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Thursday, 22 November 2007

A better use of public money?

Being a founder member of Rent-a-Mouth, ready to spout off about anything and anything no matter how pig-ignorant I may be, I am rarely flummoxed.

But a kind correspondent just sent me something that really had me in a puzzlement. I won’t quote it all, just the bits that give you the gist.

Subject: Let's Pretend! London Metropolitan Archives' Fifth Annual LGBT History and Archives Conference

Back in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act stated that a local authority was not permitted to "promote the teaching ... of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

The conference sets out to explore the experience of LGBT families and family life and how these important histories might be recorded for future generations.

9.30 am Welcome, Arrival and coffee

10 am Evlynn Sharp with LGBT writers - 'My Idea Of Family'
Kairos in Soho hosted a creative community event exploring the dynamics of LGBT family relationships across generations. Poems, words, ideas and art emerge. LGBT people's expressions of family show a commitment to share and learn from our realities. Along with participants who offer readings of their poems, Evlynn represents the highlights of 'My Idea Of Family' and interweaves with her own poetic reflections.

10.20 am Vanda Carter - Elephants in the Bedroom - Writing for children of LGBT families.

We dimly remembered the dreary photo-realism of "Jenny lives with Eric & Martin" in the Eighties and the media storm which followed its British publication.

We found a few picture books from America and Canada, published in the Nineties, sagging with the leaden weight of ISSUES and horrid illustrations reminiscent of local authority clip art.

We found hardly any books which showed, let alone celebrated, the existence and lives of same-sex parent families like us. There was almost nothing which we could bear to read to our children or felt that we could recommend to their nurseries and schools. So, we thought, something must be done...

11 am Matt Cook - 'Exiles from kin'? Gay men and the family This talk looks at how gay men came to be seen as 'exiles' from kin, disconnected from domestic life, but also suggests that their involvement in home and family has a long history, providing precedents for more recent 'families' of choice.

Noon Bernard and Terry Reed - 'The Work of GIRES'
Gender variance in children, adolescents or adults usually causes acute stress for other members of their families. The reactions of other family members often intensifies the stress that gender variant people already feel. Communication within the family is difficult. The Gender Identity Research and Education Society has supported over 200 such family members by providing information and running workshops.

Bernard and Terry Reed are the parents of a trans woman. As trustees of GIRES, they play leading roles in its education programmes and are the authors of much of its literature. They work with many government agencies in the development of policies to support transgender people.

12.45 pm David Fullman Equality & Diversity Officer, Age Concern Norwich 'Fulfilment and Fear' - The Ups and Downs of Growing Older

This presentation explores concepts of the family for aging LGBT people. As we get older we may all need extra support and help. But what happens when these structures fail? There will be time for questions at the end.

… and so on down to …

Regard The National Organisation of Disabled Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Transgendered People. A forum session exploring issues around disabled LGBT people and ideas of family.

Enjoy an interlude with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra string quartet.

There are also free children's workshops.

I found myself floundering at all this, partly because I had no idea what LGBT is, till I realised it stood for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered.

Then I asked myself a few questions, like, why is some quasi-governmental body arranging this? Are there more important things to do with our money? Is this all ludicrous? Should there be children’s workshops – can’t they just play?

But there are lots of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people. Perhaps not as many as some might like, but live and let live. And I think it is infinitely better to have loving gay parents than some of the “normal” ones we read about.

In a world besotted by silly workshops of one kind or another, maybe it’s good that kids are exposed to this – it will prepare them for some of the asinine things they’ll be asked to do when they get jobs and go on training days.

So in the end I rather surprised myself by thinking I rather approve (though I fear the day will prove desperately earnest, jargon-strewn and dull).

If it is a waste of money, it’s far less so than the millions squandered by politicians on “summits” which achieve the square root of f**k-all.

Rather than pay for the Mayor of London to sod off to India on a jaunt costing £740,000 and achieving little in return, let’s have a constant flow of events for every kind of oddity you can imagine.

How about my own personal favourite pressure group, Gay Whales against Racism? Don’t they need a few quid?

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