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There’s a really useful tool out there –  it’s called a dictionary. And it does an excellent job – if you come across a word and you don’t have a clue what it means, you can look in this wonderful book and get a rough, simplistic idea.

The problem with the poor dictionary is that it is often poorly used – and misused – by fools who are either ignorant or wilfully bigoted. We really need to look at the limits of this book.

Firstly, the dictionary is not an ultimate authority. It’s a brief answer, a vague idea, as concise as it can be to get the idea across. It is the Twitter of reference books.

And for most subjects we know this. If I look up “carrot” in the dictionary, most people will acknowledge I do not know all there is to know about carrots and if I truly want to understand carrots, I should probably pick up a horticultural text book. We know that legal and medical terms are going to be, at best, simplistically represented and know we need to find a lawyer or a doctor if we want to know more. Anyone deciding to base their argument on, say, a philosophical concept or term using the dictionary is going to be laughed at at best, or automatically lose whatever argument they’re trying to make at least.

Yet the minute we move into a social justice framework, the ultimate authority changes. We don’t need lived experience, we don’t need experts who have examined centuries of social disparities and discrimination, we don’t need societal context. We don’t need sociology or history – no, we have THE DICTIONARY! That ultimate tome of oracular insight, the last word on any debate!

It’s patently ridiculous and you can see that by applying it to any other field of knowledge. But the privileged will continually trot out simplistic, twitter-style dictionary definitions as if they are the last word and the ultimate authority. No-one would drag out the dictionary to debate science with a scientist. But they’re more than willing to trot out a dictionary definition of racism over any sociological analysis. A dictionary is not the ultimate authority - they’re a rough guide for you to discover the simple meaning of words you’ve never heard before – not an ultimate definition of what the word means and all its contexts.


Secondly, you can’t ignore common usage or context to excuse your ridiculous bigotry, especially if you’re going to try to drag up ancient historical usages or picking number 3 in the “obscure meanings” list. Yes f@ggot means a meatball or bundle of sticks for burning – do we even remotely think that that is what most people mean when they use the term? Does anyone with half an ounce of common sense think this is what they mean when they scream it at someone? When someone says something is “so gay” do you think they’re referencing happiness? Or the negative connotations of being gay? Why does anyone think these ridiculous excuses work?


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So, we just had a cabinet reshuffle!

And among many parts of that, we have a new Minister for Women and Equality. This was very necessary because the previous encumbent Theresa May (and, of course, the useless fig leaf Lynne Featherstone who is always out there willing to justofy any bigotry her Tory masters have, what a good little Igor she is) was a raging bigot.

So now we have Maria Miller.

Who is another raging bigot

For gods' sake Cameron - I know you're picking among the Tory party here so finding someone who isn't a bigot must be very very taxing for you - but really?

Can we actually have an Equality Minister who HASN'T voted against equal rights? Who hasn't voted against gay families? Can we have an Equality minister who hasn't voted to defend hate speech? Who was absent for the vote for the Equalities Act when it came to Sexual Orientation? A woman who Stonewall gave a mere 14% when it came to voting for gay rights? (The same as Theresa May)

Can we have a minister for women who isn't anti-choice?

In fact, can we have a Minister for Equality who actually gives a fuck about Equality?!

And when we've got that, can we actually have a MINISTER for Equality who isn't also stuck with some other "more important" brief - like the Home Secretary or Culture.

 

But let's leave the Minister for Equality and look to the Minister of Justice - why it's Chris Grayling!

Remember Chris Grayling, folks? Well he was the Shadow Home Secretary, but lost the job because he publicly spoke up in favour of Straights-only hotels and how it should be legal to discriminate against gay people.

This is the man who scraped up 29% on the Stonewall survey - and even then his words show he didn't even deserve that much.

This is our Minister for Justice. Justice for some - but not for me and mine.

Typical bloody Tories and their sycophantic mini-mes.


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One of the eternal frustrations with trying to talk marginalisation with privileged people is the ignorance of what persecution actually means, what being marginalised actually means. Yes, I know, blink and step back “surely it’s obvious!?” right? I mean, groups that are marginalised are treated horrendously in a myriad of ways for centuries – how can we not know what that means?

And yet – how many times have we seen a marginalised person described some event in their lives where prejudice has screwed them over and you have some privileged person saying “oh, yeah, that’s just like what happens to me!” And then we to resort to the marginalised serenity prayer – give me the serenity not to kill this person with axes. Increasingly it seems I am lacking in serenity, on the plus side, I have no shortage of axes.

However, axe murdering does rather stain the carpet, and putting out plastic sheeting every time is a nuisance so can we actually address what marginalisation is and why privileged people don’t face it, even if they think they do?

So, let us begin with the “that happened to me too.” Ok, but does it feed into a societal pressure and habitual victimisation? Do things like that commonly happen to people like you, for that reason? Does it reflect or build on a major societal pressure?

Because this all matters. Say tomorrow I am walking down the street, leaving my firm and someone decides that he really really hates lawyers and decides to violently attack me with my own axe. Woe, I have been attacked, due to my profession. I have been victimised. Yet, if we take exactly the same attack and change one thing – that my attacker tried to kill me for being gay instead – and we’ve got an entirely different situation.

Being attacked as a lawyer wouldn’t make me worry about it happening again. It wouldn’t make me check the news for other attacks on lawyers and feel that fear every time I see it appear. I probably wouldn’t actually see any other incidents, or very few. I wouldn’t change my behaviour or worry about how I’m acting and what I’m saying. It wouldn’t send a message to all other lawyers that they’re under threat and their lives aren’t valued. I wouldn’t walk into a room full of non-lawyers and worry about being safe. I’d be pretty sure that it wasn’t part of societal attitudes to destroy me, drive me out or render me invisible (well, except for people who’ve seen one to many of those “I’ve had an accident” Underdog adverts, but even I want to punch them. After I’ve tracked down the Go Compare opera singer anyway). There won’t be powerful forces in authority encouraging people to discriminate against me for being a lawyer, to condemn me for it and to add to a culture of violence against lawyers. I can expect the press to report on my attack, rather than ignore it, I can rely on them not demonising me for being a lawyer. I am confident that, being attacked as a lawyer, my attacker will be treated like a criminal, I will be treated as a victim, I won’t be blamed for my attack, my attacker will be sentenced appropriately, the crime against will be treated as a grave one.

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Privilege, oppression and marginalisation are concepts we talk a lot about in the social justice blogosphere (and beyond). There’s a lot to talk about and many nuances, intersectionality and so much more. But there’s also a creeping habit to, by intent or accident, use the language of privilege and oppression in a way that denies our own privilege, centres our own marginalisation as more vital (or universal), or gives our own marginalised group a pass on the badness. It’s a common reaction – after all, we all want to think of our people as “the good ones” and, despite it being easier to live as the oppressor, it’s certainly more sympathetic to identity with the oppressee. But it’s still not all good – because it does come down to denying privilege, denying marginalisation or dismissing marginalised people’s issues.

The most common thing I see is us just taking a rather scattershot approach to privilege – including every privilege the offender has – even the ones that are not relevant to the situation.

Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke in a grossly misogynist way because of her testimony on birth control. And, thankfully, people describe what a privileged arsehat he is. This is good – but I also saw many people cursing him for his straight, white male privilege. Sounds right – after all he is a straight white male (and he’s also a homophobic racist as well as a misogynist). Except, he didn’t use straight, white privilege to (though those privileges add to his power and position, certainly) to attack Ms. Fluke; his male privilege was the relevant one. And this matters – because by adding the straight and white privileges there we’re implying that if Limbaugh were gay or POC (or both) then he would not be oppressing Ms. Fluke, he would not have privileged over her - or, he simply wouldn’t do such a thing. We know that’s not true. Being gay or being POC is no defence against being a misogynist.

It’s not that he doesn’t have these privileges – it’s that they’re not relevant to the current discussion – or the relevance they have is fraught since it also implies a pass for those groups.

Another example – in my many many fraught discussions of the problems of slash and m/m genres many people have joined me in objecting. But some of the objections are of the appropriating writers using straight, white privilege. Except I’ve a whole shed load of homophobic fail in my inbox from straight POC writers, slash, m/m and yaoi defenders, declaring their natural ally-dom to all gay men since they’re man-sex fetishisers. It is by their straightness and othering that they are oppressing – and, again, we’re giving a pass to some of the privilege offenders by bringing in these other privileges. Some of the homophobic bullshit is given a pass.

Another common tactic I see is to distort or change the meaning of words in a way that magically includes you in the oppression (something I’ve mentioned before). I’ve read a blog that has a handy little lexicon that describes “heteronormative” as a “white, middle-class, straight lens”. Which isn’t what it means – if you have a large group of straight, working class, POC then you have a heteronormative situation. This reduces diversity to racial and class lines alone, by co-opting a word used to criticise the erasure and ignoring of GBLT people and giving the show/book/culture a pass if it is seen from a racially inclusive lens even if it completely denies the existence of GBLT people.

“Diversity” is another word that often gets bandied about without qualification when the writer usually means only diverse along one axis – I’m amazed at how many utterly erased books I’ve read or TV shows I’ve watched that were praised for their supposedly vast inclusion.

Similarly to expanding the definition of oppressions, there’s also the stretching of definition of social justice movements. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said to someone “y’know that was kind of homophobic” and received a reply of “I’m not homophobic, I’m a feminist!” And this is relevant, why? Being anti-homophobia doesn’t make you anti-racist or anti-misogynist. Being feminist doesn’t make you anti-racist or anti-homophobia etc. Don’t assume an inherent intersectionality - and, by all that is holy, do not play the “no true Scotsman” fallacy for your preferred movement either. It’s another way to deny privilege and oppression by absorbing another’s oppression into your movement. That doesn’t mean that people can’t identify as part of X movement AND be against all the other isms – but it’s an AND not an INCLUDED – it requires more than just assuming a label – especially when that label never included said oppression in the first place.

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So over in the US the Violence against Women Act has become partisan because it contains inclusive clauses for GBLT people, undocumented migrants and Native Americans

Which means, for these over-privileged arseholes, they were willing to scupper this bill – and throw all those women who desperately need this out because their hatred is more important than saving women’s lives. It isn’t just bigotry to those covered in those clauses, it is a callous disregard over everyone who is a victim of violence, stalking and domestic abuse.

Of course, given the source that’s not exactly surprising. But it’s an extra part that needs to be pointed out – none of these victims matter to them. Not the ones who are covered by the new clauses, nor the many other victims who they’re willing to ignore to flex their prejudice

And those clauses? They are needed. There does need to be specific addresses to marginalised groups that fall through the cracks, who the law often ignores even more than usual, who the law is often not even built to protect or acknowledge. They are needed because there are often extra issues that apply to minority groups that the law for the larger population of victims doesn’t address.

I’ve said it before on laws about bullying. Minorities often have specific issues that are specific to them above and beyond what the majority of victims face – that doesn’t make them more victimised, but it means if you want to address THEIR victimisation, you need to address their issues as well.

Like a domestic violence victim being afraid to come to the police or other external because they fear deportation, or the issues of institutional prejudice or confused or unhelpful jurisdictional wrangling. No matter how good the law is at protecting victims from abuse, if you don’t address that issue then these victims will not be protected.

Now, I don’t know what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship and fear getting help because of the first two reasons. But having a shred of humanity and compassion, I can see how desperately it is needed.

But for GBLT people, I’ve been there and I know it. It’s not a topic I approach with even the slightest degree of comfort, certainly not without using as much distancing language as I can to skirt round it. But this kind of thing is very close to my heart.

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It's that time again. There's anotehr sad litany of how homophobia and transphobia is a blight on our world - complete with the haters and the victims.

I think it's important to spread these, not just so we can see that this stuff happens and how damaging it is but I think it makes a point to bring them together - that this crap happens everywhere, literally and the common themes and links between them

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I read this article about how grossly unrepresentative the judiciary is and I'm having a think

I am torn. Which seems odd. After all, the judiciary is grossly unrepresentative. It is extremely white, extremely male and, (though not mentioned by the article since we often fall through the cracks when discussing discrimination and representation) extremely straight as well as being overwhelmingly cis and able bodied..

Until relatively recently, to be a judge you had to be married. Sound bemusing? It was a rule brought in in the 1970s to expressly prevent gay people becoming judges. It was openly admitted that that was the reason for the rule.

When I left law school, the judiciary wasn't on my mind. In fact when I went to law school I knew it would be impossible. I also chose my law school on the understanding that I wouldn't be a judge and I would have little chance becoming a barrister if I wanted to be an openly gay man. I cynically – and realistically – assumed these doors would be closed and didn't try waste my time dragging at a locked door that would be so unlikely to open for me.

There have only ever been 2 openly gay judges in the High Court. One of whom has now moved off to the various echelons of EU law.

And we know that because of the various blinkers of privilege, this nearly all super-privileged judiciary is going to have big freaking holes in their understanding. We've seen in decisions and in processes that marginalised people of all stripes tend to get a rawer deal in the courts than the privileged, ye gods we know that.

So, why am I torn?

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I’ve spoken about this before, but it seems to be an issue that, sadly, keep raising up so I’m going to set my words out again. I’m going to try to avoid repeating myself but it’s hard because my opinion hasn’t really changed and I covered most of it then.

I think burqa bans are, frankly, racist, xenophobic and islamaphobic (assuming that’s a word) and the arguments used for them, even the well meaning ones, seem awfully hollow to me.

The classic argument is that the ban liberates women. That these women are oppressed and forced to wear these garments. They should be liberated! They should resist patriarchal forces pushing them into these uncomfortable and constraining clothing types! Now pass the stiletto heels, miniskirts and breast squeezing wonder-bras (sorry, excess snark got in the way).

I can’t help but hearing “Predominantly brown women, you are being controlled and oppressed by your menfolk telling what you can and cannot wear! So we, predominantly white male-lead governments will tell you what you can and cannot wear instead! Embrace the freedom!”

Which strikes me a little like fucking for virginity.

Do I think that burqas are oppressive? Do I think the idea that a woman must hide vast swathes of her body for fear of tempting the naughty naughty men is very wrong? Do I think that and idea of modesty that demands such coverage to be excessive and limiting and shaming? Yes, yes on all counts. But then, I also think that if a woman decides she doesn’t want to show her body/hair/face/whatever then she shouldn’t be required to and it is extremely oppressive to force that exposure. We can argue that NOT wanting to show one’s face is a sign of internalised oppression… but that’s a difficult path to walk.

Can you go to someone who is margianlised and tell them that their actions and choices are contributing to and caused by their marginalisation? Yes, I think you can – but it’s a difficult and wary path and nearly impossible to do well, especially since you are telling someone you know their motives and reasons better than they do. More, do I think white and male people can go to brown women and tell THEM that their choices and decisions are due to marginalisation? Can that be done without it sounding imperialistic and patronising as hell? No. I really don’t think it can. And that goes to beyond impossible to the outright ridiculous when those same men decide to ban the burqa for these women’s own good.

Are there many women wearing the burqa who would probably rather not? Yes. Is there a culture of devaluing and shaming women that the burqa may be a part of? I think a good case can be made. So make it. Campaign, educate, debate, spread the word, have forums, speak to the women, speak to muslims, speak to moderate scholars, speak to female ex-muslims.

But looking upon a group you deem to be oppressed and “fixing” that by ordering them NOT to be oppressed (while being oppressors yourselves) just doesn’t feel like any kind of solution.

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In the UK the Pope is coming to town. Yes, the old evil bigot who spreads hatred, protects child rapists and is generally one of the most unpleasant, evil people you would ever have the displeasure to meet. It’s also going to cost us over £12,000.000 to have our soil defiled by his Hatefulness. People are, unsurprisingly, protesting that we’re spending money on a visit from someone who should be shunned by all decent people.

Chris Patten, the special representative for his Hatefulness, is concerned and urges protestors to show “restraint” and “tolerance”

Mr. Patten – are you on crack? Because I think the whole damn world has been MORE than restrained when dealing with this man and beyond tolerant when you consider the words and actions we have overlooked.

As a gay man, I am aghast at the tolerance shown towards this being that has compared my existence to a threat on par with major natural disasters. A man who has tried to influence our Equality laws that protect us. You expect me to show RESTRAINT towards a man that tries to blame me and mine for the raping of children? How much restraint do you think is called for? Should we only throw small rocks, perhaps?

Or, for that matter, are you concerned that we won’t show enough tolerance for the defender of and major player in the child rape cover up? Do you think we may be unduly harsh towards the man who protects paedophiles? Do you think we may be a trifle mean to the man who moves heaven and earth to hide the vilest of crimes? Do you think we’re being unfair to the leader of an organisation that blamed everything from the gays to the Jews to the VICTIMS to try and derail any kind of exposure of the victimisation of children?

Or, maybe you think we may be tempted to be a little “unrestrained” in response to the Church’s REPEATED claims that the condom does not stop HIV – and that promoting condom use in  Africa will exacerbate the AIDS epidemic an act that is frankly tantamount to genocide. An act that has likely cost or will cost millions of lives. A lie that elevates dogma over truth and doctrine over lives.

Or, perhaps we would be somewhat perturbed by the church’s neolithic attitude to abortion – an attitude so divorced from treating women as even close to humans deserving of life? A church that excommunicated a nun that allowed an abortion that saved a woman who had an almost 100% chance of dying without one? And even excommunicated the mother and doctors who performed an abortion on a 9 year old girl who had been raped by her stepfather. The stepfather? Was not excommunicated

Tell me, Mr. Pattern, what WOULD be a restrained response to these evils? How much do you want us to TOLERATE these things?

I am not tolerating this shit. I will not tolerate this evil. And restraint? A restrained response would be to ban him from these shores and call him the evil malignant force he is. That would be “restrained” in fact, it would be damned weak and pathetic response to monumental wrongness.

Or perhaps we should show him the same amount of tolerance and respect as he shows others – but I don’t think I can throw a rock that large.

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The Tories are doing a really bad job of removing that “nasty party” label. Makes me wonder if they even wantr to.  They certainly can’t resist squeezing in plenty of sexism as well. They’re the Tories after all, masters of the objectionable.

First of all, the Tories have decided to push a much vaunted marriage tax break. This tax break will give £150 to couples who are married. Awwww. It sends a “message” to be people that marriage is good.

Because, y’know, government really should be pushing people to marry. And I’m sure there are millions of couples out there on the cusp of breaking up or undecided on whether to marry who just need that £150 a year to encourage them to make the decision. After all, it’s such a deal breaker.

So already it’s not exactly a law that has me leaping up and down. But then add in the details?  The little detail is that:

depends on the main earner earning under £44,000, and the second earner still having a chunk of their personal allowance (£6,475, or £9,490+ for over 65s) left.

Which kind of means that one party in the marriage cannot be working full time. Or, to put it another way, it’s to push women to hand in their shoes and report to the kitchen. Oh, sure, there’s no gender written into the law, but we can all read subtext.

And to add to it, Cameron is dragging up the old abortion battle. This is one fight we hoped we’d won – Britain was a pro-choice nation. But now Cameron wants to reduce the upper limit on abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Anti-choice organisers are salivating for a Tory government to start chipping away at a woman’s right to control her own body. Add in him also trying to make sure that religious schools do not have to teach comprehensive sex education and it’s like he wants more single mothers in the country

Who he can then demonise.
I could say more but J K Rowling has actually said it for me in a brilliant article entitled “The Single Mother’s Manifesto” frankly, I couldn’t say it half so well.

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Now some fool in the foreign office who probably needs someone to send him a big stack of dictionaries with the word “diplomacy” marked pretty heavily (actually, may not be a bad idea for the foreign office in general) has written a memo that offended the Pope ahead of his visit.

The memo suggested  that while he was here we would commemorate it with Benedict condoms, have him open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage. Yes, very tasteless (*snerk* I laughed. But the Foreign Office isn’t there to provide me with comedy, I guess)

I have 2 criticisms of the Foreign Office actions, neither of which have anything to do with offending the old monster or his hateful organisation:

1) Well done, this is just what he needed to distract from the child abuse scandal. He now gets to play the outraged card (amazing that he’s outraged about a freaking MEMO but not about the abuse of children around the world. Shows the Vatican’s moral priorities, doesn’t it?)

2) You’re MOCKING him for these things? The Pope – and the Catholic Church’s – stance on these issues isn’t funny. Really. The condom policy of the Catholic church is responsible for nothing short of genocide in Africa and other AIDS ravaged nations. The Catholic stance on a woman’s right to choose causes untold numbers of women to die in dangerous back alley abortions to say nothing of their misogyny risking young girl’s lives. Catholic homophobia is both toxsic and devastatingly destructive world wide.

These great evils of the church are not to be mocked. They’re not funny. They’re not amusing. They callous, heartless, toxic and cruel acts of evil that the church perpetuates worldwide. He shouldn’t be mocked for them, he should be condemned.

And y’know how you made it worse? The grovelling apology. Gah, when will people wake up and finally call out organised religion on their evil? We constantly perpetuate the idea that these organisations are good, are moral, are constructive forces despite the vileness they encourage, despite the people they kill, despite the suffering they cause.

ENOUGH. It is long past enough. Enough giving the churches their free passes as they espouse bigotry and cruelty. Enough as they discard children and push policies that kill millions. Enough turning a blind eye, pretending it doesn’t exist, pretending it’s ok – ENOUGH APOLOGISING to them and for them.

The Pope announced that he may cancel his £20,000,000 visit to the UK in response to this outrage.

Well, for this segment of the British people, your ‘Holiness,’ I would like to announce a hearty Get The Fuck Out. You will be a blight on these shores, a pollution on our land.

And next time, Foreign Office, don’t produce a mocking memo. Produce a report condemning the Vatican’s evils and abuses – like you would any other rogue state.

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In the not-too-distant past (though it seems to have been very well forgotten) we invaded Iraq for.. well, no particular reason and a whole lot of lies and an amazing amount of blithering foolishness.

Iraq is not now a happy fun place. Of course, Iraq wasn’t much of a happy fun place before, but amazingly enough invasion, bombing and largely incompetent occupation has not exactly made it much funner or happier.

A book, several, could be written on how conditions have changed in Iraq. About how religious persecution is on the rise, religious oppression becoming more and more the norm, about how women are seeing their rights crumble and facing an uprising of persecution for not adhering to religious rules to the basic laws and rights of Iraq women being severely curtailed to the simple lawlessness and violence of the country makes women, always a target for violence, even more vulnerable. The occupiers and the forces of the west do little to help or address this – being far more concerned with getting the government in place than worried about what it is or isn’t doing.

And Iraq is no safe place for LGBT people. Iraq has been considered  one of the worst places on Earth for gays Iraqi gays face torture as religious leaders openly call for the death of gays. GBLT people are hunted and murdered in ever increasing numbers

Of course, again, we are doing little to help the GBLT people being persecuted in the nation we occupy. LGBT Iraq is trying to help gay Iraqis flee the country. Described sometimes as an underground railroad, he has been  Unfortunately one of the leaders of that movement is in legal limbo trying to claim asylum in the UK – making him unable to travel, campaign and save so many others desperately in need of help. There’s no “compelling” reason to process his application quickly – regardless of his work and effort. I have to wonder what a compelling reason would be.

Unable to travel, he cannot speak internationally. He cannot raise attention, even though the UK foreign office considers his organisation one of the go-to NGOs for Iraq. He cannot do his job. And his job is saving poeople.

This man is trying to fix some of the mess we created. The least we could do is help with that

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If it weren’t for my deeply cynical view of humanity, I would be surprised at some of the people and groups that constantly try to claim some kind of moral authority - and right to judge us. More, I am rather depressed at how many people who are willing to accept these “moral authorities” and their judgements despite their actions.

Case in point - Hiram Monserrate just lost his run to re-enter the New York Senate. And this is certainly something to celebrate.

During the campaign, Mr. Monserrate presented himself as a “family values“ politician (yes, we know what that means, don’t we? Yup, homophobe. Honestly, I‘m getting a bad reflex reaction to the word “family.”) And he was supported by pro-family moral groups. Such as the “New York Family Research Foundation.” Including THIS little website (don’t click the link unless you feel the need to confirm my words, don’t give them hits unnecessarily) that reaches out to Christians: “Christians, we need to wake up and fight to preserve our values”.

Yes... Hiram Monserrate was expelled from the senate after he cut his girlfriend's face and dragged her through their apartment by her hair. This is family values? This is morality?

Frankly, this is doubly disturbing. It is disturbing that anything anti-gay is praised as morality even when it’s downright evil, that homophobia can be used to redeem any evil. And it is further disgusting and awful that a brutal attack on a woman is so casually cast aside. Her rights, her bodily integrity are dismissed. They are willing to not only ignore an attack on a woman - but call her attacker moral - call her attacker “pro-family.” Violence against women is NOT a family value.



Similarly, the Catholic Church is in the headlines again for yet another sex abuse scandal - more child abusing priests and more cover ups from the Catholic hierarchy - apparently extending right to the top. Coming on the heels of so many other, similar scandals, there is clearly a real and horrendous problem here. Child abusers can appear anywhere and in any organisation - but the institutional cover up of these abuses is shameful beyond compare.

Yet, even as scandal after scandal breaks, they still judge, they still hold themselves up as a moral authority. They are still treated as a moral authority, a source for discerning good from evil - and how to judge and condemn people based on that morality.



Men who attack women and people who cover up child abuse are not moral authorities, they’re not pro-family, they’re not sources for goodness. Don’t ignore the evil they do in the hurry to use their words to support homophobia. It’s not only homophobic - but it is grossly disrespectful to their victims. It dismisses their pain, it dismisses what was done to them - not just them but everyone like them. It puts the seal of morality and justification on the abuse of women and children. That is evil on evil.


Those in great big crystal palaces should not operate catapults (we’re beyond glass houses and stones here). Those up to their necks in the quicksand of evil shouldn’t claim to have the moral high ground and shouldn’t be treated as such.
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Apparently, on average, straight women with gay male friends have a better body image than straight women without gay male friends. Odd how these things work.

See? This is a good way to report on this little news snippet.

Then we have O magazine’s ways to increase your self esteem: “And if you don't already have a few gay men in your circle of friends, you might want to add some” Hey, and pets reduce stress too, so you might want to get one of those. Maybe a new handbag since we’re talking accessories.

Oh, wait, we’re not.

I don’t know when this began but for some reason the meme of gay men being an accessory for straight woman seems to be pretty much embedded.



Gay men as friends don’t exist for the greater glory of straight women. We don’t exist as accessories to a straight woman’s life. We’re not friends because of how it benefits you. We’re people, we have value and personality of our own.

Frankly, I think this trend is not only rather demeaning to gay men, but insulting to women as well - to paint them so shallow and needy and self centred and using their friends this way - is misogynist. To paint gay men as adjutants to another’s life is demeaning.

Or, to put it another way, this fails on many levels.
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One of the most annoying arguments used against gay rights is the "slippery slope" argument. I.e. we give gay people right and next we know men will be marrying their pot plants.

The slippery slope argument has a lot of dubiousness about it. Yes, movements work in increments so it can seem that one thing leads to another - but it's more a movement reaching its goals. It's progression towards an end goal, not one event causing another.

For example - decriminalising gay sex will probably lead to gay marriage/gay adoption/etc. Yes, the haters are right. NOT because decriminalisation CAUSED gay marriage/adoption/etc but because they're both elements on the overarching path of equality and justice.

This is where the slippery slope proponents get themselves confused. It's not that one causes the other, it's just that they're milestones on the road to full equality.

And this is why the whole "men marrying children/pot plants/pet ducks" is so ridiculous. Because when you look at the overarching goal of GBLT equality it's pretty clear that duck-sexing is not even remotely relevent. If you want to see the "Slippery slope" of any group, movement or advocacy - you need to look at what their goals are and what they want.

And, much as I am reluctant to speak for everyone as a whole, I feel safe in saying that NO-ONE in the GBLT movement wants a potted plant being dragged up the aisle in a veil. No. Really.


Now, if you want ACTUAL slippery slopes I can give 2 good examples.
Firstly - the anti-choice movement. STATED overarching goal? Stopping abortion because they think abortion is murder. I think some actually believe that. But I think most don't, especially when it comes to the big movements and organisers. I think for them, the whole "abortion = murder" is a lie and convenient excuse. I think this because of the number of anti-choicers who are utterly against any kind of welfare (life starts at contraception and ends at birth?). They don't advocate appropriate penalties for 'murder'. They're against decent sex education and contraception.

So, I'm more inclined to think their goal is more anti-sex/religious imposition since that fits the position better. And here we have a slippery slope - pushing abstinence only education, opposing birth control, attacking the pill. Here's a slippery slope for you - religious imposition on health care choices, your private lives and on your sex lives. Frankly, I think that's a waaaay scarier slope than any amount of ducks waddling down the aisle.


Here's another slippery slope
It has been joked by many pro-gay-marriage folks that divorce should be banned since it's a clear threat to precious precious straight marriage.

Well, it just goes to show that satire can never match reality. Oklahoma state legislator, Sally Kern is expanding on her already well known and virulent homophobia and looking at you terribly immoral straight people and your divorces!

Again, what’s the overarching goal? Writing religious laws and morality onto the statute book. Controlling people’s personal and matrimonial lives with religion. And the progression? Gay marriage, straight divorce - anything that doesn’t fit her religious definition. There's a slippery slope for you. Of course, the anti-divorce stance probably won’t go to law because all those straight people who are happy to be ‘righteous’ about gay rights are going to be a lot more wobbly when it comes to being ‘righteous’ in their own lives. But still - we can see the goal, we can see the progression, we can see the slope.


So maybe we should start looking at these slopes in detail. It’s time to recognise not only how divorced from reality the “slippery slopes” they quote against us are - and it’s time to realise what treacherous slopes they’re trying to push us down
sparkindarkness: (Default)
This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog




Why do you expect one of us to be a woman in our gay male relationship?


One of the more unusual things I’ve found since coming out as a gay man is the odd curiosity that some straight people have towards us.

The curiosity in itself is problematic (albeit infinitely more preferable to hate). I’m gay, not an alien from the planet Zog. I many ways the eager curiosity makes me feel far more of a freak than any amount of hate monger speculating about my eternal damnation. But that’s another post :)

It’s exacerbated by the fact that even complete strangers feel they have the right to ask extremely personal questions (but that’s yet another topic about privilege and entitlement. I’m getting quite a to-do list here. It’s good thing I like to hear myself talk :). Or read myself type, I guess).

But no, today I’m rambling about the main question I’m asked over and over to a truly boggling degree. Gender roles. Not only gender roles, but really really really silly ones that make me despair for THEIR relationships (though not nearly so much as I despair for my mental well being talking to them).

Which one of you is the man and which one the woman?
This question never fails to bemuse. We’re both gay men. Doesn’t that kind of make it clear that neither of us is the woman?

People never seem to realise how homophobic this question is. It completely invalidates and devalues gay relationships - that the only way a gay relationship can be a “real” relationship is if we somehow mimic straight people. The only way a relationship between 2 men can work is if one of us pretends to be a woman. Yeah, that’s man kinds of offensive and beyond ignorant.

Of course, when I point this out they start to ask more questions because they seem to think I don't understand the question - as opposed to finding the question ludicrous

Which one of you cooks? Cleans?
Honestly, these questions say a lot about their relationships, I think. I once offered a man’s wife my card since I assumed she’d need the services of a divorce lawyer soon (she found it funny even if he didn’t) after he asked these questions. What, the fact your a man means you can’t run a Hoover round the house?

I do most of the cleaning, mainly because Beloved thinks vacuuming the 3 square feet in the dead centre of the room is sufficient. Even when I helpfully point out the places he missed (I’m a helper). He also decides that dusting one shelf on a cabinet constitutes the cabinet itself being dusted. I disagree. Loudly. And at length. But he does tend to hide things I’m using and make it impossible for me to find anything (he calls it tidying up. And yes, I AM reading 4 books at the same time, thank you. Leave them alone!) We both cook - however Beloved needs step by step instructions, a fire extinguisher, a builder and, preferably, a take away menu, phone and credit card. I admire his enthusiasm when it comes to cooking, but I also admire my stomach lining - and would prefer it to stay on the inside of my body.

Who Takes out the rubbish/does the gardening/does the DIY?
Again, do hammers fall from your fingers if they detect femininity? Seriously, how silly are these gender roles? It’s not the 1950s any more.

In answer - no-one takes out the rubbish if we can avoid it. Advanced and complex schemes are plotted to avoid having to take out the rubbish at all cost. Beloved once had a complicated 8 part plan that took 4 hours of implementation to avoid emptying the bin (It worked, damn it. Revenge will be mine). Cats have been trained to knock over the pin, little devices to knock it over have been designed, brainwashing has been attempted. There is no lengths we will not stoop to to force the other to empty that damn bin. The only task reviled as much as bin emptying is ironing - which Beloved does because he fears a repeat of the Sparky Waking Up To Find No Wearable Shirts incident.

We both prefer our garden to be as close to nature as possible. Which is a REALLY good excuse to say we both slack and hate gardening. Occasionally we will shackle a passing neighbour kid to the lawnmower and pay them hush money to hide our cruel exploitation. Beloved has recently taken to growing vegetables because what our meals really really need is the addition of a scrubby carrot or 3 cherry tomatoes. I'm not sure whether this counts as gardening so much a religion - since the only way anything grows is through a sheer miracle.

Neither of us does DIY. Oh Beloved tried to do DIY - and I watch and helpfully point out the many many things he’s doing wrong (see? I’m such a helpful soul) while checking the yellow pages for someone to fix what he will inevitably break. I also hide his power tools - a task for which the UN sincerely thanks me.

Who buys who flowers?
Included more for wry amusement than anything. Beloved actually bought me flowers once.
Sparky: What am I supposed to do with them?
Beloved: I think you put them in a vase
Sparky: *does so* now what?
Beloved: Now you sit and watch them rot.
Sparky: ooooohkay

So we’ve kind of decided that the flower thing may be beyond us. I did buy him a Venus fly trap once. It was our Killer Plant. And we fed it (which was probably a bad idea) and then we fed it tofu and it became our Cannibal Plant. Then it died (can’t think why). Of course I was inconsolable and could only be comforted by Beloved taking out the rubbish for a week (didn’t work. Damn).

Who removes the creepy crawlies from the house?
Like this needs a dedicated role? Generally I do - because Beloved has absolutely no problem sharing his living space with spiders and wonders why I do. I point out that I’d rather not have spider webs festooning the ceiling. He declared that it would be a wonderful artistic statement. I agreed and pointed out it would go very well with blood splattered walls. He said he’d consider this but was busy getting a headstart



In the end, even some of those comments that were meant as jokes (and I think every question has been asked of me at least partially seriously - and this is only the tip of the iceberg) make me despair a little - because it shows how much of a backward view people have on gay relationships - AND on gender roles in general. We insist on trying to force people into little boxes - to such a ridiculous degree that virtually no-one fits in. I am astonished at how many women come to me with these questions without once realising how sexist they seem.

And it irritates me because we’re a gay couple. We don’t have to ape a straight couple to be acceptable or understandable. One of us doesn’t have to pretend to be a woman for our relationship to work or be comprehended (and not even a real woman! Some 1950s Suzy Homemaker that I don’t think has ever existed!) These questions ask us to conform, they say that if we’re gay we should at least mimic heterosexuals as much as possible.

We’re gay. We’re in a gay relationship. We’re happy, ‘normal’ (well... for a given degree of normal. I’ll admit to a level of eccentricity which may be a trifle unusual), very much in love and we don’t have to imitate a ridiculous Ozzie and Harriet life to make our relationship and our lives more acceptable or more palatable.
sparkindarkness: (Default)
I wasn’t going to mention the case of Dave Burk, an arsehole teacher of Consumer Education (as an aside... consumer education? What?) who spouted homophobic drivel in his class. After all, if I scouted the world for homophobic arseholes my blood pressure would go through the roof and I’d have little time for little else.

But his case does highlight something. Now, this arsehole asked - in multiples lessons it seems - "How would you feel about your tax dollars going to pay some black fag in New York to take pictures of other black fags?" Yeah he’s a special kind of repellent that guy. One of his students, an openly gay man, objected.

Yeah he’s an arsehole, but there are 3 things that struck me about this that I feel the need to ramble about


Didn’t mean to cause offence - ignorance
One of the things he has said in the fallout is that he didn’t intentionally offend anyone. Now, I can think of only 2 excuses for how you can possible say such drivel and NOT intentionally offend someone. The first is ignorance.

Ignorance is a tricky thing. I’ve said before that those who do not share a marginalisation may not realise when a thing that is said is prejudice and offensive (which is why I’ve said it’s bloody stupid to tell a marginalised person what they should and shouldn’t be offended by) and it follows that occasionally, even with the best will in the world, if you are privileged you will occasionally insert foot into mouth and wonder why various marginalised people around you are looking at you like you’ve just violated a small goat. It happens. Usually it’s a matter of how graciously you recover from these little errors that counts.

However, ignorance is not a blanket excuse. And I call bullshit that ANYONE in the western world, with English as a first language who has not been living in cave somewhere can possibly not realise that “fag” is offensive when used to refer to a homosexual. I call bullshit on anyone believing that saying money going to black and/or gay people is somehow worse than giving it to straight and/or white people is not offensive. This ignorance is inexcusable. It is either a lie and should not be accepted or evcidence of such utter contempt and disrespect to both gay and black people that offending them in a blatantly offensive manner doesn’t even register in his mind. Both are inexcusable.

Ignorance can be an excuse - but when it is this extreme then the ignorance is either willful or a lie. Either way, inexcusable, unsupportable and fully worthy of condemnation.

Didn’t mean to cause offence - audience
The only other way I can see him assuming he wouldn’t cause offence with his vile statements is he assumed his audience wouldn’t care. Because if you know that your words are offensive and say them thinking no-one will be offended then the only way you can do that is if you think your audience ISN’T of the targeted group and/or doesn’t give a damn about the targeted group.

Which brings me to another point - homophobia, racism, sexism et al won’t disappear if the privileged only scrape their tongues clean when they think the marginalised are listening. If straight people are merrily spouting homophobic bullshit when the GBLT folk aren’t around then little progress can be made. If white people feel that all those racist slurs are perfectly acceptable so long as no PoC are around, then we have precious little chance of working against racism.

These terms are offensive - and they should offend all people, not just the people they target. These terms show that the speaker is a bigot who views section of humanity with withering contempt. That should be offensive to everyone, not just the victims.

More, everyone who hears those words and stays silent because it’s not about them are sending the message that such attitude and language is ok. It’s ok to be homophobic, no-one really cares so long as there are no sensitive gay people around. It’s ok to be racist, we’re happy with racism, so long as there are no PoC to get huffy about it. Sexism is fine, so long as there are no over-sensitive women around we’re happy with sexism.

It’s not ok. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. And if we‘re sending that message, we have to stop. We have to say “that’s not right” “that’s not funny” and even “you’re an arsehole” when we hear such filth spouted even when it is not aimed at us. Because if we don’t we’re saying “we accept this” and if we accept it, we’re part of the problem.

And finally - the response
The school has made a decision how to deal with Dave Burk. He has been warned.

No, I didn’t forget to keep typing that sentence (I know, I do that too often). That’s it. He has been warned. He’s a naughty boy and they told him that. Bad bigot. He may even have been denied a cookie but probably wasn’t send to bed with no supper.

He has been warned.

This is problematic. This is exactly the same point I made with the audience. If we give the message that bigotry is acceptable, to be taken lightly, a minor nuisance at worst then we will make no inroads against it. What message has been said by the school here? What have they told their students? That flagrant bigotry is a minor problem? Probably less serious than running through the corridors? That dehumanising and denigrating your fellow human beings is barely worthy of comment and certainly not worthy of action? That vile hate speech is treated as less serious than, say, smoking behind the bike sheds?

And what have they said to the GBLT students and the black students? Yes, a teacher treated you as if you had less worth than straight/white students and the school’s pretty ok with that? The school is happy with prejudice against you. The school thinks prejudice against you isn’t particularly a problem. The school is TEACHING that BIGOTRY isn’t worth acting on, that it’s minor, that devaluing marginalised bodies isn’t all that bad.

Yeah, that’s messed up. That’s a horrendous message to send and a gross indictment of the school. Again, if we want to oppose bigotry, if we want to fight against it, we have to treat it as the serious blight it is. No brushing it under the rug, no dismissing it, no ignoring the hurt and pain and damage it causes.

Bigotry is not trivial. If you treat it as such, you are part of the problem.
sparkindarkness: (Default)
Hyperbole is a common tool, I use and abuse it myself. It can be extremely effective - it can also be extremely silly (Godwin‘s anyone?).

But, hyperbole can be extremely offensive.

When you use hyperbole to compare relatively trivial acts to things that are grossly offensive or horrific or vastly awful then you are disrespecting, devaluing and diminishing the terrible things that have happened. It is offensive and grossly inappropriate to use such terrible times and events as a rhetorical tool. And it is grossly offensive to compare whatever petty concern is hurting your precious fee-fees with very real, very terrible trauma.

And we see it a lot. During Lamda fail there was no small number of desperately upset people comparing the awards to Pink Triangles and racial Segregation. It was one of the main reasons I was roused to dive into that battle.

In WoW communities I see people compare having their account hacked to domestic violence or being raped.

Such exaggeration is not only silly, but it disrespects real victims. When you compare a game to rape, you are disrespecting and devaluing rape victims. When you compare an award to segregation, you are devaluing and diminishing the evil of segregation, the impact it has and the impact it is still having. When you compare just about anything to the holocaust you need slapping repeatedly until some senses are beaten into your thick skull.

More, it is often a sign of extreme privilege and prejudice. It is a sign of being extremely glutted on white privilege that you would presume to appropriate the evil of segregation for your own self-serving ends. It is a sign of arrogant disregard, selfishness and even misogyny that people would trivialise a rape victim’s experience in order to garner sympathy over their game. There is, to me, a very clear hand of prejudice in that people are willing to diminish these horrors so completely for their own use.


And now we have a very good example of this. <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/tourism/ci_13552589”>LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks has compared gay anger towards the Church of Latter Day Saints to the treatment of blacks during the civil rights movement.</a> Yeah. Um. Wow. No. Really. No. As the article says, people are not impressed by the comparison. number of LDS members lynched by GBLT people? That would be none. Churches blown up? Why, that would be none too. Really, this comment is so full of fail I am almost in awe. It fails for its blatant homophobia and attempted silence of gay people. It fails for its deception and attempt to cast the victims as aggressors. It fails because of the utter racism and white privilege involved in daring to appropriate not just not suffering and victimisation inflicted on black people at that time, but also for appropriating the courage and the hard work of the civil rights activists that kept on fighting. And it fails because the people of the LDS church - the people, not the leaders or the organisation - do not deserve a homophobic, racist arsehole like this to speak for them.
sparkindarkness: (Default)
I’ve spoken about criticisng respectfully as an outsider but now I’m going to ramble on about the unpleasant habit some people have of using criticism as a method to express their prejudice (hence the need for the former post)

Recently there have been a few cases of marginalised people doing stupid and naughty things. Kanye West at the Music Video Awards, Serena Williams having a tantrum with a ref and, in the more distant past (though updated with near weekly fails) there is Perez Hilton, well, Perez Hilton just about every time he’s opened his mouth. Included here for completeness and general overview (and because of point 6 which I risked doing exactly what I was cautioning against)

All of these people have been, rightly, criticised for less than acceptable behaviour. No problems there - all of these people have done things severely worthy of criticism. And then there’s a criticism that makes you want to headdesk - where people are basically treating it as an excuse to let that bigotry hang free. (actually 2 others have said it better than I, Womanist Musings and Transgriot but I like to spread in more general terms than specifics.

So let’s look at some bad criticism and Sparky’s guide to why it fails.

1) Any and all uses of bigoted language.

Why it Fails
Do I even need to say this? Kanye West was an arsehole, a brat, a selfish prat and many other things. Accurate, if crude, descriptors all. The N-word? REALLY unnecessary and unless he’s started eating small children while I wasn’t looking, makes the “critic” (racist arsehole would be a better term) look waaaay worse than he ever was. Criticism is legitimate. Using it to pull out the inner bigot isn’t.

2) “Serena Williams’ unprecedented rampage... wild... savage...”

Why it fails
Excessive hyperbole. Serena Williams is not the first sports person to throw all her toys out the pram because a ref decision went against her. Footballers do it on a near weekly basis. John McEnroe had a whole marketing persona based on him spitting his dummy out and breaking tennis rackets.

Basically - it is no more unacceptable for a marginalised person to lose their temper/say something stupid/whatever than it is for a non-marginalised person. If the white guy doing it would only earn a tut and a headshake from you, then the black woman doing it shouldn’t earn your outraged and furious condemnation.

3) “I never ever comment on sports usually - but...”

Why it fails
Well, why are you mentioning it now? Hundreds of sports personalities have arguments with refs, umpires et al. Millions of gossip columnists say shit that is awful - and that you routinely ignore.

I’m not saying don’t criticise. I’m asking you to examine WHY you’re criticising. IF behaviour is worthy of criticism and IF you would NORMALLY comment then go right ahead. But if you completely ignore it when a white person does it, then commenting on it when a black person does it looks bad. To repeat again - I had a colleague who loved to tell me all the details of any and all incidents of crime committed by immigrants he could find. He never said anything inaccurate - but he never spoke about crime UNLESS it was committed by an immigrant. I think it’s pretty clear why.

4) “Kanye West, a black entertainer...” “Serena Williams, a black sportswoman...” “Gay gossip columnist, Perez Hilton...”

Why it fails
If you were talking about Eminem saying something stupid - you wouldn’t identify him as the “white straight entertainer.” There’d be no need - his race and sexuality would be deemed to be a) obvious and b) irrelevant. It is equally true when the fool in question belongs to a marginalised group. Why are you emphasising or reminding people of their race/sexuality etc? Why are you acting like it’s relevant?

5) “Kanye West shows what is wrong with the black...” “Perez Hilton again shows the sexism/racism of the GBLT community”

Why it fails
When black people get together, put a crown on Mr. West’s head and announce him their supreme leader, I’m sure they’ll send us a memo. Until then his actions and speech reflects himself and ONLY himself. When the Gay Mafia appoints Perez Hilton as Commander in Chief of our marriage and morality destroying armies then we will let you know. Until then he is not a spokesperson, avatar or poster child for the GBLTI movement or any part of it.

If you have a legitimate, sensible criticism about a community or movement, then go for it - respectfully. But don’t pluck out the bad actions of one person and decide that this is somehow indicative of absolutely everyone within the group.

6) “Perez Hilton is a disgrace to GBLT people.” (NB: this is kind of why I inserted Perez in here, to prevent me violating my own caution against presumption)

Why this fails
Fail 1 If you are NOT part of the marginalised group in question (in this case, if you are not GBLT) then it’s presumptuous in the extreme to dictate who is and isn’t a fit representative of that group. Sure, he’s an idiot beyond all measure - but it’s not your place to say it or to choose which GBLT people are appropriate “spokespeople” or not (aside: In my view no-one is or everyone is). We don’t need or want you policing us or playing “good minority/bad minority”

Fail 2 If you ARE part of the marginalised group then STOP PLAYING THIS GAME. You are feeding the idiots at no. 5. The correct answer isn’t to say “Perez Hilton is a disgrace to all GBLT people” but to say “the man’s an arsehole - his sexuality is irrelevent.” He doesn’t disgrace me. He doesn’t shame me. I have no duty to apologise for him nor do I have any sense of collective responsibility or blame for what he’s done. He is not my friend or family. I have no power over his actions and no influence over them.

It is deeply homophobic to judge me or other GBLT people on the basis of what he has done/said. We do not have a duty to denounce him, we do not have a duty to apologise for him. We need to fight against the idea that all homosexuals should be collectively punished for the act of one - not feed into it.


There is nothing wrong with criticism. And when people have decoded to show their arses and arseholery there’s absolutely nothing wrong with calling them out or expressing your anger, disappointment or disapproval. But the how you express it - and the WHY. Well that needs examining. Because no amount of arsholery justifies bigotry

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