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04/19/2007


UK Teen Who Committed Suicide In 2010 Had Allegedly Been In Relationship With TV Star

In December 2010, 18-year-old UK fashion student Ben Cowburn (right) overdosed on drugs, killing himself and leaving behind a baffling and unnerving story. Cowburn, who had moved to London in 2009, had reportedly been in a relationship with a famous television actor that may or may not have led him to a compromised emotional state. Fueled in part by promises of gifts (in exchange for Cowburn's styling work), the romantic relationship was also heavily infused with drugs, alcohol, and, as some believe, unwanted sexual attention.

BencowburnPinkNews reports:

The comedian, who in the inquest was referred to only as “Mr X” to protect his identity, allegedly showered the teenager with gifts before taking him to drink and drug-fuelled parties.

The inquest also heard of how Mr Cowburn was persuaded to strip in front of a group of men and of how the comedian occasionally crept into his bed for sex.

Cowburn's parents were reportedly wary of the situation from the beginning as the comedian likely already had a stylist and did not need the student's help. When their relationship did end, Cowburn attempted suicide several times before being admitted to Longreach hospital. 

David Taylor, a nurse, told the inquest that the student had felt embarrassed and ashamed and thought he had been groomed by the man, although claimed the sexual relationship had been entirely consensual.

A different story from the Metropolitan Police claimed that when Cowburn could not pay for a cab to leave one of the actor's parties he was offered a bed and woke up to find the man lying next to him. The police noted that Cowburn's sister, Laura, said that she had been led to believe that he had been raped.

However, police decided there was no conclusive evidence that the teenager, who had sent Facebook messages to the celebrity, had been physically coerced into sex and therefore there were no grounds for questioning Mr X.


London Mayor Accused Of Banning 'Ex-Gay' Group's Bus Ads To Court Gay Vote

BorisjohnsonA London Christian organization, The Core Issues Trust, was infuriated when now mayor Boris Johnson (right) banned a series of gay conversion therapy advertisements which had appeared on public transportation. Johnson, able to exact the ban because of his position as chairman of the Transport for London commission, is now being investigated after Core Issues accused him of acting "for an improper use," namely to gain the gay vote in his campaign for mayor. The Core Issues Trust ads read, "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!" and were a response to pro-gay group Stonewall's own bus advertisements carrying the familiar moniker: "Some people are gay. Get over it!"

BBC News reports:

...ruling on the charity's appeal, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said evidence had been produced of "an email which unequivocally states that the mayor 'instructed' TfL to pull the advertisement" just before the 2012 mayoral elections.

He said the need for examination of the role of the mayor was even greater because the email sent on 12 April 2012 "shows that the mayor's office contacted the Guardian (newspaper) immediately, apparently in order to make political capital out of the story".

Arrangements had also been made for the mayor to appear the following day at a hustings organised by Stonewall.

The judge said: "This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs."

BusadIf Johnson is cleared of the "improper use" charge, the judge's initial decision to ban the anti-gay advertisements will stand. The Core Issues Trust is not going down without a fight, though:

Dr Mike Davidson, who leads The Core Issues Trust, said he would write to the mayor to ask for all emails linked to the ban, "current and potentially deleted", to be made available to his lawyers.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which supported the trust, said: "In a mature democracy both sides of a debate should be heard but it seems that Boris Johnson, Transport for London and Stonewall are intent to shut down the Christian side of the debate by fair means or foul.

"It is a great relief that the Master of the Rolls has ruled to hold to account arbitrary use of the exercise of power by a public authority".

Transport for London reported that it would supply any further evidence needed in court.


Janette Jenkins' 'Firefly': Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

This short, beautiful novel takes place over a brief period in 1971, as the British playwright and composer Noël Coward, in the final years of his life, suffers from a weak heart and a slipping mind. Having fled both the gray skies and the high taxes of London, Coward spends his days at his Jamaican estate, Firefly, sunbathing and painting and sharing the occasional dinner or (more often) drinks with friends. But mostly he reminisces, increasingly disoriented as he slips between his diminished present and his glorious past. 

FireflyI can think of only a few books (Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers among them) that evoke so movingly a consciousness adrift in old age. It’s a strategy that allows Jenkins access to Coward’s whole biography, while freeing her from any burden of biographical linearity or exhaustiveness. The book shifts with virtuosic fluency between the bright heat of Jamaica and London’s chill damp, bringing childhood memories, artistic triumphs, and sexual conquests to life with exquisitely curated detail.

We see Noël as a boy, speculating about the lives passing in the houses he can see from his bedroom window, and then, imagining himself being watched in turn, giving “a flick of a bow” as he lets the curtain drop. A little later, after his first sexual encounter, “colliding and laughing” with another boy on the wet rocks by a stream, “he can see a frog springing from the bank side; a splash as it leaps into the water.”

Jenkins’ Coward isn’t always a pleasant character, especially in the present-day scenes. He’s always ready with a withering remark, and he lashes out, at times violently, at the Jamaican servants on whom he depends for the most basic tasks. (When, with great difficulty, he manages to do up his own shirt buttons, “he doesn’t know whether to shout, ‘Hurrah!’ or to burst into tears.”) But he still possesses, at least in snatches, the quick and sometimes cutting wit that fills his plays. “Oh, you know everyone,” one unlucky acquaintance says to him over dinner. “‘No,’ says Noël, ‘Everyone knows me.’”

One of the most moving aspects of Jenkins’ portrait is how clearly she shows that the very wit for which he’s famous has become a prison for Coward, an elaborate armor that no longer enables expression, but prevents it. Coward tosses off stylish witticisms and ironic bons mots with ease, but statements of genuine emotion seem beyond him, even as his inner life throbs with feeling. When asked whether he loves his companion of three decades, Graham Payn, the best Jenkins’ Coward can manage is “We’ve certainly had our moments.”  

Janette-jenkinsPayn and other friends make appearances in these pages, but for the most part Coward has left them behind, retreating to a small studio at some distance from the main house. Here, through most of the book, he’s attended only by Patrice, his Jamaican servant. Twenty-two, desperate to escape Jamaica, excited by the prospect of life as a waiter in London (his dream is to work at the Ritz), Patrice’s chatter and enthusiasm are juxtaposed with the jaded cynicism of Coward, who at the end of a brilliantly accomplished life seems nearly finished with the world and its delights.

It’s the relationship between Coward and Patrice—patient and caretaker, patron and supplicant, master and servant—that provides the emotional center of the novel. Jenkins has made a vivid, caustic, funny, deeply sympathetic portrait of an artist who is finally as limited as he is brilliant. “Hearts aren’t meant to be noticed, they’re just meant to work,” her Coward thinks as he struggles to finish the afternoon walk his doctor has prescribed. As the novel comes to its at once delicate and devastating end, it’s a different working of the heart he can’t ignore.

Previous reviews...
Gengoroh Tagame’s ‘The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame’
Jason K. Friedman’s ‘Fire Year’
David Levithan’s ‘Two Boys Kissing’
Thomas Glave’s ‘Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh’
 
Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for both the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and a Lambda Award. He is currently an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.


London College Theater Head Suspended After Rant On 'Gayism,' Racism and Elton John: AUDIO

Walcott

Dr. Mark Walcott — the head of the dance and drama department in Newham College of East London — was recently suspended after a colleague secretly recorded and published Walcott's 50-minute staff-meeting rant about "gayism."

During the rant, Walcott compared gay professors to members of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis,  saying that each hopes to indoctrinate young students into their ranks.

Here's some other highlights from his cray-cray rant:

He is heard on the recording saying: “I’ll give the name of someone I’d never have run a school: Elton John. His gayism is so liberal. 

He added later: “I don’t like him. His sexuality, his gayism is over-burdensome.”

“And gay people’s objectives is not just to have lots of gay sex but also to increase the gay community, to make the gay community more accepted…"

In another section he says: “I see nothing wrong with the Klu Klux Klan. 

“They are fighting for their country. 

“They’re fighting for their country, they’re fighting for their right. 

“They are a culture, they’ve got a creed, they’ve got a nation and other people have come from other countries have come there and changed that made it difficult for them to continue with the way they want to progress and evolve.

“So it’s out of fear if you went to Jamaica and you tried to breed out the Jamaicans…so that our people started to become afraid and our reggae music was starting to sound like rock and our Jamaican (people were) starting to look like Chinese people, we would kill people. I understand the fear.”

The college has declined comment pending an external investigation. However, they have suspended Walcott and said that they "do not support any discrimination against, or unfair treatment of, staff or learners in any context." The college recently appeared in the top 100 workplaces ranked by the UK LGBT-organization Stonewall.

However, UK-based human rights activist Peter Tatchell thinks the college has much more to answer for:

"The college says it is setting up an investigation. This is not good enough, given its past failing to address these issues. There needs to be a completely independent inquiry by an external body that has no links to the college. The accusations involve much more than a homophobic rant and collusion with homophobia. They also involve allegations of racism, nepotism and cover-up. Complaints were made against the college in 2012 and they appear to have been sat on."

You can hear Walcott's insane rant for yourself AFTER THE JUMP

Continue reading "London College Theater Head Suspended After Rant On 'Gayism,' Racism and Elton John: AUDIO" »


Activists In London Protest Against Ugandan 'Show Trials' Targeting Gays - PHOTOS

Big-uganda

Last week we told you about a same-sex couple indicted in Uganda for "trafficking obscene publications" after a tabloid published pictures of the couple having sex. The incident began when the laptop belonging to Bernard Randall, 65, a British citizen and one of the men implicated, was stolen. The robbers found pictures of Randall and Albert Cheptoyek, a Ugandan man, having sex and sent the images along to a newspaper who subsequently contacted the police. Rather than arresting the robbers for stealing the computer, they instead arrested Randall and Cheptoyek.

The African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and the Peter Tatchell Foundation organized a protest in London Monday to coincide with the "show trials". They write:

The protesters chanted: “Free Sam! Free Bernard! Uganda - Repeal anti-gay laws” and “2-4-6-8. Uganda stop the hate. 3-5-7-9. Gay love is not a crime.”

Ugandan gay rights leader Samuel K Ganafa appeared in court at Nabweru today, over allegedly trumped up accusations of sodomy and infecting a man with HIV. He was remanded in Kasangati prison until his next court date, 25 November. At least three of his colleagues may also face charges. Ganafa is the executive director of Spectrum Uganda and the Chair of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) .

The trial of a retired expatriate British gay man, Bernard Randall, and his Ugandan friend, Albert Cheptoyek, was adjourned this morning until 4 December at the Entebbe court. Bernard faces charges of trafficking obscene publications. This charge relates to private, intimate videos. These videos only became public and police knowledge after Bernard's laptop was stolen and his personal videos were leaked to the media. Albert is being charged with gross indecency.

As previously reported here, Uganda is far from friendly towards gay citizens and visitors, its parliament advocating consistently for a "kill the gays bill," a law "so broad that just about anyone can be convicted" of being gay and consequently be "liable to suffer death."

Activist Peter Tatchell, who took part in the rally in London, spoke out against Uganda's consistent abuse of human rights and in favor of the release of Bernard Randall, Albert Cheptoyek and Samuel Ganfa:

Small-uganda“We are protesting against the homophobic witch-hunts and show trials in Uganda. These prosecutions violate Uganda’s own constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, both of which guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. The criminalisation of homosexuality is contrary to these human rights obligations, which Uganda has agreed and pledged to uphold. All charges should be dropped and Uganda’s colonial-era anti-homosexual laws repealed."

“Uganda is known as one of the worst countries in the world to be gay. The maximum penalty for same-sex relations is life imprisonment and a bill before the parliament in Kampala proposes the death penalty for repeat homosexual offenders. In addition, there are widespread homophobic threats and mob violence - often fuelled by anti-gay Christian fundamentalists who are supported by right-wing evangelical pastors in the US,” said Mr Tatchell.

Check out a few more photos from the protest AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Activists In London Protest Against Ugandan 'Show Trials' Targeting Gays - PHOTOS" »


British Christian Organization Sues London Transit Authority Over Pro-Gay Advertisements

Gay-bus-boris_2490701b

There's a bit of a storm brewing over London city buses these days--or rather, over the advertisements printed on the side of some buses sponsored by UK LGBT rights group Stonewall that read 'Some people are gay. Get over it!' The Telegraph reports:

A traditionalist Christian group has lodged papers at the High Court attempting to force Transport for London to take down hundreds of new billboards on double-decker buses telling people who disapprove of homosexuality to “get over it”.

It claims that transport chiefs are deliberately ignoring a ruling by a High Court judge that the posters, from the gay rights group Stonewall, are “highly offensive to fundamentalist Christians” who believe that gay sex is a “sin”.

In response to the Stonewall advertisements, Core Issues Trust, a Christian group that purports to provide "reorientation" therapy that can turn gay people straight, bought advertisement space on London's buses for billboards that would read 'Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get Over It!'

London Mayor Boris Johnson intervened and banned the Christian advertisements, calling them "clearly offensive" for likening homosexuality to an illness.  In response, Core Issues Trust took the case to court.  From The Telegraph:

In her judgment Mrs Justice Lang ruled that Mr Johnson had not abused his position by banning the adverts but went on to question the decision to allow the earlier Stonewall advertisements as well.

TfL’s decision to allow one advertisement but not the other was “was inconsistent and partial”, she ruled. The outcome of an appeal is due later this year.

Stonewall's advertisements, the High Court judge wrote in her ruling, are "highly offensive to fundamentalist Christians" who believe gay sex is sinful."  Now, Dr. Michael Davidson, the founder of Core Issues Trust, has filed an urgent judicial review seeking an injunction barring Transport for London from placing new Stonewall ads on London buses.

"I feel that Stonewall and the Defendant are deliberately flouting the rulings of the court by renewing their advertisement campaign on buses which was clearly prohibited by the earlier judgment of Mrs Justice Lang," Davidson told the court in his application for review.

A spokesman for Transport for London told The Telegraph simply, "These ads are in line with our advertising policy."


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