasts, he ended his life at age 42. And one of the greatest mathematical minds that the world has known ceased to contribute to society.

Today the United Kingdom has apologized.

In an article in the Telegraph, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has penned a tribute to Turing and expressed regret on behalf of the nation.

While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time, and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair, and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted, as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly. Over the years, millions more lived in fear in conviction.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work, I am very proud to say: we’re sorry. You deserved so much better.

Yes. He did.

Read Gordon Brown’s full statement after the jump

British Quakers Request Religious Freedom to Support Marriage Equality

Timothy Kincaid

July 31st, 2009

The National Organization for Marriage is right. Gay marriage IS a religious freedom issue. They’ve just identified the wrong party as victim.

Currently in the US, and much of the Western World, there are churches that devoutly believe that their faith calls for same-sex couples to enter into marriage, protected by family, conducted by church, and supported by state. Other churches do not think that chruch or state should recognize same-sex marriages.

Governments have taken sides.

They have declared that because some churches don’t wish to sanctify marriages, that therefore the state will not recognize the marriages conducted by other churches. Even the most casual glance will reveal that behind every argument against marriage equality is one theme, an argument that is never absent and which never takes a back seat to any secular claims: “I demand that the state endorse and enforce my anti-gay religious beliefs about marriage.”

Any rational person will see this for what it is: state sponsored religious preference of one church over another. In the restriction of marriage equality, it is not only same-sex couples who have lost their rights; churches have as well. But, for a number of reasons, this is seldom a part of the argument.

Now the Quakers (the Society of Friends) in Britain are highlighting this injustice. (BBC)

One of the UK’s oldest Christian denominations – the Quakers – looks set to extend marriage services to same-sex couples at their yearly meeting later.

The society has already held religious blessings for same-sex couples who have had a civil partnership ceremony.

But agreeing to perform gay marriages, which are currently not allowed under civil law, could bring the Quakers into conflict with the government.

In the UK, same-sex civil partnerships are called “marriages” in the press and in conversation, but there is one very peculiar restriction that sets these unions apart from truly being marriages: churches are barred from conducting marriage civil partnerships or allowing them on their premises. Civil Unions must be held in a civic space like a hall and there can be no religious component.

This is not acceptable to Quakers.

The Quakers – also known as The Religious Society of Friends – are likely to reach consensus on the issue of gay marriage without a vote at their annual gathering in York on Friday.

They will also formally ask the government to change the law to allow gay people to marry.

Often those who oppose equality speak in aggreived tones of a need to protect religious freedom. It will be interesting to see how anti-gay activists respond to this plea by devout Christians for a right to practice their faith.

UK Catholic Bishops Instruct Priests Not To Offend Gays

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2008

New instructions from UK Roman Catholic Biships:

Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using ‘heterosexist’ language in their churches in case they offend gay worshipers. They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this ‘in language and conversation’. ‘Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful – a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain,’ say the bishops in a leaflet advising priests and worshippers how to be more welcoming to gay people.

I think maybe they need to address these instructions to some of the guys at the top.

UK’s Gay Divorce Rate: 1%

Jim Burroway

August 7th, 2008

This is based only on a couple of years’ worth of data, so it’s hard to know if this is significant. But according to Pink News:

Between December 2005, when gay and lesbian couples gained the legal right to formalise their relationships, and December 2007, there were 24,629 civil partnerships in England and Wales. Couples have to wait at least a year before they can apply for a dissolution of their partnership. Her Majesty’s Court Service told PinkNews.co.uk that between December 2006 to 28th July 2008, there have been just 245 petitions for a dissolution.

According to Pink News, some of those disolution figures may include unions, marriages or partnerships entered into overseas and dissolved by the courts in England and Wales. There are no comparable figures for heterosexual divorce, although the report suggests that somewhere under a quarter of all marriages end in divorce in the first ten years.

Marriage Rights Around the World

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008

The following countries offer some form of recognition to same-sex couples:

Marriage

Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, United States (Massachusetts, California)

Civil Unions

New Zealand, Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rio Negro), Mexico (Coahuila), Uruguay, United States (Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey)

Registered Partnership or Domestic Partnership

Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, , Slovenia, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy (City of Padua), Switzerland, Hungary, Australia (Tasmania), United States (Maine, Washington, Oregon)

Other Methods of Limited Recognition

France (PACS), Germany (Life Partnership), Croatia (Law of Same-Sex Relationships), Andorra (Stable Union of a Couple), Mexico (Mexico City – PACS), Colombia (Common-law marriage inheritance rights), Israel (Limited recognition of foreign legal arrangements), United States (Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits; New York – recognition of out-of-state legal marriages)

Although recognition is in a rapid state of change, this is my best understanding of the current rights provided. Several nations are in the process of adding or revising recognition.

A Holocaust Revisionist Speaks To Racists

Jim Burroway

November 8th, 2007

Ex-Gay Watch’s David Rattigan noticed that discredited anti-gay “researcher” and holocaust revisionist Paul Cameron was a guest speaker at a Christian Council of Britain meeting in London on October 26. According to Rattigan, Cameron brought up his most recent claim that homosexuals are responsible for 29 percent of child rapes and murders. While the CCB is little known on this side of the Pond, they have a virulently nationalistic and racist reputation throughout the United Kingdom. Just take a look at section 5 (“The gift of race and nation”) of the CCB’s constitution:

The Christian Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland therefore resolved to recognise the godly importance of race and nation as groups based on this historical and providential process of objective descent: giving rise to different organically-formed communities; sharing and passing-on common genetically inherited (physical, intellectual and character) features, together with cultures, mores, relationships, loyalties, memories, and identities-in-common; and ultimately – by the will of God – national homelands, where an ongoing connection between land and people has developed, and can be encouraged and preserved.

Rev. Robert West heads the CCB, which grew out of the ultra-nationalist British National Party (BNP). In one interview, West complained about the immigration situation in Britain:

“If we are to exist as nations then we are to have our own national homelands. In our own national homelands in which our own identity has priority. The BNP doesnít want the British people to be homeless. Each race should have its own space.”

“The mixing of races challenges the glory of God” he said.

That’s some mighty fine company Cameron’s been keeping lately.

Reorientation, Old School Style

Timothy Kincaid

September 27th, 2007

peteprice.gifPete Price is a radio personality in the UK. The Liverpool Echo has an extract of his autobiography Pete Price is a Namedropper. Price describes some of the methods used on him to cure his homosexuality:

In the morning I was shown into a windowless room with a male nurse. A crate of Guinness arrived, and I was given a stack of dirty magazines showing body builders – not the sort of thing that would have turned me on in a million years.

The nurse started playing the tape of my conversation. I sat and listened, flicking through the books with a pint, not knowing what the hell was going on.

Then he gave me an injection and suddenly I started feeling sick.

“I think I’m going to vomit!” I yelled out. “I need a basin.”

The doctor smiled. “Then be sick.”

“I think I’m going to go to the toilet.”

“Just do it on the bed.”

I screamed: “You’re joking.”

All the while the tape of the doctor’s questions was playing in the background, over and over: “What you do is disgusting.”

It continued for 72 hours – the drink, the injections, the vomiting and excrement – hour after hour.

All I could think was that I wasn’t going to get out alive.

When it ended, I lay there sobbing, the doctor came in.

“Now you’ve got to have the electrodes … ” he said.

That’s just a little something to think about whenever anti-gays start missing the good ol’ days of “homosexuality is an illness”.

British Tourism Agency Changes Message

Jim Burroway

July 30th, 2007

VisitBritain is changing how they are marketing the United Kingdom to gay Americans:

Gays and lesbians eyeing travel ads for Great Britain aren’t seeing muscular male models flexing their pecs promoting hot times in the UK this year. Instead, the ads show a gay couple walking hand-in-hand along a beach, a lesbian couple with a child looking at Buckingham Palace, Palace guards dressed in the rainbow colors, and pictures of the London Flower Show.

VisitBritain, the government financed tourism agency, says the change reflects the way the American gay community now sees itself – more family oriented.

VisitBritan noticed that the old sexy, circuit-party ads weren’t working anymore, so they conducted focus groups of gay Americans. And they were surprised to learn that Americans were offended by the assumption that all they were interested in was sex. It turns out that popular draws weren’t circuit parties, but the Chelsea Flower Show, the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh and the Crufts Dog show in Birmingham. Surprised? Me neither.

Hat tip: AntiDogma.

Briefly Noted

Jim Burroway

July 31st, 2006

They were against it before they were for it. Time is not on my side, not for any prolonged writing pleasures anyway. So let’s try this out as a new feature between features.

Pink News Gets It Even More Wrong

Jim Burroway

July 15th, 2006

An update to an earlier post The Advocate Gets It Wrong

A tip from a reader (Thanks Jeffery!) led me to this article from London-based Pink News, which breathlessly exclaims:

Up to 20 per cent of gay men have tried crystal meth

Research published today by City University, London has found that up to twenty ten [sic] per cent of gay men in London have tried the clubbing drug crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth). Of these men, most use it only infrequently.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! And what’s with the “twenty ten per cent”? Did the article originally read “ten per cent” and someone decide it needed punching up?

I expect this from Paul Cameron, Melissa Fryrear and others like them. (And I fully expect the anti-gay press to pick up on this very soon.) But when I set out to counter the misrepresentation of research by anti-gay activists, I certainly didn’t expect to see the same thing coming from the gay press. I am pulling out what little remains of my hair here.

So, where does the 20% figure come from? It comes from an even smaller sample from that same study’s convenience samples we talked about before — gay men who attend selected gyms in central London. I’m not familiar with the gym scene in central London, but these researchers appear to conclude that the gym scene is closely related to the club scene. I don’t know about the gym venues surveyed to know if this connection is real.

But for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that the connection is there. If so, it still doesn’t mean that this sub-sample of a sub-sample is representative of gay men in London overall. To say that one in five London Men have used meth, even infrequently, blasts right through credulity and proceeds straight to ludicrous.

And how do we know this? Other London-area researchers have looked into exactly this issue. They compared survey responses from a national probability sample (The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, or Natsal) and a “community sample” from London drawn from gay bars, clubs, saunas and STD clinics (The Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey, or GMSHS). Here is what they found:

These results show that the Natsal London men recruited by a probability sample were less likely to report STIs [STI in UK=STD in North America – ed.], GUM clinic attendance [GUM=Genitourinary Medicine, the British term for STD clinics - ed], or HIV testing than GMSHS men recruited from gay venues…

It is important to consider the appropriate sampling frame for a particular set of research questions. … Our findings suggest that focusing on a community sample of MSM [Men who have sex with men – ed.] is likely to result in an overestimate in the prevalence of sexual risk behaviour and sexual health outcomes with respect to all MSMs in Britain.

– Ref: Dodds, Julie P.; Mercer, Catherine H.; Mercey, Danielle E.; Copas, Andrew J.; Johnson, Anne M. “Men who have sex with men: A comparison of a probability sample survey and a community based study.” Sexually Transmitted Infections 82, no. 1 (February 2006): 86-87. Abstract available here.

Crystal meth is serious business. Because meth users are at least twice as likely to engage in unsafe sex, studies like this one are exceptionally important to understand how we can better target educational and prevention programs. And we can better target these programs when we know where we can find these high-risk groups. Professor Jonathan Elford, one of the authors of the study, noted:

What is clear from the research in the gyms is that crystal meth is a part of the London gay club-drug scene. Health promotion and awareness campaigns around crystal meth must therefore focus on the gay club scene to have maximum impact.

And Will Nutland, Head of Health Promotion at Britain’s Terrence Higgins Trust, added:

This research adds to the growing understanding of crystal meth use among gay men in London and helps to ensure that our educational responses are properly grounded in evidence.

That’s why we do these studies — to provide intelligent responses to a serious problem, not to provide headline writers with sexy headlines.

To learn more about convenience samples, see The Survey Says… What Everyone Should Know About Statistics. You can also see how the Washington Times started an urban myth in What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples.

The Advocate Gets It Wrong

Jim Burroway

July 12th, 2006

The Advocate just posted this news item:

Approximately 10% of gay men in London have used the recreational drug methamphetamine, according to a study published in the online edition of the journal Addiction.

Well, er, no. It’s bad enough when anti-gay extremists get research wrong to portray gays as drug-fueled sex fiends. We don’t need our own media outlets feeding the myths.

It appears that neither The Advocate nor Sirius OutQ (which originated the story) read the abstract to that article very closely:

Participants HIV-positive gay men attending the HIV treatment clinic in 2002–03 (n = 388); HIV-negative gay men attending the HIV testing/sexual health clinics in 2002–03 (n = 266); gay men using the gyms between January and March 2003 (n = 445), 2004 (n = 653) and 2005 (n = 494).

Conclusion Among gay men in London surveyed in clinics, approximately one in 10 reported using crystal meth in the previous 12 months (HIV-positive men 12.6%; HIV-negative men 8.3%).

That’s right. The 10% statistic came from men surveyed at HIV/STD clinics. So what does that prove? Only that 10% of gay men surveyed in HIV/STD clinics used crystal meth. That’s it. Nothing else. It is not generalizable to gay men across London or anywhere else. It applies only to gay men at HIV/STD clinics. In London. Crystal meth usage may be different elsewhere.

This study is based on what’s called a convenience sample — an easy-to-access group of people recruited to test a particular hypothesis. This is a perfectly legitimate means of studying simple correlations. But it is by no means a general population survey, and the authors did not intend for it to be cited as such.

This is not to say that men who take the responsible step of getting tested should fall under the suspicion of being drug users. But the only thing this study can possibly demonstrate is that when targeting intervention programs for crystal meth users among the gay population in London, one place to look might be in HIV/STD clinics. But even there, only one in ten are likely to be users. (I’ll have to get the article’s full text from the library to know the nature of the “gyms.”)

Anti-gay extremists often misrepresent research to claim that a given survey represents everyone regardless of how the survey was put together. And when they turn to studies based on STD clinics, they obtain some pretty out-of-whack statistics (which is why STD population-based studies are especially popular with that crowd.) But when the media does it (and especially our own) it is downright irresponsible and outrageous.

Ten percent would be a large chuck of gay men using crystal meth. One in ten — look around and consider that possibility. This would be big news. But to use this study to say that 10% of all London gay men are meth users is simply wrong, not to mention slanderous to the men of London. Give us — and especially our gay friends in London — a break.

UPDATE: To learn about other research which proves this study cannot be extrapolated to the general male population in London, see our response to an even more eggregious misrepresentation of this study in Pink News Gets It Even More Wrong.

To learn more about convenience samples, see The Survey Says… What Everyone Should Know About Statistics. You can also see how the Washington Times started an urban myth in What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples.

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