Marriage equality – what’s that, then?

I was once told by an immature teenager that my gloves were gay. It wasn’t even my rainbow gloves, which i’d have to admit, yeah, they’re pretty gay!

Even my purple gloves, i’d concede that the kid had a point. No, it was my white and black striped gloves; they’re not even gaily coloured!

“Your gloves are GAY!”

So i said, “Oh really? Do you think they are attracted to other gloves of the same gender?”

To me the term “gay marriage” is as ridiculous a concept as “gay gloves”. Marriage doesn’t have a sexuality. And if you’re trying to say it’s for gay people, no it’s not. It affects bi, trans and straight people too, in all kinds of combinations. What we’re really looking for is an equality of marriage: the same opportunities available to everyone.

Some examples:

1. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle have been trying for nearly two years to get a civil partnership, because they don’t want the historical baggage associated with marriage. They have been denied because of their sexuality: they are both straight.

2. A friend of mine changed gender and had to get divorced and form a civil partnership instead, in order to achieve gender recognition.

3. I am bisexual and married to a man. Do we have a straight marriage? If i had wanted to marry a woman, would it be a gay marriage? No, because i am not gay.

4. Gay people can get married right now! There’s nothing to stop a gay man marrying a gay woman. You might be surprised how often that happens, just for the convenience.

It bothers me whenever i see the term “gay marriage”. This morning i saw journalists Emma Kennedy and Victoria Coren both use it, so i tweeted:

your periodic reminder that “marriage equality” is preferable to “gay marriage” .. thank you!

Emma agreed with me, but claimed that on twitter, “gay marriage” is more convenient, to avoid getting hundreds of tweets asking what “marriage equality” means. I didn’t realise that there was so much ignorance. It can’t be that hard to explain, surely? I think that if more journalists and politicians would start using the terms “equal marriage” or “marriage equality” then people would get used to it and understand what it means.

If we can’t go that far, “same-sex marriage” is at least slightly preferable to “gay marriage” because it’s more descriptive, and it doesn’t exclude bisexual people. It highlights the thing that is currently unequal about marriage. I still don’t like it because it implies that we’re talking about a different, separate thing, when what we actually want is equal access to the same thing.

One friend suggested that we should call it “Marry Who The Fuck You Want” .. people should be able to grasp that concept! Another friend recommends that we do away with marriage altogether, then we’d have equality of non-marriage!

It seems that the terminology of this thing is becoming my big bisexual soapbox of 2012, haha! And yes .. i know .. soapboxes do not have a sexuality. Well done if you spotted my irony there! ;)

Relatedly, for anyone who is trying to preserve the “sanctity of marriage”, the whole “one man, one woman” thing, remember that marriage is a human invention, and is always changing. I loved this poster that i saw the other day.


A letter to my dad

Dear Dad,

I like to think we’ve always been a pretty honest family; we tend to share our thoughts and feelings with each other and don’t keep much hidden. I’m not very good at keeping secrets; i prefer to talk about things, even if i know those things aren’t what you want to hear, or if those things could cause us pain.

I’ve been keeping a secret from you for a few years, and i don’t want to anymore. I think you might have guessed, or suspected. You know i don’t go to church anymore, and you know i love to learn about science. We don’t tend to talk a lot about religion anymore. Maybe i avoid the subject when it comes up, or maybe you don’t ask because you think you might not want to hear my answer.

I am an atheist. I don’t know for a fact that God doesn’t exist – for all i know maybe there is a God. I will happily say i don’t know. However, with the lack of any reasonable evidence i have concluded that, even though i don’t know for sure, i believe it’s unlikely. Hence i don’t believe in God. I certainly do not believe in a God who takes an ongoing interest in human life on planet Earth, a God who can be offended by what we do, a God who is perfect and omnipotent but is unable to forgive sin without sending a son to be brutally murdered.

The stories of Christianity stopped making sense to me long before i gave up my faith. I actually stopped believing in the devil years before i stopped believing in God. Looking back at them now, they seem like curious mystical stories, almost as unbelievable to me as any of the mythological stories of other religions. The only reason Christian stories have any resonance with me now is because i was brought up to believe them. I believed them because you did, and it was unfathomable to me that you could be wrong.

I want you to know that i am happy in my unbelief. I have found comfort in science, in fact, logic and reason. I have found explanations that do away with the need for a God to explain the things we can’t understand. God of the gaps has shrunk and become so small as the gaps have been replaced by science that i am happy to do away with God altogether. Even though there are things i still don’t know, like “What caused the big bang?” I am happy to say “I don’t know”. I don’t need to conclude that “God did it!” and anyway that would still leave me with further questions. If the universe needed a creator, and God was that creator, then God must have needed a creator too. You’ll tell me that God was outside of time and has always existed, but that’s not a good enough answer. I would rather stick to “I don’t know”.

There are things about church that i miss. I miss collective worship. I went back to church at one point for the music; i loved the feeling of singing together, and the moving effect of music. I tried to join the band there but they wouldn’t let me because they sensed my doubt.

I miss the feeling of community. As a Christian you automatically have friends who care for you and look out for you. I missed it so much that i created my own community: i started a Humanist group in Winchester. I have made good friends who meet on a monthly basis for tea and a chat. We keep in touch through email and text message, and on twitter. We meet up individually for coffee and have meals at each others houses sometimes. We recognise that morality doesn’t just come from religion, nor from law. I believe most human beings are basically good people automatically, capable of making up their own minds about what is right and wrong.

I guess i’m telling you this because i want you to be proud of me for who i am. I haven’t told you for so long because i am afraid of your disappointment. I told myself that you didn’t need to know, that it would just upset you, that it would cause you to waste your time praying for me to be converted back. But these were just excuses.

If your faith is as strong as i think it is, you will believe that i am going to end up in hell and it is your responsibility to do everything you can to save me. That’s hard, i know. I wish you could just let me take my own responsibility for that, but i know you can’t. I appreciate that you love me so much that you’ll want to save me from what you perceive as my certain doom. I can’t expect you not to try.

My personal belief is that when i die the most likely thing that happens is that i will simply cease to exist and have no consciousness. That doesn’t upset me at all, just as it doesn’t upset me that i had no consciousness before my birth. All it does is makes me more eager to enjoy this one life that by some remarkable fluke of probability i have the pleasure of experiencing. It leads me to want to make the world a better place than it currently is. I would love to leave this world better than i found it, and i know i only have a limited time in which to make my mark.

These days, i’m just being true to myself. I believe in things that make sense to me. I can’t force myself to believe there is a God and an afterlife when i think it’s very unlikely. I tried that for a while – i tried to take on trust the things that other people told me, but it didn’t work for long. In the end it just made my beliefs more shaky, so that once i doubted one thing, the rest just came tumbling down.

I love you and i respect you and i hope we remain close as a family, maybe becoming closer than before now that i have been able to be honest with you.

aimee xxx

Why i’m voting YES to AV

This time last year i got an MP who i didn’t vote for. An MP that more than half of Winchester did not vote for. I was very upset at the result across the country: the number of MPs was thoroughly disproportionate to the number of votes cast. Here’s a reminder:

UK General Election 2010

I went on a march in Trafalgar Square, i got a tshirt for Unlock Democracy, i led a debate on why First Past The Post is an undemocratic system (and won the debate!), i blogged and tweeted, and i talked to lots of people about how the system could be better.

In my opinion, the Alternative Vote, while not perfect, is certainly a vast improvement on FPTP. With AV, in Winchester last year, we could have found out the second preference of the people who voted for the smaller parties. It’s possible they may have supported the winning candidate, pushing the support up past 50%. Or they may have preferred the runner-up. But we would know that the winner under AV had support from at least half of the constituency.

I just voted #Yes2AV! on Twitpic

So … tomorrow is our chance. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a significant difference. I have absolutely no idea how the referendum will turn out, but i want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to vote, to do so. When do we ever get to help make a big decision like this?! I find it awesome to think that – hey – it’s up to us! For once, we’re not going to have the decision made for us by politicians.

I’m voting yes because i want a fairer voting system. I want an end to tactical voting. I want to know that my MP has a majority support. I want to be able to vote honestly. I want to help establish a better democracy for generations to come.

To be clear: A vote yes to AV is not a vote for Nick Clegg. A vote no to AV is not a vote for David Cameron. This is simply a vote on whether we want to fix the flawed voting system that produces results that don’t represent us.

OS X: So you think you’re password protected?

To quote Bob Marshall: “Security is always relative, never absolute”

When i started contracting, i thought it would be a good idea to make my macbook require a password on booting up or waking up from screensaver. For weeks i’ve been using it fine coming out of screensaver, but today i rebooted. I couldn’t log in. I think it must be something to do with the colemak keyboard layout. I entered the correct password, in colemak and qwerty, but it was having none of it.

Slightly flustered i turned to my phone and searched for “forgot osx password”. Very quickly i found a few articles on how to restart, hold down Cmd + s to get into single user command line mode, and then mount the filesystem for reading and writing.

Without entering a password, you now have superuser access to the whole system. You can reset people’s passwords. You can view and modify files. You can wipe the whole computer if you want to.

All i’m saying is, if you think an account password will protect you, you’re wrong. It may act as a deterrent, but if someone really wants access to your mac, they coud get it in less than 5 minutes.

It’s not just macs either: How To Reset Admin/Root Password gives easy to follow instructions for FreeBSD, Linux, OS X, Solaris and Windows. Ironically, Windows is the hardest one to crack on this point!

It’s a bit of a wake-up call for me.

UK Voting referendum already under threat

Today, Nick Clegg has set the date for the UK voting referendum, giving us a chance to reform the badly flawed voting system.

If you’re not convinced that the system is unfair, compare these charts: How we voted in the 2010 election vs what we got.

UK General Election 2010

Unfortunately some backbench Conservative MPs are trying to propose a 40% threshold, meaning that at least 40% of all registered voters would need to support the reform. This is totally unrealistic and unprecedented: it’s not the way we elect MPs, in fact only 35 out of our 650 MPs got support from 40% of their electorate.

Their fear is understandable: under a fairer voting system the Conservative party would probably not get an overall majority. But it is not right to use an unfair voting system to save another very unfair voting system.

The most important thing right now is to urge your MP not to support the threshold and to give the referendum a fair chance. You can do so here:

Follow the instructions to write a letter to your MP. A suggested letter will be provided for you; all you need to do is add in your MP’s name (the site will tell you) and sign it with your name. If you personalise the letter more, so much the better.

For reference, here’s the letter i wrote to my MP for Winchester, Steve Brine.

Dear Steve,

My first opportunity to write to you! :) This is about the Alternative Vote system referendum.

I really welcome a fairer system than the one we have currently. I led a debate at The Roebuck Inn recently proposing that First Past The Post is undemocratic. I did not vote for you, and my vote was discarded. It bothers me that 28,800 votes in Winchester counted for nothing. I won the debate, by the way!

Now that we have a real chance to get a fairer system I’m concerned that some backbench Conservative MPs are already trying to fight against it by trying to argue for a 40% threshold rule — that’s 40% support from all available voters, even those who choose not to vote.

This doesn’t sound at all fair to me, and sounds like a sign of fear. By the way, Steve, you only got 36.79% of the total available electorate in Winchester, so you should be able to see why this proposal doesn’t make sense!

You may not be the representative i voted for, but you are now my representative in Parliament, and therefore i hope i can count on you to oppose this suggestion and give the referendum a fair chance.

Yours sincerely,

aimee daniells
twitter: @sermoa

After one afternoon already 1,873 letters have been sent to 548 of our MPs. It is important that we get the message to all 650 MPs, so please do your bit and support true democracy.

See also:

Homeopathy: from skeptic to activist

I am a believer in logic and reasoning. I believe in things that can be scientifically tested and proven by independent non-biased parties. Things, in short, most unlike homeopathy.

Homeopathy is an alternative “remedy” system from the 18th century based on the bizarre conjecture that to dilute something to virtually nothing will increase its effectiveness. It relies on such nonsense as water having a “memory” so that it can “remember” what has been added to it even after it has been diluted so many times that it can no longer have any trace of the intentional ingredient.

Until recently, if you mentioned homeopathy to me, my mind would have conjured up an image of a dusty old shop with small windows in lonely back street. I certainly did not imagine that homeopathy was on sale bright and cheerful in every high street in the country!

Homeopathy placebo "remedies" at Boots
Homeopathy for sale at Boots

Thanks to the 10:23 campaign i have learnt a lot more about homeopathy. This saturday, 30th january, at 10:23 hundreds of demonstrators will “overdose” on homeopathy remedies outside branches of Boots across England. This is in order to show that homeopathy does not work, and to raise awareness of what it really is.

I hope that the demonstration will put pressure on Boots to stop selling this nonsense. Homeopathy is not something that a reputable chemist should be indulging in. Paul Bennett, the professional standards director at Boots has even admitted that there is no evidence that homeopathy works. Paul Bennett cites “consumer choice” as an appropriate reason to sell and profit from the little pills.

Interestingly enough, some homeopaths are in support of the 10:23 campaign. They say that homeopathy needs to treat the person as a whole, and is to be given with consultation of a “trained” homeopath! Either way, we’re in agreement that this stuff should not be available over the counter on the high street!

If you want to add your support to the cause, whichever side you’re on, go to where you’ll find plenty of resources and more information.

10:23 campaign

Homosexuality and Christianity

Please don’t be turned off by the title. This is not the argument that we have come to expect from the Christian church. This is the most sensible thing i have ever read regarding homosexuality and Christianity.

Next time i hear anybody saying that being gay is an abomination, or against God’s will, or forbidden in the Bible, i am going to send them here and pray that their heart is softened.

It’s a very long letter, and i didn’t read all of it in full detail, but i was very impressed by the compassionate spirit of the message.

Thank you to Kevin Sonney for bringing this to my attention.

Greening, and thoughts on population growth

Resumo: Mi diskutas la problemon de la eksponenciala kreskado de la mondloĝantaro. Mi estis hodiaŭ matene ĉe la kunveno por agado sur klimatŝanĝo.

This morning i went to the Winchester Action on Climate Change meeting. It was really very good; well-attended, with exciting ideas and news about greening projects in Winchester. One idea which particularly intrigued me is the plan to buy a farm in Winchester and get volunteers to help work on the farm, produce food and sell it. It sounds really exciting, especially as it is so difficult to get an allotment around here.

Later on i went to look at the Facebook I Am Green application, and was delighted that i can now tick “I do not commute; I live close to work/school” – hooray! :D

There is an item that has generated a bit of discussion: “I (will) have no more than 1 child, or I will adopt additional children”.

Someone called Júlia Babos made a comment:

What?! Having more than one child would be a green crime? I highly disagree.

Gray Little also disagreed:

Ya I’m with Julia I’d like to think that I’m living a pretty green lifestyle but i want a large family when I’m older, this in contrast I’s basically saying that having more than one child is a crime against the earth, I disagree completely to such a statement, and would appreciate if someone sent me information pertaining to its reasoning.

Well, i happen to know a little bit about this, so i made a comment in reply:

@Júlia – it doesn’t say you can’t have more than one child – but it is asking us to consider adopting children. The world’s population is growing exponentially, unsustainably.

Until the 1800s there were always under a billion people on the planet. It took 130 years to get to 2 billion, 30 years to get to 3 billion in 1960.

1974 (14 years later) 4 billion.
1987 (13 years later) 5 billion.
1999 (12 years later) 6 billion.

I believe it’s around about 6.7 billion now, and this massive growth is due to our dependence upon oil to fuel mass production of food. The amount of sunlight that falls on the ground in a typical year is enough to support about 1 billion people. Therefore the impending oil crisis is also going to be a population crisis.

Read “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” by Thom Hartmann. And to anyone who is thinking about having a child, consider adopting an orphan instead.

I realise that my argument is completely one-sided and i am sure there are many more sides to this debate. I would like to hear more opinions. What are the advantages of having more children and continuing to expand the world’s population? Is the oil argument soon going to be moot because nuclear fusion will provide a clean, limitless source of energy for us? What are your views?

A warning against Twitter

Resumo: La retejo Twitter rifuzas preni agadon kontraŭ ofenda kondukto. Tiu ĉi estas komplete malakcepteble.

To all who use Twitter: you need to be aware of this:

Twitter refuses to uphold Terms of Service

This story is shocking in the extreme. After months of ongoing bullying, harassment, foul language, hate speech, smearing of a person’s identity, Twitter had this to say:

“We’ve reviewed the matter and decided it’s not in our best interest to get involved.”

This is absolutely shocking and Twitter need to change their tune fast. This kind of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and there is no question that the abusive user needs to be banned from Twitter and all their hateful comments purged. Twitter are scared of a legal battle, but their Terms of Service clearly state:

“You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users […] Violation of any of these agreements will result in the termination of your account.”

As an internet community we have a moral responsibility not to let anyone get away with this kind of behaviour. I write this in support of the victim, but also for the good of the Twitter community as a whole. If one person can get away with it, people will soon learn that Twitter is a place where they can be as abusive as they like with no repercussions. This needs to be stopped as soon as possible.

Digg it, Stumble it, blog it … do whatever it takes. If Twitter will not deal with this, then we as a community most certainly will.

Update: Follow @wesupportariel and help take action on this! Oh, i love a good bit of activism!!