Rainbows, Ideologies and Jesus

48 hours after a rainbow crossing was installed in the city of Bristol in the south of England, UK, someone wrote “Jesus loves sinners” on it.

My thoughts on this are many.

There is a rainbow crossing in my city. It is driven over – because it’s on a public road – and so has become grubby and lost a lot of its colour. There was a funny video on Twitter of police horses refusing to cross the rainbow crossing – because it looks odd to horses, so the police horses trotted around it, no matter what the police officers on horseback were telling the horses to do. A lot of LGBT people found it hilarious that the police horses refused to cross the rainbow crossing. I found it amusing.

I actually think that having the rainbow Pride flag on the ground for people to walk over and drive over shows a lack of respect for LGBT people – that we are to be walked over and driven over. Maybe that point of view comes from my Celtic background. Saint Aidan refused to ride the horse the king had given him because riding a horse would have put Aidan at a physically higher level than all other people, which Aidan thought would have sent out the wrong message about equality. I think it is disrespectful of LGBT people to have what is supposed to symbolise us on the ground for people to walk and drive over.

I was happy when I went to Northern Pride in Newcastle three years ago to see a rainbow crossing. I thought that had just been put in place for Pride and that it would be removed after. I think celebrating Pride – in a family friendly way with no kinks on show, no nakedness, no plain odd stuff, just normal people having a normal celebration, showing that LGBT people are normal people – is great. Northern Pride is very family friendly, with no nakedness, no kinks, nothing that caused me alarm in any way. It centres around a fairground, with stalls from sports groups, religious groups, charities for homeless people and more. Northern Pride seems holistic and fun, and is the only Pride I’ve been to. I refuse to go to other Prides because of the plain bizarre behaviour, the drunkenness, the drug taking, the kinks on display, which show people that LGBT people are freaks.

I am happy with a Pride day. I think that is cool, I think we need to stand up for equality and show our numbers and stand against workplace discrimination and all other discrimination LGBT people still face in buckets in the UK today, including physical violence, which is on the rise. But I think one day is enough. It really is. We have one day for Rememberance Day – when we remember the people who fought and died for our freedoms in wars, we have one day for D Day and VE Day, we have one day for Eid, we have one day for our nation (St George’s Day, and Scotland has St Andrew’s Day, Wales has St David’s Day and Ireland has St Patrick’s Day).

The rainbow flag was designed to represent all LGBT people. However, the Pride flag painted onto Bristol’s street also includes the trans pride flag and the brown and black stripes for BAME people who are LGBT. The rainbow flag was designed as it is, with a meaning attached to each colour band, to represent all LGBT people, and so many LGBT people are against the use of the trans flag alongside the rainbow flag, and against the black and brown stripes. I do have a bi pride flag in my home because I am bi, and also as a Christian the rainbow to me means that God doesn’t break promises. Because of my religious beliefs around a rainbow, I personally don’t like to use it to mean LGBT, but I support anyone who does because I understand the rainbow flag to them is about equality.

There are now so many flags for different sexual orientations and gender orientations, and also lifestyle. I think it’s great that there are flags for lesbians (white and different shades of pink), bisexuals (blue, dark pink and purple), trans (light blue, pink and white) and many more. However, when it comes to public unity, I think the rainbow flag should be enough – the rainbow flag as it was first designed, because that was about being inclusive of all LGBT people.

I really don’t like the brown and black lines added to the rainbow flag. The reason is 20 years ago, if a person said they were brown, it meant they were into doing stuff with poo during sex. Likewise, if a person said they were yellow, it meant they were into doing stuff with urine during sex. For me, the black and brown lines look a bit grim.

Putting a rainbow out in a city centre, for all citizens to see, for all citizens to be made to pass if they want to use the city centre, is bullying. It is pushing all citizens to accept an ideology or sexual behaviour that they may not accept. It tells citizens what they are expected to think. The majority of LGBT people don’t accept the ideology that is being pushed at us, and many of us distance ourselves from the overt sexual behaviour and kinks that are also being pushed at us. Using public funds – paid for by citizens – to paint a symbol on a public road or footpath that is representative of a moral point of view, an ideology and sexual behaviour is going to cause trouble.

When a local authority puts out a message in the street about a matter that is both moral and ideological, no one should be surprised when other people start putting out their moral and ideological messages. Someone writing “Jesus loves sinners” on the rainbow crossing is really a mild reaction. The reactions could have been much more severe. When physical attacks against LGBT people – by people who are not religious, they just hate gay people, especially gay women – are on the increase, someone writing “Jesus loves sinners” has to be the nicest graffiti.

I know two or three LGBT campaigners were “distressed” by someone writing “Jesus loves sinners” on the rainbow crossing. I think that shows how free from strife their lives are. Most of us have much more to worry about, such as being sacked from the job that keeps a roof above our heads or being attacked in the street.

I also think that instead of assuming the negative, assume the positive. Someone writing that Jesus loves sinners is a positive message. As Christians, we believe all people are sinners and all people are loved by Jesus. I understand people will have a problem with the word “sinners”, but that is Christian language. I understand people will feel LGBT people have been picked out as “sinners”. That is true. There is no painted representation of heterosexuality in all its forms, which also include what Christians class as sin such as a drunken fumble on a night out, cohabiting and extra marital affairs. If there was a painted representation of these popular sins, I am sure Christians would be writing “Jesus loves sinners” on that.

I also think assuming it was a Christian who wrote “Jesus loves sinners” on a rainbow flag is not an assumption to make. Plenty of non Christians who have a problem with LGBT people will misuse Bible verses to hammer home their homophobia.

A representative of Bristol City Council said that Bristol was an inclusive city. Good. So someone writing “Jesus loves sinners” should be OK if Bristol is indeed an inclusive city. If someone had written that a hadith (an account of what the Muslim Prophet Mohammed said) calls for the death penalty of anyone engaging in same sex behaviour, that should be accepted if Bristol is an inclusive city. If someone had written “meat is murder”, that should be accepted if Bristol is an inclusive city.

This is the problem. “Inclusivity” often means the exclusion of one group, or several groups. It isn’t what it claims to be, like many words were are told we have to use and obey today. “Inclusive” often means pushing the rights and an ideology of one group and pushing other people out. As a Christian who has traditional beliefs around marriage and is bisexual, I have experienced first hand how intolerant, how unloving, how unaccepting and how exclusionary “inclusivity” really is. I have been threated with violence, almost beaten up in a “safe space”, had lies spread about me, someone tried to start a hate campaign against me on Facebook, which was denounced by the area’s LGBT workers. In general, I face a lot of hostility and people being aggressive towards me. I know how intolerant, unloving and unaccepting “inclusivity” and the people who preach it are.

When a moral and ideological message is put out in public for all citizens to accept, we should not be surprised when other people start putting out their moral and ideological messages. This is why we have always been more restrained in the UK when it comes to public shows of belief and morality. Christians can hold services and preach in the streets, but Christians do run the risk of being arrested for doing so, especially if they are reported for upsetting the feelings of someone around the issues of same sex relationships. Earlier this year, a Christian cafe in Blackpool was told by police to stop displaying Bible verses because of the nine verses in the Bible that condemn same sex behaviour. The Bible has 137 verses that condemn all sorts of opposite sex behaviour, but the police were not bothered by that.

Muslims are allowed to have stalls in the street to tell people what the Qur’an teaches. Sadly, people speaking in support of Islamist terrorism were allowed to preach hate of the UK in the streets of London and Manchester until recently. Vegans and animal rights activists can have stalls in town and city centres displaying their views and why they believe in their moral choices.

Christians and Muslims talking about their beliefs in the street, vegans and animals rights activities talking about their beliefs and morality in the street are individual citizens who walk away at the end of the day. There is something very different when the city’s governing authorities paint a permanent moral symbol in the street and demand that everyone must respect it.

As a gay person and a Christian, I think people’s personal beliefs, lifestyle choices, personal behaviour, personal morality should not be put on permanent display in the public square. For a society to be inclusive and equal, we must respect all citizens, not just the citizens we are told we have to respect. We all tone things down when we are in public so that we have a cohesive society. We all tone things down when we meet new friends because we want people to like us and not be put off us before they get to know us because we are different in some ways from them. All I see coming from the drive in recent years for “inclusivity”, “equality” and “anti racism” is more division, more hate, more anger and more loneliness. I agree with Douglas Murray that we were on the right path to having a harmonious society where everyone was welcome, and then things just went crazy when people started demanding “inclusivity” and “being visible”.

I am happy for a rainbow crossing to be painted onto a street for the Pride celebrations, but for the sake of LGBT people and all other citizens, get it painted over again after the Pride celebrations are over.

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The Pact – Another Badly-Written, Bigoted Drama

As a writer, I believe strongly you must have a normal world job. You can’t just be a writer. People who are just writers often have a fake view of the normal, real world. They have a bizarre view of jobs and how people get on or don’t get on in the workplace. They often have no knowledge of how jobs actually function and run, thus they make glaring errors in their storyline that anyone who has worked in those jobs can spot a mile off.

I was out with acquaintances the other night for a meal, and they all said The Pact, a recent BBC drama that the Beeb has been advertising, was amazing, fantastic, the best thing in a long time. So I sat down with my Quorn and vegetable curry to see this outstanding work of art. Pretty soon into the first episode, I had turned into Rab C Nesbitt and was shouting at the screen.

So, we start out with Big Bad Horrible Man Boss saying nasty things to his women factory staff. Then, after his party that all the staff felt they had to go to, he assaults one of the young female workers in the car park. Of course he does because he’s a man, and male bosses always assault their female staff at a staff party. They don’t, but the BBC want you to believe that they do.

The other women intervene and get the female who has been assaulted to safety. And they don’t phone the police. The women then decide to kidnap their drunk and high boss, leave him in the woods tied up in the rain in the middle of the night, and pull his trousers down. So Big Bad Man can’t assault a woman – good – but the women can commit a group assault on a man, kidnap him, and even talk about exposing his genitals while they take photos of him to put on social media to humiliate him. Talk about double standards.

While I’m at the women, let’s have a look at the demographics; three middle aged straight women, and one gay in her 20s or 30s. They are all very close. One woman is godmother to another’s children. This doesn’t happen in real life. Firstly, the gay woman would be an OK acquaintance to the other women, but they wouldn’t be close with her because that’s just how relations between straight and gay women are – at arm’s length, and no work colleagues are so close that they kidnap a boss together, are godmother to another’s kids nor cover up a murder together. They just don’t. I’m working class, I’ve worked in fast food places, hotels, shops, care homes. I know these things. Women don’t kidnap their nasty Big Bad Man Boss. They just quit and get another job.

So we have a secondary female character who is gay, and then the main main character’s son is gay. That’s a lot of gay for the Middle Of The Welsh Nowhere. When only 2.2% the population of the UK is LGBT, that’s a lot of gay for A Small Village in The Middle Of The Welsh Nowhere. What Anna chatting with her son about his possible date with another boy shows is that she is A Good Person. I’d like to see a main lead character who is gay or bi. We’re always relegated to the Second Division, there to tick a box and show how wonderful and tolerant the heterosexual characters are, but not to be the main lead character. What if Anna had been gay or bi? Now that would have been daring.

When 15% the UK population is Black or Asian, the DI being Black, a DS being Black, a police techie being South Asian and another police techie being East Asian, the realms of believability are being pushed. I’ve been to Wales many times. In the cities where the Victorian ports were, there are many people of different racial backgrounds. But not in The Valleys.

Oh, and the only relationship that turns out to be good is the gay one; the gay female character gets together with a mixed race female worker who has just dumped her boyfriend. Of course, because bisexual people just bed hop, we flip a switch and don’t have any emotional connection to the relationship we have just ended. We flip a switch and we switch. It’s really easy, because we are shallow and don’t actually care about the person we live. We just move onto the next person and jump into bed with them. We don’t actually. We are (mostly) normal people who want a normal life, but the BBC writers, actors, producers and promoters seem to love viewers having all sorts of biphobic thoughts running around their heads. And in Pride Month, too.

Oh and the lesbian character has been in prison. Of course she has. Just another homophobic trope to add to this cesspit of a drama. We never find out what she did to be sent to prison, and when she shows her girlfriend scars on her stomach from prison, we are never told what these scars are, nor why they do not look like scars at all. They look like birth marks.

Oh yes, and the bisexual – after three days of dating her girlfriend – offers to cover for her in a murder investigation. Of course she does. That’s because us bis are not normal people. Hang on, yes we are. None of my friends nor myself are with a jailbird of any sex or gender, and we’ve never offered to cover for a partner of three days in a murder investigation. We’re all social care workers and probation officers and counsellors. We don’t get involved with prison types. It’s almost like we have a moral compass and healthy boundaries.

The police conducted witness interviews in the factory they all worked in. I take it the police station was suddenly inundated with hardened criminals who filled every interview room and office space.

The autopsy showed the victim died of asphyxiation. How? Was there a ligature wound? Was there bruising to the mouth and nose? Was there any hand prints on the throat? No. Just asphyxiation. When it is revealed how the victim was murdered, it’s pretty clear there would have been bruising to the nose and mouth, and probably fibres of the murder weapon imbedded in his upper epidermis. But the police autopsy has completely missed all this.

The police, after two weeks of investigating, have no information on the victim. his social life, his habits, nothing. The first thing a police murder investigation does is get a picture of the life of the victim. But apparently the Middle Of The Welsh Nowhere Police don’t run investigations like the police in the rest of the UK. Anna’s husband – who happens to be a DS – can’t spot the fact that the CCTV camera in the games arcade is a fake. The police have Nance’s car on CCTV near the murder spot, but not the murderer, who was following Nance’s car. Don’t get murdered in The Middle Of The Welsh Nowhere. Don’t even break a nail. The police are even more incompetent than the force in the area I moved away from last year, and that’s saying something.

More man hating in the last episode. Anyone who has heard Douglas Murray take apart Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda will have flash backs. So, at the end of the laugh out loud video from Minaj that is supposed to be sexy and empowering for women, she does a lapdance for a guy, and is all over him, but when he goes to touch her she slaps his hand away. Nance does the same with the vicar, albeit without the lapdance and thigh highs. Nance has been sharing “looks” with the male vicar throughout the drama, and in the last episode, she invites him to show his feelings for her. He goes to touch her face and she slaps his hand away and chastises him.

And then we come to the murderer. Teenagers under the age of consent don’t murder people. They just don’t. OK, a small percentage do, but they tend to come from abusive homes, are desensitised to violence and have mental health issues as a result. A teenager has to have something really wrong with them to murder someone. Normal, nice girls from nice middle class families don’t murder people. Not even if the person they murder is a Big Bad Horrible Man who has said nasty things to them. I wish someone had told the BBC writers this.

Also, nice middle class families don’t cover up a murder. They don’t know how to. Oh yes, the father is a recently promoted DS who gave up his unspecified former career to become a police officer, but he’s not even able to spot when a CCTV camera is a fake. He’s not going to be able to cover up a murder that one of his children has committed.

Nance’s talk with the vicar was of her decision to free herself from the shackles of putting others first, so she walks into the police station and confesses to a murder she did not commit and sits in her prison cell, smiling with her light pink lipstick. Nance, after all the soul searching she has done in all the episodes, has found her true vocation; doing twenty years in prison for a crime she did not commit. She is happy at last.

That’s it. That’s the six episodes of man hating, biphobia, lesbophobia and incompetent writing and some shoddy acting at times. Holes all over the storyline, police procedure out the window, reality bended into a social justice warrior’s dream and it just me bored in the last two episodes. Crikey, they really dragged out the last episode. They could have just ended the drama with five episodes, seeing as the murderer was uncovered in the fifth. The last two episodes were an anti climax, with me flicking the timer on and off, wishing it would all end soon.

This drama alone shows the viewer why writers should have normal jobs alongside their writing work. Who says “It’s your funeral”?!

It reminds me of Collateral, another BBC drama that was out last year. It was totally woke, with open man hating lines, police procedure went out the window, holes all over the storyline, and it was just shoddy. One glaring example was when the interpreter for the police interviews started advising the interviewee what to say, and then was gossiping with the police about the suspect/witness they had just interviewed. It’s a sackable offence for the interpreter. I’ve looked into interpreting. I know these things. There could even be jail time involved. But I guess the BBC writers didn’t know this.

Several years ago, a writer friend (who wrote for the BBC) asked me to look at a friend’s script. It was set in a mental health ward. I could tell the writer knew nothing at all about mental health wards, from the fact they wrote that the nurse was wearing a nurse’s uniform – and in mental health, nurses wear casual-smart clothes, to how the medication was administered, which were key points in the writer’s script and storyline. They had no facts at all, therefore could not write realistically about a patient’s experience on a mental health ward.

For writers to write successfully, they need to have actual first hand knowledge of what it is they are writing about. If they are writing a police drama, they should volunteer with the police or even work for or with the police for a period of time. If they are writing about mental health wards, they should have experience of work on a mental health ward, if they are writing about farming they should have experience working on a farm. How could someone know what to write unless they have first hand experience of settings.

Yes, I write BAME, female and LGBT characters, but their racial background or sexual orientation or genitals are not the story, there is no bigotry and the story depends on the story, not immutable characteristics. My characters are real, they are based on people I know, they have depth, they have friends, hobbies, interests. I don’t stereotype and I don’t man bash.

I am working on an ebook, a novel that I hope to have out in July or August. It begins with a murder in a care home. I’ve worked in many care homes and in care settings. I am writing real experiences into my work. The real experiences I have had in care work and in care homes contribute massively to the story and provide some of the twists in the murder investigation. I also wanted readers to know about what goes on in care homes, the abuse the staff face daily, and the toll it takes on the staff’s mental and physical health. I write about what I know. I wish the BBC’s writers knew stuff.

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Battlestar Gallactica: Disappointment and Homophobia

I love the 2000s version of Battlestar Gallactica. In so many ways, it is subtle, it is great story telling, it is inspirational, and it is also disappointing.

My favourite character has to be Felix Gaeta. He seems to be the character with the biggest character arc, one that I relate very much to. It is one of huge disappointment with life and the hits that a person takes in life.

Gaeta starts out as a young man, fascinated by the sciences and by life in all its wonders. He joined the military to be able to fund his studies.

During the occupation, Gaeta’s place in the military was to serve Gaius Baltar, the human President who sold out the humans to the Cylons. Throughout the occupation, Gaeta fed information anonymously to the resistance. When Gaeta was about to be executed for being part of Baltar’s government, it became clear he had given a lot of information to the resistance, which had saved lives.

After this, we see Gaeta get his confidence back when he finds Baltar’s notes on how to find Earth, and Gaeta was able to decipher their meaning and plot a course. We see him giving instructions to the president and Admiral Adama and explaining The Science.

Throughout the four series, we see Gaeta at the helm of space exploration, fixing up computer programmes to foil the Cylons’ attacks, and in major roles in the control room of the ship.

Gaeta was a discreet person, a kind and compassionate person. He saw that his best friend was making illegal calls to her boyfriend and quietly warned her to stop, he made no comment on the XO’s alcoholism, yet he also lied at Baltar’s trial, saying that Baltar signed death warrants for the fun of it, rather than the truth that Baltar did so at gun point. Gaeta’s friendship with Baltar completely broke down when he is sent by Adama to try to get Baltar to open up, and instead Geata stabbed Baltar, almost killing him. Gaeta was furious at Baltar’s weakness during the occupation.

Gaeta was obeying his superior’s commands when Starbuck’s husband shot him. The result was Gaeta lost his leg. He found comfort in singing to his amputated leg, and then he got back to work, in pain and struggling with an ill fitting prosthetic leg. He has a partner, Hoshi, but Gaeta’s life is destroyed.

When Earth turns out to be a fake Earth, and a destroyed wasteland, Gaeta’s best friend commits suicide. Many more commit suicide, fights break out between crew members at will, Adama is permanently drunk and the president has locked herself away, burning her holy book. Gaeta takes matters into his own hands. He, together with a shadowy figure released from prison in the first series, form a mutiny. Most of the crew are on his side. They take control of the ship, but it is Gaeta who stops a massacre and ends the mutiny.

I understand what it is to be hit by life. So many bad things happened, when I gave 20 years of service to the UK and its people. I ended up in poverty despite my high level of qualifications, dedication and commitment. I helped so many people, yet when I needed medical help, it was not there or it was at the end of a two year waiting list. Whenever I faced trouble, no one was there for me, yet I had been there for so many people when they had needed someone. I’m talking about nice, middle class people, not people who had chaotic lives. I have seen Jordan Peterson talk on this very issue. It is the sign of an agreeable person. I used to be an agreeable person in many ways. There were many aspects in which I was not agreeable at all, but I used to be much more agreeable. I am not agreeable anymore. I am now a very disagreeable person.

Alessandro Juliani who played Gaeta said that Gaeta’s bisexuality was of no consequence, that it is not something anyone in Battlestar would even think about because they were all beyond seeing sexual orientation as an issue. However, there are lines in the script that go against this. The XO, confronting Gaeta about his role in the occupation serving Baltar, “A man can turn his coat”.

Before he committed Mutiny, Gaeta had a dispute with Starbuck. She had no compassion for Gaeta losing his leg. When Gaeta asks Starbuck about her Cylon husband Starbuck said, “Is this how you get your kicks now?” And makes a dig about him only having one leg now. When she storms out, he shouts after her, “I guess a pity F is out of the question.” Gaeta has never spoken sexually before, and this is totally out of character for him.

Another line that seems to stand out as glaringly referring to sexuality is, “No one forced you to play both sides. So I ask you Mr Gaeta, who is the real traitor in the room?” Having a bisexual character who “plays both sides” during a war is just too easy to point to as bias on the part of the writers of the show.

When Gaeta is asking Admiral Adama to sign over command of the ship, Adama says, “You can shove it up your ass”. Sure, there’s nothing wrong in this line, but if you have watched Battlestar, this line will stand out because it is not used in any other situation in any of the four series and the word “ass” is only used as an insult by Adama once against his son who had put on a lot of weight. The line is out of place, and the expression on Gaeta’s face to “Shove it up your ass” seems to be one that acknowledges it as something beyond a simple show of resistance. Gaeta seems to see it as a loaded comment.

The two man gay/bi characters in Battlestar turn bad. Admiral Cain, the admiral of the Pegasus, who encouraged her crew to beat, torture and rape her Cylon girlfriend and who shot her XO in the head in front of the rest of the crew, was a bad egg. She loved her crew, but ruled them with fear. Gaeta is destroyed by circumstance, going from the sweetest, most discreet character, to an aggressive, bitter mutineer which is much more understandable.

As a writer and a bi person, I am keen that LGBT characters are not portrayed as shiny and perfect. However, I have to question the only two big L/B characters turning murderous and megalomaniacal. That doesn’t sit well with me. Sure, Hoshi gets to be Admiral for the day, but he is a minor character who hardly has any lines at all, and has very little screen time. The two main L/B characters both turn bad.

I also saw how no one gave Gaeta any compassion, how he was left to fend for himself when he was shot, and no one tried to have a quiet word with him. Gaeta’s real change of circumstances happened when everyone was deeply upset, yet other characters got time in the bar, talking about their problems and their sadnesses with concerned colleagues and friends. Gaeta didn’t get that. Even when his best friend shot herself, no one checked to see if Gaeta was OK. There was a clear difference to how Gaeta was treated from how the rest of the main characters were treated.

When I did my anti terrorism training, we were taught that we could be the link that breaks the chain. Just us being nice could change someone’s perception of westerners. If we were nice, that could be the one thing that makes a person stop and consider whether or not all westerners were evil and needed to be destroyed. Simply being nice could prevent a terrorist attack.

I see this with Gaeta. If someone had taken him to the bar to chat, he might not have become so resentful. He might have felt heard, appreciated, listened to, worthy. In his cell, the night before he is executed for mutiny, Gaeta tells Baltar that he hopes that one day, people will realise who he really was. Baltar tells him, “I know who you really are Felix.” Baltar is nearly in tears. This once decent man who admired his scientific abilities and had helped him through the occupation had been let down and had acted out of anger and disappointment, and this was what had destroyed him.

This is a challenge to me. How do I not act out of anger and disappointment? How do I turn things around so that I am not a victim of circumstance again? How do I take steps to improve my life and future proof my life as much as possible? How do I heal?

Much love to everyone x

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Battlestar Gallactica: The Lone Voice

We need genuine lone voices. In our mixed up society with fake news, deep fakes on the horizon and gossip, we need lone voices.

Throughout Battlestar Gallactica’s ten year journey or four series, there is one crew member, one character who remained honest, true and good, no matter what happened. Karl Agathon moved up the ranks to being Acting XO (Executive Officer) twice. He is compassionate, resilient – he was on the run on an occupied planet for over a month, he is tough and just.

Agathon’s call sign as a pilot is Helo, which means “sun”. He is the bright light shining on dark subjects, he is the lone voice. When the President wants to commit genocide against the Cylons, the only person questioning it was Helo. His reasoning was his wife was a Cylon who had changed her mind about humans and now defended humans from Cylons, so other Cylons should be given the chance to change. (Which they do.) It’s the same argument against the death penalty; people should be given the chance to change.

In series 3, Helo is put in a managerial role, settling a refugee population. The refugees are from a colony planet that is known for its superstitions and lack of trust in medicine. The refugees are ill, and a civilian doctor steps forward to care for them. He is liked and supported by the military top brass because he saved lives under the occupation. However, in comes complaints that the doctor hates people from this planet and the people don’t trust him, and then comes a complaint of murder.

Helo goes through the coroner’s records from the occupation and life after the occupation and he finds that the doctor’s patients who didn’t make a recovery came mainly from the refugee group and then one other group. Helo asks the military’s doctor to look into the matter, to do an autopsy and see if there are any anomalies. The doctor tells Helo to get out and stay out.

The XO accuses Helo of always wanting to be on the outside looking in, that he has a personality trait that makes him always want to be condemned by his peers – the moral stances he takes, the trouble he causes and the fact he married a Cylon. We all know people like this; people who are happiest when they claim to be persecuted and causing trouble for other people, going against the grain of society just to cause trouble.

That was not the case for Helo. He was right about the civilian doctor. He was what is termed “racist” in Battlestar – not referring to skin colour, but referring to the planet of origin with the associated culture and customs. The doctor really was murdering people he thought were less worthy of being cared for, less worthy of having medication and medical attention.

In the old religions, we have prophets. Most modern day prophets would never calls themselves prophets – they are too humble to give themselves a title. There are other people who seek to make money out of their religion and its followers. The truth is a prophet, someone who hears from God to take a message to the people, is someone who carries a message that most people don’t want to hear. The messages are messages that people need to change their behaviour, change their hearts.

Prophets are not popular people for this reason. John The Baptist was the “lone voice in the wilderness”. He was the cousin of Jesus. He lived in the desert, he wore animal skins, he ate locusts and honey. He was beheaded by the king because of his message, to turn away from wrong doing and to love Jesus.

Both religion and the rest of society need people who will speak out. There is so much to fix in our world, we need people who genuinely do want positive change and who will also work for it themselves. There is a world of difference between what we now call virtue signallers who stir up trouble and say whatever is fashionable to say, and people who genuinely do have something of worth to say that is difficult to hear but is the best thing for society.

Yesterday, I saw a virtue signaller comment on the twitter thread of someone who has been a frontline worker for twenty years. This frontline worker was talking about how paedophilia gets its claws into people. The virtue signaller poo poo’d this comment. I replied with the fact I was a frontline worker for twenty years and no one wants to hear what I say neither.

Trust has gone between citizens. The ability to have an opinion on any subject, whether we know anything about it or not, is something that many people succumb to on social media. Some people simply want to be right about everything and don’t care who is hurt in their quest to be proven “right” on any matter.

We need to restore trust. We need to start listening to people who do know what they are talking about, whether it’s me talking about the lies around the UK’s asylum system or a doctor at Great Ormond Street Hospital who tells a mother and father that their child will not live. We need to restore trust, respect and human dignity in our interactions with others, especially when those people have a specialism in the area such as the doctors at Great Ormond Street.

Some things have changed for the better in the last year of the lockdowns across Europe. Some people have been able to spend more time with their children, spend more time developing themselves and finding new interests. Other people have faced losing their job, homelessness and relationship breakdown. Often the calls for “be kind” come from people who have no problem slating strangers on social media. Some things have changed for the better in the last year, and some things have become much worse.

We need people who are genuine. We need people who will put themselves on the line, no matter what the personal cost, and to do good. To save lives, to find answers, to protect others. I am not talking about law breaking, gluing oneself to a train and stopping working class people from getting to work or trashing a fast food place. I am talking about people getting trained in jobs or professions, to do voluntary work, to do the difficult jobs in difficult situations. We need people to step forward in whatever way they can. It is something that is on my mind – what can I do? Remember, if you do decide to do what you think is right, you may lose friends. You may lose family members. You may lose your job therefore your income.

In my post from over a year ago on Christianity and HIV, I spoke about a heterosexual couple I knew who had opened one of the first HIV/AIDS hospices in the UK. They had been workers in a cancer hospice, but saw there was a need for end of life care for people with AIDS. Some of their family disowned them, their church disowned them, they lost almost everything to take care of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses.

We need people who are genuine, who are willing to be lone voices and change our society for the better.

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Battlestar Gallactica: Torture, A Fair Trial and Our Emotions

What do we do when someone is beyond the pale? What do we do with someone who has committed monstrous crimes? What do we do when someone has information that will save lives and refuses to detail the information?

This is something I struggle with, having worked with serious offenders, serial offenders who have no remorse, having worked with survivors of sexual abuse and having worked with people who could have saved lives but chose not to, I do struggle with this, and most of the time, I am against the death penalty, but if I’m in a bad mood and thinking of the lasting damage that has been inflicted on the lives of clients or people I know well such as friends who have survived genocides, I do move to thinking the electric chair – a horrific death – is the best way forward and the only answer.

I am human. I am not perfect. Although my emotions are very much limited by a condition of the brain, I still do have feelings, but as Ben Shapiro says, facts don’t care about your feelings.

There are some things that are wrong. They are simply wrong. They go against human nature, they go against civil thought and they go against any notion of personal liberty and freedom from tyranny.

People around the world envy the West for our laws and our less corrupt governments that interfere less with people’s lives. People around the world envy our criminal justice system, the fact we outlawed torture and state murder. This is one of the reasons so many people want to come to the West – we have created a better society. Through centuries of wars, hardship, studying, learning, listening, we have created a better society. The wokenistas say “Do better”. We have to do better than Egypt or Iran or North Korea, and we have to be better.

Battlestar Gallactica’s second and third series pose serious questions. When the Cylon was tortured and raped multiple times and another Cylon was about to be raped, it was said, “You can’t rape a machine.” As in it was open season on any Cylon female. Again, I look at the people we think are different from us, who we think don’t feel and experience life the way we do. People from some African nations go through the most appalling tragedies and seem to cope fine. Do they experience life in the way a Westerner does? From what I know from friends, they do, but in some cultures such as Rwandan, people are not allowed to show any sort of sadness at all in public, therefore their ability to experience life as Westerners does seems in question, unless you know that your friend has left the room so that they can cry.

The English version of the sci fi drama Humans showed a female robot being used by a group of teenage boys at a party and a lead female character walks out, disgusted. Whether we view other people the same as us or not – and I hope we hold all lives dear – it is about us. It is about our intentions, it is about our heart, it is about our morality and it is the kind of person we want to be. If we harm another person, it damages us. It lessens us. If we act in self-defence, that is another thing, but to deliberately harm another person without care because they are different to us, that says how inhuman we are.

Night time in prisons are not easy places to be because the male and the female inmates cry about what they have done. I was working with a group of men, and one was an alcoholic who went to the pub every morning and came home every night. Then the road rage murder committed by Kenneth Noye, a former gangster, hit the news, and the older alcoholic man came into my office, crying. His mind was flooded with all the things he was trying to block out with alcohol, all the terrible things he had done to others when he had been involved in the East End gangland world. Every day, he came to my office and sat at the side of my desk. He spent most of the day, every day, crying. I kept him in tea and biscuits and offered support when he needed it, and I got him into a care home that would treat him decently.

What people have done does hit them, and I do think “good”. We do all have to deal with our decisions, and the more severe the harm we have caused, the worse the personal outcome is for the offender.

I wondered for a long time why the guards at Guantanamo Bay put gas masks on the detainees. I realised why. It was so that when the detainees were in emotional or physical pain because they had been tortured or beaten or held for over a year, four years, without a trial, the gas mask hides the detainee’s face and muffles their voice. It is easier to inflict pain on someone if you can’t see their face or hear their voice.

Battlestar also raises the question of whether or not a person accused of treason, collaborating with an occupying enemy and ordering mass murder of civilians should receive a fair trial. I lived in Belgium at the start of the commemorations of the two world wars. I went to museums to see how Belgian people lived under occupation. Coming from the UK, which was never occupied in the Second World War, I have to say that even being in a museum and reading about the ways in which people in Belgium had to live under occupation was different. There was a really nasty feeling, an atmosphere of uncertainty even in the museum.

No one knows how they are going to react in a situation until they are in that situation. In Battlestar, Gaius Baltar was elected President and settled the remainder of the human population on a planet, away from the spaceships they had been in, and then the Cylons found them and occupied the planet. Baltar gave in and collaborated with the Cylons, although he was more of a hostage than collaborator, with a gun held to his head so that he would sign death warrants.

As Beast/Hank Mccoy in the second X-Men film asked, “Is it cowardice to want to protect oneself from persecution?”

At first, the new President, Laura Roslin, doesn’t want Baltar to have a trial, but decided it must go ahead for morality’s sake. At the trial, it was shown that everyone hated Baltar for personal reasons as well as for his alleged collaboration during the occupation. It is said at his trial that everyone else has been forgiven. People have been forgiven for being part of the civilian police, people have been forgiven for harsh military decisions to abandon the people on the planet, people have been forgiven for murder, for sending suicide bombers to murder Cylons and collaborators, for shooting down a vessel with over 1000 civilian passengers, so why was Baltar the only person who was not forgiven, and the only person on trial?

All the shame of what everyone had done in the continuing war, in the occupation, all the anger, all the pain was being placed on one man. The scapegoat. The term “scapegoat” comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of a goat having all the pain and guilt of a year’s sin placed on it, and the goat is sent out of the town to the wilderness to die. The painting by Holman Hunt illustrates this, and Christians believe that Jesus became the scapegoat for the sin of the whole world for all time when He died on the cross. The scapegoat – all guilt, sin and wrong doing placed on one person so that everyone else can be seen as blameless.

Today in society and on social media, we see trial by the mob and mob justice. We see protests causing teachers to lose their job and even have to go into hiding with their whole family. We see sexual harassment and even a bad date tried and judged on social media by people who don’t know all the facts, who weren’t there when the incident took place and have no evidence. Lives are ruined.

I do believe in the law. I do believe our laws in the UK need to be upheld more than they are by the police, by the courts and by the prisons. The UK could be a truly great place if we aspire to uphold the values that set us apart from so many other nations, and that does mean setting our feelings to one side and letting the facts speak, no matter how difficult that may be to us.

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Battlestar Gallactica – Good Leaders and Bad Leaders

When I think of good bosses I’ve had, I think of Barry; a 25 year veteran of the job who had worked directly for the UK government in the field as well as for the private company that we worked for together. Barry was kind. Barry was hardworking. Barry gave me gentle guidance or gentle admonishments when I screwed up. Barry never shouted. Barry was never cruel or demeaned anyone. Barry sat and listened to workers or clients. Barry gave professional reassurance to a worker who was constantly worried about their legal status in the UK. Barry told jokes, even jokes at his own expense. Barry was the best.

Series 2 of Battlestar Gallactica shows us two styles of leadership aboard two battleships whose captains both believe they are alone in the universe in the war between humans and the Cylon machines. In Series 1, we meet Adama, the commander of the Battlestar Gallactica. He is a fair man, but his personal life is difficult especially in his strained relationship with his remaining son. His other son had died in an enemy attack, and Adama finds that Starbuck had passed his deceased son as a fighter pilot when in reality he was not fit for the role. Starbuck had done this because she had been engaged to the younger son and hadn’t wanted to disappoint him by turning him down for the role. When Adama finds that his son died when he shouldn’t have been in a cockpit, he is clearly outraged, but he doesn’t lose it with Starbuck. She knows how he feels about her because of her poor decision, but she is never harmed verbally or in any other way by Adama. He tells her to do a better job as instructor to trainee pilots. He lost his son but he didn’t lose it. This says so much about Adama and his love for his crew members as individuals.

Enter Admiral Cain, the commander of the Battlestar Pegasus that finds the Gallactica when following enemy co-ordinates. Admiral Cain rules her ship with fear and punishment. She shot her second in command in the head in front of the rest of the command team because he refused to carry out an order that he believed would risk the life of everyone on board the ship. Cain found out her girlfriend was a Cylon and gave her crew permission to beat, rape and torture the Cylon over a period of weeks. Cain believed that any kindness shown to her crew would cause their downfall and deaths.

The Cylon escapes from the prison and shoots Cain in the head. The Cylon is helped to escape and joins the Peace Movement.

Adama becomes Admiral after Cain’s death. He appoints the second in command of The Pegasus – the one who succeeded the shot second in command – and this guy has a lot more morals, but is murdered due to his black market connections. The next captain appointed to The Pegasus was the engine room boss Carter. He’s great with machines but not with people nor command, so he added to a terrible situation that killed many of The Pegasus’ crew, but he did pull it out of the bag when he gave his life in the exploding engine room to save the rest of the crew.

Cain had been a dictatorial leader. Cain thought she was invincible. She ruled with an iron fist and made sure there was no competition for her role as captain and admiral. As such, Cain had not trained anyone to succeed her if she died or became seriously ill. Cain did not trust her crew. She showed no compassion, she showed no loyalty. She did have favourites, who were both female. Starbuck became her favourite officer when Cain forced Adama to mix the crews of The Pegasus and The Gallactica together. Cain’s influence on Starbuck made hard hearted and divisive for a period of time.

Adama’s son Lee takes over the captaincy of The Pegasus. Lee is keen to change the way that The Pegasus’ staff think and work – the whole culture that Cain instilled was corrupt, violent and destructive. Lee is keen to change all of that.

At one point in my social care career, I worked both for a private company with homeless people, and also in the NHS. The NHS ward manager (matron) divided the staff team into the people she liked and the people she did not like. Half of the team spent a weekend at her house and the other half of the team did not – the half I was on. When I raised concerns about staff shouting things like “fucking p*** bastard” in reference to an Asian man, I was the one who was told off.

When I raised concerns about the less popular patients being neglected – to the point where one patient who was not supposed to be under my care had hair matted with dead skin, obviously she had not been showered properly for weeks, and I took a bowl of warm water and a comb and spent two hours combing all the dead skin out of her hair, as well as daily bullying of all ward staff by one senior nurse, which included not helping us with patients when we needed help – I was the one who was threatened with false allegations of abuse being made against me, that I would do jail time and I would never work again.

A student nurse said that she did not know how to work with mental health patients and was scared of them. Instead of giving her assistance to develop skills, the ward manager said, “Oh I can’t stand nutters.” The majority of the staff team were simply unpleasant people. They were bitchy and jealous, they made fun of Black agency workers and their names, they made fun of the ward’s social worker for having larger breasts and wearing high heels, they were aggressive and spoke of violence they had committed or wanted to commit, they slated their husbands and one was even open about being accused by a doctor of harming her child.

Compare that with the private company I worked for at the same time, where I worked alone on night shift, or alongside a well functioning and highly skilled and tight-knit team during day shifts. All the staff got on, they all had their roles, they all had their specialisms, and my specialism in complex mental health and rehab was respected. Everyone was focussed on their work. There was no gossip, no backbiting. When one worker quit suddenly for personal reasons, the team spokesperson said to the manager, “We don’t want to know what’s going on. We just want to know he’s alright.” The manager even asked my opinion about candidates who were being interviewed for the vacant job roles. The staff were keen to foster an atmosphere of trust between workers and clients, and to treat everyone with respect.

Many of our clients had no family, and we became their family. We had a worker in her 60s who had opened some of the best services in the UK and fulfilled a grandmother role, we had an ex police officer in his 50s who fulfilled a father figure role, and the rest of us were in our 20s and 30s and were like cousins to our clients. Every client counted. No one was a favourite. Everyone had equal time spent with workers, even the clients who were more self-sufficient.

Which workplace sounds like the most fun for you? Which one sounds more ethical? Which one sounds like a place you would want to work? Which sounds like it leaves the best impact on a patient’s or client’s life?

When I think about great bosses, inspirational people, people I want to emulate, I do not think about the NHS staff I worked with. I think about the staff and managers of private company I worked for, and I think of Barry. Those are the people I want to be like. I hope I can be like them.

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Battlestar Gallactica – The Last Non-Woke Sci Fi Series

I never saw Battlestar Gallactica when it was on TV 20 years ago, so I have used lockdown as a chance to catch up on this fantastic sci-fi show. I saw The Critical Drinker’s Youtube on The Expanse, another sci-fi show, and I noted that the Drinker said that one of the great things about The Expanse was it wasn’t woke. Race, sexual orientation and sex don’t matter. The Expanse just tells great stories. I wanted to see a similar show, and Battlestar did not disappoint.

Battlestar Gallactica is set thousands of years into the future, and sees the re-emergence of a war between humans and machines. The main character, Admiral Adama, is Hispanic. The communications officer Dewalle is Black – possibly a nod to Uhura from Star Trek, an expert pilot Sharon is Korean, the tactical officer Gaeta is Hispanic, and none of them ever refer to their racial backgrounds. They are simply fine officers doing an amazing job.

Several main characters are LGB but again, there is no reference to this because none of the characters would even think to refer to sexual orientation. The same is with the sex of the characters. Female officers must be able to physically do the same as male officers, including having the physical strength to pilot aircraft under 6G force.

Starbuck aka Kara Thrace is butch, she works out but is also curvy, she boxes, she plays cards, smokes cigars and loves men. She is an abuse survivor who has built up a career as the best pilot in the fleet. She is respected and she is loved. I can’t help but think that if many girls struggling with what it is to be a girl or woman see Starbuck, they would not struggle so much. Starbuck’s life as a woman is never questioned.

With identity politics not playing any part in Battlestar Gallactica, the series is free to explore true science fiction. True science fiction asks us what it means to be human. When the Cylons – the enemy robots – experiment with cloning and create Cylons that look like humans, we are then asked what is humanity. Does a Cylon think they can love, or can they really love? What is a Cylon’s life worth if they believe they are so similar in all ways to humans, if they believe they can love, they can have morality, they are very much alive? Do they feel and think and love as we do, or are they simply not the same as us? This question has been asked throughout human history and is still asked today.

When Helo falls in love with a Cylon – who has been a sleeper agent in the military for several years, and he loved her long before he realised she was a Cylon – Battlestar explores what it is to be in a mixed relationship, with someone who is from a different background to yourself. We see Helo’s girlfriend become the mother of his child. She is terrified for her life and for the life of her baby. She knows that she is not seen as equal, and she fears she never will be. She is an outsider in her husband’s world. No matter what she does to save humans and destroy other Cylons, she might never be seen as trustworthy.

When it is discovered that this Cylon is pregnant, the president decides the baby cannot live. We see the military take a woman to the hospital for the termination of the baby she wants and loves. We know that this has been done throughout history to women who weren’t deemed good enough to have children, or women from a hated minority.

It is not the love that normally abounds and directs all action aboard Battlestar Gallactica that saves the baby, but the baby’s use for medical science instead. Without an overt reference, we are pushed towards issues such as stem cell treatment, keeping life living because of its use to those who are already fully formed humans. The doctor, who is often the voice of reason in a straight-talking way, is the one who says that stem cell treatment from a human-Cylon baby is unnatural and he doesn’t like it.

Battlestar is not in your face. It explores many issues without directly referring to them. It uses the characters’ storylines to show, not tell, and provides a rich environment for storytelling. In Battlestar, the story is not about skin colour or sexual attraction. The story is the story, and it’s a very good story indeed.

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Stripping Back The Strip Clubs

Bristol has done it and now Blackpool is doing it; getting rid of the strip and lap dance clubs.

Good.

I grew up in Blackpool and I returned for health reasons to live with my family when I was in my early 20s. I saw as an adult what I had simply accepted as a child.

When I arrived at university at the age of 18, a committed Christian, I freaked people out by the things I said. Luckily, a member of the Christian Union who was a year older than me who was also from Blackpool and a friend of a friend took me under his wing and helped me become more normal-people-friendly.

My first few weeks at university were especially confusing for me. I had moved to a major city, and there were no big lights, no flashing signs anywhere, and only three nightclubs. The city was also very safe, very safe, for anyone to walk around, and there was no sexual behaviour in the streets, no roaming groups of men or women shouting sexual things at 10am and there was much less violence.

When I returned to Blackpool in 2003, there were 13 lap dance clubs in the town. I went to work at The Pleasure Beach – that is not a lap dance club, it is the name of the fairground park. I did have to spell that out to friends when I emailed because they were thinking, “Welcome to the Pleasure Dome!” I loved working at The Pleasure Beach. The management treated me very well and I was given responsibilities as well as having my health needs catered for. The staff and management really were good to me.

The problem was some of the clients, and this proportion grew in the summer months. Groups of men turning up drunk when we opened our doors at 11am, and saying sexually perverse things to our female staff. The men, and groups of women, would go into the fairground – where families were – and continue to drink and behave increasingly sexually and violent throughout the day until there were serious fights some nights in the bar or actually on the park, with people being glassed, knocked unconscious etc.

The Pleasure Beach had a large security team who all wore stab vests and carried hand held metal detectors. In our training week, we were trained in de-escalation, pressing the panic buttons, phoning for security and self-defence. For working at a fairground at minimum wage.

Having so many lap dance/strip clubs attracted stag and hen parties who behaved in the worst of ways, from street violence to sexual violence. The bus companies stopped all buses from going through the town centre during the summer months. A&E was full of people who had been assaulted or stabbed. I had friends who were doctors. One, when I showed her a particular nightclub said, “Oh, we have twenty assaults a night from there.” The police closed this nightclub on 63 counts of illegal activity, including sex on the dancefloor. When Sophie Ellis-Bexter released, “Murder On The Dancefloor” it caused much mirth in Blackpool.

Lap dance clubs are not harmless fun. A police report around ten years ago, put together by data collected by police forces from across the UK, showed that when a lap dancing club opened, the number of rapes in the surrounding streets shot up. Yes, sex workers such as lap dancers are sexually assaulted and raped more regularly than most will admit while they are employed in the sex industry, but also women who have nothing to do with the sex industry are targeted in the streets near lap dance clubs by men who have been in lap dancing clubs, who are turned on and want to put their penis inside a woman.

The sex industry – whether it is lap dancing, stripping, porn, prostitution – stops a person seeing others as humans, and instead sees them as things to use. Lap dance clubs are known as “Gentlemen clubs”. There is nothing gentlemanly about them.

The reason given by two male councillors in Blackpool for banning the lap dance clubs is the behaviour of the stag and hens who use the clubs and strippers’ services, the fact that families are being driven away from visiting the town, but also they are joining the White Ribbon movement, standing against violence against women.

It’s about time. Around the year 2006, Blackpool’s newspaper, The Evening Gazette, polled business owners, locals, visitors and others. The results were damning. Visiting families said they were appalled at the behaviour in the streets and were never coming back, over 60% visitors said they would never come back to Blackpool, locals hated the street violence, the smashed up bus stops and shop windows and the town centre being a no-go zone at certain times of the year.

The report also showed other grim realities. The number of murders was four times the national average, and Blackpool was either top or second in the whole of the UK for alcohol related deaths, suicides, sex offences, drug misuse and teen pregnancies. In fact, there was a documentary about the 30 year old grandmothers in Blackpool. Blackpool was either top or second for everything bad, for ruined lives.

For visitors who go to Blackpool for a knees up, a drunken weekend and a fumble around the lap dancing clubs, it’s a big laugh. They come, use the sex workers, and then go back to their normal lives after the weekend. For the people who actually live in Blackpool, life is not one big party. When the sex industry plays a heavy role in any place, prostitution follows, and with prostitution comes drug misuse, especially heroin and crack. Most prostitutes and 80% heroin users were abused in childhood, therefore have long term emotional or mental health needs. People with these backgrounds often can’t work, and so with very little support available are not able to live happy, healthy and harmonious lives.

Blackpool is the only place I have lived as an adult that I have never returned to. I left in 2007 and have never been tempted to visit friends or see how the town was getting on. I’ve seen news reports about the poverty and unemployment in Blackpool and the precarious nature of many people’s lives there.

Growing up in Blackpool affected me negatively. As I said before, I said things without knowing that scared other people who knew me. I was lucky that people understood and stuck by me and taught me how to relate to people in normal ways and leave the scary talk for therapy sessions.

As well as this, growing up around the sex industry fed into the gender dysphoria that I had had from the age of 9. As a teenager, I saw women used as objects, women used as sexual servants, I saw women being used by men and women in the most disgusting of ways. Of course I did not want to be a victim like all these women, and they were victims. No sex worker is in control. They say they are while they are in the industry. Sex workers have to say how great their job is otherwise they will lose their job, and most do not have a good education or CV. They would be unemployable so remain trapped in the sex industry.

I saw the mess these women made of their lives, I saw how men called all the shots in reality, I saw how women degraded themselves for money and put up with being called all sorts of names by the “Gentlemen”. Of course I did not want to be a woman. I wanted to be a man.

I also saw nothing wrong with viewing those women as objects. Women were working in the sex industry, they wanted to be seen as objects while they were working, so I thought there was nothing wrong in seeing them as objects. As a teenager, I had the most appalling views about women because of what I saw in the street from the lap dancers and their promotion events and posters. It is only because of my faith that my views on women changed. I realised I could not reconcile how I viewed women with what the Bible says about women. I could not reconcile my belief that we are all created in the image of God with what the sex industry taught me about women. I had help at my LGBT Christian Bible study group for my warped views, and I am so thankful. I now have female friends and I see them as valid people, not subhuman.

My sister was three years younger than me. By the age of 15, she was sleeping around and was on first name terms with the GUM clinic staff. She had been a cocaine addict at 12 and bulimic at 15. She was getting involved with prostitution, so at the age of 15, my parents sent her to live with her 31 year old boyfriend in London. My sister became friends with some women in their local pub. These women took my sister under their wing and took her to buy some clothes. They asked my sister why she was wearing “summer clothes” in October. My sister thought it was normal to wear hot pants and a bra top for normal every day life, even in the English Autumn.

My classmates, as I said in a previous post, were all dating men in their 20s when my classmates were 14. Several were pregnant by the age of 16. At sixth form college, several of us counted over 20 of our friends who had had three kids by three different men by the age of 18. The effect on girls growing up where there is a booming sex industry is that they see themselves as only valid for what they can do in bed. We went to a wonderful school with some of the best teachers offering one of the best educations in the area. We had opportunities that most girls would never have, and a sizeable portion chose instead pregnancy and a revolving door of boyfriends.

One girl in my class was a prostitute at the age of 14. She was brought into school four days in a row by the head of year, and after that we never saw her again. That is another thing people forget; where there is a booming sex industry, there is a booming industry that uses children. When I worked with abuse survivors in 2008, I was handed a report about sexual abuse of children in all UK seaside resorts. Apparently, seaside resorts attract people who go to the resorts with the sole purpose of abusing children.

The male councillors in Blackpool who are behind the lap dance clubs being closed refer to them and any other such like establishment as “sexual entertainment venues”. Sexual entertainment. Strangers’ bodies are entertainment.

Blackpool council have also decided to limit the number of porn shops to one. Good. When I left Blackpool in 2007, there were many porn shops. With the view of harm reduction, I hope that the one porn shop left in Blackpool will be fully licensed as a porn shop. This means what they sell is tightly regulated, so yes, there is some gross material allowed, but nowhere near as gross and scary as the porn that anyone can access with a quick internet search.

Some say that if lap dance clubs are closed, they will simply go underground. They already are. Women are pushed to do things they don’t want to do, sexual assaults are common place, drug use is normal as are the mental health issues that arise from taking part in the sex industry.

There is a petition on Change.org to try to stop the lap dance clubs from closing. The people behind this petition have no idea about the misery the lap dance clubs cause to the women who work in them, to the women who are raped in the near by streets, to the women and girls who live in a sex industry-soaked environment, nor the effect on boys and girls attracted to women in a sex industry-soaked environment. The cost to society and to individuals’ lives is far too high.

I grew up in Blackpool and returned to live there as an adult. I wish that Blackpool had never allowed the short term gains to be the sex industry. I saw so many lives destroyed. My life was deeply affected, my sister’s life was deeply affected. I had a chat with a famous person who grew up in a suburb near Blackpool, and I asked him, “So, you’re from the Blackpool area. Any mental health conditions? Any addictions?” He laughed because he knew exactly what I was talking about. We had a natter about his work and he gave me a big hug.

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The Danger of Saying “Love Is Love”

Like many things that turn sour, they start out with good intentions, sometimes the very best of intentions.

When I was in Morocco, my tour guide who camped with us for the week, told me and the group that we might see older women with tattoos on their foreheads. He said that decades ago, it was decided that to protect women from kidnap (for forced marriage) or sexual assault, women should be tattoo’d on their foreheads with the name of their husband. This was a sign the woman was married and therefore not up for grabs of any kind. Then, in recent times, it was decided to stop this practice because it was against modern ways of thinking about women and men and women’s rights.

In fact, I never saw any woman in Morocco with a tattoo like this, but I did when I lived in Belgium. I lived in a multi ethnic area, and saw an elderly lady with a tattoo on her forehead.

The phrase “Love Is Love” and many phrases like it were formed and celebrated to throw off shackles of oppression and bigotry, especially towards LGBT people. It was meant with the best of intentions, and it was used by many LGBT people and LGBT groups.

However, some LGBT groups have stopped using this slogan and others like it, as have many LGBT people individually. The reason is that paedophiles have started using “Love is love” to justify their attraction to children, and their want or the actual practice of having relationships with children.

Several prominent LGBT vloggers and commentators such as Rose of Dawn have talked about how a new letter, P, is sneaking its way into the alphabet soup. P meaning “paedophile”.

LGBT people have worked tirelessly for decades to convince society that we are not paedophiles. We came to be accepted in society through our work as social workers, teachers and probation officers and through our lives as friends, sisters, brothers, cousins, sons, daughters. LGBT people pose no danger simply for being LGBT.

Two years ago, Amnesty International used “Love Is Love” and I said why it is wrong to use this phrase; notably that it is being hijacked, and the response to this was hundreds of people saying how homophobic I am, with a small number of LGBT people saying they agreed with me.

“Love Is Love” is being hijacked by people who want to have relationships with children. However, I also raise the question of what does “Love Is Love” actually mean? When my definition of love is different to your definition of love, and your definition of love is different to your best friend’s definitions of love, when everyone has a different definition of love, what does “Love Is Love” actually mean?

I then think back to my classmates when I was 14. Many were in relationships with men in their 20s. My sister at the age of 15 had a 31 year old boyfriend. All these girls said they loved their older boyfriends. Their boyfriends said they loved my sister and friends. Yes, this was all paedophilia and totally illegal in the UK, but the couple said they loved each other. So where does this leave the phrase “Love Is Love”?

The next example, I think back to are the homeless women clients I had who said they loved their boyfriends. Their boyfriends beat them, their boyfriends sexually assaulted them, but the women said they loved their boyfriends. Their boyfriends said they loved the women. Domestic violence is totally illegal under UK law, but these couples all said they loved each other, so again, where does this leave the phrase “Love Is Love”?

When we all have different definitions of what love is, it makes phrases like “Love Is Love” meaningless. When something is so nebulous and can mean anything, it is easy to hijack.

I had a friend who had low self confidence and was desperate for love. Her twin had died and she was lost without her twin. She had a girlfriend who mistreated her, I played my friend the song “I Follow You” by Amadou et Mariam, a wonderful song about devotion to partner or spouse. At the end of the song, I asked, “Is your relationship like that?” She said no, but she carried on being in the relationship because she was desperate for a partner, any partner. She was desperate to be loved. Her partner made wonderful speeches about how much she loved my friend, but her actions were anything but loving, and did include physical assault and depriving her of warm clothes in snowy weather.

Thankfully, after a year, my friend kicked her girlfriend to the kerb and got herself sorted in terms of self love and self esteem. She opened up to me about all the bad and horrendous situations she had gotten herself into with women and men because she had been so desperate for love. Her father had been a violent tyrant and her mother had had a severe nervous disorder and didn’t protect the children and had stopped hugging my friend and her twin when they were six years old. Looking for love, my friend had prostituted herself, she had gotten into cars with men who had driven her to remote places where she couldn’t run away and she had let partners do whatever they wanted to her. It really wasn’t good for her.

She built up her self esteem. She stopped craving other people’s attention. She stopped saying yes to anyone and everyone. She focussed on her business, on her hobbies, and on her relationship with God. She built up her self-respect and her love for herself.

When we think about love, we need to think about what we want. When we love ourselves, we have boundaries. When we love ourselves, we seek out people who respect us and who genuinely do want the best for us. This is part of what love is in my definition of love. We raise the bar.

I never expected to get married, so I had no expectations when a friend and I got together when I left another country. I divorced him because he decided to not get treatment for his mental health condition, so living with him was incredibly stressful, and his behaviour spilled over into behaviour against me I do not accept from anyone, such as shouting. I divorced him because I love myself, and while it is a shame, I feel no guilt nor any regret. I love myself and my standards are that only people who love me and respect me are welcome in my life.

Now that I have been married, I do have a tick list of what I want from a future husband if I were to marry again. My culture is important to me, so I would like a husband from a background similar to mine or at least a husband who takes an interest in my culture. A husband who pulls his weight with work hours and finance is on the list. A husband who has a heart for humanity and our fellow human beings is on the list.

As are Christian and bisexual, but they are on the “preferred characteristics” list. Basically, I value what the people I love value, and in turn, I want friends and a spouse who value what I value. To me, this is another part of the definition of love.

I work at several major folk events. Seven years ago, I turned to a work team mate and asked him which bands he was hoping to see. He said he wasn’t a folkie. His wife was, so he had come with her. I told him this was true devotion. Non-stop folk and traditional music, clog dancing and ceilidhs for five days, and he was putting himself through all that for his wife. Wow, that really is love!

God bless everyone xxx

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Racialising Stuff That Doesn’t Need To Be Racialised

I love Sesame Street, especially when I am watching it in another language. Watching Sesame Street, Teletubbies and Ultraman in other languages makes keeping up language practice as easy as ABC.

However, those who earn much more money than I do have decided that Sesame Street is too white and needs puppets of colour. Enter stage left Elijah and his son Wes to explain “hair texture” and “melanin”. This would be totally fine and understandable if Sesame Street was a hub of hatred for anyone beyond maika on the Dulex colour chart, but Sesame Street has always had a diverse cast of children and adults on the show. Sesame Street has also celebrated Black History Month since the 90s, even welcoming big names such as Lupita and Erykah Badu.

Also, as I said in my post Blasphemy And Satire, children just want to pick their nose, draw a picture and eat their crayons. Kids really don’t care about skin colour or hair texture. They certainly don’t care about melanin. Kids play with kids. Some kids do have questions, or even hesitations. The episode of Roseanne where Roseanne and Dan were called into the school by the teacher because TJ wouldn’t kiss the new girl in the school play, and the teacher assumed Dan and Roseanne were teaching racism at home. It turned out TJ just wasn’t used to Black people, and wasn’t sure about the girl’s lips because they were bigger, so Dan and Roseanne talked to him about his friend who had ginger hair and said differences were fine.

When I was in high school, we were all drawing a scene from Far East history, and I asked our Chinese classmate which way Chinese eyes go and which way Japanese eyes go because I had forgotten. She knew what I meant. There was a rhyme children said in primary school, and most English people over 40 can remember it. S said that their eyes don’t go up or down, and she showed me her eyes up close so I could see the shape. I thanked her and got on with my work. and she got on with hers. It was no big deal. It did not affect our friendship at all.

When The Muppets made a come back in the 90s, Kermit was interviewed in various magazines and on TV shows. He said, “We now have a Muppet of colour. His name is Clifford, he is a Rastafarian and he is purple.”

That was the thing with The Muppets and Sesame Street; the puppets were multicoloured. There was no assumption about the racial background of the puppets because they were red and green and blue and yellow and purple.

Over here in the UK, morning TV presenter Rochelle Humes presented a documentary on a health issue. Rochelle Humes has no medical qualifications. Rochelle is a lovely TV presenter and has always done a good job on morning TV. Presenting a heavily biased and carefully edited documentary on why Black women in the UK die at four times the rate as white women in the UK in the twelve weeks after childbirth is really beyond her, and the findings of her documentary show that.

The problem is also the timing. This documentary has been shown on UK TV (on Channel 4) several weeks after the official report with all its findings were released and reported on by BAME groups such as Tell Mama. I read the report findings when the report came out.

Rochelle Humes’ documentary blames racism for Black and Asian women dying in greater numbers than white women in the twelve weeks after giving birth or in childbirth itself. The fact that 80% midwives in the UK are Black Asian Minority Ethnic puts a spanner in the works of the idea that racism is the cause of these women’s deaths.

The report that came out at the beginning of this year showed that BAME women who gave birth were more likely than white women to be overweight or obese. BAME women were more likely to have diabetes and heart conditions. Anyone with any medical knowledge knows that it is more dangerous for a woman with diabetes to give birth, whatever her racial background. We all remember the 1980s films Steel Magnolias in which Julia Roberts’ character Shelby was told to not get pregnant because her diabetes would not be able to cope with a pregnancy. Shelby got pregnant and survived the birth, but her kidneys gave out and she was then on dialysis.

So diabetes is dangerous for pregnant women. It takes no cardiologist to say that giving birth while having a heart condition raises the risk of death. When BAME women have these two conditions at much higher rates than white women – mainly due to diet and lifestyle choices – then racism cannot be blamed for their personal choices,

What are the diet and lifestyle choices that cause BAME women to have higher levels of diabetes and heart conditions? The way food is cooked is a big factor. In many families of Pakistani background, for example, they are used to cooking food with a lot of fat. This of course leads to obesity, and thus diabetes and heart conditions.

A study out last year showed that 56% Black UK people got the recommended 150 minutes per week of exercise, and 55% Asian people (excluding Chinese) got the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, compared with 62% adults overall.

I have put on a lot of weight with lockdowns and lazy eating habits, so I have decided which foods I am cutting out of my diet and I am looking forward to the gyms reopening, plus with the days getting longer and warmer, I will be walking in the mountains very soon. I am concerned for my own health, so I am going to do something about it.

My gym – when it is open – is racially diverse, with many hijabi women working out, running on treadmills, lifting weights and generally being awesome. I cover up, and there is a lot of great sports wear out there now for women who want to cover up. I have even worked out next to older women in full abayas. Most of my Black friends are very fit and active, some are vegetarian and very health conscious. They also go walking in the English countryside regularly and don’t find it racist, as has been claimed by another TV presenter.

The other main factor in BAME women dying in the first twelve weeks after giving birth is domestic violence. If a woman chooses to live with a violent man, there is nothing anyone can do. When I worked with homeless people and I rehoused as many as I could, I could not help the women who I saw every couple of months who always went back to the men who beat them. I would try to rehouse them in a lovely supported home for women who have been harmed, where staff were on duty 24/7 to help the residents, with the view to enabling them to live independent lives free of violence. Yet every single time I tried to rehouse these women with support, they would go back to their violent men before I could get the moving in process underway. I have found that two weeks is the time frame in which women go back to violent men. I have seen that over and over. Most women who leave their violent partners go back within two weeks.

When a woman is in hospital, about to give birth, or after giving birth, she is offered help. If hospital staff even suspect there is any issue in the woman’s life, they will offer help. The time a woman spends in hospital around the birth of her child is seen as a window of opportunity to help women in need by the hospital staff and by the government. The birth of a child often makes a woman think about safety and the type of home she is bringing her child into. Some women do leave violent partners when they become pregnant or when they give birth because they want their child to be safe. The woman can choose to accept help or not.

So it’s not racism that is killing BAME women at higher rates than white women in the UK; it is issues that are often within the control of the women themselves.

There all all-female gyms, or gyms with separate floors for men and for women, for people who believe that the sexes should not mix, there are gyms aimed at BAME people, there are healthier ways to cook traditional food and much more we can all do to preserve our own health. I have taken up the challenge of taking more responsibility for what I eat and what exercise I do. I hope others can do the same for their own sake.

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