With Richie Johnson, one of my IML classmates, on the Kansas City pub crawl.
Photo credit: Steve Johnson
It's been another busy few months for me (what's new?). In September I became Chairman of the Spanner Trust. That led to a trip to Manchester in November to give a speech at an SM event called KINKLUSIVE about the Trust's work. The following weekend I flew to Kansas City to take part in a fundraising pub-crawl organised by Kansas City Leather University. We raised $1000 for the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project and had a lot of fun in the six venues we visited along the way.
This has been a tough year for gay and lesbian campaigners and those suffering the effects of extreme weather or other natural disasters. But despite these setbacks there are still positive things to remember about 2005. Here are just a few examples:
"Thanks to last minute amendments to the new Equality Bill, the UK Government has finally bowed to pressure to make sure gay people are now treated fairly in all areas, from National Health Service care and policing in the public sector to holidays and insurance in the private. The decision will have a huge impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. We've heard from women all over the country that have been refused smear tests just because they're lesbian. We've heard from gay men struck off by their 'religious' local NHS doctors. Stonewall, along with many other organisations and individuals, lobbied long and hard for this change. In the end, the move had the support of both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative front benches, although the government resisted pressure to amend the Bill until 9 November when it was agreed in the House of Lords. The Bill will be discussed again by the House of Commons in early December where we understand it is likely to be accepted. If so, the Bill may become law in early 2006 and could come into force later that year. This cannot come too soon - lesbians, gay men and bisexuals deserve the same protection from discrimination as other minority groups."
For more information on Stonewall's work or to become a supporter go to www.stonewall.org.uk
"It's hard to think of success stories when I've spent the year writing about problems that need to be tackled, like obscenity witch hunts or the disasters in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast. However, amid the bad news it's good to see LGBT and leather community institutions not only continuing but also celebrating major anniversaries. Three examples are Lavender Magazine, which celebrated its tenth anniversary, and the Knights of Leather and The Aliveness Project, which both celebrated twentieth anniversaries. Lavender Magazine serves the LGBT community in Minnesota and its ten years have been marked by a process of continuous improvement and increasing journalistic quality. The Knights of Leather is one of our local leather clubs whose members recently helped raise $8,500 for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans and $4,500 for a local five-year-old boy with cancer. The Aliveness Project is a community centre in Minneapolis that provides services and programmes to people living with HIV/AIDS; last year, among other accomplishments, it served over 27,000 hot meals. These are all significant milestones for the community in this area."
"After ignoring the links between Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection and anal cancer for more than a decade, the UK Department of Health has authorised investigations into screening and treatment, which could eventually help save the lives of hundreds or even thousands of gay and bisexual men. This is very important progress."
For more information on Peter Tatchell's work please go to www.petertatchell.net
"Since anything a government can do it can also undo, I don't run around celebrating anything any government ever does. But this year the depiction of gay people in the popular media has become much more commonplace than ever before. (American advertising can be used as an example, but I've seen good things from all over the world.) Gay people are no longer necessarily meant to be either evil or funny, just different. One example is Orbitz, a very popular Web site devoted to travel planning, which has been running a national television ad in the USA about people who use their service finding a gay hotel at a good place and price faster than a person using a travel agent can do the same thing. The happy gay couple wins the "game" in the ad, and looks forward to a nice trip to San Francisco. That is irreversible progress. It can not be legislated or decreed, but it can also not be erased."
For more information or to become a member of the LA&M please go to www.leatherarchives.org
"This year there have been some very positive developments in coalition-building for NCSF that have strengthened our ability to fight repressive policies and laws. NCSF agreed to a formal collaboration with the Free Speech Coalition, increasing our ability to deal with issues involving sexually explicit materials. NCSF is supporting FSC's ongoing (and so far successful) fight in striking down the onerous 2257 regulations. NCSF has also filed a Supreme Court appeal of our Communications Decency Act lawsuit challenging obscenity law as it applies to the Internet.
The NCSF Foundation recently merged with the Institute for 21st Century Relationships (ITCR) to form ITCR/Foundation of NSCF. The ITCR/Foundation of NCSF is creating a climate through research and education in which alternative forms of relationship and sexual expression are broadly understood as legitimate choices. As the NCSF coalition continues to grow, we will become more effective in fighting for freedom of sexual expression for everyone."
For more information or to become a supporter of the NCSF please go to www.ncsfreedom.org
Congratulations to everyone involved in these advances.
I hope you all have a happy holiday and a peaceful New Year.
International Mr Leather 2003