The Limits: Politics

This is the last of three blog posts on how limited our lives have become.

We have been told “The personal is the political” by the student movement and second wave feminism. Skunk Anansie sang, “Everything is political.” I disagree.

It has been said by several social and political commentators that politics has taken over people’s minds and lives. If we think back to only two years ago, people had all sorts of conversations on all sorts of topics. If we think back ten years, we can remember even more diverse conversation on even more diverse topics. Lockdown and people spending more time on the internet, as well as the growth of social media platforms, has meant that more people are engaging with politics; not politics in the widest sense, but identity politics.

The creep of identity politics in the workplace has also made people more aware, and more willing to turn to a tribe of political ideology rather than the former tribes people had of football teams, music and other interests. Identity politics has crept into art, music, sport, history, films and TV series – there is no escape from it.

Politics should be about solving the housing crisis, ending third world debt, providing a much better education for children, ending zero hours contracts and re-imagining the social care system. Politics should be about our ethics and chart our growth as a species. Instead, we have reduced politics to genitals, sexual attraction, skin colour and other such shallow observations about our fellow humans. Politics has been reduced. We have been reduced.

We have been in and out of lockdowns for almost one year. Who and what has helped? The constant bickering and name calling on social media? Or the people who have given up their time, and often their money, to help their fellow humans? Marcus Rashford has done more for children and BAME people during the lockdown than our politicians and BLM. The lack of cars on the move in the first lockdown did more for the environment than Extinction Rebellion.

Look at LGBT. LGBT people were once known as the most loving and accepting people. However, since LGBT has become politicised heavily, especially by queer activists – see my blog post called I Am Not Queer for the difference between LGBT and queer – LGBT has fractured, LGBT people have turned against other LGBT people and most LGBT people want nothing to do with any LGBT organisation. I have found for twenty years that I am not welcome and I am met with hostility and threats of violence by other LGBT people because I think differently and I am a traditional Christian. BLM has done more to push back race relations in the UK than any far right group or newspaper, with Black people calling other Black people all sorts of racist names.

This is not good for us. We have reduced ourselves. We need to allow our minds to expand once more. We need to find the answers to the housing crisis and all the other concrete problems we have in our society. Name calling and tribalism will not achieve this. When identitarians say “We have work to do” I wonder what work they are talking about; sowing more seeds of division or healing our land? I housed homeless people. The colour of their skin or their sexual orientation had no bearing on how I got them off the streets. I worked on hospital wards. Someone’s sex or skin colour had no bearing on whether or not patients were able to walk and talk again after a brain injury. There is real work to do, and it is far more difficult to do than call people names on social media.

We need to talk about football, music and other interests once more. We need to stop seeing our fellow humans as enemies for being different from us or thinking differently from us. We need to form friendships again based solely on train spotting, music, outdoors sports, art, religion, nature and much more. We have reduced ourselves and our species to spiteful arguments about power and victimhood. Is this fun? Does it bring love to people’s lives?

There is more to us than this. Think back to the laughs you had with friends in a bar or on a mountain top or at a music festival. Think of the fun you all had together. Get that back. Even if we remain in lockdown and have more lockdowns in the future, we can decide to get our fellowship back. Go and get your fun and your laughs and your life back. You deserve much more. You are worth much more.

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The Limits: Art

This is the second in my series of three looking at aspects of modern life that limit our lives.

One of my A-Levels was in Art. I particularly loved the History of Art, falling in love first with the Italian frescos (classical art painted onto wet plaster walls, meaning the art was part of the building) to the fauvists and the kooky such as Magritte. I used to spend hours looking through Sister Wendy’s books on art through the ages and I enjoyed trips to London where my college class would spend the day in The National Gallery or The Tate.

My degree was in social care, and I moved around the UK to towns that had very little in the way of art or galleries. Even living in Edinburgh, the galleries were much smaller with much smaller collections, and as my life became busier with work – I am working class so I must work, and work over 40 hours per week, often 60 just to make ends meet – I lost touch with art. One of my friends last year said that we as a society do not make enough time for art. I agree.

However, what I have seen of art has put me off. That was why I stopped seeking out art. When I visited galleries in the UK, I noticed more and more that the paintings or drawings were not of high quality, and I noticed how words were starting to appear on the canvas. These words were political in nature and designed to trigger an emotional and a political response in the viewer which was always about identity politics, not funding the health service or the housing crisis. I noticed there was more and more writing and less and less actual art, with some canvases being completely covered in words with only two lines drawn so that the piece passes for art and not literature.

Three years ago, I visited The Tate Modern in Liverpool. I was there for a nice afternoon looking at art. Instead, I found my personal issues were triggered by one of the pieces, which was three photographs of people, with a board of writing about these people’s personal experiences. I did not plan nor wanted to think about these horrors. I wanted and planned to have a nice afternoon out looking at art. I also thought the “artist” was exploiting the misery of others for their own gain.

The next time I went to an art gallery, it was the gallery near to where I lived. The whole gallery was taken over with anti-white racism. I was with a friend who has white skin but is mixed race. There were large boards, around one meter tall and three meters wide, placed in the centre of the rooms with printed writing about my former employers. I had worked with asylum seekers – most of whom had worked illegally in the UK for up to ten years, were caught out by the police or Border Force, and they chose to claim asylum. They were not vulnerable people fleeing persecution at all. The “artist” responsible for the large boards claimed that my ex bosses were fascists who were waging war against vulnerable women. My ex bosses are Jews, they were on top of any issue that arose and placed good workers into the jobs working front line with our clients. Over half of our workers were Asian, Arab or African, some were ex asylum seekers or former refugees, and I worked there. I was treated far better by these bosses than in almost any other workplace I had been in. Our clients said we were like family to them, and one client kept making clay relief tiles of Qur’anic script for the Muslim workers and images of the cross for the Christian workers.

I hear young artists – usually those who are not very good – saying that art is supposed to make people think. I hear comedians – who are not very good – saying that comedy is supposed to make people think. No. Comedy is supposed to make people laugh. Art is supposed to make people feel inspired. Art is supposed to elevate us from our daily lives and take us into another realm. Art – like comedy – is supposed to make us feel better.

My friend said we as a society do not make enough time for art. He is right. Artists no longer learn a craft. They learn identity politics. Several years ago, an art student produced a simple picture of a dial because her art tutor had told her to “dial down the feminism”. The art that she produced from that could have been great. but instead she chose to paint a simple dial. There was no artistic flair, no expertise in what she produced. I could have produced the exact same piece. I have no artistic flair or expertise in art. But in my mind, I had images of pop art-like paintings of a housewife reaching to turn down the dial on a device. As well as no artistic flair or expertise, the artist showed she had no imagination.

Last week, I saw a friend, and we spoke about many things, and one was art. I told my friend about going to The National Gallery in London. I remember standing with my face inches from The Frog Pond by Claude Monet. I can remember the brush strokes, the colours, the way Monet was able to capture the water and all its reflections using different coloured bars. I remember standing by The Cypress Trees by Vincent van Gogh and seeing his swirling brush strokes of blue and green, making the painting look as though the trees really were moving on the canvas. The colours were vibrant with the canvas primed in white before the actual painting was undertaken. Monet and van Gogh were men of intense ability, as well as intellect. Monet painted while going blind. Van Gogh painted while mentally ill. Both these men focussed on creating great works of art, not virtue signals about disability and the challenges they faced in their lives. They left behind great works that people enjoy and are inspired by two hundred years after their creation.

Where identity politics in art seeks to pull down – pull down the standards of art, pull down western civilisation, Monet and van Gogh sought to build up, to raise the bar of art and raise the viewer’s view of life. Identity politics are is an expression of the selfish and self centredness of the artist. Monet and van Gogh were selfless in overcoming their disabilities and providing the world with great art that is joyous and inspirational. This difference in attitude also strikes at the heart of some identity politics; we can remain victims, identify as victims and live our lives in mediocrity because of our victimhood, or we can take the limits off our lives and shine.

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The Limits: Languages

I am writing a series of three things that can expand your life, or limit it, depending on what view you take.

It has recently been said that white Americans who learn languages should learn European languages such as German or French, otherwise white Americans speaking Chinese or Urdu are committing cultural appropriation.

Research shows that learning a second language can improve memory skills, concentration, multi tasking skills and also protect a person from developing dementia. This is because learning another language fires up brain cells that had not previously been used. Any new skill that is learned by a person creates new functioning brain cells. Learning a language is one of the best ways to boost your brain’s function.

When a person learns another language, they learn their own first language more. When you learn French grammar, you learn the differences and the similarities between French and English. You learn that 40% English words are French – because England was conquered by the French in 1066. When you learn another language, you become far more competent in your first language.

When you learn another language, you learn another culture. For example, English phrases are founded on three important parts of the UK’s cultural heritage; the Bible, Shakespeare and farming. We still use the phrase “get the sack” in reference to losing a job. This comes directly from when a farmer no longer wanted a labourer to work on his farm. He put the labourer’s tools into a sack and sent the labourer off his farm with the sack of tools.

When we learn languages, we also learn what is important in other cultures. In Asian languages, there are many more words to describe members of the family. In Mandarin Chinese, there are separate words for maternal and paternal grandmothers. There are different words for older sister and younger sister. The Greeks have six different words for love, differentiating between the love between a romantically linked couple and the love of a parent to a child.

When we don’t understand a culture or a language, even when there is Google translate or an interpreter, things get lost in translation. The interpreter might not be able to convey the exact meaning into the language they are interpreting to, or they may not come from the culture that they are interpreting for. I speak French. However, I was totally thrown when doing security work around a French village when a man asked over and over for the fountain. Most French villages have a drinking fountain for anyone to use. A Polish colleague had to explain this to me. I did not know it because I did not know about that part of French village culture. Regarding Google translate, it translates well for some languages, not for others, depending on how popular a language is.

With a lack of cultural knowledge and a lack of perfect translations, international relations can be difficult, with even governments making decisions based on misunderstandings or a lack of cultural awareness of the countries they are dealing with.

When you learn another language, or indeed other languages, you open your mind. Your brain functions better, you learn about other people, you learn about other cultures, and you also think and speak differently in another language. Another part of your personality comes to the fore. Research has shown that people think more rationally in their second language and make better decisions in their second language. You improve yourself when you speak another language.

There is a lot of fun involved with learning another language. Whether it is finding that “fireworks” translates into Arabic as “firebirds” or you make your friends laugh with your X-rated mistakes, being able to watch a film in Japanese, read a comic in Dutch, work or play a sport in another country or simply feel more satisfied in your own personal growth, there is so much to be gained from speaking another language.

Whether you want to learn with a group of friends, with an app, on a website with a teacher or with a book and CD, the facilities for learning a language and maintaining that language are far better than they used to be.

People all around the world are opening themselves up to the West and our films, TV series and music by speaking English. Peaky Blinders is so popular in Saudi Arabia that fans even wear flat caps when they get together to watch the series. People all around the world are desperate to learn English because they know that learning English improves their life.

If you shut yourself off from learning another language, you are limiting yourself. You are limiting the enjoyment you will get out of life, the amount of friends you can have, the types of jobs you can get, the types of hobbies you can have, the amount of movies you can watch or TV series you can binge. You limit your brain activity and possibly your life span, too.

Learn a language. Take the limits off your life.

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Strong Characters

At a time when hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, are dying of undiagnosed cancer and also suicide, the BBC has decided to put this on their news page, without any article mentioning all the people losing their jobs, homes and lives across the UK.

Yes, it can be a little annoying when someone mispronounces your name, but it happens to many people, of all racial backgrounds. The BBC has decided to race bait instead of giving a fair and balanced account of names mispronounced or mis-spelt.

My first name is longer than many names, and it has the “th” sound. Therefore, for my work with foreign nationals, I shorten my name. I also use my name as a way of teaching the “th” sound. I often use and accept other cultures’ versions of my name, simply because this makes the people I meet feel more comfortable. My traditional British name is difficult to pronounce for many people, and this makes them feel ashamed and so they clam up. To put people at ease, I offer variations or a shorted version of my name. I always forget how to write my Chinese name, so I have to rely on clients to write the characters for me. It causes amusement and puts the client at ease.

People also mis-spell my first name – as well as my surname, spelling it with a K and a y. I don’t take offence. I just joke about my name being spelled “the proper way” and then spell it. One of my colleagues is Irish and she uses a phonetic spelling of her name at work so that clients are put at ease and are not embarrassed by not being able to pronounce her name.

My surname has four letters. It is a Scottish name. Working in England, people add an “l” to my name so that it looks like an English name. This happened in my first workplace, an “l” was added. Then, as the weeks went by, on my clocking in cards, the “l” started travelling along my surname, with people adding more letters to make more syllables. I wasn’t offended, I was just puzzled that my name with four letters had suddenly grown to a name with ten letters.

One of the young ladies in this article says that her name is part of her culture and heritage. Yes, so is my surname. My first name also carries a lot of meaning. Yet I take no offence when people get it wrong because no offence was intended.

One of the ladies in the article says everyone knows how to pronounce “Arnold Schwarzenegger”. Yes, because we were taught how to pronounce it. The same with BBC’s weather man Thomasz Schafenaker. Thomasz taught BBC presenters and the public how to pronounce his name in his second or third week as morning TV weather man.

I didn’t know how to pronounce “Hermione” when I read reviews of Hermione Norris’ work. I had to ask a friend how to pronounce Javier Bardem’s first name; did he pronounce it the French or the Spanish way? If someone doesn’t know something, they don’t know something.

A little kindness goes a long way. Also giving other human beings the benefit of the doubt goes a long way and makes your life a lot happier. If you do have a name that is different from one that many people recognise, be prepared to correct pronunciation and be nice to people about their mistake. If someone is making the effort to pronounce your name, even if they get it wrong, they are still making the effort to speak to you.

Remember that the average UK citizen has an average level of reading. Most don’t do well at school. They find my name difficult to spell and pronounce. They are not being racist when they can’t spell or pronounce a name like those of the young women in this article.

Remember also that most people are nice. They don’t mean to cause offence, so don’t take any where none is meant. Our society needs healing, and healing needs people of strong character who can forgive and move on, not someone who is traumatised by someone mispronouncing their name. We need people made of much stronger stuff for our society to move forward.

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Play Gay, But Play Gay Well

There I was thinking that the gay news was really quiet these days, and up comes the Cadbury’s Egg ad and Russell T Davies making some controversial remarks to make me think again.

I am a Russell T Davies fan. I have said this before with my reviews of Years And Years. I have loved everything Russell T Davies has written, from Children’s Ward when I was 10 years old, to Dark Season and Century Falls on Children’s BBC in the 90s, to Doctor Who, Cucumber, Queer As Folk, Years And Years and RTD’s depiction of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was shown two years ago on the BBC. I usually struggle to understand Shakespeare, but RTD’s colourful depiction had me engrossed. I really recommend it.

RTD is a writer of the gay persuasion who does not shy away from writing about real gay issues. Heterosexual writers often write gay characters coming out, facing homophobia and then… the character is written out of the drama. RTD writes real gay characters, dealing with real LGB issues such as the lasting emotional affects of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, the fact that for many bisexual people (in accordance with bisexual research), sex with the opposite sex feels more natural than sex with the same sex, crazy and chaotic lifestyles and the expectations of crazy lives, inappropriate behaviour at funerals, hypersexualisation among gay men, drug misuse etcetera etcetera. RTD writes real gay stories with real gay characters.

RTD is an extremely clever writer – my favourite TV writer. He incorporates modern issues into exciting personal dramas, he puts outrageous laugh out loud comedy next to deadly serious matters, and is both witty and gentle, compassionate and sparky. This is why his TV shows are so addictive.

I do find it surprising that RTD has just said that he wants only gay actors to play gay roles. As many people have said, acting is acting. In the past, I have been quite heavy on gay roles being played by gay people, and I will explain this. In general, I think the best actor should get the role.

Some LGB actors do have something extra to bring to an LGB role because, like RTD, as LGB people we have seen things that heterosexual people have not. I have heard heterosexual people just pass off serious issues as normal gay behaviour, which is in fact a homophobic way of looking at issues such as higher levels of drug misuse, promiscuity, domestic violence, crazy and chaotic lifestyles among LGBT people. These are issues to be dealt with, not “who we are”. LGBT people have access to knowledge that many heterosexual people do not have simply because we tend to have more LGBT friends and so we have more aware of issues and patterns.

My main gripe is the way that heterosexual actors portray LGB characters. TV is made for heterosexual people. Heterosexual people make up 98% the population, so of course TV is made for them. As we see on soaps and on programmes such as X Factor, LGB people or characters are there to entertain and to be court jesters, never to be taken seriously as normal human beings.

In Coronation Street, there have been several gay female characters in the last three years. All had long hair, all played by heterosexuals except one, all wore make up, all were thin, all wore expensive clothes, all wore short dresses and short skirts and high heels. Does this sound like all the gay women you know? It was clear that the Kate-Rana storyline was there for titillation, especially when the couple were shown kissing in their lacy, fresh out of the box bras. Soft porn for the heterosexual male viewers, and a heterosexual version of lesbianism so that heterosexual female viewers did not feel intimidated. Kate in her skin tight leather trousers and high heels, with her long hair flowing behind her on a Tuesday afternoon. This is what passes for lesbian representation on UK TV.

Lesbian and bisexual women are individuals. We are unique individuals, we are not all the same. Yet, like heterosexual women, there are some patterns that occur among us. When I was married, for the first few weeks, my husband was a little stunned each day and took a while getting used to some things. Most mornings for the first two weeks, he said, “It’s like living with a man.” I asked what he meant, and he said that I didn’t spend an hour in the bathroom every morning like other women do.

I wear dresses and I wear more masculine outfits. I let my hair grow out, I cut my hair. But most people read me as a gay woman, even though I only date men (for religious reasons). I am read as a gay woman because of my body language, my hand gestures, the way I hold myself and the way I speak using to facts rather than emotion sets me apart from most women. Most of my friends are men. I think women shy away from me because they are intimidated, and women tend to talk about relationships and emotions, whereas I like to talk about things such as music or street art, which most women don’t like talking about. There are individuals and there are patterns.

Also, heterosexual women do tend to have a problem with gay women. To them, we are ugly, too vocal, a threat in the workplace, and a threat to their sexual safety. Many straight women will say they are not homophobic. Unfortunately, their behaviour shows otherwise when it comes to their liking or disliking of gay women. Yet the gay female characters in Coronation Street have encountered no such problem with the heterosexual female characters. Again, this shows that TV writers usually portray gay characters’ storylines through a heterosexual lens.

The only honest depiction of a gay women played by a straight woman that I have seen was Rose Rollins playing Captain Tasha Williams in The L Word. The wardrobe department did a great job, giving Tasha clothes that accurately reflected Tasha’s background and personality – clothes that were masculine and looked amazing. However, it was Rose Rollin’s attention to body language that really struck me. In one of the first scenes she is in, we see Tasha – who had just come back from a tour of Iraq – in an emergency room waiting room, sitting in a strong pose with her legs apart without doing the full man spread, her elbows on the arms of her chair and her hands clasped. Her head was down as she was thinking about the extent of the injuries of the people around her and which patients would be prioritised accordingly. Here is a woman who is a professional to a T, strong in her knowledge and strong in her own sense of self.

Likewise, the character Tina in The L Word – a bisexual character played by a bisexual woman – sits in similar poses to Tasha, and Tina’s hand gestures and punching the air when celebrating, fist bumping etc are similar to my gestures. The same with several of The L Word’s actors who were LB. We sometimes have certain body language and gestures that heterosexual women tend to not have. Rose Rollins wasn’t a straight woman playing a straight woman in a gay relationship. She played a gay woman. She altered her appearance, she wore sports bras and briefs, she held herself with a strong posture, she used strong hand gestures; Rose Rollins had clearly studied real gay women in order to act authentically as a gay woman.

Put Tasha into any group of heterosexual women you know. The heterosexual women would be intimidated by Tasha. They would be intimidated by her rank as Captain in an army, they would be intimidated by her knowledge and by her frank way of speaking and they would be intimidated by her body language. This is why any depiction of gay women on mainstream TV is not a true depiction of gay women. The depiction is actually that of a heterosexual woman who is in a relationship with another heterosexual woman.

Going back to Coronation Street – the most popular soap drama in the UK; when it was announced that the character Sophie, played by Brook Vincent, was lesbian, Brook Vincent was interviewed in newspapers about this revelation. I read some of the interviews, and was taken aback at Brook Vincent’s lesbophobic – anti lesbian – comments, even using the word “dykey” as an insult. When the “representation” is making bigoted comments in national newspapers, you know they are not coming from a genuine place of wanting to genuinely depict an LGB character.

I want straight actors to play gay, but play gay well. Gay actors adapt their body language, speech, appearance and clothing to play straight characters. Let’s get straight actors who play gay characters to return the favour and actually play gay characters, not just play straight people in a same sex relationship with another straight person.

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The Cadbury’s Creme Egg Ad

Twitter is all of a twother again!

The new advertisement for the Cadbury’s Creme Egg ends with two men eating a Cadbury’s Creme Egg from each other’s mouths. The men are a couple in real life, so the hang-wringing over this being an issue for the Covid Police is unwarranted.

The ad also shows a woman licking the centre of the egg out, and another woman dipping her fingers into many eggs, and having the goo on her fingers. We all know where the inspiration for this advert came from. The bright young things at the advertising company couldn’t think of anything imaginative, so went for a motif that screamed We Can’t Think Of Anything Imaginative!

And yes, the advertising company probably banked on the outrage or concerned comments that two men eating out of each other’s mouths would generate. Cadbury’s is on the right side of history, and now has a load of free advertising in the form of tweets and youtubes and people talking about how homophobic other people must be. It’s a big win for the advertising company and for Cadbury’s purely from a marketing point of view.

On the other hand, us gays could wonder why the largest and most historical chocolate firm in the UK has chosen to trade on bigotry. It has chosen to trade on our pain. I gave up chocolate bars several weeks ago – it had to happen, so that makes my boycott of Cadbury’s easier to swallow.

Likewise, the Marks and Spencer LGBT sandwich last summer was supposed to be a great act of support for us gays. Lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato. No thanks.

Companies such as Cadbury’s and Marks and Sparks tell us they are raising awareness and standing in solidarity with LGBT people. We don’t need a foul tasting sandwich or sexualised chocolate. We didn’t pop into existence two years ago. LGBT people have existed for several million years. LGBT people have been Roman emperors, politicians, scientists, social workers, pop stars, film stars, probation officers, leaders of nations, sports heroes, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers.

If companies do want to stand in solidarity with LGBT people, they can put their money where their mouth is. LGBT people suffer huge mental health and physical health inequalities including higher rates of some cancers. LGBT centres staffed by trained counsellors, as well as people trained in medicine and the law were once staples of cities and large towns. Not so now. Most were defunded ten years ago, and the ones that survived the first cull gradually lost all their funding over the following years. This means LGBT people have less access to specialist information on health, legal issues and all the other issues that LGBT people face at higher levels than our heterosexual cousins.

If companies want to support us, they can fund LGBT centres, and fund qualified counsellors, medics and legal workers. If companies want to support us, they can fund solicitors to deal with our employment cases. The last time I was told by my manager that my sexual orientation was a problem for the workplace was four years ago. My employer was a local authority. The meeting was recorded and transcribed. I still have the transcripts. I have had problem after problem, false accusation after false accusation in the UK workplace. Yes, we have beautiful laws, but unless LGBT people have £30000 – £100000 to take the law breaking employer to court, all we can do is shrug our shoulders and find another job. And take yet more medication for the stress of yet another situation.

If companies want to stand in solidarity with LGBT people, they can fund solicitors so that we can take discriminatory employers to court. Many of us don’t have families to fall back on due to coming from abusive or chaotic families, or homophobic families, so security in accommodation is an issue for many LGBT people.

But funding the stuff we actually need such as solicitors, counsellors, housing advisors and other related professionals takes money, and it takes thought. it is much easier to produce an advert or a cheaply produced sandwich that grab headlines and social media threads, but don’t actually do anything to help LGBT people. It’s yet another virtue signal.

I have seen many young LGBT people excited about the Cadbury’s Creme Egg advert because of the same sex element. I haven’t seen any LGBT people over the age of 25 excited about this advert. Those of us who have lived on this planet a little longer know that we need much more in life than a virtue signalling advert that features a same sex couple. Those of us who have lived a little longer know that all this advert will do for LGBT people is stir up trouble against us. No one is going to stop being homophobic because they have seen this advert.

I’d love companies such as Cadbury’s and Marks and Sparks to show how much they really care about LGBT people. I fear that their virtue signal is the limit of how much they actually care about us. The least they could do is give us the LGBT sandwich and gay chocolate egg for free.

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School’s Out For Winter?

The UK government is now saying that children in England will be kept out of school for a number of weeks following the Christmas holiday. This is devastating for children’s education, and I urge all English parents to do what they can to get their children back into school, and quick.

The education offered in UK primary schools tends to be good, and primary schools are often places full of love. The teachers dedicate their entire lives to the children in their care. The last classroom I worked in in the UK was a nursery class. The teacher spent her dinner hours filling in homework books.. Her evenings and weekends were taken up with planning lessons, marking books and thinking of how to help each child individually. She had no boyfriend nor any life outside of teaching. I have met so many teachers like her: utterly dedicated to the education of children.

Secondary schools in the UK tend to be less wonderful in terms of the education they offer, they often push social agendas and they are often violent places. I would urge any parent who has a child in an English secondary school to look through their child’s homework and exercise books to check the standard of education their child is receiving, and to also talk to the child at length about their school day to pick up any hints about classroom violence and other matters such as students sharing sexual images of other students.

I teach students from various countries around the world. I know how far behind English students are. When Albanian secondary school students are rated as writing better English than UK students, we really do need to worry – Albania being one of the poorest countries in Europe. I teach online. I know that what I do supplements what the children and students learn in school. I know that online teaching is no substitute for classroom learning.

Going back to the nursery class I TA’d in, I remember the teacher bringing in a large fish for the Science lesson. In small groups, the teacher gathered the children around the fish and she taught them a little about the biology of fish. She then gave the children magnifying glasses so that the children could see clearly the scales on the fish. She let the children touch the fish, feel the scales and smell the fish. The children’s minds were filled with wonder. They talked with their classmates about what they could see, touch and smell. They asked the teacher questions based on their new experience. The children then came to me and we did art work based on fish, and the children talked to me about what they had experienced in their Science lesson.

Now do this Science lesson online. The teacher can still explain the biology of fish, but instead of presenting a large fish to her students, she displays a picture of a fish. The children could not have an experience that fills their mind with wonder from a picture of a fish. The children’s interaction with the teacher would be a fraction of the engagement they had in the real life classroom. Online teaching is no substitute for classroom learning. It supplements but can never replace classroom learning.

I have a real concern about children being conditioned to not see a whole human face. I know this will have a huge impact on children’s emotional well being, their mental health, and their sexual development as puberty hits. Likewise, being encouraged to see other children as a risk, as deadly, is going to impact children’s well being.

The historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver has been making weekly appearances on Talk Radio. He showed real concern about mask wearing, that the human face is being covered up, and he showed concern for children growing up with mask wearing as the norm. Neil Oliver recounted how humans have evolved to stand on two legs. All other animals stand on four legs, with their face and vital organs towards the ground. Humans evolved to stand upright over millenia. Standing upright, we expose our vital organs and our face to other humans. It is a great show of trust. What concerned Neil Oliver, and concerns me, is we have undone millions of years of evolution in a matter of months. There will be consequences to this.

I have tried to think about this next point a number of times, and my mind simply will not allow me to go there: there will be knock on effects of mask wearing on children’s sexual development. Not seeing a whole human face will produce kinks, perversions and all sorts of relational problems for those who are currently children.

The physical and emotional separation of children from children is one of the groundings for sexual attraction to children in adulthood. Yes, abuse of some kind is often prevalent in the childhoods of paedophiles, but normally there is some sort of separation from other children. Keeping children out of school, masked up, at two meters distance from other children is not good for children. Teaching children that other children could have a deadly disease and to fear other children is not good for children.

This week in England, an 8 year old died from Covid. That was what went around social media. The truth is no one dies from Covid. They die from Covid-19 complicating health conditions that the person already has. Today, the news states that the 8 year old who died from Covid-related complications did have an underlying health condition. This is a tragedy for this 8 year old and their parents and family. It need not be a tragedy for all the other children in England.

I am not a parent. I would like to be. I am not a parent. I do not know what it is to fear sending your child to school in case they contract a virus and die. That must be a horrible feeling. Yet parents sent their children to school before Covid-19 hit us, and schools – especially secondary schools – are places full of violence, so violent that most secondary school students will not go to the toilet in school time because the toilets are where they are attacked, physically or sexually. Over 1000 rapes per year are reported to take place in English schools. More will go unreported, and many more sexual assaults take place, with 6 year olds being sexually assaulted in the playground by other 6 year olds. Yet parents sent their children to school without question.

In the UK, 10 deaths of children from Covid-related complications have been recorded. All these children had underlying health conditions. Chris Witty and other health professionals have said that the chance of a child dying from Covid-related complications from going to school “is tiny”. There is a new strain of Covid-19 going around the UK. However, we have been told that this new strain is no more deadly than the previous strains of the virus. Looking at this evidence, there is no reason why healthy children should be kept out of school.

China’s children went back to school in May. In true Chinese style, the children have had “catch up” days. Whenever a public holiday takes place on a school day, the children have a “catch up” day on a Saturday or Sunday. The Chinese government, who made sure each child had 6-8 hours of lessons online or via national TV (yes, the Chinese government put teachers on TV every day to teach the curriculum), recognise that there is no substitute for classroom learning. They see that although the children have received excellent online or TV lessons, they have fallen behind. There have even been “catch up” evening lessons.

China’s children have been trick or treating, they have celebrated Christmas – one of my boys sang Silent Night in his church’s Christmas service, and children have been playing in each other’s homes without masks or social distancing since May. One of my girls had her best friend over when we had a lesson. The first thing they had done together was put a dress on the male dog and tied bows in his fur. China’s children have been almost back to normal since May. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with French Guyana – a poor country in South America.

Saudi Arabia and many other countries have online lessons, but there are few other restrictions, so one of my boys plays football in the park every day with his friends after his online lessons. I’ve had a lesson in the last two weeks where he was in the mall with a number of friends.

I implore parents to campaign to get their children back in school. Online learning is no substitute for classroom learning, and the emotional and psycho-sexual problems that will come from separating children from children are too grim to contemplate. In ten years’ time, your children will not thank you that their education has suffered greatly, so great that they cannot get a decent job, go to university, compete with peers from around the world nor have the enjoyment in life that a good education brings. In ten years’ time, your children will not thank you for keeping them isolated from other children and all the mental health and sexual issues it lands them with.

We do have real problems in secondary schools; the bullying, the poor quality of education, the violence, the sharing of sexual images. We have real problems in our schools. Parents need to get wise to what the real problems are and confront them, not be ruled by fear of a virus that poses very little risk to their children. I would rather parents confront the genuine problems and demand a better education for their children.

We all want a great future for children, whether they are our own children or the children of our friends and family. We want to give children the best start in life they can get. I love teaching. I love passing on my knowledge and enjoyment of learning on to children. I want to see the children of England thrive and live full and fulfilling lives. For that, they need an education alongside their classmates.

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The Vicar Of Dibley

The BBC has announced that the Vicar of Dibley’s Christmas sermon will be in support of BLM.

As Professor Bret Weinstein said on his Dark Horse podcast, Black lives have been under valued in the West, both in the past and in some people’s experiences and minds today as well. Most of us support the fact that Black lives matter. However, we do not support the political party that is Black Lives Matter, which has changed its name to Black Liberation Movement.

BLM is a registered political party. Two of its aims are to end capitalism and destroy the nuclear family. Those of us who have worked with people in need know that the destruction of the nuclear family is the reason behind most people’s needs. Most homeless people come from chaotic and abusive families. 80% heroin addicts were physically or sexually abused in childhood. I worked with one of my clients to teach her how to attend appointments on time and why; people were giving up their time to help her. She had come from a chaotic family who never taught her the most basic things about life and living in society.

I’m against greed and exploitation. We do have a mix of socialism and capitalism in the UK. We need the balance back. We have too much capitalism in the mix currently. We need our schools to deliver better education, our health system to get back to functionality and for more housing to be made available to people on low incomes.

Getting back to The Vicar of Dibley, I remember in the late 90s or early 2000s, The Vicar of Dibley tried to tackle the LGB thing. My best friend at the time – who was heterosexual – and went to the same church as me had seen the programme before me and she said, “It was awful.” I had videoed the programme and I watched it. I agreed, it was awful. The comedy simply was not funny. Dawn French’s character was assumed by the supermodel who happened to be staying with her that she was “obviously gay” (I suppose because Dawn French is obese with short hair) and the programme ended with the supermodel running around in her expensive lingerie.

As a Christian, I was appalled. As a gay person, I was appalled. The sexualisation was nauseating, the negative stereotyping of gay women was clear, and the negative stereotyping of Christians and the anti-Bible message of the programme was crystal clear. The BBC had put out a programme with an anti-Christian agenda, while claiming they were putting out the nation’s favourite comedy programme, which The Vicar of Dibley was at the time.

Last Easter, a reading by a post-operative transwoman, saying that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was like having a sex change was included in Radio 4’s Easter Sunday programming.

It is not within the BBC’s remit to use shows based around the Christian religion to push political or social agendas. The BBC does not do this with any religion apart from Christianity. Why?

It is not within the BBC’s remit to push any political or social agenda. It is, in fact, against the BBC’s own rules.

The Vicar of Dibley was once the nation’s favourite comedy programme. It was similar to Father Ted, but without all the drink, feck and girls. The Vicar of Dibley was just fun. Plain, silly, old fashioned fun with plain, silly, old fashioned jokes. When the village faced being flattened to make way for a dam, the villagers decided to find rare wildlife in order to keep the village as a protected area of natural beauty. Owen said he could find some three legged sheep. He was asked how. He said, “You take a sheep with four legs, you take a hack saw…” Letitia Copley’s baking was something to avoid and Hugo and Alice – the two village idiots – found love with each other. It was simple, it played on UK village stereotypes, it was silly, and it was fun.

I like a bit of politics as much as anyone, but we need to keep our sense of fun and laughter. BLM is an interesting talking point, but it’s not fun and it’s not funny. When I watch a comedy show, I want it to be fun and funny. I don’t want to be preached to. That is what I go to church for.

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Beyond The Non-Binary?

I would like to know more about what non-binary is. It is easy for people to point at Sam Smith and quote that Sam Smith says they are non-binary but Sam Smith says they don’t know what non-binary actually is. It is easy to point and laugh. I don’t want to do that. I want to engage in the more meaningful task of trying to understand what non-binary is.

My curiosity was piqued on Twitter two days ago when there was a thread celebrating non-binary people. However, I found much of the thread was cartoons or manga or anime. There were very few photographs of actual people. I looked at the bios of several non-binary people who had contributed. All shared hard left politics, all classified themselves with labels around their racial background, their sexual orientation and their gender orientation. All worked in the arts or produced visual arts as a hobby. This is great, this is fine, but I wonder where the rest of the diversity is. Are there any builders who are non-binary? Are there any doctors or green grocers who identify as non-binary? Are there any Conservative party voters who identify as non-binary? Any Orthodox religious people?

Yet it was the self-representation through cartoons/anime that really struck me. Very few non-binary people used a photograph of themselves of any other non-binary person as their representation. As a bisexual person, I can point to David Bowie or Julius Caesar as bisexual representation – two men who achieved and are in the history books as significant figures in world history. As a Christian who worked with homeless people, I can point to Corrie Ten Boom. As an Orthodox Christian attracted to the same sex, I can point to Father Henri Nouwen. I can point to “representation” in the form of real people who are world-renowned figures who achieved immensely. I wonder why non-binary people cannot do that. Afterall, there is nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon once said.

I have listened to a number of non-binary people on Youtube. Their understanding around being non-binary is that hairstyles, the way a person dresses, painting nails and wearing make-up are cornerstones of being non-binary. All the people who spoke had discomfort around the stereotypes around what it is to be male or female.

One male bodied person said they knew they were a different gender when they were four years old and wore their mother’s clothes and make-up. I hate to break it to people, but it is perfectly normal for young boys to wear their mother’s clothes and make-up. Children want to copy their parents because they love them. Most children spend more time with their mother, hence the mother is the one both boys and girls naturally want to copy. Most boys wear their mother’s clothes and make-up when they are young. It’s perfectly normal and is not an indicator of someone being a different gender.

A person with a female body said. “My family didn’t care about gender rules.” By this, the person meant that they were a girl who climbed trees and liked sport. Many girls and women like climbing trees and playing sport. Most don’t identify as another gender. It is simply a preference of a hobby. In some countries, it is normal for men to knit and sew. This does not make them transgender or non-binary. It makes them men who knit and sew.

The National Autism Society has stated there is an overlap or a link between a person having autism and a person identifying as non-binary or transgender. A study published in July 2019 confirmed this link. I already knew of this link due to friends who were transitioning who also had autism. There are also a lot more girls than boys who see themselves as a gender different to their birth sex .

Dr Wenn Lawson, who has autism and identifies as a gender different to their birth sex, said that society has social and traditional expectations that autistic people either fail to see or they do not recognise as being important.

I think there is something in this. I think that how I used to feel would now be classed as non-binary. I liked the things the boys liked in school. I did not identify with the girls in my class at school because I was not a bully like they almost all were. At the age of 9, I thought, “I must be something else.” As I grew older, I saw girls in my class get pregnant and bring their baby into school. I saw women used for sex. I saw women beaten in the street by their boyfriend. I intervened every time, and every time the woman walked away with the man who had been hitting her. At home, I had no good female role models. So why would I see myself as female, and why would I want to?

I think the link with autism and being non-binary and the lack of anyone who is non-binary to explain what being non-binary is without mentioning outward appearance and how they want to be perceived by others are clues as to non-binary being a conscious or a sub-conscious rejection of gender stereotyping.

What I want anyone who identifies as non-binary to go away with is the notion that an identity is not a feeling or a hairstyle or the clothes a person wears. An identity is something that a person builds up over a lifetime. An identity is built up by building memories. It is the jobs we do, the places we go to, the challenges we overcome, the people we meet, the books we read, the people we help, the changes we make to this world and the lives around us. Identity is something concrete. It is what people remember about you and love about you after you have moved away or died.

When I first worked with homeless people, there was a worker at Drug Line that everyone knew. Everyone in the town knew him. He wore make-up, he wore a turban. He wore nice clothes. He worked with homeless drug addicts. He lived on a council estate. No one called him names. No one stared at him. He was respected for his amazing work with people in need.

This is what I hope for people who have a different appearance due to gender differences. I hope they build up such a good reputation that people respect them. I hope that all people are respected, anyway, but the respect that comes from a difficult job well done is a different level of respect. There is more to an identity beyond the non-binary.

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The Ablist Witches

Over the last two days, there have been some rumblings around the new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s famous and much loved children’s story The Witches. I have not seen this updated version, but I am aware that many people are saying that the depiction of the witches in this film adaptation is insensitive to disabled people with limbs that are different from the norm or deformities.

I have a different hand and my toes are different from the average. My feet are deformed but most people will not notice this. I notice it because some shoes make my feet sore. This is why I wear old lady summer shoes with extra padding because otherwise the shoes would hurt my feet and cause sores to appear on the bottom of my feet which are not conducive to walking. I also have facial scarring which has faded Yet I was a teenager with very apparent facial scarring and differences.

How do I feel about the new film adaptation of The Witches?

I am unaffected. If no one in the media had made a fuss, I would never have thought about the film. I have never before made any link between The Witches and ablism and stigmas against disabled people and people with deformities – which is how I refer to myself.

I was called names in the street when I was a teenager because of my facial scarring. It hardly affected me. My other deformities often go unnoticed. I do not have differences that are more noticeable like those of comedian Alex Brooker or Paralympians. However, I have worked alongside people with more noticeable facial and limb differences. I went to college with a young woman who had three digits on each hand.

I have recently moved to a city in the north of England. One of the first things I noticed was that here, in this city, people with different arms, legs or amputations have no problem having them out on show here. In my first week here, I saw a Chinese student with an arm missing wearing a T-shirt. Several weeks ago, I saw a young lady in booty shorts with a metal leg. The landlord of a local bar has three digits on each hand. He serves drinks to everyone who comes into the bar.

Attitudes towards disabilities and people with limb difference or deformities have changed. Part of the reason they have changed is because of the damage done to soldiers’ bodies in recent wars. Thanks to the amazing medical advances, more soldiers are surviving bombs and other horrendous incidents and so we see these brave people on our TV screens and in our communities. We have had the invictus Games led by Prince Harry. We have the Paralympics. We have comedians like Alex Brooker on TV. We have disabled people in TV dramas and soaps as well as presenting nature programmes and children’s TV programmes. There is a lot more visibility today.

Yes, some people are always going to make unkind comments. Today, I do not get comments in the street about my facial scarring because it has faded somewhat, but I do get comments about wearing glasses. Some people are shouted at in the street for being overweight. There are always going to be people who make unkind comments. However, they are not the majority. The majority of people are kind and the majority of people are more understanding than people were twenty years ago.

Things are not perfect, but we are moving in the right direction in the UK. I have been forced out of jobs for being disabled, but not for having a different hand, feet or facial scarring. Those issues have never arisen in the workplace, except for how difficult it was for me to wear gloves in some situations when I worked on hospital wards. The glove of my different hand used to fill up with water when I was assisting a patient to wash or shower.

I am not discounting other people’s experiences, but I doubt that children will make a connection between The Witches and disabled people. The Witches was originally made into a film starring Angelica Houston in 1990. There was no outcry then, nor when the book was written in 1983. Roald Dahl’s children’s stories are known for their grotesque depictions of people – and in no way am I calling people with different limbs or no limbs grotesque. I am using the classical meaning of the word. Other children’s books by Dahl such as James And The Giant Peach, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and The Twits all have grotesque characters. Films aimed at children over the last few years since Harry Potter have featured and even focussed on the grotesque.

I will not watch The Witches – both versions of the films – because people removing their faces to show another face underneath grosses me out. I get grossed out easily. It was the same with the second Bill and Ted film. There were robots disguised as Bill and Ted and they pulled off their faces. I stopped watching the film because I myself have a particular sensitivity. I would not tell other people to watch it.

We have to let writers write. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it or read it. Write something better. I am writing a trilogy around characters who all have two of the disabilities I have and they go out and save the world. Their disability is a part of their lives, just as is their racial backgrounds, religions and sexual orientations. Their immutable characteristics are simply immutable characteristics. The story is what they do.

My advice to other disabled, deformed people or people with limb difference is to build up your self esteem. Everyone is called names. It is not pleasant and it is not OK, but it happens to everyone. Build up your self esteem. Do sports, do drama, achieve in academia, achieve in the workplace. Build a life for yourself. Like me, you may have to consider the needs of your disability every day, but you can live a full and wonderful life.

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