Month: August 2013

EU leaders must confront President Putin on the human rights crisis in Russia

ILGA-Europe calls on the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to speak out against the current human rights crisis in Russia.

The EU leaders should hold President Putin accountable for the current clampdown on civil society during the G20 meeting which is taking place on the 5-6 September in St. Petersburg, Russia.

We also call on Baroness Ashton, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, to put the Russian human rights crisis firmly on her agenda.

Last Wednesday, ILGA-Europe together with a number of Russian and international human rights organisations launched the campaign “Keep Hope Alive” highlighting the deteriorating human rights situation and escalating clamp down on civil society. The campaign calls on world leaders to raise these issues and challenge the Russian government demanding they reverse the current trend and to observe and respect Russia’s international human rights commitments and obligations.

Gabi Calleja, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:

“The human rights situation in Russia is in deep crisis. The homosexuality anti-propaganda law is just one example of this. So far Russia ignored all statements by international human rights organisations and case-law of the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights. That is why our coalition of human rights organisations is calling on the world leaders to openly and firmly confront Russia.

Democracy and respect for human rights are the core values of the European Union and a corner stone of its relations and policies towards all other countries.  EU leaders cannot remain silent when those principles are brutally violated and they need to make this crystal clear to President Putin.”

The post appeared first on MySoCalledGayLife.co.uk.

September 2013 Leather Calendar

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INTERVIEW: Warwick Naked Rowers

It’s a warm, sunny day in August when I am admitted to the plush inner sanctum of the Groucho Club in Soho. I am here to interview Angus Malcolm, the photographer and mastermind behind the incredibly successful Warwick Rowing Club Naked Calendar, now in its fourth year.

by Greg Mitchell | 31st August 2013

Naked Rowers | Photography: Angus Malcomn

Waiting for me at a table in the corner is Angus himself and an arrestingly beautiful young man, tall, blond and blue eyed, who is introduced to me as Laurence, one of the stars of the coming year’s Naked Calendar from the Warwickshire Rowers. Unfortunately not naked on this occasion, his well-nigh perfect physique is easily evident beneath the simple blue jeans and white t-shirt that he is wearing.

Trying not to drool too obviously, I turn my attention to Angus and ask him how the calendar came about and how he became involved.

“Well, I was actually a writer and producer in TV and film and I used to work in the health and charity sector. In 2008 I felt like doing something different. Having always had a keen interest in photography, I started photographing men. I was approached by a guy on the website modelmayhem and found out he was part of rowing team. At the shoot I asked him if the club had ever thought of doing a charity calendar. As it turned out, he said that they had been actually thinking very seriously about it, so our meeting was quite serendipitous really. Initially the calendar was produced simply to fund the club, but by Year 3 it had started making significant amounts of money, which meant that we could start giving to charity. It was in year 2 that we started targeting the gay market, which lead us in year 3 to make a film of the making of the calendar. Our immediate concern at that time was how to stop it being pirated, and making it a charity project was a way of guilt tripping people into not pirating the film. So in the end the calendar raised funds for the club, and the video was for charity. That’s about to change now though. Instead of donating to other charities, we are in the process of creating our own. Basically all the money now goes into a kitty, which we draw on for charitable objects of this new programme which we are looking at called Sports Allies. Essentially net profits will be spent on the club or on Sports Allies.”

Naked Rowers | Photography: Angus Malcomn

Moving on to the calendar itself, I mentioned the fact that the photos, particularly in the new 2014 edition, often seem to involve a lot of movement. Was it difficult keeping the photos G rated?

Both men laughed loudly at this.

“It’s a fucking nightmare!” exclaimed Angus. “If you look at the images in years one and two, you will find that all the photos are very static. It’s really Calendar Girls with balls, if you like, but now we’re much more adventurous and doing shots with lots of movement in them, which makes it far more difficult, particularly if you are shooting more than one rower at a time. I shoot 365 gigabytes of images and it can take ages to get that one where nothing is seen. It’s often a case of doing the shot over and over again, and directing them to lift a leg a little higher or something like that.”

I asked if some of the guys were any harder to hide than others (well you would, wouldn’t you?).

“Bluntly, yes. And sometimes it really is a case of saying to someone, just go and stand behind that hedge.”

The film is even more difficult and youtube banned one of their videos, which is why they gave up on youtube altogether. As I’ve had cause to mention before the US can be quite draconian about (particularly male) nudity, and the Rowers have also had problems with their facebook page. Paradoxically, though, they have had lots of interest from the US, where they find it quirky that these guys are naked. Angus believes, and I agree with him, that these large corporations, like youtube and facebook globally have too much control and are imposing a mid-West culture on the rest of us.

However the American market is huge and people actually flew in from Texas for the live shoot they did last year, which again raised more money for their charitable causes.

The photos certainly have a great sense of fun about them; sexy, but family friendly, and undoubtedly homoerotic. The guys look as if they are enjoying themselves enormously, and all look completely unselfconscious about being naked together. I asked Laurence if this was actually the case.

Laurence speaks with a quiet confidence that is very attractive. “Oh yes. We all get on really well. When you train together as long as we do, you do become close. You have to if you’re going to spend 8 hours in a boat together in tight lycra. Getting naked is all part of the bonding process.”

Naked Rowers | Photography: Angus Malcomn

How was it getting your kit off for the first time?

“I had no qualms, but some of the newer guys did at first. However after half an hour everyone is just fine. Angus is really good at making people feel comfortable, and of course we shoot around the boat house so we are also in a familiar environment. Not to mention that the calendar has been going 4 years now, so the more experienced members make it easier for the newer ones.”

I asked if there were any gay members on the team.

“Yes,” said Laurence, “but it really isn’t an issue. Not in the least. Certainly for me, I’m used to open showers. I went to a boys’ boarding school. Showering and getting naked with the other guys seems the most natural thing in the world to me. And, incidentally, everyone in the team is aware of the support we get from the gay community and we really appreciate it.”

Angus cuts in, “We actually wanted to play on that ambiguity. The boys are having fun. It’s not sexual fun. But it’s fun none the less. Of course there is a homoerotic charge in a group of gorgeous athletes being together naked. It’s there, and it would be silly to ignore it.”

Naked Rowers | Photography: Angus Malcomn

Last year the proceeds of the film went to the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, and the club will continue to give to the Foundation till the end of this year. I asked why the Ben Cohen Foundation, and had any of the team any personal experience of being bullied.

Angus. “Not that anyone actually revealed, but they immediately saw that Ben’s journey had been similar to theirs. That was the reason why they chose to give money to his charity. It was a combination of nudity and a stance around homophobia, and the guys felt they were making a much more visceral commitment than perhaps even Ben himself. By being completely naked, they were saying, “We don’t care who looks and who enjoys this and we are making a stand and saying we support the gay community.” We had lots of letters and many of the stories came in particular from older men, who wished that something like this had been around when they were young and how much it meant to them. And the guys in the team found that particularly moving.”

Laurence. “I see it as very important that we straight guys are seen to be standing up and supporting you. I’ve seen “gay” used quite regularly in a pejorative sense – and that’s the most that I witnessed personally, but I think it’s wrong. I’ve also read plenty of moving stories that have been sent to us, one being from a guy in the police force who nearly lost his job because of being gay and him telling us how much he appreciated what we were doing,” and that seemed a good place to wind things up.

Having seen the images in the new calendar, it certainly seems to me that each year improves on the previous one. It’ll certainly be going on my wall next year.

For more information on the 2014 calendar and film, please go to http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/warwick-rowing-naked-calendar/

Visit them online at: http://www.warwickrowing.org or follow them on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/naked_rowers

You can also catch some of the rowers at Warwickshire Pride Today (31st August 2013)

Cal, the sequel to 2009′s Shank, comes to DVD on September 9!

Set in the economically depressed England of today, CAL is a startling sequel to the hit 2009 film, Shank. 20-year-old Cal returns from France to Britain after receiving news that his mother is ill.

He finds his home city of Bristol facing hard times, with poverty and crime on the rise and rioting and looting rife. Now openly gay, Cal clashes with his homophobic mother and alcoholic, predatory aunt. Things soon turn around upon meeting a cute, young student who needs his help.

However, Cal’s act of kindness brings about a whole lot of trouble and a race against time to make peace with his mother and escape his home town. An intense, dark and intelligent feature bringing Cal’s story bang up-to-date.

Buy Cal on DVD


( watch trailer at www.youtube.com )

Cal, the sequel to 2009's Shank, comes to DVD on September 9!

Cal, the sequel to 2009′s Shank, comes to DVD on September 9!

The post appeared first on MySoCalledGayLife.co.uk.

‘Hold Putin to account at G20 and Council of Europe’, MEPs say

Members of the European Parliament are calling on EU leaders and the Council of Europe to denounce Russia’s increasingly forceful crackdown against minorities.

In the past year, several laws were adopted to curtail the rights of minorities, and attack non-governmental organisations defending human rights.

Latest examples include the Foreign Agents law and several homophobic ‘anti-propaganda’ laws. Under them, St. Petersburg-based organisation Coming Out was recently fined €11,400, and its Director €6,800, forcing them to shut down.

Numerous other human rights NGOs are legally threatened, or already fined. Several organisations united under the Keep Hope Alive campaign asking political leaders to put Russia before its international obligations.

The laws have also directly led to an increase in violent attacks against ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

MEPs sent a letter to José Manuel Barroso, Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton, asking them to raise these important matters during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg next week.

They have also asked the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to consider suspending Russia’s right to vote in the organisation, according to Article 8 of its own Statute.

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, explained: “Whether it is the propaganda laws, the Foreign Agents law or more legislation restricting the rights of minorities and migrants, Mr Putin’s regime is following a dangerous path.”

“EU leaders cannot ignore that more red lines have been crossed, and they must hold Mr Putin to account at the G20 next week.”

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup, commented: ”Russia is chipping away at the three central pillars of modern Europe: democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. It’s time for the Council of Europe to take action and suspend Russia’s voting rights.”

“Mr Putin is losing the plot: these laws don’t reflect Russia’s values, they don’t reflect European values, they reflect Putin’s ever-tighter hand of steel. It’s high time to act!”

The European Parliament already adopted a resolution on the rule of law in Russia in June this year.

The post appeared first on MySoCalledGayLife.co.uk.

NEWS: Reading Pride

Reading Pride, the Thames Valley’s annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) celebration takes place this Saturday, 31st August and with good weather forecast for the day and some great headline acts performing on the main stage, the organisers are hoping for a record turn-out for their 10th annual festival.

by Reading Pride | 30th August 2013

The first Reading Pride was born out of the belief that bringing the whole community together would raise awareness of LGBT issues and break down barriers and 10 years on this belief is still at the heart of the event. Reading Pride celebrates integration and diversity in the community with anyone, and everyone welcome to attend.

The Parade

The day’s celebrations begin with a parade through the town centre. Anyone wishing to take part should make their way to the meeting point outside Reading Civic Centre half an hour before the 11.30am start. This year’s parade theme is “Reading Pride through the Decades” and participants are encouraged to come dressed in fashion finery from their favourite decade, however this is entirely optional! As well as being colourful, the parade will be educational, with participants carrying message boards depicting milestones from LGBT history, with an emphasis on key local events.

Spreading Awareness

Spreading awareness of LGBT issues and educating the public are key components of the work that Reading Pride does throughout the year as the charity’s CEO, Peter Vaughan explained: “Same-sex marriage and equality issues have been high on the political agenda recently, with significant progress being made in recent years, however LGBT people still face significant issues and prejudice in many walks of life and there is still a need for support and education on such issues. Members of the LGBT community frequently tell us that they look forward to the festival every year as a rare opportunity for them to be themselves in a truly inclusive environment, which shows that Pride events still have a very important role to play.”

Peter continued: “The parade is a key part of the day, starting the celebrations, but more importantly it brings our message of equality and showcases the LGBT community and supporters to the public right in the centre of Reading.

The parade will travel past the Broad Street Mall and the Oracle Shopping Centre and then through Forbury Gardens reaching the festival site as the gates open to the public at 12 noon.

Main Stage Entertainment

From 1.00pm to 4.00pm the main stage will showcase talented local and LGBTA performers including the Thames Valley Gay Chorus, Marki, the Candy Bar Crew featuring Adam & The Drag Kings, Cecelia Delatori and the Burleskis. The glamorous (and funny) Gina Tonic will compere proceedings.

At 4pm Gina will hand the compering reins to Wilma Fingadoo who will introduce the first of the afternoon’s headline acts, and the line-up this year is quite spectacular - Nicolette Street, Daniel Fox, Lemon, B Minor, Anttix, Nicki French, Hazell Dean, Kelly Wilde, Tina Cousins, Rozalla, Angie Brown and Sonique.

Family Attractions

Support U will be laying on attractions for youngsters of all ages in the dedicated Youth Zone including a bouncy castle, giant ball pool and a play area with toys galore. Visitors will also be able to buy rainbow themed goodies, find out more about Support U from their information stall and receive advice on Health & Well-Being from the team from The Gym Group.

Food & Fun

Other festival attractions include market stalls, Cookies Karaoke, a beauty bar, tombola, face painting, funfair, VIP area and a transgender picnic hosted by the Mayflower Society. There will also be numerous food stalls on site offering a diverse variety of cuisine including burgers, Caribbean street food, pizza, German bratwurst, burritos, toasties, hog roast and fish & chips. Vegetarian options will also be available. Revellers can also bring their own food but are advised to leave glass containers and alcoholic drinks at home as these will not be allowed on site. Visitors planning to buy alcoholic drinks from one of the bars are reminded to bring ID and to drink responsibly.

Celebrating the ‘T’

All transgender visitors, whether they identify as transvestite, transgender or transsexual (male-to-female or female-to-male) will receive an especially warm welcome at Reading Pride this year. Facilities laid on with the comfort and convenience of trans visitors specifically in mind include trans changing facilities close to the parade start point and on the festival site for the convenience of trans visitors who would prefer to change on arrival. The Mayflower Society will also be hosting a trans picnic at the festival.

Please Give Generously

Reading Pride is a registered charity and relies on the support of local businesses, fundraisers and donations on the day to cover the costs of the festival. There are numerous ways that visitors can donate on the day – for example by picking up a goody bag for a minimum donation of £1, buying a ticket for the tombola, visiting the face painting stall, dropping money in one of the donation buckets or buying a wristband for the VIP area.

VIP wristband holders will have exclusive access to marquee seating, a dedicated bar, separate toilets and prime views of the stage. VIP wristbands are available in advance from the Blagrave Arms, the Rising Sun and the Wynford Arms priced at £8, or on the day for £10.

Alternatively Pride supporters can donate via phone by texting LGBT00 and the amount they would like to donate (just the number) to 70070 - for example to donate £5, text LGBT00 5 to 70070. Donations can be made in £1 increments from £1 up to £10.

The festival runs from 12 noon until 8.00pm. Entry is free and all are welcome. For further information visit www.readingpride.co.uk

ENTERTAINMENT: The Circus Is Coming To Town

Need some freak in your life?

by Newsdesk | 30th August 2013

Zippos

For 2013 Zippos Circus presents Carnaval, a colourful and action-packed two hours of high energy acts from across the Globe. The new line-up includes thrilling aerial antics from Cuban acrobats, the HAVANA TROUPE, the awesome Brazilian motorbike riders, the Lucius team, in their Globe of Death, a completely new equestrian riding act from newcomer Nicky de Neumann and an astonishing Strongman from the Ukraine. Hosted by the one and only Norman Barrett MBE and his world famous budgies.

Join the colourful Carnaval celebration at Zippos Circus, touring from February to September 2013 across the UK. Amazing value tickets from £7 child, £9 adult, plus preview show on Thursday 12 September.

To find out more visit: http://www.scotlandsfavouritecircus.co.uk

NEWS: London Protest Against LGBT Murders In Jamaica

Outrage over brutal killing of Dwayne Jones & Dean Moriah

Rally outside Jamaican High Commission in London

Jamaican authorities urged to protect LGBTs against hate crime

by Peter Tatchell Foundation | 29th August 2013

Pete Tatchell with Protesters

Thirty protesters picketed the Jamaican High Commission in London yesterday (28 August) in protest against the brutal murders of 16 year old cross-dresser Dwayne Jones and a 41-year old gay man, Dean Moriah.

They demanded justice for both men, and urged tougher Jamaican government action against homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

The protest was organised by Out & Proud African LGBTI and Justice for Dwayne Jones, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

PHOTOS of the protest: http://bit.ly/15m5Qeo

“We demand justice for Dwayne and Dean. Jamaican authorities need to send an unequivocal message that there will be zero tolerance of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Additionally, the police should prosecute the killers and witnesses should be offered anonymity and police protection,” said Edwin Sesange, Co-founder and Director, Out & Proud African LGBTI.

“Like Senator Golding, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and other government officials and religious leaders must publicly condemn the killings. We call on them to end the criminalisation of homosexuality and to protect the human rights of all Jamaicans.

“We urge the Commonwealth to condemn homophobia in Jamaica and ask the Jamaican government to take action to prevent the persecution LGBT people,” said Sesange.

“The Jamaican Prime Minister, Justice Minister, Education Minister and police chief must work together to educate the public about LGBT issues, promote tolerance, prosecute homophobic hate crime and ensure that LGBT Jamaicans are able to live in peace, without fear,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy organisation the Peter Tatchell Foundation. He attended and spoke at the Wednesday protest.

“Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law is a violation of the country’s commitment to equal rights and non-discrimination. It menaces law-abiding LGBT citizens with arrest and imprisonment, as well as giving homophobic attitudes the underpinning of law and official legitimacy. It also discourages LGBT people from coming forward for HIV education and testing, which is contributing to the spread of HIV and placing a burden on the Jamaican health service. Repealing the ban on gay relationships is in the wider public interest,” said Mr Tatchell.

Dwayne Jones was brutally murdered in Jamaica on 22 July 2013. He was dressed as a woman. His sexuality and gender identity are unconfirmed.

Relentlessly teased at school, at 14 Dwayne was kicked out of home by a father who joined in with neighbours homophobic jeers as Dwayne left. A few weeks ago, aged 16, Dwayne was beaten, stabbed, shot and deliberately run over by a car as he tried escape after being attacked at a party where he had dressed in women’s clothing. According to reports, someone at the party identified Dwayne as 'male' and then a mob chased and murdered him. Police have yet to make a single arrest.

READ MORE about Dwayne Jone’s killing: http://bit.ly/19BHB0L

READ about the murder of Dean Moriah: http://bit.ly/19XjoWe

North Carolina Pride 2013

September 28, 2013

Durham, NC

North Carolina Pride

2012 NC Pride Parade and Festival Great Success

DURHAM – The ground on Duke University’s East Campus was muddy and slippery, and a steady rain fell on Saturday’s 28th N.C. Pride Festival. However, when Durham police officers sounded their sirens and revved their motorcycles, a cheer went up from those gathered at the corner of West Main and Campus Drive. With the police escort and an eight-foot-tall Marilyn Monroe look-alike on stilts at the front of the line, the 28th annual N.C. Pride Parade got under way.

The vote approving Amendment One and election-year politics were on the minds of the parade spectators and participants. “We lost the battle but our fight is not over,” read a sign on one of the parade floats. Another asked, “Liberty and justice for ???”

Even with Amendment One, a carnival atmosphere pervaded the parade, despite the rain. Randy Jones, the cowboy from The Village People, waved to the crowd as the parade made its way north on Broad Street, west on Green Street, south on Ninth, then back to Main Street. The Beaver Lodge No. 1504 of Durham had their own Marilyn look-alike, 2012 Beaver Queen contestant Marilyn Damho, and they danced their way along the route with the help of the Bulltown Strutters, who gave the event a Mardi Gras feel. Along the route, spectators waved, took photos and cheered. As the parade made its way along Ninth Street, Shannon Kelly gave Marilyn Damho a kiss.

A man who simply called himself Slim danced and gave encouragement to the parade participants. “Hey! Make some damn noise!” he told a group passing by.

Numerous churches that support equal rights for the LGBT community were also represented. Ginger Bradsher-Cunningham and Carla Gregg, both of Pilgrim United Church of Christ, led prayer and communion at the gazebo on the campus lawn before the parade.

Adam Darragh, a student at Duke Divinity School, was at the prayer session. The election was certainly on his mind, but “I would be out here regardless,” Darragh said. “Equal rights has to be something we’re always pushing for, or it won’t work.”

Precious-Jewel Zabriskie said parade participants and spectators were drawn more by the atmosphere of the event, and the idea of being visible and proud, rather than politics. Zabriskie said she plans to get married to her partner in October. They will get legally married in New York, but will have a celebration ceremony in North Carolina. Zabriskie, a Time Warner Cable employee, was riding a float with other employees. Time Warner has an LGBT employee group.

At the end of the parade, former Village People singer Jones, in cowboy garb, took pictures with fans and handed out business cards. He was scheduled to perform “YMCA” later in the afternoon. Jones, who is from North Carolina, said he was disappointed in the Amendment One vote, but expressed love for his home state and country. “I love the people of North Carolina. I have ultimate faith in the people of the United States of America,” Jones said. “I think ultimately the heart of everyone in the United States … wants every human being to have a fair opportunity and a fair chance.”

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ROANOKE PRIDE 2013

September 21, 2013

Roanoke, VA

Pride in the Park

To promote acceptance, visibility, and a sense of community in the Southwestern Virginia Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community by organizing educational and social events and providing opportunities for outreach.

Roanoke Pride, Inc. is the guiding force behind the season-long series of activities and events known collectively as Pride.

The center piece of our Pride celebration is the Festival “Pride In the Park”. Since its inception in 1989, this gathering is the largest LGBTQA event in southwestern Virginia.

Roanoke Pride is proud to bring professional entertainment to our community each year! As an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, Roanoke Pride, Inc. uses all its donations to fund various activities, including “Pride In the Park”.

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