Tag Archives: lesbian

Should a straight woman run a gay news website?

Last week the editor of Pink News publicly ‘outed’ herself as straight in the Guardian. ‘So what?’ some might sigh. Surely in this modern world of alleged equality, we gays should well know how sexuality is not a factor in how well someone can do a job? But if this is the case, how come so many people have got their pink knickers in a twist?

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Lesbian smear campaign

Lesbians can catch cervical cancer.

If you have trouble understanding that sentence then you may find that, throughout your life, simple stuff generally confuses you. Don’t be alarmed to find out that most people probably think you are a twat. The likely cause of this is that you probably are.

You see, if even a layperson struggled to understand the above statement, I would be shocked. It’s not exactly a revelation is it? (PS Did you know that women and straight men can get AIDS too?). So to face such ignorance from a qualified professional took some beating.

Today I went to a Family Planning Clinic (Why? You might ask… lesbians can’t have kids can they?), to discuss why once a month I turn into Regan at the drop of a hat and cry at episodes of Jeremy Kyle. I meet with a nurse who is friendly enough.

She asks what I use for contraception and I politely explain that I don’t really need any – ‘I’m gay.’ ‘Brilliant,’ she replies, more than a little flustered.

On we go with the questions… ‘Are you pregnant?’

‘Err… no. Not unless my girlfriend has a big giant invisible cock.’ I didn’t say that though. I just shook my head.

‘Have you ever had a cervical smear?’

‘Yes,’ I reply, thinking that they were compulsory and remembering the dozens of letters I’ve had from my GP urging me to make sure I have regular smear tests.

‘Have you really? Why on earth would they do that? I mean, you don’t need one do you? How funny.’

At this point, my cervix probably blushed, it’s hard to tell, but my face certainly did. ‘I was sure that every woman over a certain age has to have a smear test.’

‘Really?’ Yes, that’s what the NURSE actually said to me.

‘I don’t think sexuality has anything to do with getting cancer.’

‘I suppose not,’ she pondered.

Now, forgive me for condemning this woman. She was pretty nice other than this and didn’t intentionally mean to make me feel hugely uncomfortable in what was a pretty personal and private meeting anyway. But I could not go so far as to say that her comments or attitude were harmless. Far from it – she directly implied that as a lesbian, I do not require regular, if any, cervical smear tests and therefore that I am not at risk from cervical cancer.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is bullshit in its rawest form. It’s staggering that a health professional, whose job it is to inform vulnerable women about sexual issues, could be so discriminatory and ignorant at the same time.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. Diva magazine did a feature on this very thing not that long ago.

According to this, statistics show that a woman’s risk of cervical cancer is cut by 84% if she has a smear test every five years, and 91% if she has a smear every three years. It’s estimated that NHS cervical screening saves more than 1000 lives each year.

A British Medical Journal editorial published in 2003 said: “An unfortunate perception exists among healthcare providers and women who have sex with women that they don’t need regular cervical smears… sexual intercourse with men is a powerful risk factor for cervical cancer. However, it’s important to counter the erroneous assumption that women who have sex with women aren’t at risk of catching human papillomavirus. Around one in five women who’ve never had heterosexual intercourse have human papillomavirus which is associated with developing high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia” – in other words abnormal cervical tissue development.

So please, don’t ever be fooled into thinking that because you sleep with women and not men that you can’t develop cervical cancer.

It is more than just a myth. It’s a lie that puts lives at risk.

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Women’s rights can’t be wrong

Tammy Wynette said it well really. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman (I’ll selectively ignore the rest of her song lyrics for the purpose of this blog). But she had a point. It is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – I’m not saying I want to start pissing standing up or take testosterone replacement, but I feel quite justified in my right to moan about the burdens that womanhood has placed on my shoulders.

I attended a discussion group recently. The topic was whether lesbians in this country should care about lesbians in other countries – where approaches are more hostile – and what we should do about it. The question prompted a variety of responses. In the main, it was heartening to hear that people cared; they wanted to help, but weren’t sure how. The idea of setting up a human trafficking ring to bring over Nigerian lesbians was raised, but as with most good ideas, practicality reared its ugly head. We just aren’t well connected enough to the underworld of London.

But what of those people who are subjected in other countries to harsh and often brutal responses to their sexuality? How exactly can we help? It’s not like hunger or poverty – I can’t just pack an old shoebox full of unwanted toys and clothes and send it off with a wing and a prayer. With the exception of talking/writing and, in doing so, raising awareness, there’s very little I personally can do that is short of packing my rucksack and heading off with a ‘Gay and Proud’ placard and a big red target painted on my back.

It’s a depressing thought and a sobering one at that – I am lucky. Sure, it was tough telling my Dad that I thought that rather than saving up for a wedding he should start a fund for IVF if he ever wanted a grandchild, however, my life is not in danger and I am not persecuted for my beliefs.

It was with interest that I listened to one person explaining that we should leave some matters up to the people in their own country to sort out. This caused some outrage, but I remained quiet, not sure what to make of such a statement. The person argued that, if such laws (such as anti-gay legislation) had been voted in by the people of the country, or the main religious movement there dictated that it was wrong, it wasn’t for us to go over with our rainbow flags and demand change. What about the gay people who are born into that sort of country, some asked. ‘They can just leave and come here or somewhere more tolerant.’

This is exactly the sort of argument that some people base their anti-Iraq sentiments on – it’s not up to us to go sorting out other countries’ issues and problems based on our own principles of democracy. There is some logic in this perhaps. It would certainly lead to less conflicts and an easier life for people over here.

However, this laissez-faire attitude is like putting the brakes on world development. It’s the ‘let someone else worry about that because it doesn’t affect me’ kind of thought that allows bad stuff to continue and gain momentum, making it not just bad but terrifying.

Sure, it’s not really my problem that there’s a lesbian in Iran living in fear because it’s against her religion to be attracted to women. She might get beaten for it. She may just have to shut up, shut down, spend her life in denial/hiding. What can I do about it? I’ll just thank my lucky stars that geography saved me from a life of misery.

I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. It just doesn’t feel right to turn a blind eye. How on earth will things ever improve if we don’t consider the world as a global community, as opposed to one fragmented by man-made borders that our ancestors gave names to?

As a lesbian, you are given a label. I am therefore more likely to be interested in the lives and fates of others like myself. But going back to my original point (if you can remember back that far!), what about my role as a woman? Surely there’s enough other women that I don’t have to care too much about their rights – I’ve got enough on my plate with gay issues haven’t I? Yet another question that I find hard to answer and one that arose from the discussion group.

While talking about the persecution of gay people abroad, we stumbled across the subject of strip clubs. There was a general consensus in the room that, as women who like women, we should care about women’s issues. It’s a fairly logical argument I suppose, but not everyone agreed. Despite the common conception that many lesbians are avid feminists, many aren’t much interested in the rights of women beyond their own sphere of influence. It got me thinking… should lesbians be expected to carry the torch of women’s rights moreso than any other woman? Historically, yes, this has often been the case, giving many lesbians their atypical ‘man-hating’ label in the process.

The subject arose when it was discussed that a lesbian club in London featured women pole-dancing and stripping. ‘So what?’ argued one woman. ‘Like men, I like looking and it’s just a bit of fun.’ Another vehemently argued the opposite – that it is this kind of ‘fun’ that damages women worldwide, perpetuating the myth that women are a commodity that can be bought and sold as readily as a cup of coffee – that it is acceptable to judge women aesthetically and solely from a sexual standpoint. It is a tough call – I hear the first woman – why should she care? Just because she sleeps with women in her private life, like many thousands of men, she enjoys looking at women sexually and feels justified in doing so. By being gay, she didn’t take an oath to look out for the rights of other women, gay or straight.

So why is it that the majority of the group took the opposite approach. ‘Who better to care about the needs of women than us?’ said one. And maybe she’s right. Being gay by no means suggests that you must be a feminist or an activist of any form, but the nature of our sexuality means that we take an interest in women and the needs of women, both straight and lesbian.

As women, we should be outraged at the idea of women stripping for us in a club because they are one of us, regardless of our sexuality. By ignoring the issue, we are agreeing in principle to the sexualisation of young women, deeming it acceptable even to other women who, in reality, should be the friend and not the foe. On a superficial level, most gay women would have to be chemically castrated to not find the idea of half-naked dancing women attractive, but we must think with our heads not our libidos. We have a duty to do so.

Maybe men don’t have to do this, I am sure many don’t as they gain gratification from the idea that these attractive, often drug-dependent or poverty-stricken young women are actually dancing for their pleasure (and not the dirty cash that pays their undeclared wages that are not protected by employment laws). Yet I for one cannot switch off and just think of them solely as sexual objects. I see another ‘me’ (albeit less good looking and with arguably smaller tits and a less flexible hip action).

I am well aware that there is an argument, often by women in the business themselves, that stripping is a life decision that is well informed and well paid; that they are not coerced and not exploited. Individually, for those women, that is great. I am glad to hear it. Yet it cannot be ignored that in many cases this is just not true. And stripping for cash is often a pre-cursor to a much more dangerous activity – prostitution.

Should we as women shoulder more responsibility? It seems like many of us believe yes, myself included, however my reasons for believing this are kind of vague. I just care. I am just not really sure why I do.

Being a woman is a label that many of us share. It is a unique identity, yet is also so generic. Beyond my own experience of being a female, I care deeply about others’ experience of it too. It should be something positive – something that can be freely explored within the understanding and accepting framework of a more general society. However, as is the case for many lesbians, many women too face discrimination and stereotyping, in this country and further afield.

I strongly believe that I have a duty to care about other people, whatever their sexuality, religion, race or indeed gender. If being a woman means that I better understand the needs of other women, then I should take this belief and put it to good use. The women’s movement has come on leaps and bounds in this century and the last, but it is by no means a fait accompli. For this reason, I will continue to write about these issues and try to encourage others to feel the same. By staying quiet, I am tacitly acknowledging that there is nothing that needs to change in the world and that isn’t something that I am prepared to accept…

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Helen Goddard – should she really be branded a sex offender?

Rex Features

Rex Features

Yesterday, music teacher Helen Goddard, aged 26, was jailed for having sex with a 15-year-old female pupil at a fee-paying school outside London. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison, has been put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years and has been banned from working with children for life.

On reading this story, I was forced to question the morality of such a punishment. Anyone that has read the details behind the case will know that the relationship between the two was most definitely consensual, instigated by the pupil, and was of an intimate and loving nature. Yes, sex was involved, but it was not the driving force of the affair and not the only thing to focus on.

The girl’s parents are rightly outraged that their daughter lied to them and that a teacher, which they effectively pay, misused her authority and position of trust.

But isn’t that the end of it? The girl wasn’t morally raped – she was legally raped. Having sex with someone under the age of consent, 16, is rape in the eyes of the law. So why does it make me uncomfortable that I don’t seem to be seeing through these same eyes?

Goddard has lost her career, her integrity, her reptuation (a former child trumpet prodigy who played at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000) and been through a very public and humiliating trial with sordid details of her sex life exposed in most of the nationals. This is a young woman whose primary action was to fall in love and to act upon this love.

Many people will argue that there is more to this than love – that she was in a position of trust, that she took advantage of a hormone-fuelled teenager, even that she is some sort of deviant for having found affection in the arms of someone 10 years her junior. But is she a predator? Is she a rapist? Is she a sex offender?

There has been no question that she pursued the pupil – a relationship was formed out of a friendship, a closeness that became something more – something that has happened to most people the world over – you meet someone, there’s a connection. Of course, no-one forced Goddard to act upon this desire. She is a 26-year-old woman, and speaking myself as one, I know that by no means am I always grounded enough to make the right decisions, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

Rape is a hate crime. Is this what we are discussing here? It is a nasty and ugly abuse of power, an act of force and usually violence, not a romantic weekend in Paris, not a walk in the park that turned into a kiss, a text message that reads: ‘It’s going to be a beautiful day. I love you. You are on my mind all night.’

Fifteen-year-olds, and younger, across the country are having sex. They have sex with other people their age, with those older, younger – to criminalise each action would be absurd. Goddard was a teacher, so of course, she must be held accountable for her actions; lose her job, maybe face a teaching ban, but she is not a sex offender and does not need to go to prison to understand the mistake she has made.

The media loves this sort of story. Ooh it is a sex story – even better a nice little teacher pupil-fantasy scenario. And a lesbian? Bingo – let’s splash it across the front pages with a nice picture of the so-called sexual predator, looking very err… predatory as she walks into court (where she later bursts into tears on being sentenced). What could possibly satsify the salacious appetites of the tabloids, and sadly, the nationals, further? Surely only fluffy handcuffs and sex toys (god forbid) can taint her character just a bit more? (because these are the tools of the devil don’t you know?).

This is all without the mention of paedophilia – as necessary as the humble printing press in creating a tabloid these days. The media is full of this kind of paedo-hysteria, stranger danger bullshit, constantly implying that the world is full of predators stalking our young people and forcing them into bad and dangerous ways.

Look behind the Goddard story, behind the draconian and blanket laws, and find a story that is both sad and heartening. The judge in the case chose not to impose a ban on the couple seeing each other, despite the law essentially branding Goddard a sex offender so implicitly admitting that they do not actually believe this to be the case. The judge rejected a prosecution request to ban the teacher from contacting her victim for five years, claiming it would be ‘unnecessary, unkind, and cruel to the victim’. Does this not also give the impression that the girl would be worse off for not seeing her lover than by having contact?

This lack of ban means that she will be able to contact her from prison, as well as see her privately when released. It is obviously something that the couple, at this stage, plan to do, with Goddard punching the air in victory in court, when being told that no such ban would be imposed.

Obviously, the court is not accepting the fact that Goddard is a risk to the pupil. The judge also refused, another prosecution request, to ban Goddard from being allowed to be alone with underage girls – once again, demonstrating the fact that the teacher is not viewed as a threat to young people in any sense.

According to Goddard’s barrister, the teacher ‘is quite young for her age’ and he claimed that the couple continue to ‘love each other very much’.

The law is in place to both protect and punish. Yet cases such as this merely show how black and white law is when applied. Surely cases should be judged on individuality? Surely a ‘victim’s’ wishes and thoughts should be taken into account? This is merely a sentence for sentencing’s sake. Goddard will have a large part of her life absolutely ruined and is being portrayed as some kind of sexual monster because of it. The judge admitted it was a ‘difficult’ case, yet was powerless to use any sense of perspective or proportion.

Someone once used the analogy of if you picked up a pound coin on the ground and put it in your pocket, then by the principles of law, you could be charged with theft and sentenced accordingly. Is this not one of those cases? A knee-jerk overkill reaction to a crime that is essentially innocuous for all parties? It was something that could have been dealt with within the school, not made public, and not brought to a criminal trial.

A statement by the girl’s parents (as printed in the predictably biased Daily Mail piece) states: ‘Our teenage girl has been led to believe by Miss Goddard that their contact is within the bounds of a normal relationship, apart from the fact that our daughter is a few months underage. From our understanding, Miss Goddard and our daughter feel that it is possible to continue their relationship without difficulty when our daughter is 16 at the end of this month. In conveying this to our daughter, and taking no responsibility for her actions, we do not believe Miss Goddard has fully understood the seriousness of her breaking the boundaries and completely breaching the trust embedded in the teacher-pupil relationship.’

While I am sympathetic to the parents, it is all to easy to blame Goddard as the vile perpertrator. Their contact, although unusual, is ‘within the bounds of a normal relationship’ if they chose to let it be as they are both consenting and by all accounts, the pupil has reached a level of sexual maturity in order to be able to make this judgement. The girl is nearly 16, so agonisingly close, it makes you wonder what Goddard’s punishment would have been if she were to have embarked on this affair just a few months later. Would the world look kindly on their plight? Would she have gone away with a rapped knuckle and a P45? The world of ‘what ifs’ is probably plaguing her right now as she sits in a cell wondering where it all went wrong. The parents claim she has not fully understood the seriousness of her actions – I would say that she most definitely has. As a teacher and a woman of 26, she will have known the risks involved, even if she did not fully grasp that a nasty future of incarceration and humiliation would be on its way.

Love makes us do stupid things. It makes our judgements cloudy, makes us rebellious, makes us defy the odds. Literature is awash with these Romeo-Juliet, love across the boundaries-type sagas and usually they have us swooning, hoping that our love-torn protagonists will beat the system, overcome the prejudice and be entitled to achieve what they both, as two human individuals, truly and independently desire.

As Helen Goddard ponders her future now, I would love to ask her just one question? Would you make the same mistake again? And if I was a gambling woman, I would place my bet on a ‘yes’. Love is not a choice as this harsh and stoic law would assume. It is grey, complex and extremely divisive. Young people are entitled to their opinions and laws which seek to protect them must, in turn, respect this. I just hope that the couple’s feelings can withstand the media and parental pressure, which has undoubtedly harmed the young girl more than any caring and loving relationship ever could, and they can go on to prove the legal system and its army of Daily Mail reading, democracy-hating followers, well and truly wrong.

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Apparently I am a ‘hetero hybrid’… but how gay are you?

Confused? by =sinademiral (Deviant Art)

Confused? by =sinademiral (Deviant Art)

I am 55% gay, 45% hetero, apparently. I have been told this number-specific diagnosis by a Swedish gay pride website that did not actually ask me a single question, other than my gender and Twitter user name. Fascinating stuff or just a pile of steaming stuff? It did, at least, lean in the right direction given that I am a gay woman – although apparently, by definition, I am a ‘hetero hybrid’. I take this to mean a bisexual? Inaccurate, but what a way to put it.

This online gaydar must be pretty hit and guaranteed to miss given that it doesn’t ask you any personal questions. It said I had mentioned the word ‘ass’ in my previous twitterings. It is a far stretch to imagine that by mentioning ass, that I have gay tendencies – do straight people not have asses too? Ironically enough, I was referring to a donkey at the time anyway. So there, you big gay online judge. More worryingly is the other words listed which identified me as a queer ‘un. I shall list them and then wait for a gasp of united astonishment… ‘Brilliant’, ‘Broad’, ‘Boom boom’ and, of course, ‘Gay’ –  by merely mentioning the word you are condemned to a life of sex toys and lube.

Let’s analyse (anal..yse… will that sound me out?)… ‘Brilliant’? What is this? What is gay about the use of this descriptive adjective? ‘Broad’? Are we talking asses again or maybe beans? Okay, there may be a tenuous lesbian link in the latter, but this has got to just be bullshit. My favourite is ‘Boom Boom’. I don’t even remember saying this one – was I quoting the Outhere Brothers’ 90s classic? This contains the lines ‘Put your ass on my face, I love the way your pussy tastes?’ Have I found the link? Pussy? If so, then the old lady that donates to the Cat Protection League is gonna end up more gay than a butch with a hard hat and a power tool. If so, then I deserve to be burnt at the stake, not called a hybrid. Forget witch hunts, hybrid hunts are the new craze. Burn the bisexuals and the world will be a more balanced place don’t you reckon?

I speak in jest of course. I’m a lesbian, I can’t be prejudiced – not even a tiny bit. Not even to bisexuals, and Christ, everyone hates them. If bisexuals were lemmings, they would be buggered (not literally), never knowing which path to take, standing stammering and sweating at a crossroads like Shaun Ryder trying to go cold turkey.

I’m being silly. But it’s a valid point. The gay community doesn’t really ‘get’ bisexuals and their  life of sexually ambiguous limbo, in the same way as the straight one generally doesn’t. The world is so confusing that we need to put stuff in boxes. It isn’t always practical, or nice, but people that don’t fit in boxes (bisexuals, fat people etc) just get our goats.

I read a ‘news’ article the other day in which Duncan from Blue outed himself as bisexual. This is straight from the horsey one’s mouth so isn’t some tabloid lie – in his own words, he told it how it is. It’s not an easy thing to admit, especially with the North Korean-style armies of teenage girl fans that keep him in Timberland and not Top Shop clobber. He says he has had relationships with both sexes and this is what makes him happy. Far be it for any of us to judge. Most people who feel like he does keep it under wraps.

When coming out I was tempted to say I was bi in an attempt to cushion the blow to my parents’ ears – at least there would be a 50/50 chance they might think – but I changed my mind as they would be constantly awaiting the smell of aftershave at the door when I went out for a date. I couldn’t cope with the pressure and expectations – I would forever be letting them down – far better to disappoint them just the once.

Being bisexual must be very difficult to announce – to some people it’s like saying ‘I’m not fussy me’ – or worse – ‘I’m a greedy shagging bastard and will fuck anything that moves’. Truth is, I actually think most people are bisexual, but it’s a bit like autism – there’s a spectrum – i.e. lots of grey space and fuzzy edges. Why not? People are strange, as The Doors once said – if we can get past physical barriers such as ugliness, bad teeth, mullets, too much fat/too little fat etc, then surely we can get past a pair of tits/bollocks? It’s personalities that count, and it’s easy to fall in love with them. No, this isn’t just wishful thinking on my part.

Which brings me, very nicely, full circle to that silly online quiz that I took earlier. I was at first a bit annoyed to read that I was a ‘hetero hybrid’, choosing usually to define myself as a lesbian, not a hetero anything, yet alone something that describes an unpopular mode of eco-friendly transport. But thinking about it, what does it matter? We’re all a bit hetero, even me, and we’re all a bit homo too. It doesn’t define us, just adds a bit of colour to the grey.

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David Cameron’s homosexual U-turn is gay

See no evil, hear no evil, speak shit

See no evil, hear no evil, speak shit

According to one Mr Elton John, sorry seems to be the hardest word. Ironic then, that David Cameron MP has chosen that word to orchestrate a re-branding of the Tory Party when it comes to gay issues.

Apparently, Dave is ‘sorry’. He is sorry that the Conservatives have such a rubbish track issue when it comes to gay rights. Why now you ask? Hmm… pre-election propaganda perchance?

He has offered an apology for section 28 – the notoriously discriminatory legislation that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools – calling it “offensive to gay people”. No shit Sherlock.

Funny then, that he voted in favour of this legislation as recently as 2003. That is not a long time ago – S Club 7 were splitting up and Madonna was snogging Britney. It was not the dark ages.

This could just be a blip I hear you blue-eyed blue-brained supporters cry. It could be yes. But it’s not. Although he says he supports civil partnerships, he also voted last year to restrict access for lesbian couples trying to conceive through IVF.  Fortunately, this Conservative-proposed amendment was defeated.

So is ‘sorry’ going to cut it? No. It’s a turncoat that says one thing and says another. Sure, people can repent and change their minds, but he is an MP and not just any MP – he is the opposition Prime Minister, probably soon to become the head of this country. I want him to be trustworthy – changing teams (metaphorically speaking) is easy to do – following the crowd and bowing under peer pressure. I am sure he is a nice guy. I am sure he is perfectly pleasant to gay people. So why vote in favour of discriminatory laws that stifle large parts of the population and strangle the differences that make us all human?

I must take a breath. I have had a rant that involves a minimal amount of sarcasm. I guess it just pisses me off that our MPs are so dishonest.

Sorry isn’t the hardest word, it’s one of the easiest. If Duncan, Lee, Simon and Anthony can get their heads around it, surely the politicians in Blue can.

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