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.

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The Good Atheist on gay rights and equality

I’ve been listening to a lot of good podcasts recently, and one of my favourites is The Good Atheist where Ryan Harkness and Jacob Fortin discuss current affairs and what’s wrong with the world, specifically to do with religion.

It’s often very funny, often insightful and sometimes shocking. The episode i heard today, they were discussing some stupid PDF by a religious sect, listing 77 reasons why atheists should be against gay marriage. They laughed about the absurd nonsense supposed logic behind a few of the points in the PDF, and then they talked about how good it is that religion is going to lose on this one. It’ll take time, but people are mostly growing up these days knowing that being gay is not a big deal. I love Jacob’s rants, and this one was an exceptionally good one …

Jacob: The population is getting older, and older people are more religious. But if you’re putting all your faith in them, i got news for you: they’re all gonna die, man! That’s why whenever you look at reports saying, by 2030 (or even earlier than that) many countries, even Canada is included in this, will no longer be considered religious … and that has almost everything to do with the fact that the elderly are the ones that hold on to this. And, unsurprisingly, they’re also the ones who just, overwhelmingly did not like gay people. Because they weren’t part of a culture that saw that as no fucking big deal. They saw it, in fact, as a very giant big deal!

Think about throughout the history of The West, if you want, think about how long gays have had the shitty end of the sexual orientation stick. Hmm? How long has that been going on? This is probably the best time for them, and it’s not even that great! Think about the suicide rates for young gay men, it’s just ridiculously high, right? Cos all they’re told is that they’re fucking giant pieces of shit – and – that’s – better than it used to be. That’s as good as it’s been. That’s fucked up! That is fucked up.

I’m sure in the future, we won’t be part of that future, but i think it will be a great future when we can look at that and finally be ashamed of ourselves, and just put that behind us. Not forget it, but say, “We’re not going to be like this anymore. That’s not going to be us. We’re not going to look at a person’s sexual orientation and say, you don’t deserve to have the same rights as everybody else”.

Ryan: It’s going to take another generation to get the influence of the elderly bigots out of –

Jacob: Yeah, but that’s just here. I mean, how much work do we have to do in Uganda? How much work do we have to do in the rest of Africa, in Asia? You know, in the Middle East. It’s a nightmare! We’re looking at probably another fucking hundred years of this bullshit for everyone to catch up.

But you gotta be that shining city on the hill. You know what i mean? To some degree, you gotta be a beacon of fucking hope for people. Cos the whole world’s not all gonna fall at the same time but goddammit, we can definitely say that we’re on that top. We are the shining motherfucking city on the hill because we’re not the ones going around saying “Oh! If other people have the same rights as me it’ll ruin everything”.

So very well said. These things are important. We have a right to get angry about these issues. I don’t get angry about a lot of things, but equality is a big issue for me, and people who try to deny it make me angry. I’m actually glad that Jacob made such a good rant and i hope nobody minds me transcribing it, because it echoes my own thoughts so clearly.

We have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. We must make a big noise against anyone who is trying to make us go backwards. It gets better. It must get better. It needs to get much better throughout the whole world.

If you like this, subscribe to the podcast: The Good Atheist. It’s great.

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:

http://takebackparliament.com/stitchup

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:
http://www.takebackparliament.com/
http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/
http://www.power2010.org.uk/

Ben Mitchell, the BBC, and diversity

I’m going to do the unthinkable and blog about a soap opera!

Yes, i watch Eastenders. Sometimes it’s really good. The whole Stacey and Jean bipolar storyline has been the most powerful drama i can ever remember watching. Both Lacey Turner and Gillian Wright are incredible at acting, and they portrayed the story with heart-wrenching emotion.

Jean and Stacey

Sometimes Eastenders really annoys me. The Syed and Christian storyline has been bothering me for almost a year because apparently nobody has ever considered the possibility that Syed could be bisexual. I strongly disapprove of the notion that Syed has to choose between straight and gay, and having slept with Christian and enjoyed it, Syed is for evermore labelled as gay. This, as far as i am aware, is definitely not how sexuality works. Eastenders had the perfect opportunity to do a good bisexual character, and they messed it up time and time again.

Christian and Syed

My latest gripe has been with the Eastenders treatment of Ben Mitchell. Ben is an annoying winging kid whose whiney voice often gets me screaming at the television! (Do these kids go to acting school?!)

Ben Mitchell

But Ben had a moment of glory dancing to Love Games by Lady Gaga. I cheered at that. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Ben enjoy dancing and shunning “traditionally masculine” activities. Of course, everyone thought they saw exactly where the BBC was going with this. I saw where it might be going and hoped desperately that they weren’t about to do the obvious.

So it was with some frustration tonight that i saw Ben’s dad, Phil Mitchell, bring up the gay thing. Credit to the BBC they did the best thing for diversity that they possibly could do: effeminate flamboyant dancer Ben Mitchell fancies a girl! Hooray! Or is it?

Ben definitely played the pronoun game to start with. Whether that was for dramatic effect by the script writers or if they are paving the way for a future coming out for Ben, i don’t know. I sincerely hope they’re not going to fall prey to stereotypes and make Ben gay. I think there is so much more potential for Ben as a role model for young straight boys who are comfortable enough with their sexuality not to feel the need to be tough and act macho.

Which reminds me: BBC: don’t do this horrible “abused becomes abuser” thing that it looks like you’re about to do. Seriously, we don’t want to see it. Ben can be tough and strong without becoming a bully.

Thank you, that is all.

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 www.1023.org.uk where you’ll find plenty of resources and more information.

10:23 campaign

Distressing times for the Rails community

Things like this sadden me: Mike Gunderloy resigns as a Rails activist, no longer wishing to be a public spokesperson for Rails. This is a great loss for the community.

Things like this disappoint me: the attitudes of a few people cause a tainting on the entire community. Even if David Naughton has misunderstood the issue, it is clear that the whole debate has had a negative effect on the Rails community.

Unexpected pornography at a professional conference surprises me, shocks me a little. I wonder whether Matt Aimonetti, at any point during the preparation of that presentation, thought “This is likely to offend some people”, and if so, whether Matt decided not to care.

The refusal of some Rails representatives to even acknowledge that there is a problem angers me. Yes it was edgy. Yes it was creative. It can be those things and still be offensive. “Creative” is not a synonym for “acceptable”. Offending people is a big deal. The unpology “I’m sorry that you happened to be offended” is a world away from apologising for having been the cause of offence.

It is not a person’s fault for being offended. Without wishing to be a Bible-basher, there is a lot to be said for this little nugget of advice:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

You can’t please everybody all the time, but there are basic precautions that you can take, and when you have made a mistake, you can take responsibility for it and apologise for it.

I think that is the end of my rant, and i hope i will have nothing more to say about it.

* * *

I would like to say publicly, again, that i appreciate my job so very much. I am extremely lucky to work in a family-friendly, vibrant, fun, laid-back yet totally professional environment, doing a job that i enjoy with my whole heart. I don’t expect expect to be discriminated against, nor do i expect any special treatment. I receive precisely the appropriate amount of respect and admiration that i deserve based on my skill as a programmer. I am extremely grateful for it.

Here’s a picture of me loving my job today, along with some of my colleagues, sat on the picnic bench in the sunshine: yfrog.com/4o8a2j :)

* * *

Sort of related to the rant, i have been wondering tonight where my opinions come from. Different people have different opinions, and i can read and intellectually understand varying stances, so what is it that sways me so strongly in one particular direction? I have an opinion on almost any given topic, but i don’t always know what it is that makes me feel that way.

I find the various out-of-control tram hurtling down a track thought experiments quite interesting in terms of moral dilemmas to which people often have a strong opinion, yet cannot quite explain why. Ethics and morals are curious subjects.

I am perfectly capable of closing my own browser

Look what happens when you try to log on to Nationwide twice without closing your browser in between times:

May we close your browser?

How rude! No, you may not close my browser!

*sigh* i guess we have the influence of Microsoft to thank for this kind of intrusion dressed up as helpfulness. We recently had to get a Vista machine for testing purposes at work, and literally every other click results in a stupid popup box offering to do something for us. It’s ever more noticeable because of Vista’s awful flip in – flip out dialog boxes which just look like such a failed attempt at a modern visual interface. Good visual effects should be sensed, but not noticed, in my opinion. Vista has got it so terribly wrong – it’s just annoying is what it is.

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 Twitter.com 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!!

Major grrr

Where do you go to give feedback on web hosting companies?

I am rapidly losing my patience with HostingRails. MyChores is still not responding after all this time. Sure, they had some hardware problems, but why is it taking so long to restore? How come this blog is back but they still can’t get Rails up and running? Why were they not prepared for this sort of situation?

I have been using HostingRails for 162 days. So far the downtime has been 30 hours. By my calculations that breaks their 99.9% uptime promise quite significantly – i make it 99.2%. I paid a lot of money for a service that i thought i could trust because i realised that reliability is extremely important to the people who use MyChores. I feel very angry.

Please somebody tell me … am i overreacting or is my anger justified? I really can’t tell at the moment.

Wow, my blog is back!

Did you miss me?!

I am very upset about this downtime of more than 24 hours – not about my blog being down, but MyChores site itself which people have come to trust and rely upon. It’s still not back yet. :( I have written about what went wrong on the MyChores Journal … can’t be bothered to go through it all again here now.

Well, at least the blogs came back – that’s something. But as i suspected, i have lost data. They say that one backup restore failed so they have gone to a different one. Bad HostingRails, very bad. You’d think they would have alternative servers prepared and ready to go; you don’t expect more than 24 hours downtime from a company that boasts 99.9% uptime. Let’s hope MyChores is at least back up and running soon.