Riga Pride 2008 “Diversity Unifies”

This year the Friendship Days event will take place from May 30 until June 1.  The march will take place on May 31.  In addition to the march, the programme of events is to discuss a political discussion about diversity and competitiveness, an LGBT film screening, an art exhibition, and a rainbow ball.  At this time, 100 employees of the international human rights organisation Amnesty International from various countries have confirmed their participation.  Other foreign guests are also expected.

“We are sure that this year the Friendship Days event will be more successful than in previous years, because our range of supporters has expanded from year to year, and increasing numbers of people are prepared to demand equal rights for all of Latvia’s residents,” says Mozaika board chairwoman Linda Freimane.

Kristine Garina, organiser of the Friendship Days event and a member of the Mozaika board:  “I very much hope that this year, like last year, we will not have any problem in organising the march.  We hope for good co-operation with the police, and we hope that aggressive groups and members of sects will have come to understand that there is no point to their protests.”

This is the third year that the LGBT organisation Mozaika is organising Friendship Days.  In 2006 the City Council banned the march.  Mozaika appealed the decision, and on November 15, 2007, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Latvian Supreme Court Senate found that the Council’s decision was unlawful.  Last summer the Friendship Days march took place in the Vermanes Garden park in Riga, and some 700 people took part.

For more information: http://www.mozaika.lv

Petition against Homophobia in Russia

After an attack on Member of European Parliament (MEP) Sophie in ‘t Veld, the Jonge Democraten (Young Democrats of the Netherlands) decided to start an online petition against homophobia in Russia (and the EU!).

During a demonstration in Moscow, in ‘t Veld and her bystanders were attacked by a Nazi carrying a knife. During the demonstration, organizers were arrested as well as some MEP. The police did nothing against the perpetrators.

Stop hate crime, start human rights!

Sign the petition at: http://www.jongedemocraten.nl/petition

Children, sexual identity and orientation

Do these this fit together? If you do not want to stick to the level of personal points of view and polemic, you have to do at first what science always does: You define your subject. If a children and youth organisation like the IFM-SEI talks about children it refers to the UN Convention on the rights of the child. In this convention all young people from the age of 0 to 18 years are defined as children. Organisations like they are organised in the IFM-SEI have their membership in this age range. Knowing that pre-puberty starts between 8 and 10 years and puberty sometimes takes until 18 years you clearly see that the age group we are talking about is included in this age range.

During your puberty you have not only to face your physical changes, to discover your sexuality, but also to ask your self questions about your own personality. You start to define yourself apart from your parents and to create your own identity. Moments of change often create feelings of insecurity. And as an important part of learning is learning by copying and adapting other peoples patterns young people feel even more insecure when they detect that these patterns may not fit. So far there is usually not much disagreement in educational discussions. The disagreements begin when we ask what is the role of an children organisation. What do we want to achieve?

The easy way is to say sexuality is an issue to be tackled by the parents or the school. There are many reason why young people are lacking of continuous relationships with adult persons. It can be the number of sibling, the fact that both parents work, the divorce of parents, not functioning patchwork families, the loss of parents and so on. Sometimes teachers take over this role or peers. But where regular children groups exist group leaders play very often this part. Continuous relations are essential for a young persons life. And if a young person needs support the most e.g. if they live in a homophobic society and discover their homosexuality, this relation is even more needed. And it is a serious breach of trust if in such a situation a group leader would let the young person down.

The conservative answer is to say no matter how the kids are feeling and thinking, we tell them how to fit in the mainstream society. They have to understand that there is only one way of life and that is to follow and respect our old cultural customs. The earlier you understand this lesson the better.

The challenging and progressive answer is to empower children. The first step is to recognise sexuality as a normal aspect of life. It is neither the only driving force in life nor the dark side you unfortunately can’t avoid. It means to stand against the sexualisation of public space like we see it in Western media on the one side and the daemonisation of sexuality done by many – at least the monotheistic – religions. If we want to empower children and young people this has to cover all questions of life. Furthermore, if we want to teach respect to plurality and the individuality of human beings this has to include the sexual identity and orientation. You can’t be in all political questions a socialist but concerning sexuality you a conservative. That’s like being a little bit pregnant.

For children and youth organisation this means to educate for diversity. The diversity of human beings covers many aspects such as individual patterns, ethnic background, gender, class etc. but also sexual identity and orientation. Children must experience from the earliest childhood that diversity exists and that these diverse people – at least for us socialists – are equal. We owe them all the same respect, the same right and the same opportunities in life. These experiences will show them that however they are, whatever they feel, there is no reason to be afraid. They always will be welcome and supported and can address their questions. There is nothing to feel ashamed about.

Some people will say now but how should I answer all the questions and support children and young people being gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender etc. if I am heterosexual and I have no experiences with “those” people? The main need is not that you can answer all questions. The main need is to have someone to talk to. It is to teach don’t pretend to be someone else than you are because you are afraid. We accept you as you are and you always have your place amongst us. To back up young people in a difficult time of life helps them to go their own way and to become strong personalities no matter whatever their sexual identity and orientation is. To quote an old say, that is the way to create “a society of the free and equal.”

 

Uwe Ostendorff

Uwe Ostendorff

So, to summarise, if we as socialist educational organisations want to be reliable when we talk about equality, we have to implement this principle for all our members and to teach diversity from the earliest childhood, including all aspects of life, means including also sexuality.

Uwe Ostendorff

Uwe Ostendorff was until May 2007 Secretary General of the IFM-SEI and he is a member of the Institute for Sexual-Pedagogics (ISP), Dortmund.

International Day against Homophobia

As the world celebrates the International Day against Homophobia, we cannot but be compelled to re-strengthen our networks and to prepare for the battles against hatred that must be fought. Our Intergroup, composed of MEPs from nearly all of the political families within the European Parliament, intends to remain a dependable partner. We welcome IDAHO and hope that many of you will celebrate in your local communities this important day on our calendar.

The Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights participated in ECOSY’s Queer Easter this year. In doing so, we have established a dialogue that we hope will continue to yield results. We wanted to thank socialist young people for all of their hard work supporting gay and lesbian rights this year. Your efforts and your support of our campaign to combat the social exclusion of LGBT young people are most appreciated. Whilst the written declaration on combating homophobic bullying did not receive the support of more than half of MEPs, the 239 signatures that we did receive sends a strong signal that there are many MEPs who supported our shared view on the issue.

Last month, the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights welcomed the news that the European Parliament had adopted a new resolution on homophobia in Europe. In it, references to homophobic bullying were brought in thanks to tabled amendments from the Intergroup officers. The resolution passed with a clear majority as a result of a coalition of Green, Liberal, and Socialist members of European Parliament who first acted to make sure the debate would not be silenced by nationalist and conservative manoeuvres, and second who voted in favour of the text.

The resolution adopted called for IDAHO to be recognised each year by the European Parliament. We have tabled a request that President Poettering make a statement on this day. This would be a historic first; the European Parliament would become the first European institution to have adopted a legal text with a clear call for the continual celebration of IDAHO. The Intergroup will remain vigilent to ensure that what we’ve agreed within the House will become reality.

As always, there is much to be proud of – since the first Gay Prides, the journey towards full equality for the LGBT community has continually moved forward. In some EU Member States, legal equality has been acquired. As we celebrate IDAHO, we must remain vigilant to make sure that these landmark achievements are not reversed. We must remain vigilant and supportive of our fellow LGBT activists who still have a long journey ahead before they acquire what so many member states of Western Europe have achieved.

 

Michael Cashman

Michael Cashman

We are now preparing for Pride Season 2007 – we look forward to standing side by side with all you during these celebrations. As the continuing success of IDAHO shows, there is a need for such events, there is a need for continued vigilance, there is still a need for us to work on achieving equal rights for all minorities..

Michael Cashman MEP

Michael Cashman MEP is President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights

These boots are made for walking

Solidarity is what being a Social Democratic member of the European Parliament is all about. Last year I walked in the Gay Pride in Warsaw to show my solidarity with the people defending gay rights in Poland, this year I walked in a march in The Netherlands to show my solidarity with the upcoming Prides in Riga and Warsaw. Our destination was the Polish embassy in The Netherlands, for what turned out to be a disappointing meeting.

The march itself, organised by Amnesty International and including Dutch gay rights organization COC, was a success. The disappointment came when we spoke to the Polish interim ambassador. Of course, he said, a government should not be homophobic. But in Poland, it wasn´t the government, but individual members of the government who made homophobic remarks. And they did so because some parts of the Polish population were sometimes homophobic, so really it wasn’t the fault of the government, or so the ambassador claimed.

A government hiding behind its people, a government hiding behind its ministers is simply unacceptable. The government should take the lead in combating discrimination and hatred, not in condoning and inciting it. The Polish government should wake up to its responsibilities, or be woken up by the alarm clocks going off all over Europe. The European Court of Human Rights recently set off one such alarm, condemning the ban on Warsaw Prides of the past. The European Parliament set off another, condemning homophobia in several resolutions.

 

Emine Bozkurt

Emine Bozkurt

But the time for words has come and gone. To get the Polish government to change its ways soon, action is required, from European politicians as well as from citizens. That is why I marched in the solidarity march. And that is why I call on all European citizens to put on their marching boots and walk for human rights of gays, lesbians and transgender people. These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do!

Emine Bozkurt MEP

Emine Bozkurt MEP is Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup

closeted homophobia in the USA

What is worse: America’s highest-ranking military officer openly expressing his homophobic views or the fact that he actually holds them?

When asked to his position on the Pentagon “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, speaking with the Chicago Tribune editorial board, offered his personal opinion on the morality of homosexuality and said it was “akin to adultery”.

We would expect a top ranking official not to be openly homophobic. If one holds that homosexuality is immoral, as the general does, they should keep this to themselves, following logic of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – we don’t ask you for your opinions on gay people and you shouldn’t voluntarily offer them. Accordingly, a homophobe can be a general in the US army, but preferably only a closeted homophobe.

Gen. Pace made his judgement on his free will. The editorial board did not inquire what the general thinks or does in private but for his opinion on the army’s policy about blocking gays to serve in the armed forces. Yet the general chose to come out of the closet of homophobes. Later on, the general apologised for “coming out”, not for what he actually thinks: “I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views.” If he were an openlygay soldier ‘an apology’ for homosexual sexual practice would amount to admitting his wrongdoing and would suffice to strip him of his ranks, but the general has earned his starts to be allowed a second chance; a second chance not to change his mind, only to come in the closet again. Ironically, this corresponds to gay-rights advocacy groups’ demands – they asked for an apology, never for his resignation.

Admittedly, closeted homophobia does not disqualify people for top positions. In the 2004 presidential debate President Bush and Senator Kerry were asked: “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?” This wording does not concern the candidates’ political stands on gay rights – both opposed gay marriage – but their sets of believes or rather how they position themselves regarding those in the homophobia closet. President Bush, hardly the hero of the gay community, understood this well and had to start off apologetically “I do know that we have a choice to make in America and that is to treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity,” before moving on to outline his support for the marriage amendment. The President did not want to “out” himself as a homophobe before the elections.

But even if being bluntly homophobic is not permissible, blunt pro-gay stands are not too popular either: you should not be outspokenly homophobe, yet even Democratic presidential hopefuls are not expected to publicly endorse same sex marriage. In Europe, in comparison to America, the promotion of same-sex unions is the benchmark of left-of-centre politics. For instance, the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, enraged the powerful Catholic Church in his country by going all the way and institutionalising same sex marriage. While in America The Left is empathetic to attempts by Democratic presidential candidates not to be portrayed as too pro-gay, in Europe candidates are criticised if they are not.

When Senator Hilary R. Clinton announced her commitment to the abolition of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy she said that was a matter of national interest, rather than a case of discrimination. Understandably, the Pentagon’s policy concerning the recruitment of gays to the army has become a matter of national interest due to the war in Iraq. As part of the unintended repercussions of war, the pressure for higher levels of recruitment may lead to a more liberalized policy towards recruitment of the currently “un-recruitable” – including gays. This course is especially strong in democracies that apply mandatory service – in Israel it led to a policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. If everybody is in, you need to have a really good reason for excluding a certain group of people.

The importance of the abolition of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is not merely in admitting gays into the army. Liberal advocates of gay-rights would hope that gay and non-gay recruitment falls anyhow with a new Democratic administration and change of policy in Iraq. But when one of America’s most powerful institutions abandons an anti-gay practice, there will be less tolerance not just for public homophobia but for a private one, and General Pace’s apology “people have a wide range of opinions on this sensitive subject” will not be accepted.

Yoav Sivan

Yoav Sivan

As all forerunners for the Democratic nomination oppose the Pentagon’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, 2008 might bring a change across the Potomac. Hopefully, this will alter the situation that bureaucrats and officials, not just politicians, may be publicly homophobic ex-officio by simply endorsing a discriminatory policy.

 

But perhaps the challenge gay-rights advocacy groups are facing is not merely to install a friendlier face in the White House but also to make sure that gay rights are allowed in by the main entrance not just through the back door?

Yoav Sivan

Yoav Sivan is LGBT Coordinator of IUSY and of Young Meretz Israel

So let’s start now on IDAHO 2007

We have been preparing this years action for IDAHO, at the British Youth Council (the national council of youth originations, parties and local youth forums in the UK) we will be leading the demonstration this year outside the Polish embassy calling for an end to the institutionalized homophobia that is increasingly growing in eastern Europe and especially Poland. Although it’s an important day to campaign against homophobia around Europe and the world, I always feel that it’s important to reflect about the situation at home as well as overseas.

The UK with Labour we have moved on dramatically, we have become a more progressive nation for Queer people in terms of legislation.  It is therefore very often easy to be critical of others without taking a closer look at the situation in the UK.

The IDAHO UK video talks about the increasing need to take the fight against homophobia to states and nations which still criminalize LGBT people, this is right but it also points out that we mustn’t get complaisant about our own situation. We maybe ahead in policy but there are still problems in society. Homophobic bulling remains a big problem in the UK, despite the repeal of section 28, schools remain cautious about pro-actively tackling homophobia.

Underlying discrimination at the workplace still exists and although some ‘liberal’ areas of the UK may now be welcoming for Queer people, many rural areas remain difficult places for Queer young people to grow up.

In a recent poll 36% of people in Northern Ireland would not want a gay neighbors and would think of moving. Northern Ireland is a nation which has been described a one of the most “homophobic places in Western Europe”, with pride almost canceled a few years ago in Belfast the scourge of bigotry, homophobia, and hatred still bubble on just under the surface.

I will be talking outside the Polish Embassy about how, as Queers, we must unite against homophobia wherever it lies. We mustn’t rest until homophobia is stamped out. As laws are passed and governments are eventually forced in some cases to accept protection of Queer people the fight must continue. Our parties and organizations must be reminded that it isn’t enough just to sign up to laws or statues against homophobia. Sexuality is a human rights issues and something that needs to be mainstreamed in all of our work.

Some of our most exciting work has been in Northern Ireland where LGBT people from both communities were brought together to fight for a greater equality. Uniting, not dividing, is the name of the game. Queer campaigning mustn’t be confined to just the boxes of LGBT it must transcend social divides and classifications and create a progressive, dear I say it even socialist force for change.

The toolkit created at the IFM-SEI, IUSY, ECOSY Queer Easter is a perfect way to start to introduce the work in to our organizations. We have a long way to go, IFM-SEI creating the ‘rainbow network’ as a formal structure at its recent congress is a good start. Already the Woodcraft Folk, the UK IFM-SEI member organization, has developed some short activities around sexuality for the younger children. With others we hope to creating more in the near future, we are convinced that it is never too soon to tackle hate, it is never to young to fight prejudice, and its never to early to stop homophobia. So let’s start now on IDAHO 2007.

 

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

10 years of Labour’s progress in the UK

  • 1997 – Same sex relationships recognized in immigration law.
  • 1998 – First gay Minister
  • 2000 – Homosexuals allowed in the army
  • 2002 – Same sex age of consent equalized
  • 2003 – Repeal of section 28 (lifting the ban on teachers ‘promoting’ homosexuality)
  • 2004 – Gender recognition bill recognizes Transsexuals.
  • 2005 – Civil Partnerships created, effectively same sex ‘marriage’ in all but name.
  • 2007 – Prevention of discrimination on the grounds of sexuality in receiving goods and services.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

Lloyd Russell-Moyle is on the General Council of the Woodcraft Folk and on their Rainbow Network. He is the British Youth Council representative to the European Youth Forum and the LGBT officer for Bradford University.

The LGBT situation in Finland.

We were illegal until 1971, sick until 1981, and had no protection against discrimination in labour market before 1995. Until reforming criminal law 1999 the age of consent was higher for same sex couples and it was illegal to urge people to homosexuality – even if homosexuality was not illegal. No one was ever judged for “urging people to homosexuality”, but it decreased possibilities to spread information about LGBT-people.

There were two proposals made by members of parliament for civil union law in 1990´s, but only in 2001 the parliament passed such law, when the bill was proposed by the government. The law did not contain right for adoption or for legal parenthood shared by a same sex couple. In 2006 the parliament passed a law regulating fertilisation treatments, which after a vote in parliament gave equal rights for all women, not depending of her marital status or sexual orientation. Still there was no rights for same sex couples to have legal parenthood over a child.

There has been always LGBT-people in our social democratic movement. But only in year 2004 lbgt-network in our student organisation was established, then next year it become common with our Youth organisation. The same year we established LBGT-network to our party. 1st July 2006, we established our own association: Social democratic LGBT-association – Pinkkiruusu (Pink rose). We have raised LGBT-topics into our party agenda, shared information about LGBT-people and given a new way for people to act.

Before national parliament elections in march 2007 Pinkkiruusu stated that a centre-right government would freeze the development into a more equal Finland (Social democrats were the biggest political group to support civil union and a equal law of fertilisation treatments, thought not unanimous). We lost the elections and now Finland has a centre-right government, that in its programme (mostly because the Green party, not like traditionally the small Christian Democratic party is in a centre-right government) promises same sex couple to have right to be legal parents of children living in their family (inner adoption).

Anssi Pirttijärvi

Anssi Pirttijärvi

We just have to hope the really big conservative wing in the governing parties won´t stop the progress. Pinkkiruusu together with Social Democratic organisations for Youth, Student and Women have must now concentrate into raising discussion and sharing information about lgbt-people as parents. The next step in LGBT-rights is the right for adoption. Love and care make a family, not the fact that parents are of different sex.

Anssi Pirttijärvi

Anssi Pirttijärvi, member of board of Pinkkiruusu and ECOSY Bureau member ampirt@utu.fi

The origin of homosexuality

Are we homo/heterosexual? Or do we act homo/heterosexual? On which base do we gather and fight for our rights? Where the reasons the same during the last century?

Let’s see if we can find some answers to these questions.

Why are things how they are?

In principle there exist 2 different answers to that question.

The first one: the essentialist perception. Essentialists say that things are how they are because they are how they are – that means things are natural, inherent and permanent.

Other would say – and they are called constructivists – that we are the result of social construction, that we choose among a variety of concepts which are available in the societies we live in.

Politically spoken socialists have to stick to the concept that society – and not genes – is the determining factor when it comes to the question why things are how they are. That’s why chances are possible and changes to socialism are what we want instead of the conservation of the present state. That’s the business of the conservatives.

But as always things are a bit more complicated at they seem.

Now let’s try to apply what was written above to our topic homosexuality.

If you say that you are born gay or lesbian, that you can’t chance it and that therefore you are demanding rights you are following the essentialist line. But of course you are doing something progressive. On the other side we find “scientists” and scientists explaining the roots of homosexuality in the early childhood, in traumatic experiences in previous relationships, in your education … And coming to the conclusion that you can change/heal it. One of the reasons might even be true – but why somebody is homo/heterosexual is not the crucial point. It simply doesn’t matter.

The origin of homosexuality

Homosexuality is nothing what has ever existed. In contrary you can almost right on the day when it was invented. It’s the point where not only homosexual acting was forbidden any more but when a picture of “the homosexual” was developed – and sometimes happily followed by the gay community.

Michel Foucault says in “The history of sexuality” that this point was when for the first time homosexuality was mentioned in medicine books. At around 1870 medics started to describe “the homosexual”. Before it was only the homosexual act which was condemned by law but it could happen to everybody – now it was reserved for a special species – as Foucault explains.

Alan Bray has another explanation: For him homosexuality develops with the appearance of Molly houses around 1800 in London. Molly Houses are meeting points which are not only useful for finding sex partners but develop bit by bit an own culture, a dress code, a certain language, special gestures, …

The Marxist John D’Emilio states coherence between the development of wage labour and the development of a gay subculture. For him the evolution of marriage from a unity of consumption to a unity of emotion around 1900 lays the ground for the homosexual culture. The separation of workplace and living space created the possibility to concentrate homosexual identity because outside the house it was easier to live your sexuality.

Female sexuality was not part of the medical discourse Foucault describes. The only thing they could find was a connection between female homosexuality and feminism. Of course that’s ridiculous – but due to the patriarchal structures of the male gay movement maybe not that wrong?

Conclusions

 

Martina Punz

Martina Punz

Homosexuality did not always exist. There is a difference between homosexual acts and being homosexual. And because everybody could act homosexual in a weak moment before 1900 there was nothing like heterosexuality. Only since homosexuality exists heterosexuality exists.

Martina Punz

Martina Punz is Secretary General of SoHo (Socialdemocracy and Homosexuality, Austria)

Nature vs Nurture; does it really matter?

Not too long ago, for the first time I went to this gay bar in my home town. It was pretty much a horrible bar and thus not the most enjoyable evening, but my eye did catch an interesting detail. There was a boy (what a surprise) who seemed to be wearing 2 different shirts during the evening, changing it back and forth. Later on I noticed that it wasn’t just one boy: they were identical twins. Now, as this might not be the most interesting thing to notice (other then that a lot of people undoubtetly have fantasies about this), the interesting part was that only one of them was gay!

To me the existence of this wasn’t a completely new thing, since I have been following research on the nature vs nurture debate (which by the way somehow seem to contradict itself over and over). For example, there has been a research among identical twins (thus having the same DNA), non-identical twins, and non related brothers (for example adopted). The research was focused on comparing one of the two’s sexual identity with the other. Now, even though with identical twins the results of one of the twins being gay when the other was, were remarkably higher then with the other two cases, this wasn’t 100% (it was rather around 60%). An outcome that shows that genetic material does somehow influence the outcome, but isnt the only factor that has to be taken into account.

On the other hand, there has been research among fruitflies, in which the genes for sexual reproduction of male flies and female flies were swapped, leading to a 100% level of gay flies; showing that at least for genetically simpler beings like fruitflies, being gay can be completely up to genetics.

Both results lead to a significant amount of debate. The question now is however: does it really matter?

Suppose we find out that it is nurture and that the reason the results are higher with identical twins are simply because they pretty much grew up in the exact same environment. This would mean that some groups in society might call for educational and raising requirements simply not to let children grow up as gay. As a matter of fact, it might even create “ungay”-camps, like the lovecamps we see already in the USA, where people can ‘learn’ not to be gay anymore.

Pepijn van Kesteren

Pepijn van Kesteren

On the other hand, if we find out it is up to genetics, then some people might look for a ‘cure’ due to gene therapy or oppressing medication, as we see in for example the movie X-men 3 (which is as a matter of fact, even though it is science fiction, very much related to the emancipation of the queer society).

 

A bigger difficulty comes even when we look at queer theories, that basically says that no-one is exactly the same; due to which we would get an infinite amount of boxes (and treatments). No, let us instead just work towards the emancipation of the queer-community, by accepting everyone the way they are; be it gay, be it straight, or be it whatever they feel most comfortable being.

Pepijn van Kesteren

Pepijn van Kesteren is member of the national board of JS in de PvdA (Young Socialists in the Dutch Labour Party)