Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
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    January 5th, 2013jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, equal marriage, gay, homophobia

    As many people know, I’ve been pestering our local MP’s here in Reading about their stance on Equal Marriage for LGBT people and whether they would be supporting equality for their LGBT constituents.  For a year I’ve been tweeting Rob Wilson without response which I’m assured is nothing unusual and even through the Reading Pride twitter account we only received a letter TO Rob Wilson from Prime minister David Cameron confirming his commitment but still failed to give an indication as to how Rob would vote when he does with his conscience as all Torys will be doing when the time comes – dangerous considering how many people within the Tory’s hold what I would consider bigoted views.

    None of the other political parties are any better mind you.  Both Labour and the Lib Dems are no longer whipping their MP’s.  Labour’s shadow cabinet did a U-turn on 10th December on this matter allowing Labour MP’s to also vote with their conscience and according to Owen Jones in the Independent this U-turn was not proposed on a matter of principle but largely because 3 shadow ministers (including Stephen Timms and Gavin Shuker) had threatened to resign.  According to Owen, 3 Shadow Cabinet ministers – Angela Eagle, Stephen Twigg (both gay) and deputy leader Harriet Harman had argued passionately in favour of maintaining the line.  Suprising since Labour’s vote on the repeal of section 28 was a whipped vote.  The Lib Dems also followed suit offering their MP’s a free vote.  Nick Clegg criticised David Cameron for allowing a free vote but then announced that a whipped vote would not be very liberal.  I won’t waste my time even mentioning UKIP.  In my opinion, this decision by all party leaders was the wrong one.

    rob-wilson-response-equal-marriageBack in Reading, Rob Wilson finally responded – not to me – but to another tweeter.  I love the fact that he said everyone is getting the same response – sorry, Rob but you had failed to respond to me and Reading Pride.  As you can see from the short exchange to the left, Rob Wilson wants to hold local meetings about it!  Why Rob?  You either agree with Equality or you don’t.  It’s that simple!  Replace the word gay with words such as disabled or Asian and we would not behaving this conversation.  Then again, if we look at the public whip website, they record Rob Wilson as voting very strongly against equal gay rights.  Tim Harris once told me that this record is wrong or misunderstood and I have waited for an explanation.  Perhaps, Rob may change these statistics if he votes in support of equal marriage for LGBT people?  Then again….

    I also wrote a letter to MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma following comments he made in an interview to the Reading Chronicle.  I wanted clarity on how he intended to vote as his comments seemed to suggest that he places religion over equality.  I wrote the following on 17th December 2012:

    “…Dear Alok Sharma,

    I am writing to you following your recent quotes in the Reading Chronicle about Equal Marriage for people who identify themselves as LGBT.  For your reference, you are quoted as saying:

    “In many respects civil partnerships are recognised by the legal system in the same manner as civil marriage and the introduction of same-sex marriage would therefore not, in my view, amount to a revolution in the law.

    “However, I will never vote for legislation which forces religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages and I will seek guarantees on this point from the Government.”

    I was wondering if you can help clarify what you are saying? As you will recall, I have written to you twice with regards to equality for LGBT people with my last letter asking if you will be supporting the thousands of people in West Reading who are LGBT to obtain same-sex marriage and therefore equality – your previous letter did not confirm how you will be voting when you vote with your ‘conscience’ of offer any reassurances to I or other LGBT people  in West reading of your commitment to equality for all of our many diverse communities.  Please can you confirm that you are not going to ignore a number of constituents?

    Please note that Civil Partnerships are not recognised as civil marriage otherwise they would be called marriage, would they not? Could you also explain how you priorities equalities – ie Religious freedom over marriage equality?

    As you can appreciate, I can choose to follow a faith but I do not have a choice over my sexuality and I have found your quotes in the paper to be insensitive to people, like myself, who have persecuted by society.

    Imagine changing the word gay and replacing it with the word disabled or the colour of an individuals skin? Whilst this sort of discrimination was widespread many years ago, I am pleased to see it is no longer acceptable and I hope the discrimination that LGBT people continue to receive becomes no longer acceptable either.

    I will be watching this debate very closely and see how elected representatives such as yourself and Rob Wilson represent your LGBT constituents.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jamie Wake…”

    response-from-alok-sharma-equal-marriageUnlike Rob Wilson, Alok Sharma responds very quickly (I had to wait a number of months before Rob replied to my email about the OK2BGAY campaign – mind you, neither MP’s pledged their support for it) and I received a letter on 20th December.  You can read it in its entirety to the left.

    Sadly, Alok didn’t confirm his support for his LGBT constituents in the same way that he confirmed his support faith-based organisations in Reading but says he is minded to support marriage equality if he receives a cast-iron guarantee that religious organisations aren’t discriminated against.    He won’t be making a final judgement until he has seen the detail of the legislation.  I wait patiently to see how he votes.

    Before any of my Tory friends jump on me, this blog piece is not about reinforcing the view that the Tory’s remain the nasty party – that’s a stigma you have to remove yourselves.  It’s also not an attack on any other party as I also don’t believe any political party has come out looking well in this whole debate.  My right to marriage should not be up for debate.  I beleive the church has come off even worse so – especially after the announcement of permitting Gay Bishops and not Female Bishops.  Many faith-based organsations do want to perform marriage for same-sex couples.

    Like anyone that campaigns for LGBT equality, I will be watching this debate very closely and am in the process of launching the We Vote Too Campaign which will monitor and challenge those elected MP’s that fail to represent their LGBT constituents.  With some elections being won on such small margins, wouldn’t it be funny if the LGBT community was mobilised in such a way to vote to prevent the homophobe winning an election?  “…Vote for anyone but xxxxx…”

    Well there you are, my first blog post of 2013 and yes I know, I haven’t blogged for a while!  I’ll try to rectify that this year!

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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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    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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