Embracing meaningful art and learning from it!

After a few days in London taking in the sites and doing a little business I spent the day at the Tate Modern. This was a place I had heard mix reports from, however, I’m the sort of person who doesn’t go on other people’s opinion, and will instead make up my own mind with the least amount of expectation possible.

Link: Tate Modern https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

As it turns out, I ended up spending most of the day there.

One exhibit that got my attention was by an artist from Beirut, a war-torn city from the past. The artist was clearly affected by the war as a younger man and clearly affected by one particular building in the centre. Before the war devasted the city, an office block was under construction. Due to the war, it was never completed, and because of its location, it was used as a “crows nest” for snippers. Following the devastation of the war that had occurred in the city, the government believed the building would be too costly to tear down, so instead they simply left it and over time it gradually became an unofficial monument to the war in some people’s eyes.

Below: Marian Rechmaoui impression of the tower block in Beruit.

I followed the exhibit to a video of the artist speaking about his work. Something he said resonated with me. He stated how the older generations view the building as a monument to the war. The young view it with no importance. It has no meaning to them, it has no purpose, due to the young not having lived through the horrors of the war in the city.

Marian Rechmaoui

It resonated with me because I often feel that in regards to the domestic fight for LGBT+ rights here in the uk and similar fights elsewhere in the world, the LGBT+ uprising in the 80s against section 28 and other indescrimate legistratration in the UK. The riot in New York in the 60s that led to the pride movement. Partial decriminalisation in 1967 in the UK that led to similar laws in other Commonwealth states, easing the way to fight for more equal rights over the decades. The list goes on and much further back in time.

Are these events that shaped older generations too easy to forget? It may certainly be easy to not to have that emotional connection over time with younger generations.

Pondering this, I left the Tate and made my way over the Millennium Bridge. As I was crossing, I began talking to this lovely lady with three young kids – around 8, 4 and 3 years old. The oldest was getting excited because he wanted to see “CHEWING GUM MAN!”. You could see in the eyes of the 8 year old this man was special to him, almost with a superhero status.

Below: The view from the millennium bridge in London.

My clear confusion led the mother to explain to me that he wasn’t a superhero after all, but in fact, an artist. Every few days this man would go on the Millennium Bridge and find chewing gum that people had dropped, then use them as his canvas. Each gum dropping had a unique look, and he respected that in his work. He had come up with a way of exercising his creativity and making a better world to live in.

He turned something negative into something positive. He hadn’t gone out there to protest about people dropping gum on the bridge, but he added something pleasurable to the bridge. Let’s be frank, if he made one person happy, one small boy excited, he had done a great job.

Link: More about The Chewing gum man….. https://inspiringcity.com/2014/04/18/the-chewing-gum-man-paints-a-trail-of-400-mini-artworks-on-the-millenium-bridge/

Later, I met a friend in Soho and I ventured to The Admiral Duncan – a classic British pub. Sadly, the pub was the scene of a nail bomb in 1998 by a Nazi right-wing extremist. However, after the clean-up from the attack, it was opened in defiance of the hatred toward the LGBT+ Community.

Above: Admiral Duncan plauqe remembering the bombing in 1999

Link: https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/bars/the-admiral-duncan-a3696551.html

Looking on the wall outside the pub there is a plaque to mark the bomb attack, and inside a piece of beautiful art in the form of a light decoration discretely hanging from the ceiling. Monuments – or memorials – to remind us of the past. Without the emotional memories, the ones that you feel in your gut, it becomes nothing but history, nothing of real connection to the loss. That is, if we are not vigilant in keeping it alive. When we talk about historic LGBT+ issues or for that matter any minorities issues those not within the Community may say “stop playing victims”, because they’ve not experienced what the Community has historically – and still does in some parts of the world.

Without showing others the past, soon we forget, and soon someone is potentially the poor victim once more, and we don’t learn from the past at all. Just like the superhero, the chewing gum man, who used the canvas of the gum to create something meaningful, we need to reach out to the past, embrace it, and learn from it in order to truly move on with no reprisals.

Don’t judge the old for showing us the memorials of a bygone time, but learn from them, and don’t judge the young for not understanding the memorials’ true meaning, instead teach them in ways such as the chewing gum man teaches us. Simple but effective ways.

Written by Darren Maples.

Edited by Tom Wiese.

Interview with a writer.

Thanks for doing this interview with me. Could you tell me about yourself?

Thank you so much Darren for having me, I am honoured to be featured. Okay! I am Salman Aziz a.k.a. AKA$H. In 2014, a fan stylised it from my nickname Akash, for my artistic short symbolic film Bloody Dark Dream.

I am a writer, indie filmmaker, artist, model, and entertainer. I am from Bangladesh. I’ve completed my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering this year.

From 2008 – 2010 I modelled for R.M. Fashion House in Bangladesh, and am also known for my realistic blogs. Also, this year I debuted as an author for my first book 6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story.

How do you identify yourself?
It’s hard to say. But if you want to know about my writing part then I must say that I’ve started my writing journey since I was so young. I was only 8 years old in that time. At first, I wrote my things like poems and short stories in my native language Bengali which published in our local newspapers and school magazines. When I was almost 11 years old, I began to write in English. My home tutor helped me a lot to develop myself. And if you want to know about my filmmaking thing then it’s a natural. I’ve never had academic experience on film. I just tried, and it happened. But most of all I like to identify me as an artist. Cause in this way I can create something very unique than other. It can be any words or visual things or vocal or may be some other stuff.
I’m aware you live in Bangladesh, tell me about life out there in general and the hardships faced by the LGBTIQ+ Community.

Honestly, it’s a nightmare! I can’t say anything about it. If I say anything, then I can be killed like Xulhaz Mannan, or may be put into the jail, or may be exiled like Taslima Nasrin. But one thing I must – and should say – is that we shouldn’t label the people by something else.
We should keep it mind that we all are human and we all have freedom to live our own life. In general, living in Bangladesh is tough, because Bangladesh is a developing country and still poor. Here getting a job is so tough, and sometimes people take advantage of the weaker people. Here you can’t be anything you want to be. But at the same time, one thing I must include is that in here we can still find some good people who are really helpful and kind to others. That’s all I can say!

I understand that you have just published your first novel. Can you tell me what inspired you to write?

Yes, this year I published my first book. Actually, my inspiration comes from nature, and real events that are happening around us like suicide, rape, child molestation, social injustice etc. I always wanted to be a realistic writer in a non-fictional way. But at a certain point I realised that I want to tell the real things in an artistic way, so I must go about it in a fictional way to create something. So, this is my first fictional book.
In my blogs, I always try to show the injustices happening around the world, and try to fight for some justice through my words. My motivation is to help make the world peaceful through unity, love and equality. I always try to influence people through my works to do good, be nice, and helpful to all.
How do you think novelists from different cultures globally influence the wider LGBTIQ+ Community?

I think each novelist is different. They always try to show things through their own words. They do so to influence people. In this era through the Internet we all are connected across a global level. So in this way we can all share our own thoughts, opinions, and so many other things.
You know that love is blind. Love can happen to anyone or anything. It doesn’t vary on gender or culture or religious ties, or something else. If a person loves someone by his / her heart, then I don’t find any problem with that! They deserve to live happily together, and in this matter same gender love or different gender love really shouldn’t matter.

Briefly explain what the novel is about?

My first book is based on the real event of teen suicide. The story focusses on a Bangladeshi teenage boy named Aabrar Rahman who killed himself by overdosing on sleeping pills. He used to write everything in his diary before his suicide, but it goes missing, and so the reason behind his suicide remains a mystery.
The story reflects on how Aabrar killed himself, and how the things went so wrong, when even his parent knew it. And some people took advantage of his death, and so many interesting things happened. In this book all the characters are fictional, but the story it is based on is true.
I chose this kind of story because I want to raise public awareness on teen suicide. Because we can see that around us there are so many teenagers who are suffering from depression and mental illnesses that many people don’t try to understand. When depression gets too much, a person tries to take own life to get rid of the thoughts.
Through this story I wanted to express it in a way that could raise awareness. The story is suspenseful and is just the beginning of a multi-part story that will unravel the mystery behind his suicide.

Thank you for doing this interview with me is there an inspiring message you would like to share with our followers.

Thank you also! I would love to share.

Always remember that after heavy rain and storms, the sunshine will show! So never lose your courage, and do good work that motivates other people to do good also. Be yourself! Be nice to all! Be helpful to all! Learn to love by your heart and teach other people also! And make the world peaceful with unity, love, and equality.

I also want to dedicate some of my special quotes for the followers:

  • “People see what they want to see. People say what they like to say. People hear what they always try to listen. People always in busy to put you down or break you down. They won’t give you the courage to go ahead. They always after you and try their best to end you. But never give up. Never let yourself down. You should and must keep it in your mind.”
  • “Outer beauty won’t remain forever, but inner beauty does. Don’t run after outer beauty. Because of it can be a huge mistake when you chose outer beauty instead of inner beauty. And that will leave you with regression. Only try to know and get the inner beauty of somebody or something. It will bring peace inside of you.”
  • “With too much ego, one can be a bitter person. But without that anyone can be better person.”
  • “Finding someone’s weakness only can make you strongest in the earth but not inside you. And someday you can be in the worst situation when someone found your biggest weakness. That day you will be left with regression. Nothing can change back!”

Thank you once again for having me. All the greatest wishes to all!
Buy your copy of Salman Aziz debut work:

6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story is published by Smashwords Publishing.

The book is available on all online retailers and online book shops. Price $0.99 (e-book only)

Learn more:

To find out more about Salman Aziz and 6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story, please visithttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/737406 to read his Author Biography.

To follow the author:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OfficialMrAkash

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMrAkash/

Instagram-https://www.instagram.com/OfficialMrAkash/

IMDb-http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8857432/

Blog- https://officialmrakash.blogspot.com/

Google+-https://plus.google.com/+AKASHOfficial

6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story

6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story is the debut short story by Bangladesh based writer Salman Aziz, who goes by the name AKA$H. The short story is a prequel to a yet to be published novel that simply wets the appetite for future servings of Aziz creative streak.

Above: Salman Aziz

The story is based on real life events in Bangladesh surrounding the tragic suicide of a teenage boy. Aabrar Rahman: Aabrar tragically took his own life with an overdose of sleeping pills, which on the surface appeared to be a desperate attempt to ease his pain and depression. The wider reason for his suicide remains unknown because his personal diary was lost by the irresponsibility of the investigating police, leaving a dark web of unanswered questions.

The story details how Aabrar killed himself and how things went badly wrong as the truth is realised by his own family that he leaves behind. Disturbingly, some people took advantage of his death and so many interesting things slowly begin to unravel.

Although the story is based on true life events the characters are totally fictional and yet Salman Aziz has created a fantastic dark thriller that will keep you hoping for more from a talented mind.

 

 

Soon to come: full interview with Salman Aziz

Buy your copy:

6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story is published by Smashwords Publishing.

The book is available on all online retailers and online book shops. Price $0.99 (e-book only)

 

Learn more:

To find out more about Salman Aziz and 6th September: A Very Unknown Mysterious Story, please visithttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/737406 to read his Author Biography.

 

To follow the author:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OfficialMrAkash

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMrAkash/

Instagram-https://www.instagram.com/OfficialMrAkash/

IMDb-http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8857432/

Blog- https://officialmrakash.blogspot.com/

Google+-https://plus.google.com/+AKASHOfficial

Nigeria human rights, reflective poetry & the thoughts of a Nigerian gay male. 

By @Akpa_Arinze

In 2009, a Ugandan MP, David Bahati, drafted a bill named Kill the Gays. In late 2013, this was called the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, and was passed as law in parliament. This Act changed the previously held “imprisonment” sentence, to the death penalty. In 2014, the Nigerian government also criminalised homosexuality, and many other African nations took it upon themselves to follow in the footsteps of these two countries.

I was in the undergrad school for my BA and was also facing labelling. Some of my mates (male colleagues) took it as fun to say “He behaves like a woman – he is gay”.

Because of the tension in the country during this period, there was no gay person I knew that was ever “so gay” (going with people’s views on who is gay, and who is not). Every one of them went into hiding. Many took to fake lifestyles, pretending to be who they were not. Society became vigilant. Everyone seen acting as the law stipulated was caught and sanctioned. To be gay in Nigeria within this period was to be stoned, ridiculed, brutalised, or beheaded.

During this time, I sought comfort in several works of poetry. I loved the work of Jericho Brown, Francine J. Harris, Kaveh Akbar, June Jordan, Danez Smith, Roxanne Gay and Ocean Vuong. I admired their courage in the documentation of the “goings-on” of the society – the hostile attitudes towards gays and transgender, or any member of the ‘Rainbow Family’.

The want or need to belong drives people to social places. It can also drive gay men to clubs – though some of these clubs are hidden in Nigeria. I witnessed the death of friend when police raided one such club. I then came across this poem by Danez Smith – The 17-Year-Old & The Gay Bar:

this gin-heavy heaven, blessed ground to think gay & mean we.

bless the fake id & the bouncer who knew

this need to be needed, to belong, to know how

a man taste full on vodka & free of sin.

At once, I thought of all the things the gays I know in Nigeria do to stay hidden and be who they are – everything that had backlashed – that had claimed their lives in the process. All of this, because someone somewhere thinks that homosexuality is “sin”, but whose definition are we using? Words given meaning by fellow human? Like the way “heterosexual” formerly meant “perv”?

As a child, I fancied my sisters’ clothes – I’d never wear any clothes but theirs. I’d walk in my mother’s shoes, tied her head scarf, and paraded myself in the village as a grown woman. Other times relatives mistook me as a new person in the family and would ask my mum when she gave birth to another girl. Other times too, I’d be caught and made to remove the attire. It was fun for a child of eight through twelve, but then I was sent to a high school that was bent on instilling morals into young ones by threatening the students with hell.

Bring back to life the son
Who glories in the sin
Of immediacy, calling it love.
God, save the man whose arm
Like an angel’s invisible wing
May fly backward in fury
Whether or not his son stands near.
Help me hold in place my blazing jaw
As I think to say, excuse me.

Jericho Brown’s poem (above), Prayer of the Backhanded, makes me weep every time I read it. It haunts me as I try decoding the meaning of every figure of speech encountered. What prayer is the next gay man facing execution saying? How does God approach it? I know the things that will kill a man like me (either in Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe or any other country of the world criminalising LGBTQIA+) – this thought alone makes me sweat.

I grew up in a religious home, which meant that every one of my footsteps must be ordered in the way of Jesus, as written in the Bible, but not as he might have lived the said life. I have found myself in arguments about whether gays are God’s children or not. I’d shriek and shriek to no end sometimes.

…men when they cannot change anything

Jet themselves indoors and feed on what is left

Of a magic mushroom and watch the world dance

Like a bereaved widow –

Before I had the courage to choose who I was, people already defined it for me – the sexuality question was all over me. I saw myself fighting this often in my teens and finally, in my current 20s. In Nigeria, you are either gay or straight, no one knows of pansexuals, bisexuals, transgender, intersex, asexuals, etc. No one cared, everyone who is conceived of not being straight is bundled and thrown into this “gay” frame, and persecuted as expected. Families disown their children or wards or whatever. Anyone who comes out is reported to the police or sent to be stoned by the mob outside. I used to think I was asexual because I wanted to stay away from all of this. I like my life peaceful. I stayed this way for years before finally admitting that I am pansexual. Which leaves me explaining to people that “I am not so gay, neither am I so straight”. No one listened to that, so, I joined the other young Nigerian creatives to make some people hear it, and keep hearing the story until everything is changed.

Everyone fights for something, but I don’t see myself fighting for anything – I’d lived six years of my life in denial and lying to myself. This, of course, led to excessive drinking and engaging. I had failing health, but I lived an unhealthy lifestyle. I stayed out with friends of all types to keep sane of whatever thing that was happening. This experience is better captured in:

Fellow young angels and I

Hallucinated upon Angel Dust –

We saw the world coming to an end

In 2013 before it ever did –

We all believed in the powers of resurrection –

Two angels leapt off the 3rdMainland Bridge

And now it is my turn to show the city of Lagos

How disco lights flicker

Every one of us – young as we were, had something to hide from, think about, and forget. So, some mornings, it wouldn’t be news whenever I heard any of my friends had died – I always knew the cause of death.

In 2016, I came online for the first time, to show my support to the loved ones of the victims of the Orlando Club shooting. With millions of people, I condemned the act and ever since have been active in the decriminalisation of gay people. We are all humans. Let love lead.

In 2017, a gay poet friend of mine won a Brunel Prize for Poetry, and young Nigerians took to the media to slander this award, and ever since, have targeted the LGBTQIA+ advocates. Another poet was kidnapped, another friend was shot, another in the police custody, another disappeared – me? My phones never stopped beeping with threats, and on three occasions, I was beaten with my devices confiscated and run over a motorcycle. Other times, hungry youths have come asking me for money, or else I’d be reported for supporting gays.

This is the Nigeria I live in. This is not the Nigeria we want, or the future we dreamed. My poems, or that of the poets I mentioned earlier may not do that much, but let them teach, as well as inspire people to embrace love. How much dead do you want to witness before you start accepting what you cannot change?

Interview with a Black American gay female musician. 

Recently I got the opportunity to talk to @BlackWolfBrass about her career, oppression as a black gay American and her life. 

Thanks for doing this interview with me. First of all tell me how you identify yourself, sexually or otherwise? 

I identify as gay. I’m gender-non conforming in presentation. I’m biologically female.

Every day is a new day – to experience something that you enjoy or dislike – and what you enjoy may change and that’s OK.

Tell me about being a musician and how you got involved with music.  

I started with piano lessons at the age of six. I had the opportunity to select an instrument in elementary school and my mother wanted me to play the violin. As a foolish child, at 10 I thought the violin was too ‘girly’, and my mother and I agreed upon the cello. However, in the back of my mind, when I first saw a trombone, I knew that’s what I wanted to play – despite my agreement with my mother.

When I went to school, on the day that we were to select our instruments, I went through the motions and said that I was going to play cello. I was fitted for a cello, and my instructor was excited that I was tall enough so that I could play a full size cello. But my instructor noticed that I was not excited and I was asked why. I said that I didn’t really want to play cello. My instructor asked, “What do you want to play?” and I said, “Trombone.” The look on my instructor’s face was one of surprise and to this day I still laugh thinking about it. My instructor took me to get a trombone and put me in the brass class rather than strings. I was completely ecstatic. When I came home with a trombone, my mother was disappointed that I went outside of our agreement. But, she let me play it and both of my parents made sure that I kept up with the instrument. When I got to middle school, which is when I really fell in love with music – when I really started to listen to what you can do with music. On summer breaks between grade years, I would miss the sound of students warming up before orchestra started. In middle school, that is when I decided that I would make my life about music.

Being a musician is hard yet is also one of the most rewarding experiences. I am drawn to things that I can I trust. Music never lies, only people. You get out of it what you put in.

The feelings that it arouses within – in my experiences in life are unparalleled. It’s a vehicle to voice your anger, your disdain, your love, your excitement, your soul and when you can share that with another in a music making experience, you reach a whole new level of communication that keeps you vying for more. When you get to share your musical creations with an engaged audience, you create a bridge – a direct path of communication that words are too limiting to adequately describe what you’re sharing. Generally speaking, I am a very technically concerned person. I have learned what I need to technically and I still continue to learn so that I may be able to express sensitive issues concretely. As a musician I get to allow what’s going on internally to be expressed externally. And that’s why I’m a musician.

Now as a musician, I use music as a vehicle to express the trials and tribulations that I have undergone to help me achieve my open, self-assured place that I think will be beneficial to others. I do this in my solo project called Black Wolf.

 

How can we as a society address oppression in minorities? 

It’s difficult to say because it’s an internal issue which people need to address and internally it’s different for everyone. Being open to being challenged and pulled outside of your comfort level is a start for everyone.

How can we address the lack of role models of diverse backgrounds and promote visibility of minorities as a society?

They are out there and they simply just need to be asked.

By speaking to these people with strong characters. And asking them to share their opinions and thoughts.

 

You have achieved so much but what would you like to achieve in the future? 

I have a lot more to accomplish as a musician, as an athlete competing as a bull rider, as a developer do I dare dream of combining them all?

My hope with my life is that I can help people see the bigger picture in themselves and in others. There is so much that we all have to share.

Above:  Myself pictured with Eddie Windsor who only recently passed last month. I was the recipient of the Eddie Windsor Coding Scholarship from the Lesbians who Teach Conference in NY, in 2016.

Thank you for doing this interview with me I always ask at the end what positive message would you like to give to my followers? 

You’re never going to change the world by being like everyone else. It’s not an easy trek, challenging the thoughts of people daily. Good things come to those who take the time to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. And learn what it is to respect yourself, and only when you can respect yourself can you respect others. I promise that it will be a difficult journey and respecting others is not going to be easy, but when you can good things will come, and bad things will come, and those bad things will be learning experiences that will make you stronger and those good things will be worth the effort.
Always set your  goals to be better. take the time to enjoy what you have when you have it, there is good in everything.

Follow on Facebook: @BlackWolkElectric

Follow main photographer on Facebook: @thecowgirlcamera

 

Remembering Matthew Shepard 

(December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998)

Mathew Shepard died on October 12th, 1998 at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado – six days after a homophobic attack that took place on October 6th, 1998 – and left to die at Laramie, with heavy brain injuries in Wyoming, U.S.A. His injuries were so severe that the gentleman who discovered Sheppard mistook him for a Scarecrow at first glance.

No one should ever suffer at the hands of another human being in such a horrific way, despite anyone’s own personal beliefs. His tragic murder serves to remind us of the importance of tolerance, acceptance and equality for everyone.

The event shook America and the world.

Fred Phelps showing his hatred towards the LGBTcommunity at Mathew’s funeral.

Sadly, some Christian groups thought it was appropriate to protest at the funeral of Shepard. Why some groups think that this is normal behaviour for Christians is beyond most people. All these protests did was show the world the importance of fighting against anti LGBT sentiment.

His murder brought international coverage and led to hate crime laws in many countries. On October 28th, 2009, President Obama signed legislation into U.S law. The act is called, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly known as the “Matthew Shepard Act” or “Shepard/Byrd Act” for short).

In 2010, a similar law was granted by the UK parliament which now protects many minorities – although campaigns are still running to include the addition of hate crimes against women.

Mathew Shepard’s parents have long campaigned for LGBT rights in order to honour their son’s life and aspirations. They set up the foundation to teach parents whose children who may be questioning their sexuality, to love and accept them for who they are. Something we all need to aspire to.

https://www.matthewshepard.org

Imagine the bravery of his parents to continue fighting for the rights of others after losing their son!

​Call me by my pronoun

By @_AlexandraClare



Pronouns are some of the most commonly-used words both in literature and conversation. They are defined as a word that replaces a noun, used to avoid repetition – I recommended a book to my friend because I thought she would enjoy it. We assimilate the sense without caring that the order of the elements described is then reversed and accept that ‘she’ means my friend and ‘it’ the book. In comparison to many languages, the English language does not assign genders to all words or demand that we identify by gender; my neighbour, my partner, even my dog all have no assumptions attached to them.

Once we start using pronouns however, we are quickly sucked into both stating gender but also being restricted to a choice of two. Where we can’t tell, say for pets, we use ‘it’ but this is not an appealing option for humans. There is a clear need for such a pronoun, even without considering the needs of trans and non-binary people. Where we do not know who has done something, we could say ‘someone left his or her book behind’ but we sound idiotic. In a 2015 article, Gary Nunn describes over a hundred attempts to come up with a simple gender-neutral pronoun spread over a hundred and fifty years. All have fizzled out because of either lack of adoption or because no one knows how to pronounce them.

Examples do exist of languages without gendered pronouns, including Turkish and Finnish. On that basis, the use of gender for pronouns is a matter of history and culture rather than necessary. As a writer, I care about this because I want to be able to write about all people in a fair and representative way. 

My belief is that the most practical solution proposed is to use ‘their’. A big advantage is that it passes the ‘sounds right’ test – someone left their book behind. Although this is the approach now used by The Economist, it is not universally supported. It infuriates grammarians by using a plural for a singular. It’s use has also attracted criticism from individuals within the trans community because the use of a neutral is considered misgendering where someone wishes to be identified as he or she.

 

My answer to this is that language evolves. He/ him used to be the universal term for referring to all people – who else had to sing ‘He who would valiant be?’ at school? We have mostly moved on from this, though many legal contracts still have the arcane introduction that where masculine is referred to, this includes feminine – gosh, thanks loads for including little old me. We have seen possible solutions of melded gender pronouns, though this only works for a binary world. The use of ‘they’ as a true gender-neutral is just a further evolution and one which should be relatively easy to adopt. Whether this becomes a staging-post on the way to a removal of gender from all references is an argument for tomorrow. Even though this is a problem where no single solution will please everyone, the benefits from an approach that is generally adopted will provide immediate benefits. A way to speak about all people equally should encourage equality of thought as well as the more mundane pleasure of being able to write simple sentences.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2015/jan/30/is-it-time-we-agreed-on-a-gender-neutral-singular-pronoun 

Follow Alex on twitter at @_AlexandraClare 

Alex Clare is the author of crime novels featuring trans woman detective DI Robyn Bailley.

​​​The Nigerian View on Pride. 

A part of a new series exploring lgbt issues in other countries. 

By @IMarkphilip

For Nigerians (or Africans), it can be difficult to understand the concept of LGBT pride as some western countries see it (for some it is like a religion). The governments here directly push us LGBT+ people down dark alleys and into hiding, and in these countries being gay is seen as a curse.
So then, why be proud?
Regardless of how society sees us it is of great importance that we at a certain point – or month as the case may be – get to celebrate who we are and what we stand for. But in the same way, it is saddening that most Nigerians misunderstand the concept of pride. Even more disappointing is the fact that most Nigerian LGBT+ people suffer from internalized homophobia, and they do not see the importance of understanding the concept of PRIDE.
But should they really be blamed? When they live in a world where it is shameful to be LGBT+. They are in sexual crisis, denial, depression and in a worst case scenario can be suicidal. According to a human right advocate, those in this circumstance are “getting to fight the core tenet of their belief system which entails disregarding almost everything they know and learnt while growing up”.
So what is Pride all about?
To commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, June was established as the official LGBT+ Pride month, but its significance and meaning to the community has since dramatically broadened. One of the most obvious elements of the Pride month include the events that are thrown in major cities all across various countries and continents. Pride events, which for short is called Pride, are the manifestation of our community’s obvious existence.
However, Pride is only visible in countries with LGBT+ (legal) protection, but to residents of Africa (except South Africa), and some parts of Asia and Europe, it is a bedtime story.

LGBT+ Pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence towards Gay men and women,  Bisexuals, Transgenders, and others under the Rainbow Flag, to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equal rights, increase their visibility as both a social and cultural group, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.
Pride as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT+ rights movements throughout the world.
To many Nigerians being different isn’t what they would ideally choose. I suppose it is a human’s first line of defence to try to move with the crowd. Face it, no one wants to purposely be different from the conventional ‘norm’ of society.
My initial concept of Pride was quite traumatic and disheartening. I saw Pride as an avenue to meet people and have a quick corner shag, then party afterwards. More disheartening is the fact that a bunch of ‘misfits’ had to match semi-nude and in speedos, this was my personal perception of Pride. A couple years after my first experience I realised that sex is an expression of sexuality, and a form of empowerment and choice, but I still failed to grasp the full concept of Pride.

Fast forward to the present and my concept of Pride evolved not because I had any formal lectures, but because of my personal research, and Hollywood inclusions. In the spirit of Pride, and due to my initial misconception of Pride 7 Shades of Us had the intention of sharing the views of a couple of my gay and straight friends whose identities would be kept a secret.

These questions were asked to them;
1. What do you understand by LGBT Pride?
2. Would you participate in a Pride Event?
Carter:
Q1 A day or period where people party hard, get laid and do all kinds of crazy stuff.
Q2 NO.
Odin:
Q1 It is one of the essential ways of promoting LGBT+ visibility. Reminds the world that we actually do indeed exist, and we here to stay. It is just like Black history month… A period to reflect on how far we’ve come as a community, and how far we are yet to attain.
Q2 Attending one in Nigeria would not be obtainable with the existing law, but sure, let’s see what the future holds.
Sira:
Q1 The day we celebrate who we are and what we stand for.
Q2 Depends on the country.
Pius:
Q1 People of the gay community publicly telling the world they are queer when it matters.
Q2 No.
Gray:
Q1 Bunch of people celebrating the fact that they are gay, but instead it is just an avenue to hook-up. Its purpose has been watered down to just sex, drugs and parties. I do not feel it is a freedom march any longer, but a sex walk.
Q2 No, but might watch from a distance to checkout hot boys, come on who doesn’t like hot boys!
Dr Psycho:
Q1 Being asexual it would be difficult to explain, but I feel it is a celebration of LGBT+
Community; its past, present and future. It calls for everyone in the world to join hands and celebrate regardless of your sexual orientation or behaviour.
Q2 Yes.
Bobby:
Q1 Pride brings LGBT+ Community together to celebrate their lifestyle, advocate for equal rights, share experiences and network.
Q2 Not in Nigeria.

Kenneth:

Q1 I see gay Pride as an event which celebrates the fact that we can now gather in a public place, celebrate and enjoy everything that makes us who we are, forcing the world around to look at us, to see that we are human too and that we love just as strongly as they do and that we deserve to be acknowledged as who we are without fear of persecution.
Q2 Yes of course.
Pachy:
Q1 I am a heterosexual guy, do pardon if I get it wrong. I perceive the LGBT+ Community as
the most sexually active group so it should be some form of sexual event.
Q2 No, I am straight.
Joshua: (straight)
Q1 Period where the LGBT+ Community publicly celebrate and out themselves.
Q2 The heterosexual individuals do go round parading, I do not see the purpose for such event.
Renegade: (straight)

Q1 No idea.

Q2 It should not exist in the first place.

Chris:

What is Pride?

Q1 Why do we feel the need to flaunt our sexuality? As a proud “bisexual” person, I am still yet to grasp the importance of Pride.

Q2 Definitely. I would attend to support the community, but I do not need anyone’s approval to be happy. Just as much as a couple understood what Pride was all about they still failed to understand that allies (heterosexual men and women) can too participate in a Pride March. The misconception of what Pride means to some can be traced to the fact that they see homosexuality as an escape for sexual escapades, but that is not so. However, these views cannot be used to generalise what Nigerians define as Pride (a proper and more detailed survey is encouraged).

Interview with the creator of a non binary film. 

Interviewed by @pridematters1

Hello Max, Thanks for doing this interview with me. Firstly tell me about yourself and how you personally identity. 

Hi Darren. It’s my pleasure! Thank YOU for setting this interview up. I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. My mom is a marriage and family therapist and my dad is an entrepreneur/philanthropist. I moved to California when I was 18 to attend film school at Chapman University. I graduated in 2014 and then started my production company – and have producing independent film projects ever since. I identify as gay and am engaged to Mark, my amazing fiancé. We’re getting married June 2018.

Tell me how you got into the film industry.

I’ve always loved movies and storytelling. I started as an actor, both on stage and on camera. While studying film production in college, I realized my interest, passion, and skill set for producing. I loved the organization and the responsibility that went along with facilitating the production of a film shoot – big or small. After graduating college in 2014, I started Landwirth Legacy Productions, and have since produced two feature films, a TV pilot, several award-winning short films, and over a dozen PSAs and commercials for clients such as Toyota, LeapFrog, and American Greetings.

I understand you are making a film about a transgender, non-binary character. Why and how did you start making such a film? 

Yes, we are! My team and I have been working on this film for almost 3 years now. We started by wanting to create a story that would wake people up to the truth that we are all much more connected and similar than we could have imagined. We knew that we wanted our protagonist to represent the clueless, average, white young male in our society and Varta, our incredible screenwriter, introduced the idea of featuring a gender fluid character as our supporting lead. With the growing conversation of transgender rights and the gender revolution in the news and in pop culture, we felt it was the perfect time to further the conversation by introducing a transgender non binary character to a mass audience. And, of course, we were very attracted to the fact that a transgender non binary character has never been authentically represented in a feature film before!


Do you think that non binary characters and performers are under represented on media?

100%. Even just with casting for our film, we found that, on so many of the casting platforms in LA, we could only select “male” or “female” actors. There are only a couple platforms that even include “transgender” as a means of searching for actors. So that immediately alienates transgender actors and any other actor who don’t perfectly identify within the gender binary. In film/TV, I have seen an increase in the number of authentic transgender characters, but many are still portrayed negatively, and very few, if any, are leading roles. That number is even smaller for non-binary characters and performers. However, trailblazers like Asia Kate Dillon, Tom Phelan, Amandla Stenberg, and Ruby Rose, are now giving a face to transgender non binary identities.

Do you feel that more trans film producers are needed as well as performers?

Of course! I feel that in order to capture more and more authentic trans stories, the entertainment industry needs more trans filmmakers and performers who want their voices to be heard and their stories to be told.

How can this be promoted? 

We’ve talked about this a lot! We’re hoping that as more and more trans-inclusive films are made that deliver authentic representation, it will encourage and inspire more trans story tellers to share their stories. Some of the stories that have been shared with us, by people in the trans community, are inspiring, heart-breaking, and powerful. They all deserve to be told.

What difficulties did you face when writing the film as a Gay Cisgender male and how was the research? 

There were a couple. One of the biggest difficulties we faced during the writing process for “L” was making sure that we successfully captured the voice of someone who identifies as being gender fluid. And we knew that, despite all the research, people we interviewed, and Youtube videos that we watched, we couldn’t create this character and tell this story by ourselves. I can’t speak for the rest of our team, but I am a gay, cis-gendered male, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fully understand the transgender experience – which is why we built a team of story consultants who are transgender- both binary and non-binary. Ann Thomas (founder of Transgender Talent), Addison Rose Vincent (trans activist/educator) and Vin Tanner (non-binary artist) have all given us invaluable advice, feedback, and suggestions to ensure that our story and our character is as representative as they possibly can be.

Have you had any criticism or feel you have made errors and how have you dealt with it? 

As I said in the previous answer, I’m a gay cis-gender male working to produce a feature film with a transgender non binary, gender fluid, character. As a result, we have received plenty of praise and criticism for this film. Because this kind of story has never been told and this type of character has never really been seen on screen before, many people have opinions on how they think this character should be portrayed and this story should be told. We understand that gender and identity is very personal to people – and we want to do our best to respect those experiences. We also know that this being told from a cis-gender perspective, so telling an authentic trans-inclusive story within a cis-gender context can present many challenges. This is also why we welcome feedback! As new information is presented to us, we are continuously adapting and changing our story in the effort to remain as inclusive and representative as possible. We need to tell this story together!

I understand that you have involved some high profile trans personalities, is this correct? 

We have made several friends and allies with some amazing personalities in the trans community. Aydian Dowling (founder of Point5cc and Point of Pride), Dara Hoffman-Fox (Conversations with a Gender Therapist), and Ann Thomas (founder of Transgender Talent) are all endorsing this film. We have also received praise and support from Jacob Tobia, Jeffrey Marsh, Chandler Wilson, and Alok Vaid-Menon – among other non-binary influencers and pioneers.

What can you tell us about the storyline? 

I can tell you that ‘L’ is a fun and beautiful story about friendship and learning about being a better ally. It’s about Will, an anti-social white guy in San Francisco, who works as a marketing strategist for various tech companies. Will’s limited world view and cluelessness about everyone and everything around him, forces his long-time girlfriend to leave him. In order to afford his rent, Will begins conducting interviews for a potential temporary roommate. That’s when he meets Lenny. Will quickly learns that Lenny is a gender fluid person who sometimes also goes by the name, Lena. Will considers himself to be a “good ally” so he decides to make an effort to understand and befriend “L”. Together, they embark on a series of wild and frequently embarrassing adventures that lead them to recognize all of the similarities that they share. Things get complicated, and Will learns the hard way just how difficult life can be for a non-binary trans person. But in the end, Will becomes a reliable source of support for L, and does what he can to help them most in their time of need.

Tell me about the production and when the film will be ready. 

We have our script, we have our team, and we have our exhibition plan; now we need the funding. Because this is an indie film, we’re able to keep our budget small and maintain creative control over this story. However, that also comes at a cost. It means that we don’t have a big studio with an infinite money supply backing us. We recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise some of our production costs and are talking with some potential investors about securing the rest of the financing. The goal is to seek and secure our full financing for this project by December 2017, start pre-production in January 2018, and then start shooting our movie in March 2018. We are slated to shoot in both Los Angeles and on location in San Francisco. The film is slated to be released and available for viewing in October 2018.

What have you personally learnt from making such a film? 

I have learned just how engrained gender stereotypes are within our society, as well as how I can be a more educated and supportive ally to the transgender community. I’ve learned to be more mindful of the language that I use when talking with or about non binary individuals, and I’ve learned just how timely and important this film really is. It seems like every day there are new articles coming out, new celebrities speaking up, new legislation being passed, and new story lines in TV/Film about gender and about the gender revolution. I’ve learned that, while it may be an uphill battle to get this film made, it’s important that we do make it and that it gives a face and a voice to the transgender non binary community.

Do you feel that the LGBT community should be more involved with each other more and if so how? 

As cliché as it sounds, we are stronger together. Even just with this film, it’s apparent, that the more feedback, suggestions, and support we receive from the LGBTQ community, the stronger this film becomes. We need to continue the conversation, continue to educate and uplift each other, and all learn how we can continue to be better and stronger allies for each other.

You can follow Max on Twitter @MaxLandwirth

Take a look at the crowdfunding project

 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1866180527/l-a-story-of-genderfluidity


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