Women on Top?

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Victoria Pearson

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen me tweet this headline from The Spectator:


With the words “is this real life?” so I apologise if this feels like I’m going over old ground for some readers, but I do feel like this sort of headline is harmful on a number of levels, and some important points are being missed while people’s brains are imploding at the idea of Theresa May as a sex symbol.

I won’t be drilling into the article itself – partly because I couldn’t force myself to finish it, but mostly because we live in an age of tweet length news, rolling 24 hour coverage and attention spans more stretched than a whale’s waistband, so the headline and sub-heading is all most people will see of a lot of news stories, whether that’s digitally as we scroll past on our newsfeeds or physically as we walk past the news-stand, or see someone reading a paper in public.

Almost all of the chatter I have seen about this has centred around denial that Theresa May exudes erotic appeal. Personally, my cup of tea she is not, but it takes all sorts to make the world go round, and life would be very beige and boring if we all found the same people attractive. Desirability is entirely subjective – so it’s a bizarre premise to set an article on.

May’s attractiveness or lack thereof aside, what bothers me most about this headline is the casual sexism. This kind of headline seeps into the collective consciousness and suggests that a woman who has been working in her field for over 20 years and has reached the very top of her profession must have done so because of her sexuality. That she is in her position because of the male gaze – that men still very much hold power over women, however powerful that woman may seem.

Why then should we – having internalized this message – have respect for any woman who has risen in her field? Those who have followed my writing in the past know well that I have no time whatsoever for Theresa May. I think she is an incompetent, floundering politician who has achieved her position purely because no one else wanted the poisoned chalice, she’s a terrible representative and an even worse person. But if we reduce even the Prime Minister to “We Britons have always liked a girl on top” nudge wink, Carry On Westminster, what does that say about other women in professional positions?

Why would people not assume the same about female doctors, engineers, mechanics, or any other traditionally male dominated profession? This fosters a societal attitude of distrust of women’s abilities at all levels, implies that we cannot hold power in our own right, and as such is incredibly insulting – both to the millions of competent, hardworking women this attitude impacts on, and to the men who the writer seems to assume voted for someone to run the UK based purely on the fact they’d quite like to bang her.

This creeping sexism is massively disheartening to those of us trying to teach the young women in our lives that they have a world of opportunity ahead of them, and can be anything they choose. This kind of headline teaches them that’s not true. Whether they want it or not, regardless of how they present themselves, or what job they do, they will still have male fantasy projected onto them, and be viewed through the lens of their sexuality, not their achievements. They will not have a choice in the matter. Even if they become a navy trouser suit wearing, “Christian” Conservative Prime Minister, they will still be viewed as wank fodder by so called journalists who can’t imagine for a moment they may have achieved anything without the help of fawning men who fancy them. Why should our young women strive to be anything other than just sexy if that’s all they’ll be judged on anyway, whether they want to be or not?

I’ve no doubt the writer would say, if asked, that the article was meant to be complimentary, and they had no intention of undermining anyone’s authority or indeed implying anyone’s value lies in whether they are judged to be hot or not by the chattering classes. But this smacks of putting the woman in her place, reminding women that they are welcome at the top table only if men put them there, asserting power. It is, as one of the replies to my tweet said, so grubby.

This “article”, as far as I could see, wasn’t written in response to a survey or opinion poll. It wasn’t written to try and make sense of an unexpected bounce in the polls, or as a reaction to a fluff news piece. Perhaps the writer was asked to write a positive story on Theresa May and this rot was literally all they could think of. If so I’m not sure if I despair more at the competence of the PM, or the editor that thought this drivel was worth printing. I suspect though, that this casually misogynistic word salad was turned in with little thought and used to fill inches and sell ad space and generate outrage clicks.

Why then am I giving the piece further attention here? Because words matter. Headlines matter. And once upon a time, in a land that feels far, far away now, journalism used to matter. Our media is a direct influence on all levels of our society. Its about time that responsibility was taken more seriously.

 

You can read more of V’s Ungagged writing here, or listen to her on our podcast

Wonders of the Fair

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Wonders of the fair

Debra Torrance
Image courtesy of Yasmin Parnham

The carnival is in my soul, I love it so very much. The smells, the sights and the sounds. It fills my senses with nostalgia and excitement. I’m sure this is true for many of us. As I wrote last time about Showmen this is another sad tale of a Fair that’s being treated not so fairly.

Feltham showmen have a history spanning over a century, residing in Feltham, in the council borough of Hounslow, just south of the M4 and West of London. On a bit of land that was formerly an orchard and piggery, descendants of the original plot owners today still live in chalets, brick built homes and caravans. Doing the same job their forefathers done. Bringing joy and fun to many areas around London including Wimbledon Common and Ravenscourt Park.

Image by Yasmin Parnham
Image by Debra Torrance

From wee babies to elderly residents, this community of showfolk are under threat. 60% of the land is privately owned by the Showmen families, however Hounslow council own 40%. Hounslow council have been reviewing their housing stock, they say the new London Plan requires Hounslow to provide 21,800 new homes over the next 10 years. It is no surprise then that such a perfect spot for commuting is under threat of redevelopment. But it is a surprise to the hundreds of residents that already live there.

On June 11th, Hounslow council leader Steve Curran said “The Feltham Masterplan… identifies the Station Estate Road ‘Travelling Show Peoples’ site as having potential for redevelopment for housing due to its close proximity to the train station and town centre.”

You can view the full statement on the Feltham Masterplan here:

Furthermore the councillor continues:

“In order to identify a suitable alternative site, we have carried a detailed assessment of the current and future needs of the existing Traveling Show People community at Station Road. We have also carried out a “Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA)”, which is a borough-wide assessment.

We continue to look for a suitable alternative site and engage with the community to assess their needs”.

I wondered about this impact assessment, as I covered in my last article, showmen are a unique culture. Business people who have mastered the art of logistical nightmares, literally living their livelihood. How can a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment take into account unique traits of the showman? Most with a home base, a large static chalet or even brick built homes. Often in yards where they can maintain their vehicles and machines. A showman may move vehicles and machines several times a day from fairground site to yard to stadiums, many will stay with their machines and vehicles on site but many also return home to their base. Where their children attend school and elderly relatives are cared for.Hounslow council say they carried out an impact assessment. So we had a look at the Hounslow Bedfont Lane and Station Estate Road TSP Accommodation Assessment.

This GTAA is a 33 page document, outlining the various types of accommodation that the showman use. The trouble is, without fully understanding the complex working and travelling routines of showmen, it would be easy to misconstrue the facts being presented to us. If the majority of households in the showman sites have mobile homes, then what is the problem with just moving elsewhere?

Except, that isn’t the case. A showman’s household may span several generations, elderly grandparents may reside with up and coming young showmen, some members of the household may travel from fairground to fairground, while others stay at their static site, in brick homes and bungalows, as well as modern chalets, often costing tens of thousands of pounds.

 

Image by Yasmin Parnham
Image by Debra Torrance

Does this assessment give a fair representation of the showman community in Feltham?

We asked showman spokeswoman Yasmin Parnham her opinion on the situation:

“While the GTAA does reflect on us and it does show indeed we have a need for additional yards due to growth within the families and business. We have given Opinion Research Services our full co operation but even though the assessment was complete we had to push the leader of the council for us to see the report even though we knew they had it we hadn’t seen the results.
We have been in total shock after finding out from a councillor Elizabeth Hughes sometime ago that our land was identified for compulsory purchase order, this she told a fellow showman in the local pub, since then we have been trying to get more information about this.
Showmen have lived on this site for 4 generations over 150 years when infact it was originally a pig farm and an orchard, Feltham has built up around us, we are the only ones included in the masterplan to be under threat of losing our homes.
I have been seeking help from all over and our local ward councillor John Chatt told me in a recent meeting how very upset he was over losing his local labour club where he used to drink, he was quite mortified I said ‘John that’s a club and you feel like this imagine how we feel this is our homes and livelihoods!’”

The local community have been rallying with the showmen and residents under threat from this Feltham Master Plan. The local Victoria Junior School Year 4 children were learning about the history of Feltham and were outraged by the story of the Showman’s site and offered to help. Lawyers have offered their services, thousands of messages of support have been flowing into the inbox of Yasmin and now have over ten thousand members (and growing!) on their facebook page. Although it is often misunderstood, the life of the showman is intrinsically linked with the community in which they live for the off season. That home base is just that, their home. Can you imagine being told in the pub that your home was under threat? How would you feel if your neighbour came to tell you that your council was proposing new homes where your home was? If the council have identified like for like alternative sites for this showman community then why don’t they build new homes there and leave this site alone? I asked Yasmin how the whole ordeal has impacted her:

“The threat of losing our homes is taking its toll on our elderly, there has been heart attacks, deaths and some of my friends are now on antidepressants through anxiety and stress, I have been too recently!
My own father has had a heart attack and has prostate cancer, whilst in his hospital bed he said if I manage to get through this we will fight the council…”

Please digest that for a moment. A specific group of people in a community under threat are getting sick through this whole ordeal, mental health is being affected, physical illnesses exacerbated and sick and hospitalised people are fighting for their homes! In Great Britain. In the 21st century.We can’t let these hardworking, community minded, culturally rich and historic folk fight this by themselves. Showmen the length and breadth of the countries of the United Kingdom will be fighting together, have no doubt. Let’s support them. Because remember our communities would be poorer without carnivals and fairs. What is a gala without a bouncey castle? What is a Highland games without a hook a duck? These events are vital boosts to lagging local economies. What is happening in Feltham to the Showman community isn’t fair.

You can contact Steve Curran council leader here:
Write to your own MP and let them know about it all and how you would feel if your home was flagged for redevelopment in an ominously named “Masterplan.”

I want to finish with the words of a Showman, because this is their story, I’m just sharing it.

“In 2018 should we not be trying to integrate our communities rather than making the showmen social outcasts on the edge of town!

Feltham has created what other towns have failed to do, they have a community that is made up of so many diverse groups of people that even though they are very different to each other they do not see themselves as separate groups but as one large community!

Is this not what every borough should be striving to achieve, rather than tearing it apart?”

You can sign the petition to save the Feltnam site here

 

Yasmin Parnham also wrote a moving piece of poetry. You can read it here

 

You can read more of Debra’s Ungagged writing here, or listen to her on our podcast

The Feltham Masterplan

Reading Time: 1 minute
Yasmin Parnham

I can’t believe it that I’m having to fight,
For something that belongs to me by right.

We just don’t rent or set up any where ,
We aren’t gypsys we’re showman from the fair!

We work long hours come rain, blow or snow,
We don’t get much time off either you know.

But that don’t matter Cos it’s our way of life,
We’re used to having a little trouble and strife,

We can take the ups with the down,
Especially with the help from our little town.

The community’s support is overwhelming to us,
We only wanna be left alone without a fuss.

But the council are intent on taking my home from me,
Well I can tell you it’ll be over my dead body!

A showman’s life isn’t an easy one ya see,
Fighting the council will be soo easy,

Cos we’re all made of truly strong stuff,
And stick together when the going gets tough.

So Mr Curran a walk in the park this won’t be,
I’ll make it as hard as I can for you so happily.

For 4 generations showman have lived on this land,
And worked hard for what’s there’s with their own bare hand.

And you think you can just come and take our home?
And stick others in high rise flats that don’t even roam?

What about our heritage and also our Human right?
This isn’t gonna be easy, we’re gonna put up a good fight,

So now is the time to prove you are a good councillor man,
And get the showman removed from The Feltham Masterplan.

 

You can read more about the case that inspired this poem here

Arms Fair Activism: Arts Not Arms

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Arms Fair Activism

Arts Not Arms

By Jay Sutherland

As Britain’s Armed Forces Day approaches Scotland Against Militarism and others are working against the upcoming UDT Arms Fair due to be held at the SEC events centre in Glasgow on June 28th and 29th.

When we tell most people, even those who claim to be fully switched on and up to date about politics they are shocked to hear that an Arms Fair is coming to Glasgow, and sometimes even deny that it could be sponsored and supported by the Glasgow SNP-led council.  This has been one of the biggest challenges for us to overcome, the fact that the council and the SNP group of councillors have done their best to hide the fact that they silently support this.

But as always, money talks.  The SEC, which is 90% owned by the council, will be hosting the event.  It’s important to name and shame who we are dealing with, the key people who are involved in this through the council are David McDonald the deputy leader of the council and public defender of the Arms Fair within the city chambers. He claims that it is simply a technological conference and that Trident is not involved, despite having speakers, displays and information relating to Trident at the conference, as well as a student recruitment drive led by Trident experts taking place at the event.  The logo for the entire event involves trident – you would think they would do their research.

More hypocritical is Susan Aiken’s approach who claimed she only found out about the Arms Fair a few months ago despite being head of the Council and Glasgow Life.  She has defended the Palestinian cause in the past but sees no issue with Israeli Defence Force technology being promoted at the conference and companies which are linked to the IDF being there.  Some of the technology present at the conference will be the same tech which continues to oppress the people of Palestine but also keep them within from the land as well as the sea with underwater detection.

S.A.M (Scotland Against Militarism) and activists from CAAT Scotland (Campaign Against The Arms Trade) have been doing most of the ground work in Glasgow and beyond to try to get the event cancelled or at the very least remove council support.  Recently we have held demonstrations outside the city chambers and outside Susan Aiken’s surgery where we confronted her about her support for the Arms Fair.  She claims that cancelling the Arms Fair would damage the city’s reputation.  The opposite is true, it will show Glasgow doesn’t deal with warmongering/human rights abusers such as Israel.  Also the fact that the SNP-led council will only speak to us when we turn up at their surgery’s unannounced shows a real democratic deficit, despite David McDonald saying he would always be happy to meet with us, he also gave no reason for cancelling his surgery when Scotland Against Militarism announced our day of action.

Before that we met with Green MSP’s who gave their backing to the protest on the 26th of June at SEC.

We have a lot of actions lined up in the days and weeks ahead, we want to make it clear to the council that we won’t stop the disruption until they remove their support for this trident showcase. With the council blatantly lying about the links to trident we have no choice but to step up our campaign.

We urge everyone to get involved by contacting their elected representatives, taking part in actions and attending the protest weekend we have planned. 26th June: Mass protest 8am/10am, 27th: #ArtsNotArms a festival of music and Arts Against the Arms Fair, 28th: TBC

Scotland Against Militarism welcomed the news of the removal of the People Make Glasgow logo, but we won’t be backing down until full support is removed.

Scotland Against Militarism and the Sink UDT Campaign first pushed for them to remove the branding with our meeting with Susan Aitken, this was not a decision that the council came to themselves.

Most of all it shows that people power works and that the council realise they have got it completely wrong, but they are still refusing to remove full support. They recognise that people have claimed the brand but what they don’t realise is that people own the city too and we are not putting up with this.

We won’t be backing down until they remove their full support for the event, nothing less. Otherwise they are simply hiding their interests.

Feminism, My Enemy?

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Euan Johnston

I’m a heterosexual man. I always have been. I was a child in the 1970s and a teen in the 80s. I have made lots of mistakes in my life and my attitudes have evolved over time – I’m sure that despite my trying to live in a better way, I have attitudes and unconscious behaviours that are far from perfect in regards to equality. But I’ve never raped or assaulted women nor have I wanted to.

 

Rape, sexual assault and violence are an extreme end of a spectrum of disrespect and abuse and oppression of women. How can any objective person not see that? That there are links between everyday, humdrum inequalities and the kind of violence that the La Manada* case exemplifies.

* (CW: Extreme Sexual Violence)

 

I think that despite the failings of men like myself, society has changed dramatically in terms of how women are treated and it’s better for everyone that it has. I don’t know about calling myself a feminist – I don’t know if I qualify for that, and its not important, what is important is to support women who are feminists and who have seen that the achievement of equality is political. That feminism is and has been and will be crucial in achieving equality – equality still hasn’t been achieved but is a damn site nearer than it has been in history.

 

I would say to other heterosexual men, don’t listen to those whining little shits like Jordan Peterson and the other men who claim that feminism is their enemy. Support your feminist partners, mothers and daughters. Nobody has anything to gain by women “knowing their place” Not for them and certainly not for men. I find myself sickened by the lad culture, informed by pornography and entitlement. I find myself reading about men acting the victim – we are being emasculated, we are unsure of our role, we are oppressed by feminist ball-busters getting on at us for not doing things their way and I don’t recognise their complaints.

I don’t want to be saying #NotAllMen or trying to make out I’m a saint or anything. I just find that so many of the gains made over my 50 years on the planet are being attacked by a stupid but influential fringe of more or less alt right, conservatively minded, and often childish men who want women to be their fantasy objects, whether in a sexual sense or in terms of how we all interact.

 

The countries with the best levels of equality are also the happiest countries. Feminism is not just good for women it’s good for us too! And I know we have all met counter productive, overly ideological and annoyingly strident and judgemental feminists sometimes, but they are necessary too. Sometimes its just that they are telling truths we don’t like to hear, and like any other political position, the extreme fringes tend to shout louder than the rest – but sometimes the extreme fringe has a point too!

 

We heterosexual men should support and encourage the women in our lives to be political on their own behalf, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable for us. And we need to not pretend we are victims, but take it like a man when we are criticised for behaviours that we sometimes don’t even see, but which are part of the construction of the inequality surrounding us.

 

There is a demo today, June 24th 2018, against the release of the La Manada rapists, at 6pm at the Spanish Consulate, North Castle Street, Edinburgh

 

You can read more Ungagged writing here or listen to Euan’s music on the Ungagged podcast

Pay To Spend

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Ged Killen MP

Can you imagine being charged £3 per every time you withdraw cash?

98% of us withdraw our money free of charge from cash machines, however changes to the way these free to use ATMs are funded could see many close and others having to charge withdrawal fees in order to stay open.

The LINK Network, which sets the funding formula for free to use ATMs (the interchange rate fee), plans to cut this funding by 20% over the next four years. The interchange rate fee is a 25p charge which is levied on card issuers and banks every time you use your card in an ATM machine. It is these 25p charges which pay for the upkeep and maintence of the ATM machine.

LINKs 20% reduction means that this fee will drop from 25p to 20p over four years. The first 5% or 1.25p cut will happen in just a few weeks on July 1st.

LINK claimed during the consultation over this cut that between 8% and 18% of free to use ATMs would go, and these closures would only happen in urban areas where there is an oversupply of free to use ATMs.

I however do not believe this is the case.

In the United States a similar change to how free to use ATMs were funded pushed up the average withdrawal fee to almost $5, and reduced the spread of ATMs in rural areas.

When LINK appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Jobs and Fair Work Committee they revealed that they now estimate the closures of free to use ATMs to be even greater than they initially expected. They now believe that up to 10% of Scotland’s free to use ATMs could close after the just the first 5% cut. This means that as many as 40% of Scotland’s free to use ATMs could close over the next four years, more than double LINK’s higher estimate of 18%.

Previously LINK has also offered assurances that no ATM would close if it was more than 1km way from another free to use ATM. This assurance was the bedrock of their financial inclusion policy which they said was designed to protect rural communities access to cash. When pressed on this recently, LINK chairman Mark Boleat said “I’m reluctant to make promises we can’t keep.”

ATM providers, the companies which run a business providing and running ATMs, are concerned that LINKs cuts to the funding formula means that their business will be put under threat and that existing free to use machines will have to close or charge a fee to remain viable.

Cardtronics, one of the UKs biggest ATM operators, is currently reviewing the economic viability of 1,500 ATMs, 600 of which are under urgent review. There will also be a hiatus on the installation of new ATMs.

There are no legal protections for free cash and nothing which secures the place of free to use ATMs on our high streets other than a business case based on the funding formula set by LINK or their ability to charge users to make a profit.

That is why I have introduced a bill in Westminster to ban ATM charges and introduce an enforceable access to banking standard to prevent communities from being cut off from financial infrastructure such as free to use ATMs.

We may be moving towards a cashless society, but we are not there yet. Research by the consumer body Which? has shown that in 9 in 10 people in Scotland see access to free cash as important to their lives, with rural areas being the most dependent.

The use of free to use ATMs is worth protecting. Studies by the FSB have shown that a loss of free to use ATMs can reduce footfall on the high street and decrease trade for businesses which rely on cash.

LINK argue that they are cutting the funding to ATMs because we are using cash less. While I accept we are moving towards a cashless society I believe the extent of LINKs cuts are an example of a forced change, against the broader needs and wishes of the public. That is why in my bill I want to shift the risk and the burden away from consumers.

If we are moving towards a cashless society, we must ensure that we arrive there at a pace set by the needs and desires of the public, not via fee-charging ATM machines that penalise consumers.

My bill would ban ATM charges and establish a right to free access to cash based on a full market review of the ATM network to establish demand for cash.

If we are serious about financial inclusion and economic development, particularly outside metropolitan areas, we should seek to protect the services people rely on.

Change should be driven by consumer use, not by financial institutions acting in their own interest.  So long as there remains a demand for cash, access to that cash should be freely available no matter where you live.

What does Pride mean to me? Amber Poppitt

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Amber Poppitt

History has been far from generous to the LGBTQIA+ community. Bullying, hatred, societal prejudice, oppression and laws criminalising our existence has generated an unnecessary amount of torment throughout the centuries. Although numerous acts have been introduced in recent years to try protect LGBTQIA+ people from the systematic injustices inflicted upon us, it wasn’t all that long ago when such acts were pretty much non-existent. During the mid-20th century, homosexuality was still classed as illegal under varying sodomy laws. In many countries, this resulted in police raids on bars that were known to serve gay and transgender people.

America was one of those many countries where homosexuality was banned by law, meaning similar raids were habitually conducted across their many states. On June 28th 1969, however, one raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of allowing the police to carry out their usual incursions, the 200 Stonewall attendees decided enough was enough and resisted. Authorities responded by attempting to arrest everyone inside the pub, however before backup had time to arrive, groups of protesters had formed outside.

In practice the riots carried on for the following five days, however their overall impact lasted far longer than anyone at the time imagined. The actions of June 28th 1969 resulted in a catalyst that helped to reshape the ways in which LGBTQIA+ people were treated by society at large, a moment which can be seen as the start of a liberation for queer people across the globe.

As the years passed, change started to take shape. More and more public figures came out, countries across the world lifted their laws punishing people for same-sex relations, and acts are introduced to protect those who are at risk due to their gender identity or sexuality. From Stonewall to the legalisation of same-sex marriage taking place across the globe in the present decade, fight for liberation still continues today.

Many of these changes were made possible thanks the protests, resistance and marches which stemmed from that very night back in 1969. Demonstrations similar to those held outside the Stonewall Inn continued year-after-year, continuously pushing for change.

Today we refer to these sorts of demonstrations as Pride events, and they are just as important today as they were half a century ago. Such movements not only take place all across the globe, but speak to all of those who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community from ever walk of life. Whether you’re asexual, bisexual, non-binary, pansexual, transgender, agender, bigender, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender variant, androgynous, aromantic, androsexual, bicurious, demiromantic, demisexual, polyamorous or any other member of this wonderfully variant community; Pride is the moment in which non-heteronormative folk can come together and continue the march for liberation which begun during the midpoint of the 20th century.

Due to the sheer scope and variety of the LGBTQIA+ community, however, Pride has a variety of meanings for many. Each individual will have their own interpretation of what Pride means to them based on their backgrounds, experiences and worldviews. So, based upon my own experiences as a trans woman raised in 90s Britain, what does Pride personally mean to me?

Firstly, from my point of view, Pride is a way to look back on the achievements made over the years. It’s a time to celebrate the decriminalisation of homosexuality; establishment of countless gay liberation fronts; repeals made toward those who ‘committed’ the victimless crime of loving another; openly gay & trans candidates running for office; liberating trans people so they’re free transition legally, socially & physically; the introduction of laws protecting LGBTQIA+ people within workplaces; and the countless other steps made toward equality. Over the years an endless amount of individuals have worked endlessly, risked all they have and faced a tirade of struggle in a bid to make the world a better place for the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride celebrations are a means of expressing our gratitude to such folk, thanking them for helping to make the world a more bearable place than it once was. There’s far more work to be done of course, however Pride is a point where we can look back and say thank you to those who’ve got us to where we are today.

Another way in which I look at Pride is by seeing it as an exercise in standing up to the mistreatment and hate still present within our societies today. Bullies, bigots and hateful fools love to hit out at those whom they believe they have power over. For far too long, those very cowards have felt emboldened to make the lives of those unlike them hell. They’ve hindered rights, laughed at the existence of others, beaten, murdered and claimed superiority all because they grew up in a society that made them believe they were superior. Pride is our way of saying no more; a defence mechanism designed to push back against the struggles we continuously face. Pride is our way of telling the hateful members of our society that we are strong, resilient and here to stay. Each and every march is our way of pushing back against the self-assumed dominance held by those who hate us.

Furthermore, Pride can in many ways be seen as a bond that assists in bringing the diverse and multifaceted members of the LGBTQIA+ community together. As already mentioned, there’s a vast amount of sexualities and identities existing beyond the walls of heteronormativity. Considering how large this community is, divisions do at times occur. No single person or experience is the same, meaning it can at times appear as if we’re striving for different goals. Truth is, we’re working toward the same universal outcome; we want a world free from bullying, mockery, violence, shame, misunderstanding, dehumanisation and hatred. The liberation to love who we love and be ourselves without scorn is something we can all rally behind as a collective. Pride is the time where we can all finally come together, embrace the power of working in numbers and stand up as one. By coming together we create an unbreakable unity; a collective working to change the foundations of our societies for the better.

Finally, Pride is an exercise in flexing our visibility; a way of reminding the world that we are more than an idea or stereotype. Over the centuries, LGBTQIA+ folk have been habitually erased from the history books. This is a practise that’s still carried out by many in this day and age. When we’re not being mocked or misrepresented by callous stereotypes, our lives are trivialised and rendered false. Bigots tell us our gender identities are delusions, that our desire to love more than one gender is nothing more than greed, that our love toward someone of the same gender is the by-product of mental illnesses, or our sexualities/genders are contemporary fads uncommon within the human experience. Despite their assumptions, we all exist, we’ve always exited and we shall continue to exist until the end of time. Pride month is the moment each in which we remind the world that we are valid, that our identities are real, that we bleed like everyone else and that we deserve rights just as much as every other human living on this planet.

As already mentioned, Pride can be subjective based on whoever you ask. But that’s its beauty. It allows a vast community of people to come together, recognise the universal struggles each one faces and provides a platform where we can all push for change. To me Pride is a way to look back and thank the liberators of yesterday, celebrate the diversity of the queer community, tower above the bigots and articulate our authenticity to the world. Whether others agree with this is beside the point. No matter how you look at it, just remember that Pride is a movement that will allow progression to continue, no matter how dark the world may feel at times.

Happy Pride Month everyone.

 

You can read more from Amber on her Writing page and she also contributes to our Podcast

World Refugee Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Debora Kayembe, Human Rights campaigner and Director of Full Options

 

It’s summer, most countries in the world expect migration movement to increase. Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. A person who moves from their home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, especially within the same country, a displaced person. A person seeking refuge from political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.
Since the Arab spring widely considered as the Arab revolution which was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. The world has witness an expected and unprecedented massive movement of refugees to Europe that result to a reception crisis; thousands of refugees cross the sea and attempt to settle in the most appropriate place that they taught suitable for them.

Once arrived the host country; it is not always a welcoming sight; a lot it expected from the new comer as well the from refugee perspectives; it is the time to rest, recover and make choices. Some likely manage to make it to the place of their choice, some do not and the most unfortunates end up in detention centre or being deported back to their home land depending on countries and immigration refugee policies.

When integration in the host countries comes to the mind of a refugee, the challenges are immeasurable. It requires great mental and/or physical effort and is a major test of a person’s ability. It is also important for members of the host society to recognize that it is the right of a person to have or to do something in order to strive to move forward.

Integration is, after all, defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio economic and cultural life. Each and every country holds its own policies on refugees and asylum seekers in order to allow them to settle. We can divide these in two parts: the socio economic integration and the cultural integration. There is also a third part and that is the responsibility that both the host country and the refugees (that includes asylum seekers) take for ensuring that the policies work.

A new life in a host country places a lot of expectations on refugees and little thought is often given to how much or how well the refugee understands the society in which s/he has joined and been called up to integrate. Are there any ways that the host country can help the refugee to overcome the challenges that they will certainly face? Have ways of teaching the new way of living been provided to minimize additional tensions on the life of the refugee? While each country has its own systems, they all have some things in common, namely, they are discriminatory, non-equal, and segregationist. People are led to believe that the world is working towards less racist policies at local levels, but in the context of the refugee (and asylum seeker) experience this is not the case.

We also need to think about the ignorance and naiveté that can be part of the refugee’s way of seeing the world after going through tremendous trauma, and their expectation that the world will look upon them with compassion.

Challenges are not only felt by the newcomers and it is important to consider that those attempting to welcome them can face significant challenges too including offer refugees the opportunity to participate in a dialogue and to be open-minded about how refugees might be perceived.
Fundamentally, there is a need for an open and inclusive local/national society that offers refugees the opportunity to be introduced to a new culture through non-judgmental inclusion. Being a refugee in host countries is like finding refuge in your neighbor’s home.

Your neighbor will give you a bed and will probably provide food for you in the earliest days on your arrival, but will soon expect you to make a contribution to their home as long as you stay. I do not think the neighbor will be pleased to see you stealing or destroying his property for no reason. But it is also true that, the refugee will be much settled if his host offers him in equal measure and all the necessary help that he need in order to be become self-sufficient.

I will not finish to write this article without mentioning the immigration detention Centre; around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. In 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in process, and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). In the Scotland we have a detention centre called Dungavel, I always call for the closure of that centre because of the persistent and continuous violations of Human rights that happens in that centre ; It is also true that immigration matters are not part of the devolved powers to the Scottish government ; but the welfare of the individuals in Dungavel it’s very much a Scottish responsibility ; I am calling upon to the Scottish parliament to conduct an investigation into the conditions of detainees in that centre .

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