LET TOYS BE TOYS

28 Feb

Around 18 months ago I saw Let Toys Be Toys pop up in my Twitter feed and fell in love with their campaign. How we nurture our young is so vitally important, and anything that helps children grow up in a world where they know there’s no limit to what they can do, and achieve, is something I support wholeheartedly

Those with a keen eye (or, rather, who follow me on Twitter) may know that I recently published a book containing a small collection of poems.

Since I was small, I’ve often put pen to paper on all manner of things – from what I had just eaten through to world news and topics I felt passionate about. This is one of those occasions.

—–

LET TOYS BE TOYS

From the day that we are born,
We’re forced to obey rules,
For if we don’t act a certain way,
We’d surely look like fools.

Society will judge you not,
For what it is your head -
It seems to only judge us on
what’s in between our legs.

Well I say “Damn Society,
I’m following my heart!”,
The world is what it is, I think,
regardless of my ‘parts’.

Some boys like pink – get over it!
They aren’t all engineers.
Some boys dress up in frilly clothes,
it doesn’t make them ‘queers’.

Some girls like blue – get over that!
Who says they can’t love science?
Some girls dress up like superman,
Screw your damned gender compliance!

Let toys be toys, for goodness sake,
End this insanity.
Let toys be toys, for goodness sake,
And set our children free.

DEAR ASSFACE.

24 Dec

Train Tracks

You don’t really know me. I don’t really know you. But we’ve been stood next to each other on this cold train station platform for 45 minutes, and in that time I think I’ve seen enough to know we can’t ever be friends. Mostly because you’re an ass. I know – I’ve come to that conclusion after only 45 minutes – and I don’t like to make snap judgements of people – but let me tell you what I see from where I’m stood.

I was already stood on the platform when you arrived. We exchanged a brief nod – as seems customary amongst commuters – and I continued checking Twitter on my phone. I probably do that too much. The digital sign hanging above our heads already said that there’d be a 10 minute train delay and, on noticing this, I couldn’t help but hear the things you said under your breath. I was quietly surprised that you knew so much about the relationship status of the mother of the rail network’s CEO.

Then the announcement – and my real reason for my snap judgement of you – came. “We’re sorry to announce”, began the automated apology, “that the 18:22 train to Reading has been cancelled. This is due to a person under a train. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Whenever I hear that announcement – the cold, automaton callousness of the words ‘person under a train’ – my first reaction is sadness. Here is a situation, infinitely complex and touching many many lives, reduced to just one sentence. I tend to err on the side of curiosity – was it a terrible accident? Was someone unhappy, and decided to take that fateful, final step? Could anyone have intervened, saved a life, helped this mysterious ‘person’ live another day?

To you – it seems – those questions were largely irrelevant. I was torn from my pondering by your decision to grab the member of station staff – quite literally – as she bustled past you and demand, in a voice I can only assume means you’re not a very calm person, to know “what the actual fuck”.

I wasn’t entirely sure I understood the question, but luckily you began to elaborate. “Just because some inconsiderate prick decides to off himself under one of your trains, I have to be late home? No. Your fault, you fix it. Get another train here NOW, or at least pay for my cab ride home.” I think you felt like you were doing the right thing. You certainly looked like you were pleased with your words as you looked from left to right, surveying your fellow commuters like some kind of  king. “Honestly”, you said turning to me, “train companies are just raping the shit out of us honest people, right?”.

You may have wondered why it took a while for me to respond. I was, honestly, trying to process what I had just seen and heard. I apologise that the first words I could manage to say were a rather feeble “are you OK?” to the station worker whose jacket you still had a hold on and – more to the point – I’m sorry that when I finally turned to you to answer your “right?” I simply said “no, I don’t think you are”. There was so much more to say – things that I hope you don’t mind me stating now.

What makes you, Mr. train-station-staff-assaulting, deliberately-shouty-and-intimidating, more important than everyone else? I travel a lot – and I totally get that train delays suck. You may well have a family to get home to, your dinner might be slightly over-cooked, and your kids might miss getting a bedtime story tonight.

The family of the person under that train? They’ll never get those things again.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, you’ll be thinking – I think – of yourself. Your day. Your life. The people who knew that ‘person under a train’ will have a very different day. Perhaps this person had friends. Maybe a partner, or kids. What do you think they’ll be thinking of? Perhaps, even more sadly, they had no-one. This ‘person under a train’ could have been homeless, forgotten, an outcast… does that make you more important?

I doubt you’ll ever read this but – if you do – I hope you can forgive my thinking of you as an ass. I think it’s fairly justified but hey, what do I know?

Actually, I know that a railway worker went home tonight liking her job – possibly herself – a little less. I know that somewhere, someone got hit by a train tonight and lost their life as a result. I know that I, personally, am bothered by both of those things.

I’m upset by the way that you acted. Perhaps it was in anger, and you’re normally a really nice guy – or perhaps not. Either way, I can think of no more fitting way to end this letter than by quoting poet Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you’re saying.”

 

Regards,

Ben

 

KEEP CALM…

18 Nov

keepcalm

Memes are born in many ways – but what of their underlying meaning? I’m not saying we should read into the subtext of every Doge tweet or Trololo, but even the most irritating meme can have humble, if not forgotten, beginnings.

One meme that really grinds my gears is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. You know – that overdone, overused, overcopied meme that seems to have spread across the world like a virus. A horrible, repetitive virus.

Trouble is, I really like the meaning behind it. The memeification (a word I wholeheartedly hope will soon appear in the Oxford English Dictionary) of Keep Calm is eroding its original meaning – which really is a shame, because it embodied a spirit, an ethos, a creed that we could all stand to adopt more often. A spirit this blog post hopes to redress.

The spirit of ‘Carry On’.

The culture of 1940s Britain was fascinating. During WW2 the people of this damp little island saw war on their doorstep in a way we haven’t done since. You could see the bombs fall, hear the air-raid sirens, there were ration books and evacuees and – well – life changed.

But did their spirit waver? No. Brits kept calm, and carried on. People went about their daily lives, living every moment in pride and defiance – not letting the war defeat their way of life.

Richmond Golf Club Rules

If the rules of Richmond Golf Club in 1940 don’t show that defiant, ‘carry on’ attitude, I don’t know what does. But why should we care now?

Surely those ‘keep calm and carry on’ posters were only really relevant during the war? Isn’t it OK to designate them as ‘retro’ and butcher them for mugs and posters?

Not in the slightest.

I think that the sentiment behind ‘keep calm and carry on’ is every bit as relevant today as it was in 1940. More than relevant, in fact – I think it’s needed. Desperately so.

I can’t help but click through the news feeling slightly sad at headlines of “X to sue Y”, “Z gets bonus”, or “A’s phone was hacked by B to uncover C, D and E”. When did we become a nation of complainers? A nation of “where there’s blame, there’s a claim”?

Every day I encounter people who need more ‘carry on’ in their lives. And no, I’m not referring to the ageing, awful series of films from the 1960s. Whether it’s followers on Twitter, colleagues, or students or startups I’m working with, people’s glasses seem half empty far too much of the time.

What we need as a nation – nay world – is more people who aren’t afraid to fail. People who’ll give something their all regardless of the outcome. People who’ll put themselves out to make something successful, and not be put off if it doesn’t end up going as well as they’d hoped.

People who’d never stop a game of golf for a few measly little bombs.

In my last post, I wrote about how we live is more important than what we leave behind when we’re gone. Surely embodying the spirit of ‘carry on’ keeps us engaged, keeps us hungry, keeps us working toward goals that seem more impossible than they really are. I challenge you to live the spirit of doing the impossible, every day. Get out of bed and follow your dreams no matter what. After all, what else separates those who do from those who just think about doing?

Onwards!

HOW WE LIVE

5 Nov

howwelive

You’re looking at who to work with on a project. One says “I get results, no matter what it takes”. The other says “I love what I do, and take pride in it.”

Which would you choose?

Let’s face it – we live in a metric-based world, where the end result is often seen & celebrated regardless of the work and ethic that went into achieving it. And yes – results are important. We need to be able to measure users and revenue, make books balance, ship products, and delight users. Even if you’re working on something totally not-for-profit, there’s a point to what you’re doing and ‘success’ is reaching that goal.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HOW?

Everpix was an amazing startup. Based in San Francisco (no surprises there) they had a great product, a great team, and were doing good things. They just weren’t making money. There’s a great write-up on The Verge about why they’re going out of business – and there were lots of factors. The last line in the article, however, stands out the most: “After they packed up their office, the team went out for lunch … [The Founder] stood up to take a picture of his team. In the photo, everyone is laughing.”

If any team had a reason to be down that day, it was those guys. Having spent months putting their all into a product that they had to pull the plug on is a frustrating experience – but what’s clear from that one line, that one photo, is that the end result wasn’t the thing that they took the most away from.

WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND IS NEVER AS IMPORTANT AS HOW WE LIVE.

Twitter is analogous of ’the good, the bad, and the ugly’. Some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, I met through that network. The same can be said for some of the most arrogant, self-entitled people, too. Based on the tweets of a good deal of Twitter users, some people genuinely believe that ‘success’ is hitting a big number, launching a popular app, or getting a billion-dollar valuation “no matter what the cost”. I strongly disagree.

I don’t mean to be controversial – but do I value someone higher who has worked hard to earn the things they own than someone who’s had it all handed to them by rich parents? Yes. Do I value someone higher who takes pride in doing something the ‘right’ way, rather than taking shortcuts? Yes. Do I value the journey – the experience – of a team, company, or project higher than I value a potential monetary pay off? Absolutely.

Call me a wet liberal, but I find huge value and fulfilment in knowing I’ve done a good job, worked with great people, and made a difference to the world than I ever would in having a six-figure balance sheet.

Maybe I’ll never be a millionaire with this attitude. But you know what?

I’m proud to be OK with that.

CODERS ARE NOT WEIRDOS

26 Oct

blogpostdevs

I’m about to thank a tabloid journalist.

To those of you who didn’t just die of shock, let me explain why.

When I first read Willard Foxton’s article in The Telegraph on why it may be a “stupid idea” to teach coding in schools, I got angry. Very angry. To suggest that young people would grow into “dull weirdos” by learning software development smacked of exactly the kind of bullying I encountered in the 90s when I wanted to grow up to be a software engineer. But this is 2013, and the world has grown up.

Or so I thought.

Willard‘s words are not just reactionary – they are damaging. In a retort on The Register, he says “The reason that line was there was to draw people into the article” – and yes, it does a good job of that. But it also destroys the confidence of any young coder reading it. It could easily be paraphrased by a young person – in need of our support and encouragement – as “Oh, you’re following that dream of yours? Well, it’s dumb.”

I’m not young. I’m not old. I’m barely a developer. I have, however, spent a few years in the industry working with developers at events, on projects, and within their communities.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Sunderland at DDD North. I arrived at the venue and was greeted by great tasting bacon sandwiches, and a hell of a lot of noise. Here were hundreds of software developers talking, laughing, being social. Some of them were students, some of them had been in the industry for years. Dull? Weirdos? No.

Over the summer I took a 2,000 mile road trip to support Young Rewired State. I wrote some of my thoughts at the time for a column in The Guardian, in which I stated implicitly the need for us all “to inspire the next generation by highlighting the opportunities available to them.” See that word there?

Inspire.

Truth is, a lot of those young developers inspired me. The passion, tenacity and enthusiasm I encountered at that event was astounding – and the fact that people as young as 8 or 9 were able to write code, get up on stage, and present proudly the things they had worked on? Inspirational to the nth degree.

These aren’t isolated incidents, either. Across the world, software developers from all walks of life are changing the world, one line of code at a time. To truly change the world, you have to live in it – and they do. No longer the stereotype of a nerd removed from society, software developers are real people solving real problems – building, designing, creating – and that’s about as far from the picture painted in Willard’s article as you can get.

So why am I thanking him?

Because developers – young and old – are, in my experience, the complete opposite of “dull weirdos”. You only need to take a look at Twitter to see how diverse, social, progressive and proactive developers can be. The anger that his words have fuelled within the tech community is bringing all of the wonderful, brilliant, talented and creative people within it out of their shells. They’re blogging, tweeting, writing talks and speaking out.

Now they’ve got something to fight for.

TO THE JOURNEY…

20 Aug

WHO, WHERE, AND WHEN

2 Aug

roadbloghead

I’m excited. And no, it’s not because I’ve just found cakes are on buy-one-get-one-free at my local shop – it’s that, in less than three days, Young Rewired State 2013 gets underway. During the week I’m driving around the UK visiting a mammoth number of cities to see as many young coders as I can. Far from a gimick, #CodeOnTheRoad is all about showing the world how important young coders, and the way they use APIs and open data, really are.

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Up until now I’ve been fairly secretive about the route – we’ve been tweaking and tinkering and working out just how fast we can get between centres – but finally, we’ve got our ‘golden list’ for which cities we’re heading to. Many of the cities below have more than one centre – and we’re trying to hit them all!

centres2

We can’t control the weather (perhaps that’s something someone at YRS can try and solve for us?), traffic, or other such things – we’ll keep tweeting and updating you all if and when things change. Oh and Londoners – don’t panic! We can’t hit every location and taking our car into the city would take all day, but Twilio’s European office is based there, so you’ll get visits from other members of Team Twilio on Tuesday!

WHO’S THAT CAMERAMAN?

Last but not least, I’m pleased to be able to share with you all that my Doctor Who style companion for #CodeOnTheRoad is none other than television star and media mogul Sean Spooner. Sean was on our screens earlier this year in the Young Apprentice and had this to say about joining us:

“As someone who’s taken part in Young Rewired State, battled it out in Lord Sugar’s board room, and now runs my own business, I’m excited to see the great stuff everyone builds during the week. Young Rewired State always brings out the best people – and #CodeOnTheRoad is going to be a great way to really show that off to the world!”

JUST KEEP DRIVING…

You can follow the whole journey at www.findingnunney.com. Not only that but – in the spirit of APIs and open data, you can tap into the Finding Nunney API at api.findingnunney.com to get our most recent GPS co-ordinates and updates. Big hat tip to Ross Penman, a YRS participant, for making the API!

We’ll be posting a daily video each morning, as well as showing off stuff as we go along. The hashtag for the road trip is #CodeOnTheRoad, feel free to tweet your messages and my trust assistant will be able to reply while I’m driving.

Also – by popular request – I’ve created a Spotify playlist that you can all add songs to. This will be playing the whole time we’re in the car – so you, the people of #YRS2013, get to control what we listen to en route. Click here to open the playlist and add some tracks!

Here’s to Monday – we can’t wait!

 

CODE ON THE ROAD

29 Jul

yrsheadblog

For the past few years I’ve supported Young Rewired State. So have Twilio. This year – now that we’re one in the same – Twilio and I have been working on how we can showcase the amazing, talented, and wonderful young coders of the UK.

I give you #CodeOnTheRoad.

During the course of the week that Young Rewired State runs, thousands of under 18s will descend on local ‘centres’ all over the UK to ‘code a better country’ using open government data, supported by a network of local mentors.

This year, I’ll be jumping in my little old car and driving over 2,000 miles to visit 20 centres all over the UK – seeing 200 young coders hard at work and proving to the world that the future of the software industry is in safe hands.

cormap

On Monday I’m hitting Wales and the South West. On Tuesday I’ll be in London, East Anglia, and the Midlands. Wednesday sees me cover Scotland, Thursday the North, finishing the week on Friday in Birmingham ready for my talk – “Software People are Awesome” – at the Festival of Code.

The aim is simple – capture the essence of the week in pictures, videos, tweets and conversations, showcasing the best that young people in the UK have to offer, and ask the rest of the industry one simple question:

Young people see the importance of  APIs. Do you?

I’ve spent years talking online about how awesome young DOers are, now it’s time to show the world that the UK has the very best young talent that the world has to offer! Follow along with the #CodeOnTheRoad and #YRS2013 hashtags, this blog, and the Twilio Twitter and Facebook page for updates!

 

WE CAN BE BETTER THAN THIS

17 Jul

TLDR: This blog post tackles what some people might call “political correctness”. I don’t believe that “political correcness” exists – it’s called “treating people with respect and decency”, and I don’t think that can ever be a bad thing.

equalitynotyet

I’ve spoken at a wide variety of events – and a common vein I tend to weave into all of the talks I give is my pride in this industry. I’ve long harboured a firm belief that this is a diverse, accepting, amazing industry to be a part of. A place to feel proud, and be part of something wonderful. I even blogged about those exact things a couple of years ago. In my post “Peace, Love, and Wireless Controllers” I talked about how accepting and diverse a particular convention experience was. I took pride in my industry, my friends, and what I saw at the time as a world moving forward.

I feel like an idiot.

Over the past 18 months I’ve witnessed a staggering number of incidents and situations that have severely shaken my pride and belief in this industry, country, and planet. To steal a quote from Fox Mulder’s favourite poster, I want to believe – but I’m finding it harder and harder to take pride in the collective awesomeness of an industry full of people who can’t treat fellow human beings as equals. People who see women as objects. People who see homophobic humour as ‘just banter’. People who have – being honest about it – no place in decent society.

PROGRAMMERS BEING DICKS

I have a penis. I don’t generally use my penis during the working day, but it’s part of who I am. I identify as a man. Should this small (ahem) factor have any bearing on my participation in the ‘amazing’ tech industry that I talked about earlier? Apparently so.

Anna, a front-end developer, received an email from a male software engineering student that said “Man, you are hot. I want to bang you. You are lucky I’m in the U.S.A.” after she wrote an article on testing webpages for games consoles. See the screenshot below.

A2iGCbTCIAAAKjM

Yes – I know what you’re thinking. Testing webpages for games consoles gets us all a bit hot-under-the-collar. But a vile, rape-suggesting, creepy email like that belongs in a phychiatrist’s textbook, not in the inbox of someone who writes great quality content from an expert point of view and – oh – happens to be a woman.

There are many more shameful examples well captured on the Programmers Being Dicks blog – from tales of booth babes and stereotyped advertising to the women who speak up about the deplorable shit that goes on at tech conferences, events, and meetups up and down the country. These stories are important, real, and you need to know every single one of them. Read them all.

THAT’S SO GAY

A while ago I tweeted about a website called NoHomophobes that scans things like Twitter and Facebook for a few key words and phrases and presents you with a number. I pledged to unfollow anyone similar language. I got replies from people saying “wow, I hadn’t thought of that phrase as offensive”, and a few “It’s just a joke, lighten up” style replies.

I unfollowed 143 people within the space of a week.

It’s not just social media, either. As Tom Morris points out, a simple search on GitHub – a tool for managing code repositories – shows, at the time of writing, over ten thousand mentions of the word ‘faggot’ used in code.

Let me assure you that ‘faggot’ is not a technical term. It doesn’t refer to a language, a library, or some kind of developer short code. It’s nothing less than offensive. I’ve been on the recieving end of homophobic comments in the workplace, things like “you’re bent as a nine-bob note”, “trust the gay guy to compare this to a musical” and “are you still gay then?” – and, much like the creepy email above, none of the people to whom those quotes belong had any idea what they were doing was wrong.

NO OFFENCE, BUT…

This stuff isn’t a one off. It happens every day, all over the world. Some people just don’t get why it’s an issue. Others don’t get why they should apologise. Some are even sorry that we get offended by some of these things in the first place. ”I’m sorry that what I said offended you” is the same as saying “I’m sorry that you have feelings” or “I’m sorry that you can’t take a joke”. It isn’t an apology. It isn’t putting things right. It’s ignorance summed up in a sentence.

Try pulling someone up on this kind of BS and often you’ll see the same non-apology every time. In case I hadn’t laboured the point enough, saying that you’re sorry someone got upset or offended or anything similar is not apologising. Not even close.

As much as I enjoy larger-than-life characters in shows like How I Met Your Mother, I’m not a bro, a brogrammer, or any such combination of male stereotypes. I’d like to say that the majority of the men I know don’t ‘bro’ either, but I’d be lying.

There seems to be a ridiculous trend towards men acting like a cross between Jeremy Clarkson, Barney Stinson, and Glenn Quagmire – and it has to stop.

AND THEN THEY CAME FOR YOU…

I remember reading the brilliant and provocative poem “First they came…” in a history lesson at school and feeling inspired and empowered – if we are to make the world a better place, I thought, we must all stand together and make it so. We must all speak out, and remind ourselves of what happens when we don’t. This isn’t a job for managers, conference organisers, or any one group of people alone. It’s something we all need to challenge.

1. Think. We’re all responsible for our own words and actions – and ignorance isn’t an excuse. We can’t keep living in a world where “no offence meant” means we can get away with speaking first and thinking later. You own every word you utter.

2. Challenge Expectations. This isn’t a fight for campaigners or picket lines – we all need to challenge the status quo. See a conference with a woeful underrepresentation of women? Ask the organisers about it.

3. Speak Out. It might put you out of your comfort zone to pull someone up on their use of language, derogatory imagery, or inappropriate behaviour - but think about how much more uncomfortable it is for the people who have to live in a world where they are on the recieving end of that kind of thing every single day. Grow up – stop using peer pressure and shyness as an excuse – and we all walk a little taller as a result.

I want to be proud of the industry I love. I want to be able to stand up and talk ad nausium about the diversity and equality within tech communities the world over. I want a day to go by where I don’t see or hear a harrowing tale of racism, sexism or homophobia in the workplace.

It’s down to you. We can be better than this - all of us. Let’s do one another proud.

PRIDE…

28 Jun

prideflag

I was 13 when I first told my best friend Sophie that I wasn’t straight.

We used to spend hours on the phone – back in the days where you had to hang up every hour and call back to keep it free – but I decided I wanted to tell her in person. And just as I was plucking up the courage, she beat me to it by coming out of the closet first. Girls, eh?

—————

One thousand, two hundred and fifty three days ago I wrote a blog post titled “Luck, Love, and Dinner”. It was really the first time I had blogged about sexuality and life as a ‘gay geek’ – I talked about why I never attend Pride, my fear of stereotypes, and meeting someone special at a Gay Geek Dinner.

In the 1.8 million minutes since then I went on to get a civil partnership, change jobs a couple of times, and deepen my love of food (and subsequently my waist size). I moved house, got cats, and inherited a wonderful family. I even passed my driving test.

Just because it’s been three-and-a-half years since I last put stylus to screen on this topic, doesn’t mean there haven’t been things I’ve wanted to say. And, if anything, the past three-and-a-half years have given me more pause for thought on equality than I’ve had before.

As I said in my original blog post, I don’t feel the need to ‘come out’ to people. Who I love isn’t something I should have to announce – less so now that I’m ‘off the market’ so to speak. Yet when people work it out I frequently get comments like “You don’t act like you’re gay” and “I’d never have guessed”. One former colleague in particular would constantly refer to my “wife”, for whatever reason. Things like the defeat of DOMA and the UK’s Marriage Equality act will be a huge step forward – but social equality?

The day people don’t automatically assume that, because I’m married, I have a wife.

It’s funny what spurs us into action. A few months ago I sat on a packed tube train with friend and former colleague Paul Lo, and we got to chatting about LGBT rights. Paul is involved in organising events for GLEAM, an employee LGBT group within Microsoft, and wondered why I didn’t want to get more involved.

“I hate stereotypes”, I replied. “Joining an LGBT group, waving a flag at pride, it’s what people expect us to do, isn’t it? Surely I’m doing a better thing for demonstrating equality if I just get on with my life, my civil partnership, and prove that it’s all just ‘normal’ and fine?”

What Paul said next stuck a chord with 13-year-old me, and made me kick myself. “It’s our responsibility”, he stated matter-of-factly. “Our generation are the people who can change things – make noise, show the world that we are just regular people who deserve the rights that others do. You’ve just got too comfortable.”

In the hustle and bustle of changing jobs I had let Paul’s words float to the back of my mind, until I read a blog post by colleague Rob Spectre last night in which he talks about campaigning for marriage equality in Nebraska and how the DOMA rulings mean that “every American is more free than when they awoke.”

“We know today our work is not done”, Rob goes on to write. “…we know that work takes far longer and is far harder than we ever imagined. But we also finally know that work will effect real change in our time.”

And so it struck me. My fear of using the word ‘gay’ in case I face negative stereotypes? Distancing myself from ‘pride’ and the movement that embodies it? Using gender-neutral terminology when referring to my husband? All things I felt I needed to do to lead a ‘normal’ life.

I was wrong.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that, feeling like I need to obfuscate parts of my life is exactly why the campaign for equality needs all the support it can get. If a once-proud ‘gay geek’ like me can lose my faith in equality to the point of losing my ‘voice’, so to speak, then what hope is there for the next generation, and the generation after that?

I’m inspired by people like Daniel Hart who, aside from being a 16-year-old supergeek, finds the time to write about equality. “I often get asked why I always seem to talk about my sexuality” writes Dan. “I haven’t a clue really. It’s not celebrating the fact that I’m gay, it’s celebrating the fact that I can be gay without facing prosecution.”

I caught the end of a documentary last night called ‘Gay Champions‘ in which two Dutch journalists went to Ukraine to cover the planned Pride parade there in 2012. The padade never took place. Just as it was about to start, anti-gay groups chased LGBT Ukrainians who were on their way there. Two of the organizers were hospitalized in the process. It made for harrowing viewing.

I often talk about being proud to be British – but I feel like in my pride in our great, diverse country I have become, in Paul’s words, “too comfortable”. Just because my sexuality isn’t obviously visible, I’ve let myself believe that the struggle for equality that we all still face is somehow less important than it used to be.

—————

It’s been around 135,000 hours since Sophie and I ‘came out’ to each other, and she’s still beating me to it when it comes to knowing what to say:

“I hate to state that I’m gay purely because I don’t think that I be should defined by who I sleep with”, she said. “In the same instance I know that if people don’t know that I’m gay then I’m contributing to the idea that everyone is assumed ‘straight’.”

Until we move away from a world of heteronormativity – where everyone is assumed to be heterosexual from birth – there will always be a need for people who stand up and talk openly about who they are, who they love, and why equality is important.

As Dan quotes in his blog post: “Gay Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but instead out right to exist without prosecution. So maybe instead of wondering why there isn’t a Straight Pride month or movement, straight people should be thankful they don’t need one”.

I’m a bit of a geek. I’ve got a house, a car, a job, an obsession with retro technology and an unhealthy reluctance to cut down on carbs. I’m also a man who loves men – although, for the sake of my civil partnership, I should probably say “I’m a man who loves man”.

And you know what? I’m really, really proud of that.