Archives for category: Messages from Me to You

I raise this question at a point where a UKIP by-election candidate has called placing children with gay couples “unhealthy”, and has been called to apologise for doing so. Shasha Khan, Green Party candidate and Marisha Ray, Liberal Democrat candidate have branded this comment as “repugnant and grotesque” and ” discrimination and prejudice at its very worst”, respectively. And in many ways I agree with them. I find it difficult when one tries to defend their comments on this issue by justifying it on being a deeply religious Christian, as it flies in the face of the main teachings, ‘treat thy neighbour as thy would want to be treated.’

Yes I can accept that for many it may appear strange, but isn’t the key issue, especially when, as commented by Andy Stranack that we have over 60,000 children in care in the Uk, that we place these children in loving homes with a couple who will care, nurture, look after them and love them? By saying the comments of being ‘unhealthy’ we are going back to a key stigmatisation that has been raised time and time again against, and about people that are gay and lesbian. To put it simply, this is not true!

One time ago, it was not unconscionable in the USA to force black men, women and children to sit at the back of the bus, and to treat them in contempt, which was so heavily campaigned against by the likes of Dr Martin Luther-King. Back then, people could have perfectly said that it was ‘unhealthy’ for them to reproduce. Again, under Hitler’s Third Reich, Jews and other deemed groups/individual were singled out as being inhuman. Thankfully such views have now been challenged and we have addressed this prejudice. We are all human and deserve to be listened to and respected. The same now has to be done for those who are gay and lesbian and want to adopt, providing homes for children that want to be loved, cared for, and live in a family that will be supportive of them as they grow up.

The crisis is already here, over 60,000 children that want to be in a loving family, and people saying gay and lesbian couples – ‘no, back of the queue’, or ‘not today…you’re unhealthy’ and ‘sorry you don’t meet the prerequisite criteria.’ What I also have difficulty is with people who say they have deeply held Christian beliefs, which teach one to care for others, yet would decline to allow gay and lesbian people to raise children who are so wanting for love and to be cared for. To me that is putting oneself ahead of the needs of others, when we a solution to this crisis which is glaring back at our faces.

People against gay and lesbians raising children say, well the children will have an unbalanced upbringing. Yet they seem to adopt an ideal view when considering raising children. Can you give me an example of an ideal family? Straight couples get divorced! Doesn’t that unbalance a child’s upbringing? Also, they often forget to think if you’re a child in care waiting for someone to adopt, then the likelihood is the child has already been affected in that sense. Wouldn’t a child in that situation crave having two people raise them, irrespective of whether its a man and a woman or two people of the same sex? Also what about children that are raised by their mother, who lives with their sister because her man has either died or not present? Are we saying in that instance the child is unbalanced and will be messed up?

The key issue is, if the couple wanting to adopt can, then they should be allowed to. provided they are committed to doing so. The law in the Uk accepts this in theory at least. In practice….well that’s more of a grey area. All couples should be able to decide whether or not they want to have a family, and bring up a child.

So for those that have reservations, let’s shake things up a little. We don’t live in an ideal world…so stop trying to create the white picket fence neighbourhood…as in practice it’s only there for a select few. The key should be providing love and affection and raising a child to be good, irrespective of what sexuality the people are that raise and adopt them.

So in closing, my view is the answer can be simply put: gay and lesbian couples are just as healthy as heterosexual couples to adopt and raise a child or more. The issue should be will the child be cared for, loved and looked after, and will the couple act in the best interests of the child.

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This is an interesting question, which was recently posed through a contact I have made via Kaliido, a gay social community primarily founded to network with others around the world, without the usual baggage associated with dating sites. Kaliido is a place to get to know one another in a comfortable and relaxed online environment, actually find out about others, share views, gain a broader mindset and further information can be found here.

Now there are many ways that this question can be answered, and I am not going to pretend here that my answer is in anyway the correct one, nor absolute. Being gay and the issue of spirituality falls on a wide spectrum of views, thoughts and beliefs, and hinges particularly on ones religious values. So I am going to tackle this issue the way I was taught by a lecturer from my days at law school, and that is by starting out by looking at definitions. My view is, if you define the words you understand what they mean, can place them in context, and then argue a particular view point depending on how you sit on the issue. But before I do so, I will give my initial view: gay spirituality does exist.

Now many definitions are ascribed to the word ‘gay’, and I am not going to list them all here. Instead I am going to take two definitions from Princeton’s WordNet: ‘having a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex’ and ‘bright and pleasant, promoting a feeling of cheer.’ Against these two definitions I am going to place it in the context of ‘spirituality, the first from Princeton’s WordNet and the other from US National Library of Medicine. The former defines it as ‘incorporeality and heavenly-mindedness’ and the latter, as ‘sensitivity or attachment to religious values, or to things of the spirit as opposed to material or wordly interests.’

On balance it would appear in many ways to contradict with one another. Coming from a Roman Catholic background myself, to have a sexual attract to persons of the same sex, is a mortal sin and is bulwark to its very foundations. On this basis, you can not assign the word ‘gay’ and connect it to spirituality as the two defy each other, especially if you set it in the context of the definition provided by the US National Library of Medicine. However, if you take the definition provided by Princeton’s WordNet, i.e. being gay is ‘bright and pleasant, promoting a feeling of cheer’ then clearly this seems to coincide with what spirituality is all about, ‘a feeling of heavenly-mindedness’, as defined above.

However, perhaps the words are not to be fashioned. Instead it could be a question of merely saying that yes, you are gay i.e. attracted to the same sex, and you are spiritual. These can be deemed as two separate things, you can be both. As they say, being ‘gay’ is just part of who you are, it does not define what you are. Therefore, they can both live together harmoniously. Take me for example, whilst I am gay, and whilst I cannot exactly say I am Roman Catholic, as I am basically cast out from my church, I do believe in a greater being. Whether a great being is real, or just a manifestation to keep people in check and to live their life to the fullest, I do not know. However, I am gay, and I am spiritual when I want to be, and I do consider things greater than myself.

So in summary, yes gay spirituality does exist if you define it broadly. If you define it narrowly however, with a religious slant, then questionably it does not. But ultimately you can be both: you can be a ‘gay’ and you can be ‘spiritual’.

In the United States people may be frantically voting in the Presidential Election, but for me Tuesday 6 November, my final day of annual leave before returning back to the office, was spent having a cultural day.  No, it’s not a national day, but just a name I attributed from a personal level for the day that was.

First destination – The National History Museum.

Situated between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn Underground stations, I had a pleasant walk along the back streets to the museum having exited for the former tube station.  As opposed to Friday, the footfall on the streets was less as schools have returned back, and therefore it was a more pleasant walk.  Now the museum itself is a magnificent building and apt for the contents contained within.  Now, I like popping in and out of this place from time to time, and I looked at different collections on an ad hoc basis.

Todays visit entailed the room of ‘Enlightenment’, and enlightened I was.  This name attaches itself to the period between the mid 17th century and late 1800s, and one whereby those of the time endeavored to collect, decipher and understand the past.  In the series of connected rooms, you will find works originating from Egypt, China, Greece, from the Roman Empire and the Maya people.  I have to say I was overwhelmed by the creativity of the times, and how delicate objects could be made for finely and with such skill and craftsmanship.

I then headed to the upper floors of the museum to see the collections pertaining to China, both modern and ancient periods, along with the upper floor housing a small and yet an eclectic collection of works originating from Korea.  What impressed me was that such a vast country as China, which has been subjected to periods of social unrest an invasion from outsiders, is the creativity that existed even during these periods.  While people in Great Britain were still beating each other with sticks and living in caves, they were producing near perfect pieces of porcelain that can even meet the high standard achieved by modern day machines.  I was also shocked at the amount of detail that went into these works, along with the vibrancy of colours, that had been very much unrivaled in the western world until such an impasse of time.

 

My second, and final destination for the day – The London Transport Museum. 

This museum is situated in Covent Garden in the main square area surrounding the market place, which is now filled with bars, restaurants, stalls and little shops.  The last time I ventured to this place was a back in 2009, so it was quite nice to have a wonder around, and on this occasion with more time to myself to inspect the exhibits in more detail.

It was a very intriguing journey that started on the upper floors, and descending to the various floors before ground floor level, and seeing how primitive the modes of transport were at the beginning of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Yet over short passage of time, and to date, we have a very comprehensive and fantastic transport system in operation.  We have gone from a point of the majority of people walking to work, and therefore living within walking distance of their work place, and through the evolution of the hackney carriage, stagecoaches and omnibuses, all the way through to modern day times with buses dotting throughout the Capital, the Underground and Overground; just as a handful of example of modes of transport.

It is definitely a place for people to visit, and realise how perseverance, commitment and focus can achieve great things.

So yes overall, a great day of insight, and one in which I learnt quite a lot because I switched off from the main happenings of my main life to see history, read and learn.  It’s very uplifting.  So if you have a spare two hours or so, have a walk around and discover.

Everyone has the right to the enjoyment to life as long as it does not unduly infringe on others. Some may argue, at least from a limited mindset, that being gay causes undue harm to others, in as much that they have to see it around them. However, that would be a fallacy.

I remember when I was younger and I was so worried about what others thought, and in particular about gay people, people that to some don’t conform to the ‘norm’. But then that presupposes that if your not straight that you are ‘not normal’, and this is a statement that I have come across from an individual I know which immediately grates against my inner ideological system. What has to be remembered is that being gay is not a lifestyle choice, people aren’t gay because ‘its fashionable’, but because it is who they are. Being gay, and talking from my own perspective, is the same as DNA, you are born with it and cannot change it, just like your blood type group – you are what you are, and you aren’t what your aren’t.

The thing that I have found refreshing about being in London, and having been here just shy of half a decade, is the people and how accepting they are. They don’t label you primarily as gay, but instead its Ben he’s great at this, and so so at that etc. Gay doesn’t even factor in it, primarily at least, and this is something that I want to have replicated around the world. That isn’t to say that in the UK this isn’t happening, its just that certain fractions of society here have a problem with it, be this down to poor education, in built ideologies instilled from those around them or otherwise. It would just be nice to see people being accepting, rather than singling someone out purely on the grounds of sexuality.

It would be niave of me to make out that sexuality is solely the only area with which people suffer prejudice, as it extends beyond this to class distinction of people, and by this I mean the well off and the less well off, not to mention race, creed and colour. Indeed compare myself to those that are gay and from different ethnic backgrounds I am rather fortunate. I have a supportive family and a good network of friends that have been there for me through the good times and the bad. Others are less fortunate and my heart goes out to them, especially as I’d like to help them if I can, but how I do not fully know.

This desire to help as been raised over the recent period as I have been trawling through previous editions of ‘Gay Times’ and ‘Attitude’ magazines, and been reading through various stories from people around the world about being gay. It is horrifying that for some they have to spend a lifetime being trapped inside themself because if those around them knew that they were gay, then this could lead to violence, bullying and even death. The question I am stuck at is how do we get around this and address it, and even prevent this from happening? This doesn’t have an easy answer.

First of all I thought gay pride around the world can help, but then again I think this is limited. Is it really the case that such events bring about social acceptance, or is it more like a feature for people to go to, just like the Victorian period in which people visited what is known as ‘Bedlam’? Are we seen as an exhibit, something to go look at, or does it really achieve acceptance and make others think positively? I’d like to think positively and say that it goes a long way, but then again I have my doubts.

Secondly, I have thought yes, fantastic, soaps and dramas are bringing more and more gay characters in, but then again I find that it is one dimensional. They more often than not focus on the more seedy parts, people being promiscuous, rather than actually showing that gay people can and do have monogamous relationships. Whether this is done purely for entertainment value to hook people to watch is again, questionable, especially as it is similarly born out with ‘straight’ characters. However, if we continue down the path of focusing on this, then we only serve to build up people’s preconceptions that gay people sleep around, have many different sexual partners and have no moral social function. On the other hand, perhaps I am over exaggerating the situation, and me giving a bad name to the hard work that writers behind soap operas and dramas engage in. But I’ve said it to make you think.

Thirdly, we need more ‘good’ gay role models. Here I don’t just mean celebrities, but about people it large companies being more vocal about who they are, what they have achieved and to help others that are gay to be driven, even during periods where at the beginning that can question whether they have a future.

So leaving this post now, for a further update at some future point, the message I want to leave you with is, accept, live and enjoy life. Everyone has a right to enjoy life providing it doesn’t cause undue harm on others.

Well the most recent period has been an interesting one, and 2012 thus far I have seen some highs, some lows and made som great friends along the way. Work wise I am very happy with my job, feel settled and looking forward to the future ahead…onwards and upwards as they say.

In terms of personal health, ie my weight well that has yo-yoed more than I would have liked. There have been moments I have been health conscious and attended the gym, next minute it’s been eating at the wrong time and perhaps being someone over generous with my intake of life’s luxuries…i.e. red wine which is my favourite.

Well past week I’ve had two workouts thus far, Saturday and this evening. Relatively pleased with the workout today having exceeded the 800 calories mark on the cross trainer in 1 hour 5 mins, 5 of which been a cool down if that really exists. All I know is at the end of the workout I felt great, if somewhat warm and tired. The task ahead, or for better expression the road to be travelled, I need to keep the gym up, eat properly and stay focused on myself, in making myself a better person.

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Reflecting on myself this year as we are in the midst of autumn, which I often do, I am proud of what I have achieved, albeit that something’s I would have done differently in terms of how I have interacted with others. So if I’ve upset you or offended you in anyway along the way, then I’m sincerely sorry. I can’t change the past, I can only look back in hindsight, see where I’ve made mistakes and do my utmost for the future ahead not to make them again. But my one saving grace, in the back of my mind, is knowing that we are human and we are fallible.

So without further a do I will end this post, by saying thank you to everyone that has been there for me, given me support and for being there in the future ahead.

Best wishes, Benjamin

Well this is a particularly sensitive and personal issue for me, and indeed one in which has many vested and interested parties, for this is an issue that transgresses all genres, classes of people and most importantly impacts on our religious beliefs and institutions.

As a gay man, and having studied law, my approach in many ways is pragmatic and looks at the root issue at hand. On the one hand we have to create equality for all, and one which is based on an individuals sexual orientation and beliefs. And in the other hand not impede the autonomy of individual religious institutions.

The key message to take at this stage can be put as follows: everyone has the right to be and feel human, because at the end of the day we are all human. No one should have the right to make someone feel like they are worthless or unvalued, otherwise we are bordering on Nazism there. One can learn many lessons from the atrocities that the Third Reich carried out during the 1930’s and 40’s.

So the question is how do you reconcile the idea of marriage and two men or two women marrying each other? Well as you can imagine this is not a simple task, all churches and religions have their own take on this, and their own individual rulings/positions.

So what is marriage? Well in the traditional sense, from the Roman Catholic perspective at least, it is the unification of one man to one woman till death do they part. In the eyes of this religion, it is ever lasting and therefore divorce in the religious sense is not recognised. Once your married your married forever. So this means you can’t ever remarry in their church again, even if by law you are recognised to be divorced, the only exception being if the marriage has been annulled by the church which is only granted on certain grounds that I shall not venture to discuss here. However, contrast this with the Church of England for instance, here you can remarry after being divorced and most importantly, you can in their institutional buildings again, and again and again if you so wish. So this demonstrates that whilst there appears to be a shared commonality, there are some differences.

So what for gay men and women, can they marry? Well current law in the UK says no. Nonetheless it is welcoming to see the Government of today bringing this into question and getting out there and in debate.

Now for some I don’t take the typical approach, and instead I do recognise the sanctity of marriage from a religious perspective. Gay men and women can have civil partnerships, which is not too dissimilar to marriage, but it isn’t the same as they can’t correctly say that they are married. Instead it’s, ‘we have a civil partnership’, or put another way a contract recognised by law which provides for legal ties between one individual and another.

So how do we bring equality, well you allow gay and heterosexual couples to have civil partnership, which would bring equal choice between parties, and also recognise their right to be conjoined to one another in a legal sense where they don’t have a particular religious belief, or where they have chosen not to follow the religious ceremony route.

I advocate that gay couples should be entitled and able to marry, and this is rightfully so. However, I do recognise that we need to find a away to appease and meet the needs of the many religions out there. Therefore I suggest that you define it: gay couples can marry providing this is recognised and allowed by their church/ religious institution. This then gives each church their own autonomy to decide whether they let open the gates or in many cases likely keep them closed. However for this to be a viable option, a ‘Gay Church’ would have to be established, whereby those wishing to be married can do so, whilst respecting the rights of all who may wish to access the right to have a civil partnership.

It is not argued here that this solution is the option to take, and yes many will want to have the ability to be married in their own religious institution that they were born into. However, we can call this a halfway house between nothing and full equality.

Thanks for reading my take on things.

This is something I have been giving some thought to. I lay here on the bed, or sit at my chair at the desk and just think. Observe what is going on around me. Seeing how busy everyone is, shuffling paper, rattling their fingers on the tops of the keys on their keyboards, frantically typing away on the pc.

Just taking a minute or two to observe, I’ve noticed how very little we know about one another, yet see on a daily basis, be it grabbing a cup of coffee on the regular coffee run, picking up a newspaper in the corner shop, or getting a sandwich from the canteen. It’s pretty sad in some ways, how we stand in a lift all in our own worlds thinking and contemplating, getting stuck in a regime like a programmed robot. Before you know it, another day has gone, then two, then a week, two weeks, a month and a year. You get the idea.

So what am I trying to say? Yes, continue working along, but say hi. Smile, ask questions and don’t be shy. Interaction is the key to our success and will brighten up our days.

ImageSituated about 5-10 minutes walk from Sloane Square Underground station, depending on how fast you walk, this is a must see art gallery.  It is a place to escape the hustle and bustle of modern day life, especially for those living in London.  Indeed it is always good to have a break and take time out and consider something bigger than oneself and ones work.

This gallery gives modern art a new meaning, demonstrating the artists of now and the future.  I love the way the gallery continuously updates itself.  My favourite installation by far is 20:50 by the acclaimed artist, Richard Wilson.  This can be viewed in Gallery 13.  A room flooded in oil, it gives a new meaning and perspective on things.  It’s a piece of art that absorbs all your senses, and one that is ever changing depending on which angle you look at.  Something so simple, yet so unique, no wonder it my favourite.

For more information, visit the Saatchi Gallery website.

You maybe wondering where this blog entry come from, and in particular the reason: yes / or no, am I mistaken?

Well having finished the gym and heading to Canary Wharf shopping mall, I entered Cabots Place through a set of double doors. Noticing there was someone heading in my direction I held the door open for them. No thank you, nor even any recognition of my existence as a human being. This I consider ill and rude mannered behaviour. It would have taken two words to say, ‘thank you’, or even ‘thanks’ would have sufficed.

In this era of politicians up talking the big society, and our connections with one another, this seems to be a grave area overlooked. Manners cost nothing, and create a very positive impression of others. Instead, this evening I was left with a feeling of, my my, what a rude individual.

In an age of anonymity, to put it a better way, that is, in London in which we become lost in the void perhaps, people could recognise the little things we do to be helpful. It is easy to do, and greatly respected.

So next time, when someone holds the door open for you, smile and say ‘thank you’. You will feel all the better for it. Rather than feeling like a servant in the medieval era!

Rant over. Have a good day.

Yours

BENJAMIN

Time is an interesting thing.  One minute you think you have plenty ahead of you, and then bang another day, week, month and even year has gone!  And what do you end up asking yourself: “were did it all go?”

Yes…2012 is on the imminent horizon and it has made me realise even more so than ever, the amount of time I have wasted on things that are insignificant and time that I have failed to spend more wisely.  This has most recently been drawn to my attention by my second eldest brother.  “So what things should I have spent more time on?” I hear you say.  Well these can be listed very briefly in 5 words: ‘exercise, socialize, family and friends’.

So as 2011 comes to a close, I do that annual thing of reviewing my life (whether this is a good thing, bad thing and a complete waste of time I am not sure.  Hindsight no doubt will provide the answer!)  So only several days away from 2012, I am trying my best not to be one of those that come up with unobtainable and insurmountable targets for the new year ahead, such as: win the Euromillions (I don’t do the lottery), become the hottest guy in the universe, to only drink water and not let alcohol pass thy lips (or any soft drink for that matter).  I mean… come on… this is me we are talking about – I have to live within my limitations!

Looking back, I have achieved quite a lot in the past year (despite the ‘unobtainable targets’).  I have a job that I am enthusiastic about, and whereby I desire to help others (whether I am able to do so, or not, is another question and will leave that for others to decide).  I have maintained the valuable friendships that I have made over the years, and in many ways enhanced them.  I have spent more time with my family than in previous years since moving down to London.

So after achieving quite a bit, you might question were I will go with my aims for the year ahead of us?  Well, no doubt you have been in the same position as me at some point in your life, in which you have asked yourself questions such as: ‘what’s the meaning of life?’; ‘surely, there has to be more to life than this?’; ‘what is my purpose in life?’ Well in raising such questions I have discovered one vital thing:  It is simply pointless to raise such empty, worthless questions that are framed in such abstract terms, as it achieves nothing, solves nothing and in many ways only raises even more questions about ones self worth (and thus the perpetual cycle begins!)

So looking on the ‘bright side of life’ (to borrow the words of a song most of us learnt during childhood), the purpose in life (in my viewpoint) is TIME (no, not the magazine!), and in turn, to make the most of it.  So that is my aim for the next year.  To make time for those I cherish and value in my life.  To make time to appreciate the things that I do have, rather than look at the things I have not.  To make time to learn, discover and open my eyes to the possibilities before me.  As they say, time is of the essence, so I am going to make 2012 about making the most of it.  Time is there for everyone, for some it is short lived and others long, but time will always outlive us, for that is its nature! So remember that, if nothing else.

To come to a concluding point then, not to mention to save boring you further to death, I want to do two things:

(1)  bid you a HAPPY NEW YEAR when 2012 arrives.  I hope it brings you much happiness, joy, love and prosperity; and

(2)  leave you with the words of Louis Hector Berlioz:

‘Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.’

Yours,

BENJAMIN

P.S. Thanks for reading the blog!