Huw Lemmey

13 June 2016

Gay Pride after Orlando

Many LGBT people will have mixed feelings at the sight of police patrolling outside the Stonewall Inn in New York. The community has a fraught relationship with law enforcement; for years, the police were the strong arm of a homophobic and transphobic society, harassing, beating and imprisoning us at the behest of a ‘moral majority’. For some of us – especially sex workers, trans people, queer Muslims and queers of colour, that relationship continues. In June 1969, trans and gay regulars fought back during a routine police raid on the Stonewall, leading to days of anti-cop riots. The police are currently posted outside the now-gentrified bar following Saturday night’s homophobic terrorist attack on a gay club in Orlando, Florida, in which 50 people died.

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30 December 2015

In Cumbria

Aira Force is hidden beneath a strip of thick deciduous woodland on the banks of Ullswater. The waterfall drops 70 feet from the beck above, forcing itself through a narrow opening in the limestone, framed above and below by two humpbacked footbridges. It was near this spot that William and Dorothy Wordsworth saw their crowd of golden daffodils. The waterfall itself features in a handful of his poems; in ‘The Somnambulist’, the ‘drooping Emma’, separated from her lover, Sir Eglamore, begins to sleepwalk, drawn by the mesmerising sound of the beck: The moon is not more pureThat shines aloft, while through the woodShe thrids her way, the sounding FloodHer melancholy lure! The modern idea of the Lake District derives from the Romantic poets. Before they reimagined it, most people had feared and avoided the landscape of what is now Cumbria. It wasn’t hard to see why last week, as I trod carefully across the slippery bridge at the top of the falls. Storm Eva had followed close behind Storm Desmond, bringing unprecedented rain.

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17 February 2014

Homophobia in Ireland

‘Enlightenment does not produce tolerance; tolerance is the result of boredom,’ Quentin Crisp said in 1968, when asked about changing social attitudes towards homosexuals. ‘The facts have to be repeated over and over and over, and in the end people say: "All right, so you’re queer. Just talk about something else." And then the work is done.’ It seemed that the moment of peak boredom had come for gay people in Ireland in their fight for equal marriage rights. With a referendum timetabled for early 2015, and the government getting behind the ‘Yes’ campaign following strong recommendations from the Constitutional Convention, gay rights campaigners seem confident, if not complacent, about a change in the law. But they haven’t won yet. Catholic pressure groups are campaigning against gay marriage. The Irish Times commentator John Waters called it ‘a satire’. ‘It’s not that they want to get married,’ he wrote, ‘they want to destroy the institution of marriage because they’re envious of it.’ The drag performer Rory O’Neill said on the Saturday Night Show last month that attitudes such as Waters’s represent a ‘subtle homophobia’.

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