Thursday, 13 April 2017

Chechnya: My petition to the UK government

As you will have probably seen, this week news emerged that a concentration camp for gay men has quite possibly been opened in Chechnya.

Add this to the previously reported instances of gay men being killed, and LGBT's subjected to persecution, and what you have is a pretty desperate situation in need of IMMEDIATE action.

Rightly so, people are outraged by the plight of men, women and children in Syria, but I feel this ugly situation in Chechnya just isn't getting as much, if anything, in the way of attention.

Yesterday British broadcaster Sky News posted out in excess of 15 tweets about US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson having talks with Russia, but NOTHING about Chechnya. That was despite a mass demonstration occurring outside the Russian embassy in London last night.

On Monday I decided I would start a petition on the Parliamentary website. This website is used to urge the government to take action on certain issues. For example a recent petition asking the British government to think again, on whether to grant US President Donald Trump a state visit, attracted in excess of 2 million signatures.

The way the Parliament petition website works, is that once a petition reaches 10,000 signatures you get a response from the British government. Then if the petition reaches 100,000 signatures it gets debated in Parliament. I could just start a petition on any old website, the reason I want it on the Parliament petition site, is because the government are obligated to respond. If I start a petition elsewhere, they have no obligation what so ever.

This is what the Chechnya situation needs! Visibility and lots of it! 

If we show our outrage this week, but forget it next week, so will certain elements of the media and politicians, who would probably prefer not to have to respond, or god forbid commit to actually doing something about this!

My petition was submitted on Monday evening, and nearly 72 hours later it still is not published.

All petitions have to go through a quality control check, to make sure the petition is legit, and make sure a duplicate petition does not exist, and with it being the eve of a four day bank holiday weekend, I think getting it published before the start of next week is highly unlikely.

Currently my petition is pending review as you can see - HERE

A source at Westminster has told me the department which deals with the petitions are experiencing high volumes of submission, so it might not get published until next week sometime.

So over the next few days my task is to keep up the pressure when it comes to Chechnya and if you're reading this, that means I need your help as well!

We cannot let the outrage over this die down, we must keep it alive and continue taking to social media. Ideally when the petition goes live we need to get this trending. But for now the main aim should be to keep talking about it, keep sharing about it. LGBT's in Chechnya need us and we cannot let them down.

My petition calls on the British government to take action! Theresa May, Boris Johnson, it is your moral obligation, not just elected representatives, but as human beings.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Morgane Oger hopes to become the first openly-trans person elected to public office in Canada

Morgane Oger, candidate for the New Democratic Party, in Vancouver, Canada is hoping to become the first openly-trans person, elected to public office in Canada.

Morgane is not a career politician, having been a successful entrepreneur for many years in the high-tech sector. She is also the Chair of the trans Alliance Society and Chair of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council.

On May 9th 2017, British Columbia goes to the polls to elect members to the Legislative Assembly.

Morgane is standing in the riding (constituency) of False Creek, where her opponent is the incumbent Sam Sullivan of the Liberal party.

The BC Liberals are completely separate from the Liberals lead by Justin Trudeau. The BC Liberals are actually to the right, rather than the left.

Morgane really does have a good chance of winning. In 2013, the Liberals got a majority of 3,000, getting a total of 11,228 to the NDP's 7,981. The Liberals do have space, but they didn't exactly win by a landslide in False Creek the last time round.

Take a listen to my full interview with Morgane, recorded following the official launch of her campaign on April 8th:

You can find Morgane on social media - Twitter / Facebook

And for more on how to support Morgane visit the website - HERE

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Ru Paul LEGO could become a reality!

Start your engines! Because Ru Paul's LEGO Brick Race could become a reality. Or at least I'd like to think so...

I recently came across a Twitter page which showed an image of everyones favourite queen Ru Paul in LEGO form. I got excited as I thought it was an official LEGO product.

Upon further investigation I found it's actually a project still in the very early stages, setup by a Drag Race enthusiast, who's petitioning LEGO to make a Drag Race LEGO set a reality.

Currently, close to 5,000 people have said they want to see this happen. If it manages to hit 10,000 supporters LEGO will actually consider making it happen.
The idea was dreamt up by Mark Fitzpatrick who took the time to answer a few questions about his hopes for the project...

What made you decide that the universe of Ru Paul's drag race should be brought to life in Lego?

I've wanted to submit a project idea for some time and of all the ideas whirling around in my mind, the qualities that made me pick RuPaul's Drag Race are the colour, creativity, whimsy and individuality that RuPaul and contestants on her show exude. 

These qualities match the LEGO universe well and I wanted to see if I could find a way to blend these two pop culture icons.

I know you need 10,000 signatures for it to get to Lego for considerations, do you think we will be seeing Lego Drag Race in stores anytime in the future?

LEGO is a wonderful company and they've made great progress in recent years in diversifying their product range. I know that if there is a toymaker in the world who will be prepared to evaluate this idea on it's merits, it's those wonderful folk in Denmark.

That said, I know that it's entirely possible that even if the set reaches 10,000 votes, the LEGO company might not select this idea for production (for any number of logistical reasons that might rule it out) - but just getting this set to the official review stage sends a positive signal to the LEGO company that there is interest in diverse toys and the representation of LGBTQIA lives in LEGO land. I think that's worth getting behind, regardless of the outcome for this specific project.

Why is it important to have more LGBT+ recognition in the main stream, whether that be on television or films, or indeed through the idea you're proposing?

It's been said that you can't be what you can't see and that visibility equals representation.It also feels like we're increasingly interested in representations of gender in the toy aisles of the world. I think there's something exciting about the idea that young folks who are interested in dressing up, makeup, colourful characters could play with toys like this proposed set.

A number of admirers of this project have contacted me to express their delight with the set design and have elaborated that they would have loved toys like this when they were younger which has been a lovely response.

How awesome do you think it would be to have 'Lego Drag Race' the game for PS4, Xbox One etc? 

SUPER awesome! Many people have commented that they'd like to play a LEGO Dimensions RuPaul expansion level and I agree it would a lot of fun!

A massive thanks goes out to Mark for taking the time to speak to me.

Ru Paul and Michelle Visage have both tweeted about the project in the past, so it has their seal of approval. Lets hope it gets the same from LEGO...

If you want to support this initiative - CLICK HERE

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Candlelight vigil to honour rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker

A candlelight vigil will take place later to remember the creator of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, who's died at the age of 65.

The vigil will happen under the giant rainbow flag which flies at the junction of Castro and Market street in San Francisco, near Harvey Milk Plaza.

It's planned to start at 7pm local time (2am Sunday morning, GMT).

Baker created the international symbol of LGBT+ rights in 1978, when he stitched eight hand-dyed strips of vibrantly coloured fabric together into a rainbow flag.

Cleve Jones, a friend and gay rights advocate confirmed his death, he said Baker had suffered a stroke several years ago, but had not been sick recently.

The rainbow flag was designed before Gay Pride in San Francisco in 1978, following the assassination of city supervisor and gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

Milk had been among advocates who had asked Mr Baker to create a symbol to represent the gay rights movement.

The eight colours represent eight different things:
The first flag was unveiled on June 25 1978, after volunteers helped Baker piece it together in the attic of the Gay Community Centre in San Francisco.

Baker created what is now an international symbol of the LGBT+ movement, flags are regularly placed on government, and other buildings as a show of solidarity with LGBT people.

The flag is so widely recognised that it even has it's only emoji on social media, showing just how important the symbol has become, worldwide.

In recent weeks Baker finished creating a new nine-colour rainbow flag, adding lavender to his creation to represent diversity, to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the original flag.

Though Baker died in New York on Thursday night, the news didn't break until last night, and the LGBT community responded, taking to social media to pay tribute and show appreciation...

Of course we can't all be at the candlelight vigil, though I certainly wish I could attend to pay my respects.

But in the social media age we can do simple things to remember Gilbert Baker.

So how about this - simply place the rainbow flag emoji on your Twitter bio or adding a rainbow filter to your profile picture.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Sinn Fein makes equal marriage a 'red line' in Northern Ireland talks

As sides meet to discuss a new power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein has set out demands on same-sex marriage.

Assembly elections took place in the country earlier this month, after the collapse of the previous agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), following a corruption scandal.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, the second largest party, Sinn Fein, must form a new power sharing agreement with the DUP.

The DUP are anti-same sex marriage, and they're still the largest party, all be it with a reduced majority following the elections.

Previously the DUP have used veto powers known as 'petitions of concern' in order to block equal marriage.

It's thought that during talks today Sinn Fein made same sex marriage progress a 'red line' issue.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said -  "The DUP's approach thus far has been to engage in a minimalist way on all of the key issues, including legacy issues - an Irish-language act, a bill of rights and marriage equality."

Meanwhile at a press conference after todays talks collapsed, Sinn Fein MLA Michelle O'Neil added: "Unfortunately the DUP maintained their position in relation to blocking equality and delivering equality for citizens. That is a problem."

"We continue to engage. We do need to make the institutions work, but they can only work on the basis of equality, respect and integrity at their core."

However the DUP's Arlene Foster, a known opponent of LGBT+ rights, said the talks failed because there wasn't "a spirit of compromise".

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire MP said the collapse of talks was "extremely disappointing" but ruled out a fresh set of elections taking place.

The UK government has extended the deadline for the power sharing talks.