Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I don't know the reason

I can't really explain it. There is so much that is whirling around in my mind begging to be spoken, or to be written about. But for some inexplicable reason, I have found that over the last several weeks it has been beyond me to focus and crystallise my thoughts into a coherent form, such that I become capable of reasonably eloquently setting them out in the written form in a blog post.

Nothing out of the ordinary has happened to me recently that I'm aware of. I mean life is a roller-coaster at the best of times and ups and downs are only normal. Sure, recently I've been through some trying times, but nothing so extraordinary as to render me practically paralysed intellectually when I sit at my desk. At first, I thought it would pass, but it doesn't seem to be going away. Maybe writing about it, as I am doing in this post will help. We shall see...

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

David Cameron slips up on gay equality

In an interview with Gay Times magazine, David Cameron the leader of The Conservative Party the UK's main opposition party, a man who harbours the ambition of moving into No. 10 Downing Street after the coming elections in May, displayed uncertainty over support for key votes on equality legislation in the European Parliament. Parts of the interview were shown exclusively by Channel 4 News this evening.

Last year, Mr Cameron's party's Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) refused to support a motion in the European parliament which condemned a new homophobic law in Lithuania. Cameron told the Gay Times: "I don't know about that particular vote.."

He then went on to state that he did not routinely tell his party's MEPs how to vote at the European Parliament. But there has been some controversy over the fact that the Conservatives (Tories) have allied themselves with a European Parliament grouping of other European parties at the parliament that are alleged to have extreme right-wing views. Of note is the Law and Justice Party of Poland, known for being an unpleasant, homophobic nationalist party.


Mr Cameron has already had to apologise for the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, signed into law during the tenure of the last Conservative government of Mrs Thatcher. Under that law, local councils and schools were expressly prohibited from promoting the acceptability of homosexuality. Under the current Labour government that law has been repealed. Read more..

Monday, 22 March 2010

Malawi, Release Steven and Tiwonge. Love is no crime!



Today I attended the protest rally organised by OutRage! held in front of the Commonwealth Secretariat on Pall Mall in central London in support of the jailed Malawian same-sex couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. Turning the corner into Pall Mall from Lower Regent Street and Waterloo Place, I bumped into the duo of Davis MacIyalla and Rev Jide Macaulay. After exchanging greetings and shaking hands all round it was in this esteemed company that I strolled down Pall Mall towards the Commonwealth building, Rev Jide chatting away on his head-set about something that seemed really important. It was a bright and sunny spring afternoon and we had walked only a few steps when another gentlemen in our group, who Davis had introduced as a friend, alerted us that there was someone across the street waving at us. We all turned in that direction and there he was on a bicycle, Peter Tatchell, the embodiment of gay activism. We acknowledged him and then crossed over to join him and together we all made our way to Marlborough House.

Shortly afterwards on the pavement in front of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, this core group was joined by several others, of all races, and Mr Tatchell handed out placards to those of us who wanted one. My placard read RELEASE TIWONGE & STEVEN. LOVE IS NO CRIME. OUTRAGE! Hence the title of this post. Another placard I liked read COMMONWEALTH COLLUDES WITH HOMOPHOBIA. Then the protest began in earnest with speeches made by Davis, Rev Jide, Mr Tatchell, one openly gay Green Party parliamentary candidate, two Malawian men, one who said he is gay, but it was the second Malawian man who announced the outcome of the case in Blantyre, Malawi against the gay couple. The Malawian court he said, had ruled that there was a case to answer, with a new hearing to be held on 3 April. Several other people came forward to give speeches.

The point that resonated most strongly with me was that made by one Godwyns, an African gay activist. He pointed out that whole governments of countries rally in support of animal rights. My thoughts immediately went towards the fact that blue-fin tuna and whales are important subjects of discussion at major international conferences, discussions in which the world's most important nations are involved. But gay Africans who are human beings are not considered sufficiently important for an international organisation such as the Commonwealth to openly take a stand against their persecution in their home countries.

These speeches were made on a megaphone as we stood on the pavement holding up our placards. I felt a bit incongruous, since I was the only one smartly dressed in a sharp dark business suit and tie, (I had left work to attend the protest rally). By this time we had started chanting loudly, "Malawi Malawi, No Homophobia! Uganda Uganda, No Homophobia! Nigeria Nigeria, No Homophobia! Africa Africa, No Homophobia!"

But soon, as is typical of London, the weather turned and it became quite windy and chilly. Most of the others had come prepared, wearing anoraks, duffel coats and the like. I alone was in this business suit that was clearly not up to the job of keeping me warm. The weather had fooled me, because it had been quite bright and warm when I'd left the office. What had been bright and sunny just an hour previously had become chilly and windswept. I had no choice but to leave the rally while the protest was still in full swing, returning to the office to round up the day. I wish I had been able to stay right until the end. But I'll be staying with this story and following it closely.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Something about the older guy..

I had a telephone conversation recently with someone I'd met online. After only a few minutes, we saw that we were both comfortable with each other so it wasn't long before he opened up to me. He started by admitting that he had come to realise that being gay is "a young man's thing", (his words exactly). He had been looking to find a good relationship for many years, but as he got older, he said, he had found it harder to meet men he liked. The ones he met were either too young, and therefore not sufficiently serious and emotionally balanced and willing to be in a monogamous relationship, or they were old, tired and washed up. And added to this was the fact that the older men were much more likely, to be family men whose circumstances just did not allow for a monogamous relationship with a man.

Well, unlike my friend on the phone, I am one of those who find that the older man is more interesting than the younger guy. When I was 17 and at university, my boyfriend was 27. We were at the same university and for me at the time, 27 seemed really old and was just the right sort of age that I fancied. Unfortunately, this boyfriend got caught up in the "you're expected to get married" thing. So after university he got married to a woman and soon afterwards he had fathered two sons. Although he and I would still see each other now and again, it was not the same as it used to be and our relationship slowly petered out. He was in the military and had access to firearms. And sadly this boyfriend of mine shot himself dead one day, after shooting a man he believed was having an affair with his wife. Although my boyfriend thought that he had killed his wife's lover, the man survived his gunshot wounds, but my boyfriend did not. It was a huge tragedy for me, but that is another story and will be the subject of another post. I promise..

Coming back to older men! It is a fact that as I have grown older myself, my taste in men has continued to progress commensurately upwards by age, such that nowadays a fifty-something year old man who looks after himself, is well-kempt, trim and in shape, is more likely to catch my eye than a man who is younger than me. I'm particularly attracted to greying hair and grey facial hair makes my heart thump just that bit faster. Gosh!, did I really say that in public? Lol. No, but really, the older guy it is who is more likely to be patient and tolerant of my shortcomings. He is calmer, more experienced and appreciates the finer things in life. And please don't believe all those things they say about older men in bed, because there are 60-year old studs! And the evidence is that the older man lasts longer. Also with him, I can rest assured that we should not need to go clubbing every weekend, which suits me just fine! But there are other major issues..

Older men are almost always either married to women; or even if they are separated or divorced, they have children some of who might now be adults themselves; or they have previously been in a failed long-term relationship with a man and are looking for a replacement for their ex-lover; or they are gay men who have been promiscuous all their adult lives and for whom there can be no likelihood that they will suddenly cease to be promiscuous just because you came into their life. Finding an older man, especially of African descent, who does not fall into one of the above categories is near impossible, in my view.

I have encountered men who fit all of the above descriptions. Married men are disqualified certainly. One married man I met was even brazen enough to lie to me about his wife. Over a period of six months or so, despite my growing concern, he insisted to me that the woman at his house was his sister. How uncouth is that! Besides, who wants to be the reason for a marital break-up? Then I will also mention the one who confided to me how much he hated his wife, the mother of his four children. "I should never have married", he exclaimed. Well, you should have known that marriage and kids are for life. You cannot eat your cake and have it!

Grown-up kids are more likely than not to be interested in the nature of the relationship between their dad and some guy that they frequently see in their dad's company. This situation often makes it necessary to fabricate a cover story, but I do not enjoy lying, or being lied about. A friend I once had wouldn't let me in at the front door when I arrived at his house one evening. He took me outside and whispered that his adult son was visiting and could I go away and come back a couple of hours later? Did I go back afterwards? I leave you to work that out for yourselves..

The one who was recovering from his recently failed relationship wouldn't stop moaning about his former relationship and the ex. Sometimes, he would talk about how kind and loving the ex had been, then at other times about how depressing the relationship had become, comparing me to his ex....Hello, I am not your ex! I am me, a different person! And I really don't care what happened between you two! Are we moving forward or what?

And then there are those lot you see hanging around in bars, eyeing up younger men. Young men most of who justifiably show no interest in the lonely and sad looking older men who apparently have squandered their younger years in the pursuit of casual sex. It saddens me to see many among the younger generation heading in that same direction..

So what does a man with my tastes do? Well, the first word that comes to mind is COMPROMISE. This has to be the starting point.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Peaceful protest next Monday in support of jailed Malawian same-sex couple

Protesters will gather in Central London on Monday 22 March 2010, in a rally against the arrest, trial and imprisonment of Malawian same-sex couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

I will be present at the planned rally in Central London against the arrest, trial and imprisonment of this Malawian same-sex couple. The protests will take place as from 12.30pm outside the Commonwealth Secretariat's head office, Marlborough House, Pall Mall. The timing is planned to coincide with the verdict in Stephen and Tiwonge's trial.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The complex challenge of HIV prevention among black Africans in England

Black African communities in England experience the highest reported and undiagnosed heterosexually acquired HIV prevalence;

The majority of black Africans in England are tested for HIV very late; most cases, particularly in men, have a high viral load (i.e. a high level of HIV virus in their body) and are thus unable to benefit fully from available treatment and care;

There are more same-sex relationships than reported among black Africans in England;

The sexual health of the black African communities is dependent on diverse socio-economic factors;

There are many unmet sexual health and social needs among black African communities in England, making them vulnerable to HIV

Although black Africans make up only about 1% of the UK population, they account for almost half of all new HIV diagnoses in the UK. Apart from high HIV prevalence, their potential to benefit from available treatment and care is limited by many factors, such as late diagnosis, stigma and discrimination, unemployment, poor living conditions and uncertain immigration status for some.

HIV prevalence among black Africans in England

HIV prevalence in the UK is low compared to other parts of the world, but is one of the highest in western and central Europe. HIV therefore remains a significant infectious disease with profound implications for morbidity and the cost of treatment and care. However, the impact of HIV on mortality in the UK has significantly reduced since the introduction of combination therapy in the mid 1990s. This applies only to those who are diagnosed and take up treatment in good time to benefit from therapy.

Black Africans are the heterosexual group most affected by HIV in the UK. Although most of the infections among this group were acquired outside the UK (mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa), an increasing number are becoming infected while in the UK. In 2008, 38% of the new HIV diagnoses in the UK were among black Africans. The majority of black Africans living with diagnosed HIV in the UK are aged between 20 and 49 years. Overall, more women than men have been tested for HIV, possibly through antenatal care to prevent mother-to-child transmission. This suggests the need for testing interventions that target men.

Late Diagnosis

Late HIV diagnosis remains a major problem among black Africans in England. In 2007, about 42 per cent of black Africans diagnosed with HIV were diagnosed late. This compromises their survival chances because evidence indicates that starting treatment with a CD4 cell count below 200 copies/mm3 increases the risk of disease progression and death. The reasons for late diagnosis among black Africans are not clear-cut, but include persistent HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Cultural, social and structural barriers, such as access to testing and care, fear of death and disease, lack of political will, restrictive immigration policies and lack of African representation in decision-making processes have been identified as contributory factors.

A 2007 survey found that many Africans did not test for HIV because they "had no reason to believe they might have HIV". Other reasons given by the respondents for not testing for HIV included: misconception that testing positive would lead to deportation; fear of testing positive; fear of relationships breaking up after testing positive; not knowing where to get tested, which was reported by one in ten respondents; fear of changes in life and work or business patterns as a result of a positive diagnosis.

HIV-related stigma also affects HIV status disclosure among black Africans. It has been found that, compared to white or minority ethnic gay men, heterosexual black Africans were the least likely to disclose their HIV status to their partners, family, employers or friends. By not disclosing their HIV status to their employers, such individuals, paradoxically, deny themselves their entitlements under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 2005. Non-disclosure, especially to partners, can also have legal implications in the light of criminal prosecutions for reckless transmission, which have occurred in England.

Some Africans have come from settings where HIV is thought to be a sex workers disease, making some people feel less vulnerable. In some resource-limited settings, treatment and care are not universally available and people have seen loved ones die from HIV in the most traumatic circumstances. To such people, positive diagnosis means a death sentence, hence their reluctance to test.

Sexual orientation

The needs of homosexual and bisexual Africans are largely unknown or even overlooked. Most black Africans in England came from countries where same-sex relationship behaviour is highly discriminated against, stigmatised and in some cases criminalised. Consequently, there are more same-sex relationships among African populations than is officially acknowledged. Cultural and religious diversity among African communities makes it hard for men who have sex with men (MSM) to pursue their sexual desires openly. Individuals brought up in such discriminatory environments might find it very difficult to disclose their sexuality even if they achieve 'sexual freedom' by moving to Europe or North America, because they still rely on communal networks for social support. When such individuals end up with a positive HIV diagnosis, there is a potential for multiple stigma (HIV, black African, gay/bisexual).

The black African man who has sex with men in England also faces ‘high, but undisclosed, rates of racism among gays and homophobia among Africans’. This leaves them with limited support options and some end up living a double life (Positive Nation, 2007). Evidence suggests a discord between stated sexuality and actual sexual behaviour, with a significant number of Africans saying that they are heterosexual when they are involved in same-sex relationships. In cases where such individuals are asylum seekers, they not only worry about their sexual identities but also fear deportation and lack of treatment in their home countries if they are living with HIV.

It has been found that gay and bisexual Africans were more likely to engage in behaviours that increased their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, indicating the need for targeted health promotion interventions. Black African MSM test for HIV so late and likewise present for treatment so late, increasing their risk of HIV-related morbidity and mortality. It has been cautioned that although black African MSM in England may come from the same continent, their needs (which are not yet well understood) differ because they migrated for different reasons and from different countries and backgrounds.

Sexual health outcomes: The impact of socio-economic factors

Many HIV positive black Africans face numerous social and economic challenges, making HIV just one of the problems, and of least importance. Black Africans in England comprise individuals who identify with numerous nationalities and ethnic roots, and those identities affect their sexual health attitudes, behaviours and outcomes. HIV prevalence among black Africans in England mirrors the prevalence in their native countries. In addition, a person's country of birth can influence the number of their sexual partners, possibly due to cultural practices in some settings, such as polygamy and wife inheritance.

Many black Africans in England have insecure residency status (those without indefinite leave to remain). This affects their employment possibilities, income, housing and mental health. Immigration cases take a long time to be processed by the Home Office. During such prolonged periods of uncertainty, some Africans are forced into sexual risks, such as prostitution, by their circumstances, thus increasing their risk of HIV infection.
In 2004, legislation was passed in England to stop 'health tourism'. Many of the targets of such legislation include failed black African asylum seekers. Such a policy, and the misconception that people are deported for testing positive for HIV, increases not only stigma and discrimination, but also apathy towards HIV testing and health care.

Lastly, studies from the USA have shown that spirituality is important to the psychological health of people living with HIV. However, links between religion and HIV-related attitudes are not yet fully understood. Many black Africans in England hold ‘strong religious beliefs’. Christianity and Islam, both of which have a large following among Africans, denounce homosexuality in their teachings. For example, important issues in HIV prevention such as ‘sex, homosexuality and drug use are taboo topics in [the] Islamic world’ and may lead to a reluctance to test for HIV.

The full Briefing Paper of the Race Equality Foundation by John Owuor is to be found here.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Support Amnesty's Malawi campaign

Fax and post letters to the Malawi government
Call for release of Steven Monjeza & Tiwonge Chimbalanga


London, UK - 11 March 2010


OutRage! is backing Amnesty International's appeal for letters of protest to the Malawian government over the arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. They face up to 14 years jail on charges of homosexuality. The verdict in their trial is expected on Monday 22 March.

See this sample letter, and the postal address and fax number of the Malawian President and Attorney General.

Amnesty International has adopted the two men as Prisoners of Conscience and is campaigning for their release.

"OutRage! is supporting Amnesty's campaign. If enough people send letters of protest, it
might help secure an acquittal or a less harsh sentence. Even if Tiwonge and Steven are convicted, they could win a successful appeal and be freed eventually," said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

"From their prison cells, both men have urged international pressure for their release. They need lots of support and solidarity in the run-up to the trial result. Please take time to support Amnesty's letter-writing campaign," he said.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, added:

"Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have committed no criminal offence and we adopted them as prisoners of conscience after their arrest at the end of December. It is vital that as many people as possible join us in writing to the Malawi authorities calling on them to release the two men and for them to investigate their treatment in custody."

See this Amnesty International briefing on the case: Here


Monday, 8 March 2010

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Random..

A news website reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has called the official US government version of the events of 9/11 a "big lie". In response, several concerned readers of the esteemed website leave comments... Here are some of them..

Jay: "9/11 was nothing but the continuation of a centuries-old conflict Islamists had started with the infidels before any of us were born. Only complete goofs who have no understanding of the history of this planet before the 20th century claim otherwise."

Kim: "September 11 was a big lie and a pretext for the war on terror and a prelude to invading Afghanistan.....DUH!"

James: "Ahmedinajad is an idiot but he was right, it was an inside job"

Dave: "What a clown for a leader of a country! How do idiots like this stay in power?"

Several comments later, the interesting part...

Craig L: "Here is a fact...95% of you people posting here are complete morons!!! Probably chronic masturbaters and jerkoffs! You have little intelligence and will amount to very little in life!"

Drew F: "I assume that describes you too, Craig L?"

Several comments down..

FNTSYMN: "What does my chronic masturbation have to do with creation of a cogent argument?"

Frostbite: "My chronic masturbation leaves me more time to think and come up with a cogent argument. I am not spending all my time trying to keep a girlfriend."

Several comments more..

Beavis: "Oh yeah, yeah, I forgot to whack it today. Yeah, yeah, whack it whack it. Time to go to Mr Anderson's tool shed and whack it. Whackin it rules. What's wrong Craig? You don't whack it?"

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My day in court..

Do you have a boss? How do you feel about him or her? Mine is absolutely wonderful! I joined his firm many years ago as a junior. I was newly qualified and was keen to prove to my employer that taking me on was the best possible decision he could have made. I suppose in working so hard to establish myself in the firm, I made a good impression on him, because, although I left him after about four years to join another firm as a partner, he welcomed me back with open arms when I returned to his firm after that other firm was closed down, having run into difficulties with our professional regulatory body. The regulation authority suspended the practising certificates of all of us who were at that other firm, but just months later I was back in practice. Indeed, I alone am still practising of all those that were at that firm, because my current boss stood by me and assured the regulation authority that he would provide me with the supervision and support that the regulatory authority had imposed as a condition for my returning to practice.

The law is that when a firm is closed down, as my former firm was, the partners at the firm are liable for the costs incurred by the regulation authority in effecting that firm's intervention and closure. A series of invoices were sent out to me and the other partners, amounting to a sum in the region of £50K, said to be the costs for the intervention and closure. Now, because I'm the only one of the former partners remaining in practice, (the others have ignored all correspondence from the regulation authority), I am having to face the brunt of this, (carrying the can, so to speak), whereas the actuality is that none of the issues that gave rise to the intervention in the first place can be attributed to me personally. I just happened to have entered into partnership with the wrong bunch of people and got myself into the mess that I find myself in. Through all of this, my boss has quietly supported and encouraged me. He assures me that he is confident that I have no personal involvement in the matters that led to the closure of that firm.

Today was the hearing in court of the court case that the regulation authority has instituted against me and my former partners to recover its costs arising from the intervention/closure. The hearing was in the afternoon, so I thought I'd attend the office in the morning and deal with some pressing matters before heading to court later. On arrival at the office this morning, I was informed by his secretary that my boss had left the office ten minutes earlier, on his way to court, to be with me at the hearing. This surprised me. I had neglected to explain that the hearing would be in the afternoon, simply because I had not expected that he would want to attend. So I quickly rang him on his mobile phone, told him the hearing was in fact at 2pm and he turned around and returned to the office. Hours later, after quite a busy morning, I peeped into his room to say that I was leaving for my hearing. To my surprise, my boss insisted on attending the hearing with me, which meant that he had to drop everything he was doing, (and there was a lot on his plate too..).

He stayed with me throughout the hearing and waited with me for hours while the Judge considered the matter. Of all the defendants I was the only one present in court and the case did not go very well for me. To put it in a nutshell, I've learned my lesson about being very careful when entering into a partnership with people you hardly know. And its a lesson that I've learned the hard way too.. But I've also learned that there are in fact people, like my boss, who are genuinely kind and dependable. His presence at the hearing and his words to me afterwards helped to lighten the burden on my mind. I have always respected him, but after today, my respect for him has grown and taken a new dimension. He is truly an extraordinarily wonderful man and I am blessed to have him as my boss.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Auto-erotic Asphyxia

I woke up today to the news that one of my favourite TV presenters died yesterday. At first the reports were that the circumstances of the death of Kristian Digby were unexplained. But as the day wore on the truth gradually filtered down. It is reported in some newspapers that he died when a solo-sex act went wrong. Auto-erotic asphyxia was mentioned and although I'd heard of it before, I thought to look a little deeper into this behaviour, which it is said also caused the accidental death of a few other notables, David Carradine and Michael Hutchence among them.

Auto-erotic asphyxia or Hypoxyphilia is a paraphilia, which means that just like paedophilia or necrophilia or any such other, it meets the criteria for a disorder. It is said to be a sub-category of sexual masochism. According to forensic psychiatrist Professor Stephen J. Hucker of the University of Toronto, "Hypoxyphilia has been known to medical science for nearly a hundred years, and to others perhaps since antiquity, but most of what we know about it has come from the study of cases in which a mishap has occurred and the individual has died as a result of, or during, the practice. Living practitioners tend not to present clinically or to make their behaviours widely known and hence detailed insight into the paraphilia is not widely available in the literature."

The carotid arteries (on either side of the neck) carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the brain. When these arteries are compressed, as in strangulation or hanging, the sudden loss of oxygen to the brain and the accumulation of carbon dioxide can increase feelings of giddiness, lightheadness and pleasure, all of which will heighten masturbatory sensations. When the brain is deprived of oxygen, it induces a lucid, semi hallucinogenic state called hypoxia. Combined with orgasm the rush is said to be no less powerful than cocaine and highly addictive. (Wikipedia)

Historically auto-erotic asphyxiation has been used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. It has been suggested that the idea for this first came from subjects who were executed by hanging. Observers at public hangings noted male victims developed an erection, sometimes remaining after death (death erection), and occasionally ejaculated when being hanged.

Nearly all the reported cases of death from auto-erotic asphyxia have been males and most are under forty years old at the time of death. The activity is usually solitary and the individual usually chooses a private or secluded place. Kristian Digby was only 32 and he was openly gay, which is perhaps one of the reasons why this has affected me so. May his soul rest in peace.