Gareth Thomas has always been an incredible spokesperson for the gay community. As the first UK rugby player to come out as gay, Thomas has developed an unprecedented career as an activist for LGBT+ athletes and has tirelessly advocated for causes. Most recently he tackled homophobia in football by fighting to amend the 1991 Football Offences Act, which outlaws indecent or racist chants in football stadiums. However, he has now come out as HIV positive, a brave move that makes him the first major UK athlete to do so, to “break the stigma” of the condition. He suffered mentally over his diagnosis and considered suicide, contending “When you have a secret that other people know about it makes you really vulnerable towards them. And I just I felt like I had no control over my own life.” He stated, “When I first found out that I was going to have to live with HIV, the first thing I thought was straight away: I was going to die.” However, his health overall remains strong, and the weekend he came out Thomas even competed in an Ironman triathlon (finishing in a cool 12 hours and 18 minutes. Show off). So once again, Thomas has become an inspiring and powerful ambassador for our community.
Several members, including one of its founders, within the organisation Stonewall have left in the hopes of forming a splinter group that will oppose the Gender Recognition Act. In their public letter of announcement, the former members contend that “The government continues to treat Stonewall as if it represented the views of progressive thinking in general, and specifically LGB opinion. It does not… We believe it has made mistakes in its approach that undermine women’s sex-based rights and protections.” Anti-trans feminism is an increasing problem facing the community. TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) claim trans women unjustly enjoy the privilege cisgender women cannot, having previously lived as men. This move on the part of former Stonewall members is a troubling indication that the divisive attitudes of important organisations are becoming more prevalent, at a time when trans lives continue to be in danger. In response, Stonewall states that “Trans people are currently facing horrific levels of harassment and abuse in their daily lives. It’s a situation none of us should accept… History has shown that extending equality to one group does not negatively impact others; it in fact strengthens everyone’s equality.”
DUP LGBT+ MINISTER
In perplexing news, the DUP has its first elected LGBT+ minister. Yes, you read this correctly. Alison Bennington has won a seat on the Antrim and Newtonabbey Council in Northern Ireland’s local council election: surprising given the party’s profoundly offensive and archaic attitudes towards gay people. And yet the reaction within the party itself will not surprise you: MLA Jim Wells believes that Bennington’s election “fundamentally undermines the values and traditions of the party” and went as far as suggesting that Ian Paisley himself would be “aghast” at the news. Their reaction is, of course, repugnant. What is equally as frustrating is the way in which someone within the LGBT+ community is a member of the party in the first place. While there is always the possibility that such an election has the power to shift attitudes and policy within the party, it is disheartening that someone affected so directly by restrictive laws and anti-gay rhetoric would be there in the first place.
Hope is not lost for Irish LGBT+ citizens and allies, however, as The Simpsons are here to help. Okay, not The Simpsons themselves, rather ardent fans who are taking their liberal agenda to parliament. Ireland Simpsons Fans (ISF) found viral notoriety following a handful of years posting politically minded memes and interpretations of classic Simpsons references. The group is kicking things up a notch by launching their very own political party in a bid to represent those who do not see their liberal ideals and progressive attitudes in the major Irish parties. They are yet to register as a party officially but have already garnered support from their loyal fanbase. The cromulent group states “Landlords are eating you and everyone you care about. Insufficient bear tax has diminished the wild bear population. The rich click their tongues and destroy the climate. For years, we have used ‘Can’t someone else do it? ‘– and we are that someone else.” If you need help translating any part of this statement, you have a lot of homework to do. While they do not have an official manifesto outlined just yet, the ISF Party claims to be a “no TERF club” with a goal to “turn Ireland into the most progressive country in the world for trans rights,” which as we have already seen in this issue alone is somehow still not the top priority on many people’s lists. Who knows how far it will go but remember: a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.
JONATHAN VAN NESS
I adore Jonathan Van Ness, and not simply because I too am an effeminate Jonathan. He is one fifth of the mind-numbingly adorable Queer Eye set, Gay of Thrones aficionado and a gymnastics/figure skating enthusiast. Above all these things, however, he is a glowing representation of the joy and inclusion our community can strive to be. Of late, he has made some bold and brave admissions – his non-binary identity, substance abuse issues and childhood sexual abuse – but his revelation of his HIV status is particularly meaningful. Talking to the Guardian to promote his book Over the Top, JVN states “Part of that for me is to process what’s happened, but the bigger part is that I wanted to do something to move the conversation forward in a meaningful way around HIV/Aids, and what it is to live with HIV, and to humanise and normalise a lot of the things I talk about.” Whether he is trying his hand at stand up on an international tour, pursuing his passion for gymnastics as an adult or revealing so much from his bruised, vulnerable past, Jonathan Van Ness is the epitome of queer liberation we should strive to emulate. And I have taken his skincare advice to heart in a way I consider life altering.