The Day the Rot Set In

The Day the Rot Set In

On this day fifty years ago, the Sexual Offences Act received Royal Assent. The act partially decriminalised male homosexual acts. I say partially because the repeal only applied to rumpy bumpy between men 21 and over in England and Wales. It excluded the rest of the UK and those bastions of red-blooded machismo, the Merchant Navy and the Armed Forces. The ripe phrase ‘rum, bum and the Navy’ must have seemed even more ironic to randy sailors on a long and lonely tour of duty. By contrast, girl on girl action has never been illegal, perhaps because the (almost exclusively male) elite were rather titillated by the thought of it (well, those who weren’t fiddling with the altar boys or servicing the groom, that is). Reform-wise, the Scots didn’t join the party until 1980 and the Northern Irish brought up the rear in 1982. This may explain the over-representation of ginger queens on the pink streets of London during the seventies and eighties.

If the holier-than-thou pulpiteers, tight-arsed little Englanders, mighty-mouths down the pub or queer bashers on the streets thought the 1967 act was the one and only concession to be made, they were in a for a nasty surprise. It was a call to arms. The eighties and nineties brought the darkest days of AIDS and many hoped we’d all sashay back into our closets and die. No such luck. Despite the violence, the ridicule, the outraged press and pushy coppers in rubber gloves, a growing band of brave souls kept the rainbow flag flying higher than ever. Direct action and the outing of mitred hypocrites became rather fashionable. And it worked. One day, the walls came tumbling down and what followed was a bonfire of the prejudices.

The age of consent was reduced (first to 18 then to 16), the armed forces ban was lifted, the offence of gross indecency was repealed, Section 28* was abolished, gender re-assignment was recognised, fostering and adoption laws were liberalised, employment protection secured, civil partnerships were introduced and, by 2014, full marriage equality was realised across Britain. Then came the royal pardon for past deeds no longer illegal and, in time, so too will come the official apology.

On equal marriage, only Northern Ireland is still holding out, with some dour old dinosaurs desperately trying to hold back the tide, Canute-like. Their days in the sun are numbered, despite their last hurrah propping up Chairman May.

Rainbow Copper

The gestation of the 1967 Act was a long one. It was the Wolfenden Report of 1957 that recommended the decriminalisation of certain homosexual offences and concluded:

“…unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law’s business.”

Some still get hot under the collar in matters sex and sin, stoked up by bigots from across the religious divide. The issue even hit the headlines during the recent general election. Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats and a devout Christian, was repeatedly harangued about whether he thinks gay sex is sinful. The poor man squirmed and wriggled presumably because in his heart of hearts, he probably does. After the election, he resigned because of it. I don’t normally feel sorry for politicians but even I thought it was all too much. I’m well-acquainted with oppression by the majority and it smacked of bullying. And I don’t like bullies whatever their persuasion – left, right or centre. Mr Farron’s personal religious beliefs are his own business and, to paraphrase the Virgin Queen, I have no desire to make a window into anyone’s soul. Mr Farron can think whatever he likes as long as he doesn’t move to impose those beliefs on others. And as far as I know, unlike the orange relics and meddlesome priests of the Emerald Isle, he never has.

So I celebrate the day the rot started to set in. It eventually brought the whole edifice of hypocrisy crashing down. Now we can live happily ever after. Or can we? For some in our sceptre’d isle, life is still a little bit shit – bigotry can lurk just beneath the surface and the pendulum never stops swinging. And what of rainbow life beyond our shores? You only have to look around to see how really grim things are for many – the recent roundup and torture of young men in Chechnya is a case in point. And Allah only knows which way the wind will blow now Turks have foolishly voted sweeping presidential powers to an autocrat with a messianic streak. As for Saudi Arabia and Iran, the sword and the noose are kept on standby just case anyone dares poke a toe out of the closet.

*A shameful and largely symbolic law banning the alleged ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, as if sexuality were a choice.

Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland

You could have knocked me over with a feather boa when, in 2013, it was a Conservative government that introduced the law to legalise same sex marriage. Let’s face it, those dyed-in-the-wool, true-blue Tories aren’t exactly noted for their enlightened social policies or support for civil liberties. The passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Act through Parliament was far from smooth; lots of hysterical talk from barren barons and men in frocks about the end of the world and the divine sanctity of wedlock. But the legislation was passed, God didn’t lift a finger and the lights stayed on. Hallelujah.

Marriage is a devolved affair in the UK so the 2013 Act only applied to England and Wales. It didn’t take long for the winds of change to blow through these damp little islands. The Scottish Parliament legalised same sex marriage in 2014 followed by the Isle of Man this year. The Channel Islands will bring up the rear in 2017. So who’s letting the side down? Those hell and damnation Presbyterians in Northern Ireland, that’s who. Last November the Northern Ireland Assembly voted narrowly in favour of marriage equality but the Democratic Unionist Party vetoed the motion by using something called a ‘petition of concern’, a mechanism established by the Northern Irish peace settlement to protect the rights of minorities. Ironic, don’t you think? A shameful abuse of power, I call it.

NI Marriage Equality Poll

Those dour old dinosaurs really need to step out of their orange lodges and into the light. Public opinion in Northern Ireland is firmly behind reform and who would have thought only a few years ago the people of the Irish Republic would have voted so convincingly for marriage equality? But then, they are no longer held in the medieval grip of the Catholic Church, thank the Lord.

Liam and I formed a Civil Partnership in 2008 and then converted to marriage as soon as we legally could. My mother is Northern Irish and proudly so. I have family connections across the province. We now have the ludicrous situation where our marriage is, or soon will be, legally recognised throughout these islands except for one small corner, all because of a band of crusty old bigots in orange sashes on the wrong side of history. As if the people of Ulster haven’t suffered enough.

Change will eventually come. The writing’s on the wall. I invite you to help it along by signing the latest petition here.

Cheers!

Dirty Weekend

Dirty Weekend

What better way to celebrate our ‘salt’ wedding anniversary than a trip to the seaside for a dirty weekend? We were chauffeured to Gorleston-on-sea in decadent style by a pair of old Norwich rascals (you know who you are), necking fizz all the way in the back of their Mercedes Benz. Our luxurious room with a sea view came courtesy of my sister and the celebratory bottle of red on the Cliff Hotel terrace came courtesy of Liam.

Mother Nature, a contrary old bag round these parts, was in a bright mood for a change so we were all set for fun on the sand and frolics in the boudoir. The rest I leave to your vivid imagination.

Alas, we were four months too late to catch a performance of ‘Sindaz’ the adult panto, giving a whole new meaning to the line, ‘he’s behind you’.

SindazSo we squandered a few quid in the penny arcade instead. And what did we get for our coppers? A cuddly toy, obviously. We called him Gallstone.

Gallstone

An Old Wives’ Tale for Valentine’s Day

My mother (an old wife with a tale for every occasion), told me if I noticed a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, I would marry a sailor. But I if saw a sparrow, I would marry a poor man, but be very happy. If I spotted a goldfinch, my beau to be would be filthy rich. For my considerable sins, I spied vultures circling.

Only joking, obviously!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Liam

Top of the Pansy Pops 2015

Top of the Pansy Pops 2015

It’s been a stonker of a year. In partnership with Summertime Publishing, I launched Springtime Books to provide a publishing platform for expat writers and in May, I wrapped up the saga of our emigrey days with the release of Turkey Street. The book birthing was particularly painful. Eighteen months later than planned, I fretted my comeback would be as welcome as another Spice Girls reunion, but the pain eased as the reviews dropped onto the mat. Against the blogging odds, Perking the Pansies continues to trip along nicely with a bevy of fans old and new. Somehow or other, I’ve just exceeded my 1,000th post and 10,000th comment. Not bad, I suppose, for some silly old nonsense. For all these things, I’m nothing if not grateful.

Here are the top of the pansy pops for 2015 – a fine diet of gay pride; righting an old wrong; butts of steel; relationship highs and Turkish lows; murderous intent and loose ends finally tied; the dreaded curse of middle England; bad tempered café society; and a little cottage industry to keep us out of the workhouse.

London Pride | Pardon Me | Catching Crabs | Istanbul Pride, Turkey Shame | Death Duties | Turkey Street Uncovered | Happy Anniversary, Liam | Whinging Brits | Give Us a Quiche | Springtime Has Sprung

As for the most popular image of 2015? Typical!

Rowers8

Here’s looking ahead to more pansy adventures in 2016. Happy New Year to one and all.

What a Gay Day

Freedom to MarryYesterday, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states and America joined a select group of nations that have introduced marriage equality. The map I’ve featured from Freedom to Marry illustrates the situation around the world before the Yankee vote. In these damp little islands of ours, only Northern Ireland is holding back the tide, Canute-like. The fire and brimstone lot who dominate the Northern Ireland Assembly are in good company – kiddie fiddling priests, the British National Party, Ex-Soviet republics and religious fundamentalists of all persuasions who fine, flog and hang. The dusty old Ulstermen will lose the fight in the end. It’s inevitable. Reason and sanity are against them. Today, the streets of London are paved with gold sequins. It’s London Pride, a grand celebration of everything that’s been achieved. Doubtless, black cab drivers will cuss and bemused tourists will think they’ve landed in Oz. Sadly, we can’t be there to join the party.

An Irish National Treasure

Well done Ireland. You are a beacon of hope. As the Guardian put it…

Irish voters have decisively voted in favour of marriage equality, making Ireland the first country to do so through the ballot box. Only one of the 43 constituencies voted against the proposal – Roscommon-South Leitrim – while the yes vote exceeded 70% in many parts of Dublin. The no campaigners have paid tribute to their opponents, and the archbishop of Dublin has said the result should be a wake-up call for the Catholic church in Ireland.

http://www.theguardian.com/global/live/2015/may/23/counting-underway-for-irelands-referendum-on-marriage-equality

Perking the Pansies

The annual Norfolk and Norwich Festival is in full swing right now, an eclectic mix of the performing arts in venues right across the city. One of the more original festival venues is the Adnams Speigeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, a replica Edwardian erection with a handy on-site beer garden to quench the thirst. Last night, we enjoyed a night at the big top with Panti Bliss, the Irish drag queen who’s become a bit of a national treasure in Ireland since her famous exposition of homophobia last year. I wrote a post about Panti’s eloquent speech and remarked at the time that it would change minds. And it has. Panti was no less eloquent last night as she revealed funny, absurd and touching titbits from her extraordinary life. Her social commentary was razor-sharp and the copious consumption of gin did nothing to blunt the edge.

Naturally, Panti has been a…

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