It’s been a tumultuous week with the Charlie Hebdo attacks casting a long shadow across the world, justifiably eclipsing other news items. Still, I’ve done my best to round up some LGBT+ news highlights from across the UK.
It may come as a surprise, but it appears that David Cameron holds legalising gay marriage as one of his greatest political accolades of 2014. At a Q&A session in Wirral, Merseyside last week he admitted that although accelerating the economy was of course his foremost political purpose, he believed that same-sex marriage has had an unparalleled personal impact. If only politicians always emphasised personal ramifications! Still, we must count ourselves lucky that the Prime Minister does not seem to share the President of Gambia’s sentiment, who warns that “gays will doom the world.”
Stonewall published its latest Top 100 Employers, proclaiming the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust as the most LGBT+ friendly workplace. Following suit, in an attempted move of positive discrimination, earlier this week Channel 4 declared that at least 6% of their employees must identify as LGBT+ by 2020, up from 2.4% currently.
Perhaps Tesco would benefit from implementing a similar positive discrimination strategy. A lesbian couple experienced a malicious attack from a homophobic cashier at a Tesco store in Surrey Quays a few days into the new year. They were told that “gay people shouldn’t have babies,” and then when the couple challenged the cashier, the response toted was: “it’s a free country, so I can say what I like.”
Free speech is the hot topic right now, but perhaps we need to recognise that there are lines between our rights to speak freely and offending people.
MP for Southwest Norfolk, Elizabeth Truss, has urged parents to be more careful about gender-stereotyping their children when it comes to toy choices, warning that the tea set or tool kit that you give your child to play with will go on to shape their future career. Whilst it seems absurd to suggest that because I played with a train set as a toddler I am destined to work for Network Rail, there may be a glimmer of truth in the argument that putting gender into (toy) boxes has repercussions for later life. Her argument is that gender-targeted toys threaten to repel girls from science and maths, areas with low female representation, and that by encouraging parents to lavish their daughters with Lego they will foster an interest in engineering. She misses the mark slightly – she is right to condemn gender stereotyping in toys, but her point is only the tip of a much bigger, more hazardous iceberg. Gender is an intricate and hazy issue and it is dangerous to compartmentalise children full stop, let alone in such a binary.
Meanwhile, here in Cambridge the University’s LGBT+ community were treated to the launch of the new club night at Kuda, Kaleidoscope. It was certainly a psychedelic night posing strong competition as it faces off with Revolution’s Fusion, coincidentally held on the same night. With free shots on entry and non-gendered facilities, Kaleidoscope pulled out all the stops. One attendee, Jasmine Walter told me that “the music was questionable to say the least (the hybrid of club tunes and Pirates of the Caribbean was a particular highlight) and it did take a while to get properly started, but the vibes were fun and inclusive and everyone I know had a great time.”