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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Lies, Damn Lies & Gay Stats!

Illustration: Finbarr Sheehy for the Guardian (Gay Britain: Inside the ONS statistics)

This week, the British media has been abuzz with the the results of a survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).  The data apparently indicates that only 1.5% (726,000) of the British population identify as gay or bisexual.  This was based on a doorstep survey conducted on a sample of 263,000 (0.5% of the population).

So, what do these statistics tell us?

•    That only 1.5% of us will admit to being gay when confronted on our doorstep by a stranger with a clipboard.

•    That once again I (and everyone I know) have not been included in a poll.

•    Given the sudden drop in the British gay population – previous figures released by the British government suggested we were 5-7% of the population – maybe this whole deprogramming thing is working.  Our numbers are dwindling; we need to increase our recruitment rate people!

•    That considering the small sample size and that 3% of people did not respond (and that I wasn't asked), drawing any conclusion from these results is foolish.  And using these statistics to influence any policy decisions as some have suggested is idiotic.

If anyone had bothered to ask me (yes, I am a little hurt about that), and if I had deigned to answer the question, I probably would have said that I was straight.  I have only recently stopped lying to myself and my friends about who I am.  My closet was a comfy space complete with cushions and stuffed toys, I doubt a clipboard would have got me out.  And statistically speaking, there must be others out there like me.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Not married yet?! It's because you don't spend enough time in the kitchen! (Obviously!)

Last weekend my sister answered what will probably be the second most important question she will ever be asked:  “Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband…?”.  She did!  (In case you were wondering, the most important question she will ever be asked will probably be “Would you like an epidural?” to which she will undoubtedly answer, “Yes! NOW!”). 

Weddings, though wonderful things are hardest on the unmarried women who are forced to attend because of family loyalty or friendship or the ridiculous notion that catching a bunch of flowers means they’ll be next down the aisle.  We get to spend the day answering one question over and over from all the married guests:

“So, when are you getting married?”

Did they want an exact date? Or just an assurance that it would happen in their lifetime?  Skilled as I am in the art of dodging difficult/annoying questions, the sheer volume of people at this wedding made it impossible.  So I’d answer:



“Why? Are you asking?”


“I’m sorry, who are you?”

In Ghana, an unmarried woman in her 30s is a cause of concern or suspicion, while an unmarried man in his 30s is still sowing his wild oats – sometimes going back to Ghana is like time travelling to the 1950s…without all the hats and cigarettes. 

I’ve lost count of the number of times my father has ordered me into the kitchen – “As a woman you should be in the kitchen. Know what is being prepared.  Get more involved!”.  First of all, my father should know by now that starting any sentence with “as a woman” is the best way to get me to ignore anything that comes after.  Having said that, being the dutiful Ghanaian daughter that I am, I did pass through the kitchen on my way out and noted that the cook was doing something with a chicken.

Actually, I have no particular objection to kitchens (in fact I quite enjoy cooking) and I might get more involved if my father’s wife wasn’t quite so territorial.

And while marriage isn’t currently high on my to-do list, I’m sure that if I was ever to meet the “right” person, it might be something I would want to do – in a very quiet understated way.  Unfortunately when I do get married, I have a sneaking suspicion that my father will still not approve, but that’s a subject for another post & possibly a therapist.

In the mean time I will continue to sabotage my brother’s relationships (he manages this perfectly well by himself) so I won’t have to go to any large family weddings for a while.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Gay Civil Rights Movement Isn't About Sex!

Marshall: “Frankly, you can’t equate being Black with being Gay. Moreover you CANNOT equate the Black Civil Rights movement with this so called, "Gay Civil Rights" movement.

Its [sic] really really insulting to us Black Americans.

I don't care if you want to have sex with a man if you are a man. I don't care if you want to have sex with a... woman if you are a woman, but don't politicize how you enjoy to have sex.”

When I accepted a friend request on facebook from the husband of one of my sister’s oldest friends, the above diatribe was certainly not something I expected or wanted to see.   I immediately hid all news posts from the author so that I wouldn’t have to be subjected to such hatred again.  But I didn’t remove him as a friend or respond. 

I have friends and family on facebook who do not know I am gay and I wasn’t ready to put my head above the parapet.  In addition, some of my friends on facebook are gay, and by responding to this I would be allowing this nonsense to appear in their news streams.  So I did nothing. 

After a restless night during which my mind kept returning to facebook & Marshall, I realised that doing nothing was not acceptable, so I logged back in and responded as follows:

Marshall, it is very early in our short facebook friendship for this sort of disappointment.  Too many of my friends are gay for me to have this sort of thing appear in my news stream again.  And quite frankly, I don’t want it there!

While it is really wonderful that you don’t care if a man wants to have sex with a man or a woman wants to have sex with a woman, the gay rights movement is not about sex.  And it is “really really insulting” to gay people that you have reduced it to this.

Civil rights are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment and not to be discriminated against.  In the same way that you do not wish to be discriminated against for being born black, a gay person does not want to be discriminated against because they were born gay.  And before you interject, homosexuality is not a choice as you suggest.

Throughout history, gay people have been discriminated against and persecuted simply because of who they are.   They have been beaten, killed, abused (physically & emotionally), ostracised by their families & friends…why would anyone choose that?

You might argue that while you can’t hide the colour of your skin, a gay person can “hide” the fact that they are gay.  But why should they have to?  All they want is the same rights that you have – to live an open and honest life without fear, to fall in love and get married, raise a family and know that if anything was to happen to them, their family would be taken care of.  Is that too much to ask?

“Freedom, respect, dignity and economic and social equality” are what African Americans fought for – why would you want to deny these to anyone else?

Friday, 27 August 2010

How to Appear Unhelpful

This is more of a plea for help than an instructional post - I have no idea how to appear unhelpful.  I’m the person in the street that people stop to ask for directions – if they knew what little sense of direction I have, they wouldn’t bother.  I still get lost in the building I’ve worked in for the past year!

The other day at the airport, a man stopped me to ask where he could find some tea.  I was holding a packet of M&Ms - the ones containing peanuts, in case you were wondering.  Do people who buy M&Ms invariably buy tea as well? I looked around worriedly wondering if I was dressed like I worked there. I was not.  There were about 6 people in the vicinity who did work there and who probably had a better idea where the tea was kept.  I kindly suggested he try speaking to one of them – he looked confused as I walked away.

This sort of thing happens to me all the time.  I might be the only person wearing earphones and a scowl on a street full of people and I am always the one people approach for assistance.

What can I do to make this stop?  Earphones and scowling doesn’t work! Though to be fair, my scowls are pretty ineffective in most situations – they usually just elicit laughter.

Why is this such a big problem you ask? Well, I’m a worrier.  Given my poor directional skills, I worry that I’ve been unclear as to which way they should go or worse, sent them completely the wrong way.  I worry that somewhere, someone has turned down a dark alley that I’ve sent them to and been mugged.  These are completely irrational worries, I know, but I never claimed to be a rational person.  In fact, I fully accept that the opposite is true.

Nonetheless, these are the things that keep me up at night – that somewhere, someone is lying bleeding in the street, cursing the day they ever asked for my help.

Why Aren't We Moving?

Traffic! Caused by idiotic people doing idiotic things...

...and, er cows!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Last month, while I was lamenting my single status and thinking thoughts like - if I am no one’s significant other, does that make me insignificant? I decided to take my lack of significance into my own hands and signed up to a couple of internet dating sites.

So, obviously I began my quest for significance with Guardian Soulmates  because I’m a bleeding-heart liberal and thought I should find someone similar.  I actually considered that for my profile heading – “Bleeding heart seeks similar for, er, bleeding”.  I quickly reconsidered.

Setting up an internet dating profile must surely be one of the circles of hell Dante neglected to write about. Staying single must be better than having to decide (and state for the public record) my level of attractiveness – they should probably change that question to “exactly how vain/deluded are you?”  Or add as an option - “well, you’ve seen my picture, you decide!”  I decided above average was the safest option, though I later realised that most people say they want people who claim to be attractive or very attractive. Above average apparently doesn’t cut it.  Sort of explains why there are so many single people failing to find their ideal mate doesn’t it?  I wonder if anyone ever says they are below average? (Must do a search to find out).

No sooner had I stumbled over that obstacle than I was presented with another – describe your ideal match. Male or female? Now, I’ve been single for a long time (mostly by choice) could I afford to strike off a whole gender?   Did I want to date women? Did I want to admit that I wanted to date women? Was I just including men for appearance sake? I selected male and female and moved on.  Already my head was pounding but I had come too far to stop now.

I then had to write a few words describing myself and my ideal partner.  Would this be a good time to show off my comedic skills? They’re a bit of an acquired taste.  My sister always tells me to keep jokes to a minimum when I first meet someone to improve the possibility of a second meeting.  This probably explains why I’m still single – jokes keep slipping out.

I eventually decided on something that was short and (I hoped) at least a little charming.  The usual stuff – what I’m like (easy going, friendly etc.), what I like (eating, cooking, movies) – and ended with what I was looking for:

“Looking for someone to have adventures with - the kind that involve discovering new places, new people, slaying a few dragons (ok, fine no dragons - killjoy!) and discovering each other.  Let’s start with hello and take it from there.”

I know this is exactly the sort of thing my sister warned me against, but I couldn’t help myself. And I suppose it’s best that whoever responds knows in advance what they are letting themselves in for.

I then submitted my profile and waited nervously.  By that I mean went about my normal day-to-day activity, I wasn’t literally sitting staring at my computer screen hitting the refresh button every 10 seconds (really!).

When I went on line the next day, my profile had been viewed quite a few times and had even been marked as a favourite by some, but I had received no messages.  I decided to be a little proactive and did a quick search of the people who matched my criteria.  There were two women with interesting profiles and attractive pictures (there were more, but these particular two grabbed my attention first – I guess that answers the male or female question).  I marked them as favourites and proceeded to write them each an introductory email. 

Both emails I thought were friendly, tailored to the specific individual based on what they’d written in their profiles and expressed a desire to get to know them in some capacity (friendship, relationship etc.).  I sent the emails off and waited eagerly.  Each day I checked my messages and each day I was disappointed to see that had not received anything.  I could see that both ladies read my emails on the day they were sent, yet neither had responded. 

Two weeks passed and still I had had no response.

I had also not had any messages from others despite being one of their favourite profiles.  What the hell was that about? Were they waiting for me to write first?  What about the two women I’d written to? Was my message and profile so unappealing that they couldn’t even bring themselves to reply just to say thanks but not interested?  Did no one ever teach them how rude it is not to reply when someone takes the time to send you a message?  The hope and excitement I initially felt when I joined the site gave way to self-doubt and (very mild) depression.

Now I’m back to feeling insignificant again and waiting for the people I’ve marked as favourites to send me an email.  And all this for the bargain price of £25/month.