A high school located in southeastern Pennsylvania was scheduled to host a drag show during school hours on Wednesday. It’s a part of an all-day event highlighting LGBTQ issues at the school.
The College Fix reports the event at Landsdowne’s Penn Wood High School, titled "Coming Home," is sponsored by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. The drag show was being held during the afternoon with "Singing and Runway Performances," followed up with a "History of Drag" after a video presentation about the 1969 Stonewall Riots.
Morning sessions included "Being an LGBTQ Ally" and "LGBTQ+ Health Issues."
An anonymous source within the William Penn School District notified The Fix about the program.
"There are many religious people in this community," including an estimated 15-20 percent Muslim population at Penn Wood, according to the source . "Most of them have pulled their kids out of PWHS and sent them to parochial or Christian schools, but they still pay taxes to the school district. There are also many African Christians, who would be alarmed at this program."
The source told The Fix the school has been dealing with an "LGBT explosion" since the retirement of the last superintendent of schools. There’s now no one to push back against the LGBT agenda that has grown at the high school, including giving special scholarships for LGBT students and daily gay pride parades in the hallways.
The Fix contacted the event sponsor at the school for comment and was told the district public relations coordinator would contact them with a response. They never received a reply.
Meanwhile, Ramadan accommodations are made for Muslim students like using the school’s gym for Islamic prayers. "Students are excused from classes on a daily basis for their religious obligations" during this time, the source claims.
The website’s source also revealed there’s a Christian club that meets at the school, but after school hours.
Sir Elton John attends the Rocketman UK premiere at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on May 20, 2019 in London, England. Sir Elton John is glad Rocketman doesn’t shy away from portraying his sexuality on-screen.
The gay music icon is happy about the sex scene in the surreal biopic between a young Elton and manager John Reid, played by Taron Egerton and Richard Madden respectively. Sir Elton John: I’d feel I was cheating people if there wasn’t gay sex in Rocketman
John told the Mirror : “I’m so glad it’s in there because I am a gay man and I didn’t want to airbrush it under the carpet.
“I’m proud Rocketman is the first major studio film with a gay love sex scene in it. If I’d left it out, I’d have felt I was cheating people. Sir Elton John and Taron Egerton perform during the Rocketman Gala Party during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty) “If they don’t like it, I understand, but it’s part of who I am. That night was a very, very important part.”
The reference to sex scenes being swept under the carpet may be a veiled reference to Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody , which attracted controversy over a reported decision to tone down its graphic gay content. Sir Elton John: I was a virgin until 23
John added: “If I am telling my story, it has to be honest.
“I was a virgin until then [age 23]. I was desperate to be loved and desperate to have a tactile relationship.
“When they tear their clothes off in the movie, that was how it happened. It was in San Francisco… when he is lying in my arms and I’m sitting back with a smile I’m thinking, ‘Ah, I’m normal, I’ve had sex.’
“When I grew up, my father told me if I masturbated I’d go blind. At 13 years of age, I started to have glasses and I went, ‘Oh my God! This is coming true!’”
Ahead of the film’s release, actor Richard Madden said that on-screen sex scenes between gay men “shouldn’t be a big deal.”
Madden explained: “The more we have these things in films the less of a big deal it’s going to become, and that’s what it should be – it shouldn’t be a big deal.”
“But, particularly for us in this film, that scene is such a pivotal moment for Elton – it’s the first time he makes love with someone, it’s a really important change point in his life.
“It gave us an opportunity to show their intimacy and that delicateness that’s really important to represent the start of that love story.”
Genderqueer and non-binary poet Andrea Gibson Genderqueer poet Andrea Gibson is an award-winning spoken-word artist as well as an LGBT+ activist.
Through their poems, they explore gender, love, sexuality and politics. They are also a four-time Denver Grand Slam Champion.
Gibson recently released a book co-written with Megan Falley entitled How Poetry Can Change Your Heart.
In a PinkNews exclusive video, Andrea Gibson performs “First Love” : Andrea Gibson: Poetry as a social justice weapon
While on their Lord of the Butterflies UK tour, Gibson told PinkNews that they feel like “for the last couple of years, you look out in the world and it looks like everything is getting worse.”
“I personally think that we need to constantly touch into what has gotten better, to have fuel to change the things that have not.
“I believe in the power of the truth, especially in the US right now, we are living in a time when not much truth is being told by the current administration.”
They added: “A lot of my poetry addresses very big issues.” A poem dedicated to Andrea Gibson’s first love
“First Love” is a poem addressed to Gibson’s own first love called Mandy. They talk about how they met, what they brought to each other and how they felt in a heteronormative society.
Gibson said that the poem “is about the first time I fell in love with a woman and I wrote it specifically so that I could honour something changing for the better.
“As a social justice poet I’m writing lots of poems that can be, actually, pretty excruciating to write and dive into but I have to write those poems because the world is what it is.
“But if I had my way, I would write love poems all the time.” “The more I come into my own queerness, I think the more I’m experimenting with the boundaries of language.”
However, they also added: “Writing a queer love poem, unfortunately, is political in its own way.”
“Just to be writing a love poem to a woman is sort of heartbreaking that it is political.” Andrea Gibson performing her poem “First Love.” (PinkNews) Language and gender intersect
Gibson didn’t feel like they were “going to grow up like a man or a woman.”
“The first time somebody said ‘genderqueer’ to me, I felt like my world had just flown open because I could see a future for myself,” they said.
“It was at once exciting and scary. “I think I knew gender before I knew my sexuality.
“I’m living outside of the constructs of what we have been prescribed from birth essentially. Identifying myself as who I am, continually becoming.”
They said that people did not always accept their pronouns.
“Particularly in the literary community, where people are trying to say that it’s not correct grammar and prioritising some story of grammar over honouring people’s identities.”
“But I’ve generally had a positive experience,” they said. “Language and gender are so interconnected.”
“The more I come into my own queerness, I think the more I’m experimenting with the boundaries of language.”
“You know, noun and verbs and such, it feels like a very queer thing to be doing.
“It’s helped me live in wonder more.”
Andra Gibson will be performing at Union Chapel in London on May 23.
Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on This Morning (YouTube) Phillip Schofield has slammed LGBT+ education protester Shakeel Afsar for “discriminating” against LGBT+ people on This Morning .
Schofield and his co-presenter Holly Willoughby had Afsar on their show, who has led protests against Anderton Park Primary School for its LGBT+ inclusive education programme. Melissa Thompson also appeared on the show.
Afsar explained why parents are protesting at the school over the lessons, and told Schofield and Willoughby that parents feel that primary school children are “not of an age to understand such complex relationships.”
He also said that children would struggle to understand “even some heterosexual relationships or even about Islam or religion and stuff. Phillip Schofield: ‘But aren’t you discriminating against the LGBT community?’
“Parents feel that in primary school, we should be teaching our children about humanity, respect for humanity. Parents at the school shouldn’t feel like the school is over-promoting one narrative and not the other and we should try to make it transparent,” Afsar said.
At one point in the debate, Schofield interrupted Asfar and pointed out that he doesn’t have children at the school. “But aren’t you discriminating against the LGBT community, you’re doing exactly what you’re saying is happening to you?”
Later, Schofield said: “But aren’t you discriminating against the LGBT community, you’re doing exactly what you’re saying is happening to you?” Asfar responded by saying that this was a “misconception” and said: “What the parents are saying is we feel that any community, whether it’s LGBT, whether it’s Muslim, whether you have religious faith, that we should be able to live and co-exist with one another even if we have different beliefs or different views.” Birmingham school protester Shakeel Afsar (YouTube) Schofield followed up by asking Asfar if he considers himself to be a “tolerant man,” to which Asfar said he had been made out to be “homophobic” by the media. Phillip Schofield said children of LGBT+ education protesters will grow up and ‘reject’ their views
However, Schofield then slammed the protester and said: “You are discriminating because what you’re doing is, you’re encouraging your children, as parents you will encourage your children to be less tolerant.
“Now eventually those children, because thankfully children are much more inclusive nowadays, that generation will grow up, and they will probably, potentially, possibly, reject your views, and you will widen the gaps between generations.”
Thompson also slammed the protester for his comments. “I find it really rich that you use words such as ‘intolerance’ and ‘discrimination,’ that you are victim, that you and the people that you speak for are victims of that. That is exactly what you’re doing, you’re being intolerant and discriminatory towards gay people.”
The debate on This Morning comes after weeks of protests at Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham over LGBT+ inclusive education.
Yesterday, school headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson revealed that police are investigating threats she has received by phone and email over the programme.
British newspapers have come under fire over their coverage of transgender issues (Getty) UK press regulator IPSO has commissioned a review of coverage of transgender issues.
A number of British newspapers have been forced to correct and apologise for stories about transgender people over the past year, with LGBT+ campaigners alleging a surge in misleading and “hostile” coverage.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation, the voluntary regulator recognised by many of the country’s largest newspapers, has this month ordered a review of coverage of trans issues. IPSO probes media transgender coverage
In a blog post , IPSO’s head of standards Charlotte Urwin wrote: “The way the media covers transgender people and gender transition can have a significant impact on individuals and social attitudes, and also continues to generate wider debate.
“It raises difficult questions about the balance between being aware of the impact of press reporting and commentary on potentially vulnerable individuals, and ensuring that it is still possible to report freely on these social issues.
“IPSO has commissioned Mediatique… to carry out research into editorial standards in the reporting of transgender matters.
“The research will involve quantitative mapping of coverage of transgender matters in the last ten years, as well as qualitative interviews with industry figures, groups representing the transgender community and other relevant stakeholders.” A Times column about transgender people (thetimes.co.uk) The blog adds: “As a regulator whose role is to promote and uphold high editorial standards, we are particularly interested in understanding how editorial standards in relation to a specific topic change over time.
“I believe that this research will offer valuable insights both to IPSO and to other groups seeking to raise standards in specific subject areas. “In addition, the coverage of transgender matters is currently under-researched and there are gaps in the evidence base around the standards of reporting and impact on individuals. This research will create a new evidence base for discussions of media coverage in this area.”
The Times , Telegraph , Daily Express and Daily Mail are among the major newspapers voluntarily regulated by IPSO.
However, others including The Guardian and Financial Times do not recognise the regulator.
PinkNews is not a member of IPSO. Politicians have challenged media coverage of trans issues
In October, PinkNews published an open letter signed by lords, MPs, and leading LGBT+ campaigners , which condemned anti-trans media coverage in the UK, saying this hostility has led to a “significant decline in the mental health of many trans people.”
The letter said: “We strongly condemn the way the British media has given significant coverage to small groups who wish to push organisations to break existing law with regards to trans people.
It added: “This coverage has often conflated trans women and girls with sex offenders, implied that all trans women and girls are threats, and has usually been insufficiently challenged.
“The reality is that trans people are far more likely to be targets of violence than other women. Isolated extreme and abhorrent cases cannot be extrapolated to infer the behaviour of all trans people.”
The letter continues: “The relentlessness of the hostility across the media and the media’s inability to adequately challenge the false claims put forward have led to a significant decline in the mental health of many trans people.”
Labour MP Roger Godsiff (BBC/Victoria Derbyshire) Labour MP Roger Godsiff has admitted he didn’t bother to read LGBT+ children’s books before attacking them publicly.
Godsiff, the MP for Birmingham Hall Green, has faced anger after saying it was not “age appropriate” for five-year-olds to learn that gay parents exist.
In an interview with the Birmingham Mail on Tuesday, Godsiff appeared to side with anti-LGBT protesters who have targeted a school in his constituency.
He cited picture book My Chacha is Gay , which is about a Pakistani boy who has a gay uncle, and My Princess Boy , about a boy who likes to wear princess dresses. Roger Godsiff admits he hasn’t read books he criticised
However, in an interview with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire on Wednesday, Godsiff admitted that he had not read the books.
The MP, who also voted against equal marriage, said parents were worried about “children coming home with books and such like,” citing My Chacha is Gay.
Asked about the book, Godsiff replied: “I don’t know, I’ve only seen the front page.”
He then appeared to admit the only information he had about the books were supplied by anti-LGBT protesters, adding: “It’s an issue for a number of parents at the school. That was one of the documents I was given by some of the protesters as a cover of one of the books given to children.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the MP insisted: “If you’re talking about gender and sexual orientation… I think for four and five years olds, I think to bring in sexualities at that period in time… to a number of parents they would say, I think that’s too young.
“Why don’t you wait for a few years, before 11, in order to bring those subjects up?” “What’s wrong with parents having an input” Labour MP @RogerGodsiff says Anderton Park Primary School should have better consulted parents over introducing ‘No Outsiders’ programme – which teaches pupils about diversity https://t.co/4nE6t2Mnf0 pic.twitter.com/H5JmV6RdTw — Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) May 22, 2019 He added: “I think that is a matter for the school and the parents to discuss when the parents will be comfortable with their child [learning about gay people].”
The MP also said: “I have a three year old grandson, and if he was hit with the nine characteristics [of the Equality Act] being put in front of him, he would probably wonder what was going on.” Labour colleagues condemn MP’s ‘unacceptable’ comments
The MP’s comments have been condemned by a number of LGBT+ figures within the Labour Party.
Gay MP Stephen Doughty tweeted: “As Co-Chair of @LGBTLabour Parliamentary Group – I find @RogerGodsiff comments on inclusive education completely unacceptable and I will be seeking an urgent meeting with him.” British opposition Labour party MP for Birmingham Hall Green, Roger Godsiff, speaks at the launch of the Labour Leave campaign in central London on January 20, 2016. (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty) Lloyd Russell-Moyle, another gay Labour MP, added: “On this issue @RogerGodsiff is wrong, his views put children in real danger.
“Learning about good relationships between all genders helps protect children from abuse and allows them to grew as confident young people.
“This dangerous twaddle has no place in our @uklabour politics.”
Godsiff has not faced action from the party over his comments, which are at odds with its official policy.
A homeless shelter. File photo (Scott Olson/Getty) The Trump administration has proposed new rules to make it is legal to discriminate against homeless transgender people based on “religious beliefs.”
The revised rules issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday (May 22) state that shelters are able to deny transgender people a place in the shelter of their chosen sex. Homeless transgender people could be turned away from shelters
The policy states that shelter providers are permitted to restrict access to bathrooms or sex-segregated shelters to transgender people.
Under the proposed rules, shelter providers are entitled to assign sex based on “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations under civil rights and nondiscrimination authorities [and] the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents,” in addition to a person’s chosen gender.
The policy would grant religious homeless shelters the right to refuse gender-appropriate housing to transgender people. A shelter for homeless children. File photo. (NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty) Transgender women could be forced to sleep in male shared spaces, while trans men could be forced into the women’s dormitories.
Critics fear the rule could also allow single-sex shelters to turn away trans people entirely.
Just one day before the proposed rules were issued, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson had told Congress that he did not have any plans to change LGBT+ discrimination rules.
He had claimed: “I’m not going to say what we will do in the future about anything. I’m not currently anticipating changing the rule.” ‘Heartless attack’ on trans people condemned
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement to PinkNews: “This is a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“The programs impacted by this rule are life-saving for transgender people, particularly youth rejected by their families, and a lack of stable housing fuels the violence and abuse that takes the lives of many transgender people of color across the country.
“Secretary Carson’s actions are contrary to the mission of his Department and yet another example of tragic cruelty of this administration.”
Democratic National Committee LGBTQ Media Director Lucas Acosta said in a statement to PinkNews: “President Trump is putting trans lives at risk yet again. “Study after study has shown that LGBTQ people, especially transgender youth, have a higher chance of experiencing homelessness over the course of their lives.
“Additionally, 7 in 10 transgender individuals who stayed in a shelter last year were kicked out, physically or sexually assaulted, or faced another form of mistreatment because of their gender identity.
“By allowing shelters to turn away trangender people, the Trump administration has shown once again it regards them as second class citizens who don’t deserve the most basic services or protections.
“Only days ago, Democrats in the U.S. House voted to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would counter this exact policy. Our community must stand together, call our Senators, and demand a vote on the Equality Act in the Republican-controlled Senate. These attacks by the Trump administration must be stopped.”
Sharita Gruberg of American Progress tweeted : “The Equal Access Rule protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, including in homeless shelters by ensuring transgender people are able to access HUD-funded shelter consistent with their gender identity.
“HUD wants to allow shelters to decide who is eligible for access to single-sex or sex-segregated facilities, opening the door to discrimination. Gender identity is the LAST consideration in its list of factors shelters will be able to rely on.”
Gruberg added: “HUD says shelters can consider safety/privacy, but it’s TRANS WOMEN who are most at risk. [The National Center for Transgender Equality] found >50% of survey respondents who stayed in a shelter in the prior year were verbally harassed, physical attacked, and/or sexually assaulted bc of their gender identity.
“In 2016, over 300 domestic violence and sexual violence organizations across the country signed a National Consensus Statement. These leaders agree: transgender women victims being served alongside other women is appropriate and not a safety issue.
“It’s important to remember, no matter what Ben Carson does, no matter how often he lies, LGBTQ people ARE currently protected under the law from housing discrimination.”
Nina West in music video "Drag is Magic" RuPaul’s Drag Race star Nina West has dropped a music video for track “Drag is Magic,” which teaches children about the art of drag.
The Drag Race season 11 star released children’s music album Drag is Magic this month following her divisive exit from the reality show.
Unveiled on Tuesday (May 21), the music video for lead track “Drag is Magic” is a far cry from many post- Drag Race records, with child-friendly content geared towards a younger audience. Nina West video “Drag is Magic” educates kids about drag
On the track, Nina West explains: “Drag is dress-up for girls and boys/And it’s pretty hard to mess up.
“All you gotta do is imagine who you wanna be/And make it lovely or make it trash.
“You could sashay in a garbage bag/Baby, you could make it fashion.
“All you gotta do is trust yourself and believe.” Nina West in music video “Drag is Magic” The album’s other tracks include “The Drag Alphabet”, “The Reading song” and “Go Big, Be Kind, Be You.”
The Columbus, Ohio-based drag star, real name Andrew Levitt, is well-known locally as a philanthropist.
Levitt runs The Nina West Foundation, which has raised more than $2 million to support LGBT+ organisations through fundraising and charity performances. She added: “One of my dreams has been to engage a younger audience, queer parents, and parents of queer kids. “There aren’t a lot of resources out there [for queer education], and I have a lot of gay friends who’ve adopted or straight friends who have children who are different in one way or another.
“It’s so up my alley, because I’m a Disney nerd… I want to fill that gap and be the drag queen who’s like Barney or Mrs. Doubtfire, doing stuff that’s family friendly.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a fan
Levitt ‘s work has already earned support from Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In a video earlier this month the Democratic lawmaker paid tribute to the drag artist.
She explained: “I don’t always get to watch Drag Race on Thursdays when it comes out, I have to catch up on the weekends because work is insane, and I just caught up and I am so sad.
“No spoilers, but but to the queen that went home this week, just know how important you are to the bigger picture, and I’m so proud of you and your fundamental kindness and goodness.
“I’m really looking forward to watching you grow. You’re amazing, and I’m sad, but I’m excited for you.”
The congresswoman also shared an article on Twitter in which Nina West talks about her philanthropy, having raised $2.5 million for LGBT+ causes.
She added: “Thank you for using your gifts to focus on voices + issues that deserve all the shine and elevation in the world. ”
Panorama filmed vulnerable adults being deliberately provoked by staff who then physically restrained them The abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable adults at a specialist hospital has been uncovered by the BBC’s Panorama programme.
Undercover BBC filming shows staff intimidating, mocking and restraining patients with learning disabilities and autism at Whorlton Hall, County Durham.
Experts said the culture was deviant at the privately-run NHS-funded unit with evidence of "psychological torture".
A police investigation has been launched and 16 staff suspended.
The 17-bed hospital is one of scores of such units in England that provide care for just below 2,300 adults with learning disabilities and autism.
Many are detained under the Mental Health Act.
Glynis Murphy, professor of clinical psychology and disability at Kent University’s Tizard Centre, said much of what Panorama had found was the "absolute antithesis" of good care.
"It is obviously a very deviant culture."
Cygnet, the firm which runs the unit, said it was "shocked and deeply saddened".
The company only took over the running of the centre at the turn of the year and said it was "co-operating fully" with the police investigation.
All the patients have been transferred to other services and the hospital closed down, Cygnet said. Swearing and mental torture – what has been uncovered
Staff were filmed using abusive language about patients The BBC reporter, Olivia Davies, worked shifts for two months undercover between December and February.
She filmed a number of shocking scenes where staff can be heard using offensive language to describe patients, while another calls the hospital a "house of mongs".
In another case, a patient is told by her care worker that her family are "poison".
Two male staff members single out a female patient for particular abuse.
Aware that she is scared of men, they tell her, in an effort to keep her quiet, that her room will be inundated with men.
They call this "pressing the man button", something which causes her great distress.
This was described a psychological torture by Prof Murphy. What about violence?
The hospital said it was deeply saddened by the findings There was certainly the threat of violence. On one occasion, a male care worker threatens to "deck" a patient, while another patient is told they will be "put through the floor".
Six care workers also told the undercover reporter that they have deliberately hurt patients – including one who describes banging a patient’s head against the floor, and another who speaks about flooring a patient with an outstretched arm, something he called "clotheslining".
The reporter did witness a number of incidents of physical restraint, which should only be used to prevent a patient harming themselves or others.
In one episode of restraint, a patient was held on the ground for nearly 10 minutes with one member of staff restraining him, while handing out chewing gum to colleagues.
Prof Andrew McDonnell, an expert in autism at Birmingham City University, who develops training to reduce the use of restraint, said it was a "cruel punishment".
"Restraint should be momentary. It should be short. It should be with as few staff as possible, without an audience." What about regulation?
Services for people with learning disabilities are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The CQC gave Whorlton Hall a good rating after inspecting it in 2017.
It said that since then, it had warned the hospital about staff training, long hours and excessive use of agency staff.
Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, told Panorama: "On this occasion it is quite clear that we did not pick up the abuse that was happening at Whorlton Hall.
"All I can do is apologise deeply to the people concerned."
The Department for Health and Social Care said it treated allegations of abuse with the "utmost seriousness", but could not comment any further because of the police investigation. Not the first scandal
The Panorama findings come eight years after abuse was uncovered at another hospital for people with learning disabilities, Winterbourne View, near Bristol.
After that programme, the then prime minister, David Cameron, promised the mistreatment of patients would never happen again.
Winterbourne View was shut down and the government committed to closing other specialist hospitals too, saying care should be provided in the community.
Bed numbers have been reduced – from 3,400 to below 2,300 since 2012 in England – but that falls short of the government’s target to get it down to below 1,700 by March this year.
The official investigation in the Winterbourne View case also made warnings about the excessive use of restraint.
But figures show "restrictive practices" have become more common – the use of seclusion and restraint has nearly doubled in the past two years, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Panorama.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered an investigation into the cases last year and an interim report published by the Care Quality Commission this week described the system as "broken" and said people who ended up in hospital were being failed.
The sector has also come under fire for some of the deaths that have occurred. Connor Sparrowhawk, who had learning disabilities and epilepsy, died in 2013 after being left alone in a bath The most high-profile case of recent years was Connor Sparrowhawk, who had learning disabilities and epilepsy, and died when he had a seizure alone in a bath at an NHS unit in Oxford in 2013.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust admitted breaching health and safety law and was fined £2m for the deaths of Mr Sparrowhawk and another patient, 45-year-old Teresa Colvin, who died in Hampshire in 2012.
The deaths of people with learning disabilities are now routinely monitored.
The latest report, also published this week, found that there were concerns about care provided in more than one in 10 cases.
Jonathan Beebee, of the Royal College of Nursing, said Panorama had shined a light on a "dark corner" of the sector.
He said the scale of what had been found would not be happening everywhere, but he still had concerns about the state of services.
"The sector is plagued by high vacancy rates and a lack of properly trained staff. There will be problems elsewhere."
Watch BBC Panorama: Undercover Abuse Scandal Wednesday 22 May at 9pm on BBC One
OPINION: Editor of queer travel mag Elska on choosing to shoot an issue where gay sex is illegal – ‘He felt determined as an activist to be seen at any cost’
A Dhaka local models for the new issue of Elska | Photos: Courtesy of Elska
Why did we decide to feature Dhaka, Bangladesh for our latest issue of Elska? Well, it all started because we wanted to return to South Asia after the edition we made on Mumbai guys a couple years ago.
My trip to India was one of my favourite shoot trips ever. So I wanted to go back, but I thought it would be interesting to not choose another city in India, but one from a neighboring country.
We certainly considered Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal but went for Bangladesh in the end.
Making this issue was probably the most dangerous to make, because homosexuality is illegal in Bangladesh. There have been recent arrests and murders of local LGBTQ people.
However I thankfully can say that I never felt in danger when I was in Bangladesh. But I did try to keep a very low profile. That’s why this was the first shoot trip we’ve done that wasn’t announced at all. ‘I didn’t want to bring danger’
Usually we find men through a combination of posting social media announcements and asking our readers to spread the word. But we felt that for Dhaka it would be safest to keep our trip secret. We also often find subjects by messaging random guys on various gay apps and asking them to volunteer, but since we knew of cases of gay bashers or thieves using such sites to find victims, not just in Bangladesh but in many places, it seemed best to avoid it altogether.
Instead we started our search by approaching some LGBTQ activists first for advice, and then they spread the word through their social network, and it snowballed from there.
Still, it caused a lot of personal turmoil regarding whether it was right to feature Dhaka at all.
I wanted people to pay attention to the lives of LGBTQ people beyond their backyards. But I also didn’t want to bring danger. And Bangladesh has been a dangerous place. Even as recent as two years ago for the murders of two prominent queer Bangladeshis: Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tanoy. ‘I felt like their voices needed to be heard’
Certainly this trauma still hung heavy over the community. But ultimately, what really inspired me to go to Dhaka was the fact that gay men were continuing to live their lives and wanted to be seen and heard in spite of the danger. I felt that if Elska could help amplify their voices, that would be a good thing.
But I also wanted to make clear to these men that taking part could expose them. Two of the men featured have since moved abroad and knew they’d be abroad once this issue was published. Many used pseudonyms and others chose not to show their faces. And a few others were very clear that they wanted to be fully exposed.
One explained that his family was of a socially high position and felt protected. Another explained that he felt strongly determined as an activist to be seen at any cost. And when a few others didn’t seem to care or understand (perhaps due to English language skills), I decided to remove them from the project. For those who were included, I explained to all of them that it was OK to conceal their faces. To change their names if they wanted to. But I left it to them to make that decision.
What really inspired me about Dhaka was the fact that gay men were continuing to live here and fight in spite of the danger. I felt like their voices needed to be heard and amplified. And if Elska could help, that would be a plus. ‘More about the stories than the pictures’
It really excites me to feature less known gay communities like Dhaka, perhaps more than when we do issues in Berlin or LA for example. Unfortunately it’s a Berlin issue that will sell a lot better but I believe that the Elska project as a whole is more compelling because of the variety of places we visit, even if some don’t pay the bills as well as some others.
Some of the activists we talked to before travelling to Dhaka implored us not to turn the issue into a negative editorial piece on why Islam is anti-gay and how Bangladesh is this terrible and tragic place.
While I never try to use Elska to forward my own opinion but rely on the men we meet in each city to tell their own stories, it’s true that most of the men wrote quite harrowing stories. It’s definitely one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching Elskas to read yet. And also perhaps the first one that’s more about the stories than the pictures.
To see a list of where Elska Magazine is sold around the world or to order a copy online, visit elskamagazine.com . See also
Raped and abused, this 23-year-old gay refugee from Bangladesh on the run in Nepal shares his story
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