Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
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    March 5th, 2012jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, gay, hate crime, homophobia, lgbt

    This morning I was invited to speak on the Ann Diamond Show on BBC Radio Berkshire about the recent comments made by the Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien where he described equal marriage rights as “grotesque” and likened the proposed legislative changes of gay marriage to that of the legalisation of slavery.

    As many people know, I am currently planning my own civil partnership having been in a committed relationship for 10 years and to me it feels rather strange not to be able to refer to our own special day as a wedding.

    I believe in freedom of thought and speech and respect the Cardinal’s decision to write the letter to the Telegraph and defend his position today – after all aren’t we told to keep our friends close but our enemies closer?  Then again, perhaps he just protects too much?

    Having read the contents of the letter, it’s clear the views made are very traditional and cling to arguments that simply do not reflect the world in which we live in.  Marriage predates the church and they do not hold the monopoly on love.  Marriage is not about procreation – it’s about a commitment between two people in love.  That view is offensive to couples who are unable to have children.

    I don’t want Gay Marriage – after all I do not drive a gay car, live in a gay house and drink gay tea!  I simply want marriage equality.  I’ve always said that if as a modern country we believe in equality, a consultation is not required as there cannot be one single argument against marriage for LGBT people.

    I hate to say it but Cardinal Keith O’Brien appears to be a bigot that shields his homophobia behind religious freedom – he talks about shame being bought to the UK but does he not recall the abuse of all those children within the church?

    At what point do the content of his comments become a hate crime?  After all, if he had made comments about people of colour, disabled people or other religious people such as Jews he would have been shot down in flames!  There are so many other things wrong with this world and he chose to comment on gay marriage!

    Being gay is not hazardous to a healthy lifestyle but it seems that his choice is to carry a lot of hate and anger around with him!  So no thank you Keith, I think I’ll stay as a fairy thanks.

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    January 31st, 2012jamiewakerdglgbt

    Today, 1st February, marks the beginning of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans) History month and celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT Community.  Whilst the United States observes this period in October to include National Coming Out Day on 11th October, the UK observes it during February to coincide with a major celebration of the 2003 abolition of Section 28 which had the effect of prohibiting schools from discussing LGBT issues or counselling LGBT or confused young people.

    Being LGBT is not something new but the fight for gay rights and equality are often recognised as stemming from the infamous Stonewall riots which took place in New York during the early hours of 28 June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn.

    Not many venues would welcome the LGBT community in those days.  The very few that did were hidden and relied on secret knocks to identify patrons.   The Mafia owned Stonewall Inn was in the liberal area of Greenwich Village and served as a popular venue for those marginalised in their gay community such as drag queens, representatives of the transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers and homeless youth.  Police raids on gay bars were part of the normal routine and on the night in question, it’s said that a drag queen refused to hand over their id and the police soon lost control of the situation which in turn attracted a crowd that was incited to riot.  Tensions escalated and more riots took place over the next few nights – the gay scene decided to take a stand!  I look back in admiration and respect at that very drag queen and wonder if she knew what wheels were being put in motion?  Today, Drag hate seems to exist from a number of people on the gay scene and I often wonder if they realise how and who it was that laid a pathway for acceptance for them?

    Within 6 months of the stonewall riots, two gay activist organisations were formed in New York to start tackling the inequality and persecution of the LGBT community.  Within just a few years, organisations were being set up worldwide.  On 28th June 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

    Not being born until 8 years later in 1977, I can’t imagine what life must have been like to hide your sexuality.  I’ve always publicly said that it’s me first and gay second but I know firsthand the damage having to hide something such as your sexuality can do to someone for fear of persecution.  I, like many others, still carry those scars.

    Gay History month is not just about the past.  We’re reminded that many people have selflessly fought for LGBT Equality yet we’re still reminded that there is still much to fight for and until we have full equality, that fight cannot end.

    As a gay campaigner, I’ve been called many things but I continue to fight for LGBT Equality with my peers and colleagues to make sure that those young people who are struggling with their sexuality can be confident that if they do choose to ‘come out’ that the world has moved on and that they’ll get the right support should they need it.  This is why I launched the OK 2B Gay Campaign.

    In Reading, we’re starting to get acceptance.  Things have moved quite a way on since the first gay night (One night a week) at the 3B’s under the town hall.  As one of the founders of the Reading Pride Festival and now a Trustee of the Reading Pride Charity, I am committed to making a difference to LGBT people here in Reading. One day we hope that we get full acceptance from Reading Borough Council (and similar grants and/or funding to other organisations such as RCRE and Reading carnival) but in the meantime, we’ll continue to raise awareness, educate and try to eliminate discrimination in our town – unpaid volunteers, all of us.

    Yes the world has moved on but homophobia still exists.  Difficult though it is to believe, it is a documented fact that the British Government did not remove homosexuality from its International Classification of Disease list (the list used by, amongst other things, the Mental Health Services in Britain to determine mental illnesses) until 1994. In other words, until just 18 years ago, the British Government’s official stance on homosexuality was that it was a mental disorder which might have a cure.  Still to this day, transsexualism is on this list and is considered a body dismorphic disorder that requires psychiatric intervention. This needs to change.

    Of course, we’re all aware of the inherent homophobia experienced by LGBT Africans where homosexuality is labelled as un-Christian and un-African. The current UK Government was criticised for making a stance against breaches of human rights and of course the opposition has raised its objections too but I wonder if any of them did a quick YouTube search and watched any of the videos of Gay Africans being burnt alive?  Maybe then, they’d realise that Gay Equality is not and should not be a political ping pong match.  All parties will argue that they’ve done the most for gay rights and pick holes in the other parties’ historic records.  I have news for them all – you’ve all been lousy at championing gay rights and ensuring gay equality.  If you had seen it as human rights, we’d all have equal marriage by now and the blood ban would not have been replaced with another ban under a different name.  Section 28 would never have been brought in and Tory back benchers would not now be shouting out making threats if gay marriage is brought in.

    If I was in charge, I wouldn’t be wasting money on a consultation about gay marriage, it would just become law as it should be.  After all, was I consulted on your marriage?

    Somehow, LGBT Equality always takes me off at a tangent and I’m sure you have better things to do that hear me rant!  Keep an eye out for all of the activities Reading Pride are planning for LGBT History month and keep an eye out for Reading University’s events too.  Whether you’re gay, straight or yet to decide, please support the LGBT Community this month.  I’m not suggesting a Bring a Gay to work Day or anything like that (!) – all that’s needed is a little understanding and all you need do is just learn a little more about how we have got here and what we still have yet to achieve.

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    Reading Vigil Against Hate Crime

    Leading the Reading Vigil Against Hate Crime

    Last night, I had the privilege and pleasure of organising (and obviously attending!) Reading’s Vigil Against Hate Crime which was held in the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk.

    It was a great turn out and it began with a short speech from myself (Transcript below) followed by a candlelit walk, 2 minute silence and a balloon release. Balloons had to be released one by one to abide by Reading Borough Council Regulations (no string either!) but that added to what could only be described as a magical moment. As the balloons were released, they formed a spiral as they headed up into the sky and then formed a star. If that wasn’t magical enough, the precision timing of a huge flock of white birds flying above only added to the magic. It was a poignant moment that I don’t think you could create again if you tried.

    Here is the Transcript of my speech:

    Tonights vigil is the first in Reading and joins the many others taking place at this very moment in time.

    To remind you, tonight is about tackling the issue of hate together – taking a moment to stand with those who have lost loved ones and giving our support to those that need it. Our message is a simple one – it’s one of Hope, Remembrance and Positive Action.

    So why are we here? Because people are still being attacked on our streets and extremist propaganda encourages people like David Copeland to try and hurt so many in horrific attacks.

    Even this week, we have heard about the horrific murder of Stuart Walker and the hospitalisation of two men in Leicester.

    These vigils have been organised for the 17-24-30 campaign. Their name represents the days that the 3 London nail bombs were planted:

    17th April – Brixton Market

    24th April – Brick Lane

    30th April – The Admiral Duncan, Soho

    3 people were killed and more than 130 injured during Copelands 3 bomb attacks including a 23 month old baby with a nail in his head.

    Please follow me on a candlelit walk to remember those we have lost to hate crime, to put our differences to one side and work together in unity to give Reading a voice to say No to Hate Crime.

    Although a symbolic event, I see Reading’s vigil growing each year and perhaps next year we can organise a choir and some speakers to address the crowd. Sadly, only the LGBT Community came to the event including representatives from Reading Pride and SupportU. It was also great to see members of Reading’s Political Parties in attendance including Cllr Daisy Benson, Group Leader of the Reading Lib Dems, Cllr Tim Harris from Reading Conservatives and Richard Wood, LGBT Officer for Reading Labour. Everyone sharing a common cause. I had invited the Reading Council Racial Equality but I don’t think they were able to attend so hopefully next year they’ll be able to attend.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those that did attend.

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    October 22nd, 2011jamiewakerdgcommunity, discrimination, event, gay, hate crime, homophobia, jamie wake, lgbt, local

    I am privileged to be coordinating this event:

    On Friday 28th October 2011, people in Reading are invited to gather at the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk to say NO TO HATE CRIME. At 7.45pm, a candlelit walk will take place ending with a 2 minute silence at 8pm to coincide with other vigils taking place in the UK and abroad. This will be followed by a release of balloons to remember those who have been affected by Hate Crime.

    This year we are looking at Homophobia, Transphobia, Rasicsm and Disability Hate Crime and addressing the issue of bullying in our schools, workplaces and our communities.

    So what is it all about?

    It is about tackling the issue of hate crime together, taking a moment to stand with those who have lost their loved ones and giving our support to those who need it. Our message is Hope, Remembrance and Positive action.

    At the last two national vigils those who attended said that the event gave them a sense of community, that they felt that they were part of something and that is what we are trying to do. Help people connect with each other but also to ensure that those who have been attacked know that they are not alone. That we are there for them.

    It is also about inspiring people especially young people to get involved. Images from the Vigils have been circulated around the world and have been used in various projects. We want to encourage all people to do something positive.

    Why?

    Because people are still being randomly attacked on the streets of London and other places.

    Then there is the organised hate crime, the gay-free zone stickers that have gone up in various places. The recent attempts by EDL to recruit LGBT activists to their cause and organise a gay march through Tower Hamlets. The links that exist between extremist propaganda that helps create some of the tensions between our communities, and encourages people like David Copeland and Anders Behring Breivk to carry out their horrific attacks. We need to be aware of and deter those who seek to stir up these tensions for their own ends.

    Conflicting reports say that hate crime is rising again and there is this big debate over whether or not this is because some people are more confident reporting, or whether the problem is actually getting worse. Regardless of this debate, we believe more positive action is required.

    So what do you want people to do?

    We want people to be calmly vigilant, to be safe, to be aware of the dangers and to make sure that they flag things up when they see things that cause concern. This could be directly to the police using the new non-emergency number 101, or via the various other organisations that exist to help like Stop Hate Uk 0800-138-1625.

    We also want people to be aware that these services need our backing, especially in the current financial climate. There is so much we can do to help signpost and support them and at the same time strengthen our own communities.

    And we want to encourage people to talk, to connect with each other and build more positive relationships so we can accept or set aside our differences and work together to resolve some of the issues that lead to tensions between us.

    How can people find out more?

    People can take a look at our website www.17-24-30.com for more information. This year we have set up two WordPress sites 172430notohatecrime and hatecrimevigils and it is also possible to follow us on Facebook 17-24-30 and Twitter #HateCrimeVigils.

      Note to Editors

    The Hate Vigil in Reading is being coordinated by community campaigner, Jamie Wake, for 17-24-30.

    17-24-30 represents the dates that the three London nail bombs were planted, 17th April – Brixton Market, Brixton, 24th April – Brick Lane and the 30th April – the Admiral Duncan, Soho.

    In April 1999 David Copeland set out to attack the Black, Asian and Gay communities of Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho hoping that it would create a climate of fear which would eventually lead to the election of the BNP. Over the course of three weeks he planted three nail bombs which killed three people and injured many more.

    Luckily he was caught and his plan failed, but his acts of hatred remind us that there will always be those out there who seek to attack and harm us so we need to remain vigilant and work together to protect and strengthen our communities.

    17-24-30 believes that it is important to bring people together.

    The gatherings are important to those of us who have been affected by the attacks, they bring our local communities together, and provide us, our families and friends – with the support and opportunity to gather and remember our loved ones. They also enable us to engage with old friends and newcomers as well, drawing comfort from each other and being able to exchange our experiences, thoughts and feelings.

    They also provide an opportunity for our communities to raise awareness and reflect upon what has happened, so we can educate the next generation and ensure that we reduce the chances of this happening again.

    17-24-30 believes that it is important to remember those we’ve lost, and those still with us.

    Three people were killed and more than 130 injured during Copeland’s three bomb attacks, however the impact of these horrific events rippled across our communities affecting many people who lived, worked or socialised in these areas, those who were connected to those caught up in the attacks, and those who saw the aftermath of these events in the media.

    At least 48 people were injured when the first device exploded in the crowded Brixton Market. Among those taken to hospital was a 23-month-old baby with a nail in his head.

    A week later, 13 people were injured when the second bomb exploded in Brick Lane.

    The most serious attack took place in Soho. A pipe bomb containing 1,500 nails exploded in the crowded Admiral Duncan pub. Three friends Andrea Dykes 27, John Light 32 and Nick Moore, 31 died in the blast and more than 70 were injured.

    Please help us publicise this event so Reading can add its voice to the campaign and say NO TO HATE CRIME.

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    October 19th, 2011jamiewakerdggay, lgbt, reading pride, supportu

    Last night saw a full council meeting of Reading Borough Council where Director of SupportU, Lorna Mcardle, delivered a petition for a LGBT support centre in Reading.

    I helped Lorna prepare her speech which was as follows:

    As you’ll know, I am Lorna McArdle and I have been the Chair of the Reading Pride Charity for 6 years, an organisation that celebrates diversity in our town and aims to educate and eliminate discrimination against LGBT people in Reading. Pride has paved the way for LGBT acceptance in Reading and it was identified that whilst Reading is starting to accept that it is ok to be gay, there is little support for those who identify themselves as LGBT and the few services that do exist are difficult to find or have very little resource to be able to provide a service to all the people that need them. This is why we need a support centre in Reading.

    Im sure many of you will be wondering why we need one.

    I do not need to tell you about the inequality faced by LGBT people.

    I also do not need to tell you about the prejudice that still exists.

    And I also do not need to remind you of the lack of representation and advocacy for the LGBT community of Reading.

    Even with the power of the Internet, vulnerable members of Readings’ LGBT community have nowhere to turn in times of crisis or need. This must change.

    Let me share with you some of the experiences that members of the LGBT community have shared with us when we assessed the need for a centre in Reading.

    Let me tell you about Sally. A school pupil that is being physically bullied at school just because her mum is a lesbian. Schools can only help the pupil. A support Centre can provide a safe environment for loving families like Sally’s to meet other People in similar circumstances.

    Then there’s Bill. A vulnerable older person who happens to be gay that has housing issues brought on by depression. Embarrassed to ask for help because of his sexuality. Older people don’t all feel comfortable going to gay bars to be socially included and Day centres can often make them feel even more isolated. We can Support them and others by providing social activities for people like Bill who do not have children or family to help them.

    The last experience that I will share with you is a phone call that I recieved from a couple in sheltered accomodation who are being intimidated by other residents because of their sexuality. SupportU, with it’s Open Door Policy could work with wardens and housing officers to ensure the wellbeing of this couple.

    This support centre will provide a home for all of the LGBT services in Reading to ensure that those people that need to access them, can.

    As the current chair of Reading Pride, I am privileged every year to escort Reading’ Mayor around the festival and introduce them to the different groups and organisations exhibiting on site. This year I had the great pleasure of showing Debbie Edwards around the site who even recorded a video message for the OK 2B GAY Campaign. Wouldn’t it be great if all if those groups and organisations were together and accessible by the Reading LGBT community when they needed them?

    So which groups would benefit from SupportU?

    There’s BeYou which is a very successful helpline for LGBT issues but they only have a cupboard to use once a week to work from. This could be expanded for them with more resources for no extra cost.

    You all know Reading Pride – probably one of the most successful community festivals thats held in Reading. Unlike other council funded equality charites, it’s run by unpaid volunteers. Like other LGBT groups it could do with a home to have somewhere for simple things like recieve post.

    It’s time to accept there is a need and always has been, to help the LGBT community here in Reading and show that this town, NO, THIS CITY, does actually mean it when we say when it we are diverse. I therefore ask Council to consider this petition and support us at SupportU to support the LGBT members of our community

    Lorna received a round of applause for her speech and a reply given by Bette Tickner confirming Reading Borough Councils commitment to LGBT equality and reminding the council that similar projects have been supported by RBC.

    The motion presented by Cllr Tim Harris was brought forward and support was received by all parties in attendance. Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Daisy Benson said:

    “ I would like to thank Lorna Mcardle Chair of Reading Pride for the work she and others including have done behind the scenes on taking these ideas forward
    “We in Reading value our diversity. It is therefore important that we value diversity in all its forms and make everyone feel they are welcome in Reading.”

    As a LGBT campaigner, I feel passionate about equality and I was where pleased to see unanimous support for the SupportU project. I look forward to seeing this centres progress.

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    Yesterday I learnt that Lorna McArdle, chair of the Reading Pride charity, is to present a petition to Reading Borough Council that reads:

    We the undersigned believe that the residents of Reading would significantly benefit from a LGBT support centre in the town centre open at accessible times to provide health, relationship, employment and legal advice and offer counselling and other services.

    We call on Reading Borough Council to acknowledge this need and offer genuine assistance to establish and maintain an LGBT centre within Reading.

    There is currently a paper petition and an e-petition which can be found at http://www.supportu.net/survey/index.php?sid=15698.

    A motion is also tabled by Cllr Tim Harris that reads as follows:

    SUPPORT CENTRE FOR LGBT COMMUNITY

    Councillor Harris to move:

    “This council believes that the residents of Reading would significantly benefit from a support centre in the town centre open at accessible times to provide specialist services such as health, relationship, employment and legal advice and to offer counselling and other services to the LGBT community.

    This Council undertakes to provide genuine assistance with accommodation and £10k in start up costs for “Support U” to establish such a centre which once instigated should be self-financing and run by local LGBT community members.

    Both the petition and motion are to be presented at a council meeting on Tuesday 18th October 2011.

    I’m pledging my support for this centre for a number of reasons. I make no secret of my sexuality or the way it has been used against me in the past. It was the recent homophobia that I encountered that encouraged me to launch the OK 2B GAY campaign in Reading. The SupportU centre will provide a central base for Reading LGBT groups and organisations and most have received little or no funding from Reading Borough Council who have historically allocated higher funding to organisations that represent religious or racial groups rather than those discriminated against because of sexuality. Some organisations have even had funding decisions reversed by the new administration and there is speculation that this happened after a particular organisation was seen supporting a political group canvassing in the Redlands Ward of Reading!

    That aside, Reading Borough Council does not do very much for the LGBT community. There are committees that represent Ethnic Minorities and religious groups and yet there are none established for the LGBT Community. I have raised this with Reading Borough Council but have never received a reply as to why.

    SupportU aims to provide the following services:

    Family help groups
    Drop in days and nights for the family unit to discuss issues arising from children and/or grandchildren being in same sex relationships.

    Gay parents advice, people needing advice regarding access to their children due to their sexuality and conflicts within the family unit.

    Transvestite Groups and Transsexual Groups
    A relaxed meeting place for those seeking advice for changing sex or cross-dressing. This will be run by people already going through the process or considering it with guests from the NHS or private hospitals. With the inclusion of a hairdresser on the premises it will not just give TS and TV’s a safe place to feel welcome to get their hair done, it would also alleviate the fear of discrimination and intimidation.

    20-25 group
    A social club for the over 19′s so they can meet others in a safe place. This will also be in association with local LGBT venues.

    Educational Services
    Classes in the arts, literature writing, dance, theatre and other recreational activities.

    3rd Party reporting
    Support U have had confirmation that Thames Valley Police would use the facilities as a 3rd party reporting centre.

    They also wish to house the following services within the centre:

    BeYou – Helpline – They would be looking at supporting and improving the service as they have seen a 40% increase of calls in the past year.

    BOLGaF – Berkshire Older Lesbian, Gay Forum
    A social group for the older generation to meet up and support

    Reading Pride – An organisation that provides an annual festival to celebrate acceptance

    Broken Rainbow – Domestic Violence help for same sex couples

    Kenric – A social group for lesbians

    Gay Berkshire – This group is made of a network of governing and voluntary organisations regarding Housing issues, Police advice, NHS advice and support, and voluntary help organisations.

    NHS – advice and support

    TVPS – An informal HIV advice provider for the Berkshire area.

    LGBT Disability Network – A social network for the disabled that are LGBT

    Albert Kennedy Trust – working with 16-25 year old lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people who are homeless or live in a hostile environment

    Plus:
    Support U would provide a referral service to other local businesses to assist the community with enquiries relating to services that the charity doesn’t provide directly. Some of the examples of these are:

    Council – Benefits and social housing advice.
    Solicitors and Lawyers – Offering a business opportunity for solicitors to advise on Civil Partnerships, Wills, and Gay Fathers or Mothers Advice, people needing access to their children due to sexuality.
    Job Agencies – Offering advice on CV writing and how to approach looking for a job.
    TVPS – HIV testing and advice
    Unions – offering union representation and advice
    Doctors
    IVF Clinics
    Fostering Services
    Faith provisions

    As you can see, these are very much needed services that are needed by the LGBT community that also compliments services that are being cut and I hope you will show your support by signing the petition above and coming to the Civic Centre in Reading on Tuesday.

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    September 6th, 2011jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, gay, homophobia, it gets better, lgbt, lib dems

    20110906-155748.jpgAs a member of Reading Lib Dems, I was proud to join them on the Reading Pride parade this saturday to demonstrate the parties commitment to equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Every main political party in Reading was represented on the parade and all exhibited on site at Kings Meadow Park.

    I was extremely pleased to have the opportunity to launch the OK 2B GAY campaign which is a campaign to support Reading’s youth so they know it’s ok to be gay. Video messages of support were recorded and can be found at www.ok2bgay.co.uk.

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    August 19th, 2011jamiewakerdglgbt
    Well, who would have thought that so much could happen in two weeks.  Having had to plan a holiday that fitted around a potential tupe transfer at workand the availability of our dog sitter, neither of which fitted in with our cruise plans, we decided to spend some time in Bulgarian where my parents live.
    We spent the first two days in Sunny Beach so we could say that we had been to the beach to enjoy the nightlife.  We discovered a resort that resembled San Antonio!  We did, however, find the only gay bar in the area!
    Having experienced two days of lively teenagers who wanted to drink as much as they could, being as louds as they could and wearing as little as they could, we were then collected by my parents and driven into the mountains to stay at their home.
    We were wrong to presume that this part of our holiday would be the relaxing part!  My parents have lived here for a number of years and many other British people now do and every day seems to have non stop activities, events and things to do.  We were very kindly invited to a pool party which was being hosted by two other British people.  What struck me, was the tight friendship that had grown amongst them all are many told us that they now have a better quality of life since coming to Bulgaria.  Many have also seemed to have got younger-well, acting younger anyway!  There seems to be no shortage of fun.  Everyone seems relaxed so I can see the appeal!
    By the magic of twitter, we learnt of the riots back home in the UK and like many, where shocked and appalled by the video and images we were seeing.  Subsequently, I have heard many people trying to determine blame.  What these young people have done is not a protest.  It is pure criminal activity that has killed innocent bystanders, destroyed businesses, homes and other properties.  They have announced that they have no money yet they have broken into shops to loot, leaving with flat screen televisions whilst wearing designer trainers, more jewelry than Mr. T, and communicating amongst themselves on the latest smart phones.  I fail to see how setting fire to furniture shops, vehicles, and bins is a protest.
    Many will disagree with me.  I’m fine with that.  I grew up with no money but I did not burn my hometown down!  I got a part time job in a shoe shop and life started for me from there.  I agree that there is a route cause to this behaviour but young people need to understand that with rights comes responsibilities.  I’m still trying to understand where their parents were?  Surely, most parents would wonder where their children are at that time of night?
    We had minor activity in Reading.  Most seemed to be on the outskirts of Whitley where a number of cars were overturned and set fire to.  Makro was also broken into.  These were simply copy cat incidents.  I believe that if someone is old enough to carry out a crime then they are old enough to be punished for that crime.  Simple.  I wait anxiously for what will happen next.
    Despite our worries about the riots, we have managed to see much of this region in Bulgaria.  Everyone seems friendly.  We were invited to another British couple’s home for a barbecue.  This was just before we were due to return to Sunny Beach to spend two more days before going home.  On this particular night, it rained and rained.  On arrival to my parents villa, I decided that I would stay dry by standing under the verandah whilst my partner spent a little time finding keys.  As I stepped up to the wet tiles in my leather soled shoes, I lost my footing and tumbled backwards on the heaped stones below.  Luckily, my head missed the edge of the verandah but my full body weight landed on my left arm.  I’m not ashamed to say that it was very painful and I may have screamed – a lot.  Somehow, my partner and my parents got me into the villa and then into the car to get me to an emergency hospital-which is where I am writing this now.  I have been here for over a week and have a compound fracture in my left arm and have had to have surgery to insert a titanium plate and some pins.  It will take some time for it to work as well as it did before.
    The doctors and nurses have treated us very well and we have had a ward to ourselves.  The Health System does seem different here and whilst many would think it to be primitive, I have not noticed much difference.  Yes there seems to be an emphases on efficiency rather than care, but as long as I heal nicely who am I to judge?
    Hopefully, I will be discharged tomorrow and then we’ll stay back at my mum’s villa until I need to come back to the hospital so that they can remove the stitches.  Then, will be able to arrange a fly home, when they agree that it would be safe to do so.  I of course hope to be home before this year’s Reading Pride festival.  Whilst I will not be able to wear one of my usual elaborate costumes, I hope to still attend and celebrate diversity within the Thames Valley.  As usual, we already seeing all of the main political parties expressing their support to the fight against discrimination.  It is such a shame that they only do this just before the pride festival in the hope to secure the gay electorates vote.  I’m gay all year round so why should these parties only remember us as of the reading community at this time of year?  The current local administration does not appear to support the reading pride charity like they do other organisation.  I note with interest, that the labour party have now set up a small blog to tell the reading electorate what they have done to support us members of society who happen to be gay, what they have done for us.  It is a shame that it contains inaccuracies.  As a LGBT campaigner, I chose the lib dems for the work and their record of fighting for equality.  Reading lib dems support my okay to be gay campaign and as of yet, I still await a response of support from all other political parties.  The fight against homophobia in reading needs to be a cross party effort and should not be used each August for political point scoring.  Please visit my campaign website at WWW.ok2bgay.co.uk and help me inform Readings’ community that it is OK to be Gay and for those teenagers who are finding it difficult come out to themselves as well as others, that it will get better in Reading.
    Even as members of the gay community, we have a responsibility to eliminate discrimination here in Reading.  I worry that the reasoning behind pride festivals has been lost.  Whilst it is nice to watch entertainment and enjoy a drink or two, there is an real reason why these festivals are occurring.  The gay rights movement is only a relatively new campaign for equality.  At the moment, we do not have full equality.  At times, I feel embarrassed to join the parade through the town centre shouting ogy ogy ogy and it is my sincere hope that we discover and retain the real reason reason we are still fighting against discrimination.   Whether we like it or not, pride is a political event by its very existence and needs to be treated as such to prevent ridicule.
    I know that my words may seem a little harsh, but I wish to see this successful event rediscovering its intention, its values and its necessity within the the reading events calendar before it becomes just another annual festival.  Knowing some of the organisers, I know that this should not happen.  All I ask is that we remember why we’re there.  There are still many countries where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death.  Let’s not forget that.  There are still teenagers committing suicide throughout the world ’cause they believe there is something wrong with them.  There are still members of the UK government that believe that homosexuality is wrong.  Let’s not forget that.  There are still religions that teach their homosexuality is a sin.  Let’s not forget that.  Whilst these views exist, there is a need for pride.  So and so whilst we educate reading, let’s educate ourselves.  By simple glance at the evening post website, shows some of the views and opinion held by commentators.  They do not understand the need for a parade, festival or protest.  They wonder where there hetrosexual pride is and why all they see is a number of men dressed roughly as women.  We need to tell them and let them have the opportunity to question the answers that they receive.  They can only learn if we teach them.  I believe that blatent is better than latent and that is why I will be disappointed not to be wearing my new rainbow covered metallic dress to this year’s festival.  I’m proud to be bgay and I’m prowled to be a lib dem.
    I hope to see you all when I finally return to the UK.

    Well, who would have thought that so much could happen in two weeks.  Having had to plan a holiday that fitted around a potential tupe transfer at workand the availability of our dog sitter, neither of which fitted in with our cruise plans, we decided to spend some time in Bulgarian where my parents live.

    We spent the first two days in Sunny Beach so we could say that we had been to the beach to enjoy the nightlife.  We discovered a resort that resembled San Antonio!  We did, however, find the only gay bar in the area!
    Having experienced two days of lively teenagers who wanted to drink as much as they could, being as louds as they could and wearing as little as they could, we were then collected by my parents and driven into the mountains to stay at their home.

    We were wrong to presume that this part of our holiday would be the relaxing part!  My parents have lived here for a number of years and many other British people now do and every day seems to have non stop activities, events and things to do.  We were very kindly invited to a pool party which was being hosted by two other British people.  What struck me, was the tight friendship that had grown amongst them all are many told us that they now have a better quality of life since coming to Bulgaria.  Many have also seemed to have got younger-well, acting younger anyway!  There seems to be no shortage of fun.  Everyone seems relaxed so I can see the appeal!

    By the magic of twitter, we learnt of the riots back home in the UK and like many, where shocked and appalled by the video and images we were seeing.  Subsequently, I have heard many people trying to determine blame.  What these young people have done is not a protest.  It is pure criminal activity that has killed innocent bystanders, destroyed businesses, homes and other properties.  They have announced that they have no money yet they have broken into shops to loot, leaving with flat screen televisions whilst wearing designer trainers, more jewelry than Mr. T, and communicating amongst themselves on the latest smart phones.  I fail to see how setting fire to furniture shops, vehicles, and bins is a protest.

    Many will disagree with me.  I’m fine with that.  I grew up with no money but I did not burn my hometown down!  I got a part time job in a shoe shop and life started for me from there.  I agree that there is a route cause to this behaviour but young people need to understand that with rights comes responsibilities.  I’m still trying to understand where their parents were?  Surely, most parents would wonder where their children are at that time of night?

    We had minor activity in Reading.  Most seemed to be on the outskirts of Whitley where a number of cars were overturned and set fire to.  Makro was also broken into.  These were simply copy cat incidents.  I believe that if someone is old enough to carry out a crime then they are old enough to be punished for that crime.  Simple.  I wait anxiously for what will happen next.

    Despite our worries about the riots, we have managed to see much of this region in Bulgaria.  Everyone seems friendly.  We were invited to another British couple’s home for a barbecue.  This was just before we were due to return to Sunny Beach to spend two more days before going home.  On this particular night, it rained and rained.  On arrival to my parents villa, I decided that I would stay dry by standing under the verandah whilst my partner spent a little time finding keys.  As I stepped up to the wet tiles in my leather soled shoes, I lost my footing and tumbled backwards on the heaped stones below.  Luckily, my head missed the edge of the verandah but my full body weight landed on my left arm.  I’m not ashamed to say that it was very painful and I may have screamed – a lot.  Somehow, my partner and my parents got me into the villa and then into the car to get me to an emergency hospital-which is where I am writing this now.  I have been here for over a week and have a compound fracture in my left arm and have had to have surgery to insert a titanium plate and some pins.  It will take some time for it to work as well as it did before.

    The doctors and nurses have treated us very well and we have had a ward to ourselves.  The Health System does seem different here and whilst many would think it to be primitive, I have not noticed many differences.  Yes there seems to be an emphases on efficiency rather than care, but as long as I heal nicely who am I to judge?

    Hopefully, I will be discharged tomorrow and then we’ll stay back at my mum’s villa until I need to come back to the hospital so that they can remove the stitches.  Then, will be able to arrange a fly home, when they agree that it would be safe to do so.  I of course hope to be home before this year’s Reading Pride festival.  Whilst I will not be able to wear one of my usual elaborate costumes, I hope to still attend and celebrate diversity within the Thames Valley.  As usual, we are already seeing all of the main political parties expressing their support to the fight against discrimination.  It is such a shame that they only do this just before the pride festival in the hope to secure the gay electorates vote.  I’m gay all year round so why should these parties only remember us as of the reading community at this time of year?  The current local administration does not appear to support the Reading Pride charity like they do other organisation.  I note with interest, that the Reading labour party have now set up a small blog to tell the reading electorate what they have done to support us members of society who happen to be gay and other things that they have done for us.  It is a shame that it contains inaccuracies.  As a LGBT campaigner, I chose the lib dems for the work and their record of fighting for equality.  Reading lib dems support my Ok 2B Gay campaign and as of yet, I still await a response of support from all other political parties.  The fight against homophobia in reading needs to be a cross party effort and should not be used each August for political point scoring.  Please visit my campaign website at www.ok2bgay.co.uk and helps inform readings community that it is OK to be Gay and for those teenagers who are finding it difficult come out to themselves as well as others, that it will get better in Reading.

    Even as members of the gay community, we have a responsibility to eliminate discrimination here in Reading.  I worry that the reasoning behind pride festivals has been lost.  Whilst it is nice to watch entertainment and enjoy a drink or two, there is an real reason why these festivals are occurring.  The gay rights movement is only a relatively new campaign for equality.  At the moment, we do not have full equality.  At times, I feel embarrassed to join the parade through the town centre shouting ogy ogy ogy, without a message or clear direction and it is my sincere hope that we discover and retain the real reason reason we are still fighting against discrimination.   Whether we like it or not, pride is a political event by its very existence and needs to be treated as such to prevent ridicule.

    I know that my words may seem a little harsh, but I wish to see this successful event rediscovering its intention, its values and its necessity within the the Reading events calendar before it becomes just another annual festival.  Knowing some of the organisers, I know that this should not happen.  All I ask is that we remember why we’re there.  There are still many countries where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death.  Let’s not forget that.  There are still teenagers committing suicide throughout the world ’cause they believe there is something wrong with them.  Let’s not forget that.  There are still members of the UK government that believe that homosexuality is wrong.  Let’s not forget that.  There are still religions that teach that homosexuality is a sin.  Let’s not forget that.  Whilst these views exist, there is a need for pride.  So whilst we educate Reading, let’s educate ourselves.  A simple glance at the evening post website, shows some of the views and opinion held by commentators.  They do not understand the need for a parade, festival or protest.  They wonder where there heterosexual pride is and why all they see is a number of men dressed roughly as women.  We need to tell them and let them have the opportunity to question the answers that they receive.  They can only learn if we teach them.  I believe that blatant is better than latent and that is why I will be disappointed not to be wearing my new rainbow covered metallic dress to this year’s festival.  I’m proud to be gay and I’m proud to be a lib dem.

    I hope to see you all when I finally return to the UK.

  • scissors
    June 23rd, 2011jamiewakerdggay, it gets better, jamie wake, lgbt, lib dems, stonewall

    Well visitors to my blog will know that I have been involved in fighting discrimination against LGBT people in Reading since I moved here.  I was involved with the Reading Pride Charity from its infancy and I continue to support their work.  I also support the work of Stonewall who recently have been filming well known LGBT people as well as politicians to lend their voice to the “It Gets Better…Today” campaign. 

    The High Profile Internet campaign was started in America by Dan Savage in response to the rise in suicides amongst LGBT Teenagers and just a quick youtube search will show you how many people internationally have recorded their piece to camera.  I was moved by some of the messages to young gay and lesbian teenagers so I recorded my own piece in the hope that we can reassure young LGBT people that it gets better today.

    I have also set up a Facebook group and am currently approaching Group Leaders of Political Parties and infuencial people in Reading to record their own messages of support for young LGBT people in Reading. 

    Here is my youtube video:

  • scissors
    May 30th, 2011jamiewakerdglgbt

    Well I haven’t managed to put a blog entry together since the local election.  Not, as some have suggested, because I’ve given up on making a difference in Whitley but because work is extremely busy at the moment! 

    Unless you’ve been away with no connection to the outside world, you’ll know that there’s been a number of changes here in Reading with Labour winning a number of seats on the council and by using the mayor to their advantage have forming a minority administration.  I won’t go into details as a number of blogs already give an account of this and I made a promise when standing in the election that I wouldn’t waste my time attacking other people.  That said though, I would be doing a disservice to the gay community here in Reading if I didn’t comment on some of the dog-whistle tactics reported as being used in this years local election to promote homophobia.  For those like me who are new to politics, Dog-Whistle politics is a term used for a type of political campaigning or speech which uses coded language to mean one thing to most people but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted group of people.

    Although it has been mentioned on a number of peoples blogs, I deliberately chose not to comment for one very simple reason – this practise was aimed at me.

    Now, I have never shied away from my sexuality – I have always been honest about who I am, my past and my future plans.  I was fortunate to be one of the founders of the Reading Pride Festival and used my cabaret persona, Sue Panover, as a vehicle to promote the event in order to eliminate discrimination within Reading and the Thames Valley.  Whilst I am no longer on the Pride Committee, I continue to support the festival and in fact my other half remains a Trustee of the Charity.

    I’m not going to point fingers but I can give one or two facts.

    1.  Someone knocked on the door of a person I know and whilst talking, they were asked if they realised that the Lib Dem Candidate was gay.  The person refuses to tell me which party knocked on their door.
    2.  Whilst delivering in Whitley, a resident informed me that she had something through the door and ‘knew all about me’ and showed me a limp wrist.  Rather meekly and embarrassed, I just turned away.
    3.  On two separate occasions, I have caught a taxi home and been told that the Lib Dem Candidate was gay.  On both occasions I found myself being unable to pass comment. 
    4.  There were also comments made about me on the Get Reading website which gave web links to one of my Drag websites.  The interesting fact is that the URL used was one that pointed from my personal facebook page which also has privacy settings.  Needless to say, I removed all political contacts from my friends to prevent further leakage.

    I really hope that the new Reading administration also consider giving money to a charity such as Reading Pride who continually fight for Equality – just like we have charities in Reading that fight for racial equality.  Whilst the Reading Council for Racial Equality had their funding changed by the last council administration, I am am certain that their assistance campaigning in the Redlands Ward would see that decision revoked.  I would love to see an organisation that represents equality for all and fights discrimination in all its forms in Reading.  That to me would be a far more sensible use of funding. 

    One thing that has not been clear to me though, is why someone or some people feel that an individuals sexuality should be used against them?  It’s not as if I’m the first gay person in Reading to be woken politically.  Let’s face it, I wouldn’t have been the only queen in the council chambers if I had been elected, would I? 

    I found a video of me yesterday that was taken a few weeks after I ‘came out’ (on youtube called ‘me first gay second’) and it reminded me of how I felt at the time in having to face up to a part of myself whilst living in a rough town where gay bashing was all the rage.  Watching it back, I realised how far society has come in it’s acceptance for anyone who maybe considered different, and I would hate to see us return to days like that here in Reading.  It was this fear that has given me the motivation and courage to first comment on the election antics and second, start putting a plan together where we can all fight discrimination here in Reading.

    So to those people out there who feel it’s acceptable to use sexuality as a way to put people down, I’m still proud to be gay and I’m still proud to be a member of the Lib Dems – an accepting party with an outstanding record on fighting discrimination – in Reading and throughout the UK.  They’ve always been there and always will.

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