Wales Hub

Gay Marriage Officially Begins In England And Wales: VIDEO


As promised, same-sex marriage became legal a little while ago at midnight in England and Wales. Couples in both realms have already begun to say ‘I do’ and their friends and loved ones have taken to social media to help document this historic occasion. 

The couple pictured above were toasted on Twitter by Craig Baldwin (@goochus73): "You may now kiss the groom". Gay couple marry in historic moment in Camden Town Hall. #equalmarriage 

Though the identity of the first gay couple married in Britain is not certain at this point, the council of Islington, a district in greater London, had suggested that two of its residents, Peter McGraith and David Cabreza (pictured below), would be the first. Indeed, the happy pair have tied the knot, as Twitter user Andy Hull (@AndyHull79) shared: CONGRATULATIONS, Peter McGraith & David Cabreza, now Husband & Husband! #equalmarriage #makinghistory in @IslingtonBC.

Check out more images -- and a video! -- of McGraith and Cabreza along with those of other happy couples from across the pond, AFTER THE JUMP…


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Gay People Can Begin Marrying in England and Wales on March 29


The marriage equality law in England and Wales will take effect on March 29, 2014, the BBC reports:

Initially it was thought the first same-sex marriage in England and Wales would not take place until the summer. Couples wishing to be among the first to marry will need to give formal notice of their intention to marry on 13 March. It comes after the government's controversial legislation on the issue received Royal Assent in July. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backed the proposals.

Gerbrand Bakker's 'Ten White Geese': Book Review


Bakker CoverA woman living alone in an old, unfamiliar house; a sinister caretaker making unwanted advances; severe, largely unpeopled landscapes; a circle of stones; a small, dying town; the titular, mysteriously dwindling geese: in a different kind of book, these elements would portend a gothic thriller. And this new novel by the Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker, which was recently awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, has much of the feel of a thriller, with a tense atmosphere that makes for a brisk, immersive read.

But in fact very little happens in this eerie and utterly compelling book. A scholar calling herself Emilie, fired after an affair with a student and informed of an illness the details of which are unclear, leaves her life in Rotterdam and flees to Wales, where she rents a house that she finds almost by chance. She begins to work on the overgrown grounds, ignoring as best she can the chronic pain she keeps at bay with increasingly powerful medication. Eventually she’s joined by a young hiker, Bradwen, who arrives seemingly by accident, and they develop an odd but entirely banal domestic intimacy, sharing meals and watching television and pruning the trees.

Instead of incident or event, what drives this novel is a slow and sometimes menacing erotic burn. Bakker’s characters don’t declare their feelings, and they can seem at times hardly aware of them, acting in a kind of obliviousness of their own impulses. Through most of this book we’re privy to Emilie’s thoughts, which communicate her annoyance with the locals, her memories of family, and her ruminations on Emily Dickinson, the subject of her unfinished dissertation. But to convey a pitch of longing, Bakker often retreats from this interior voice to the observation of surfaces, seldom describing emotion directly. When Emilie thinks that Bradwen has gone on his way, Bakker communicates the intensity of her feeling through gesture: “In the kitchen the breakfast things were still on the table. She picked up his plate and smelt it, then put his mug to her lips.”

This emotional muteness is also evident in the strand of the novel that returns us to Rotterdam, where a man identified until nearly the end of the book only as “the husband” seeks help from the police in finding Emilie. This relationship, too, takes on an odd intimacy and eroticism as the husband and the policeman (also unnamed for much of the novel) travel together in search of her.

1gerbrand-bakkerThe policeman makes no attempt to hide his interest in the husband, whose answering fascination goes unnamed and undeclared. Bakker treats his characters with a certain wryness, and there is a strain of humor here that in the context of this sometimes severe book had me laughing out loud. “The policeman took one hand off the wheel and laid it on the husband’s leg,” Bakker writes in a particularly lovely scene. “He didn't move it away because the policeman was the driver.”

Emily Dickinson, that recluse whose solitude made room for a humor and eroticism not unlike Bakker’s, is a kind of tutelary spirit for this novel. Emilie, whose unwritten dissertation intends to unmask what she sees as Dickinson’s mediocrity, speaks of the poet with disdain—she’s “a puling woman,” “a whimpering child.” But she finds herself unable to put Dickinson’s poems out of mind, especially the one that begins “Ample make this bed”:  

        Ample make this bed.
        Make this bed with awe;
        In it wait till judgment break
        Excellent and fair.
        Be its mattress straight,
        Be its pillow round;
        Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
        Interrupt this ground.

Dickinson’s bed is of course a grave, and as in so many of her poems eroticism and death lie hand in hand. (This is the particular power behind the famous use of the poem at the end of the film Sophie’s Choice.) A similar conjunction of desire and mortality helps explain the almost overwhelming urgency of the final movement of Ten White Geese, as Emilie both orchestrates and succumbs to her fate, surrendering to and defying it at once.

I’m still haunted by Bakker’s astonishing first book, the IMPAC Dublin Award-winning The Twin, with its story of an aging gay man trying desperately to lay some claim to his life. This new book is both stranger and more confident in its craft. Bakker’s prose can resemble the landscapes he’s drawn to: bare, stripped of all ornament, at times breathtakingly beautiful. Against such a landscape, it’s extremely moving to watch these characters come together so briefly and blindly, almost like objects colliding in the dark, taking from each other whatever consolation they can find.

Previous reviews...
Jonathan Kemp's 'London Triptych' 
Benjamin Alire Saenz's 'Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club'
David McConnell’s 'American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men'

Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and a Lambda Award. Beginning this fall, he will be an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

British Government Publishes Landmark Bill to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, with First Vote in Early February

British Culture Secretary Maria Miller has published landmark legislation that would bring marriage equality to England and Wales, the BBC reports:

MillerMore than 100 Tory MPs are thought to be against the idea, but the bill is likely to pass through the Commons with the support of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2005, entitling them to the same legal rights as married couples across a range of matters, such as inheritance, pensions provision, life assurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights.

The new law, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, will enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies - where a religious institution has formally consented. It will also allow couples who have previously entered into civil partnerships to convert their relationship into a marriage.

Mrs Miller said the government recognised that "some churches won't want to participate in same-sex marriages". "We are trying to make sure that there are the protections there for churches who feel that this isn't appropriate for their particular beliefs," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

However, the government also wanted any religious institution that did want to carry out same-sex marriages to be able to do so, she said.

You can read the legislation HERE. The first debate and vote are scheduled for February 5 and the bill has the support of conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

Gareth Thomas Talks Mickey Rourke, Marriage, and Role Models


A few choice quotes (and a stunning photo by Suki Dhanda) from Gareth Thomas from an interview in The Observer:

Mickey Rourke can almost finish my sentences. He understands where I have been because he has been there, too. There's a lot people don't know about him and it's the same with me. That's why he's the right person to play me [filming on a biopic of Thomas's life starts in April].

Other sportsmen have confided in me that they're gay. The advice I give is that coming out is great for you as a person, but that you also have to remember you're a role model. As a sportsman you take the money and the glory, but you also take the responsibility that comes with it and make sure the stories that follow are positive.

Neither my ex-wife nor I regret getting married. There was so much good in the seven years we spent together. The regret for me is the hurt I caused not just her but my parents, too.

More here.

Rugby Player Who Claims Stroke Turned Him Gay Speaks Out: VIDEO


Back in November I posted about Chris Birch, a Welsh former rugby player who claimed that after hurting his neck during practice and cutting off the blood flow to his brain, he suffered a stroke, and realized, as he recovered, that his sexual orientation had changed.

CbThe BBC has now done a documentary on Birch, who says he does not recognize himself in photos taken before his accident.

There are few known cases of a stroke turning a straight person gay, and major personality changes in stroke sufferers are rare. Even Jak Powell, Birch's fiance, believes his partner may always have been gay.

"I've still got the same opinion that it was just something that was always there," says Powell. "People grow up not knowing they are gay and have families and then they realise they are gay, but they don't have a stroke to realise that."

Yet Birch disagrees and is convinced that, neurologically, it was the stroke that altered his sense of self. The moment he realised his feelings towards men had changed was a scary period in his life.

"It was a sort of lonely time. It was a time I was afraid to tell anybody because that wasn't who I used to be, so it shouldn't be who I am now," he says.

Watch the full program while it stays up, AFTER THE JUMP...

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