Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gays Don't Want Marriage, Apparently

It's a very strange feeling to be on the other side of the world (Taiwan) while your home country debates the future of your rights as a human being. That's how I am experiencing the debate over gay marriage that has been bouncing around the Web and British mainstream media over the last week or so. The fact stands that we will almost certainly get the law passed by this end of this parliamentary term in 2015, so whoop-de-do, huzzah and hooray! But this hasn't stopped those opposed to me being able to marry the person I want to spend the rest of my life with let out one last whimper as they enter the beginning of the end of their argument.

I have been openly gay to my friends and family throughout my adult life. I suppose I am one of the lucky generation that has been able to grow up realistically presuming to not be on the receiving end of abuse and expecting the love and support of those around them, regardless of their sexuality. In fact, in over six years of being out, I have never received any abuse or even negative comments about my sexuality from a single person I have met - let alone family members. Of course I know I am one of the lucky ones and that young, queer kids still have a hard time - but I think I can safely say the trend is positive. We no longer need to grow up on the periphery of culture, we can be at its heart.

Maybe it is because I have been protected in my homophobia-free bubble that I was baffled to read about the Tori MP David Davis say that parents would prefer their children not to be gay because of the fact they would not have grandchildren. Now he may see his words as a fair comment, but I can guarantee a kid, somewhere, will read that and think twice about coming out and living an open life with the rest of their family. I know it would have affected me.

I'm also baffled to hear caller after caller on this week's Any Answers of Radio 4 (the sister programme to the current-events panel show, Any Questions) give reason after reason why I shouldn't be able to marry another man.

Listen to the episode here.

According to one of the callers, a number of homosexuals have said it is unnecessary, that civil partnerships are enough and that there is "no clamour for a redefinition of marriage from the homosexual community."

Firstly, the thing that struck me first was her use of the term "homosexual community". I'm as proud and happy of being gay as anyone in my position, but I have never felt like part of a homosexual, gay or queer community. My closest friends are people I have spent time working, studying or travelling with. I have at no point chosen to be part of a group because I happen to share a sexual preference with them, the idea of it seems strange to me. Every now and again I will go to a gay bar but these are by no means my main haunts. When I used to live in Manchester I was more likely to be seen at the indie bar, 5th Avenue than the gay village down the road.

I think this is normal for my generation of young, gay people. We have not needed places to escape to because of society not accepting us and therefore haven't had the need for a gay network. So I found it distinctly strange that this woman on Radio 4 was clumping my rights under the umbrella of a community with which I struggle to identify.

Secondly, where is this clamour from the gay community that is so conspicuous due to its absence? Every now and again the Prime Minister will reiterate that he wants gay marriage to go through and there will be a few articles in newspapers supporting him and a handful with loud voices that will be opposed, but where are the big public figures pushing for this? Where are the comedians, politicians  business people, broadcasters or any of the many public, gay figures that we have in this country that will correct people like the woman on Any Answers? I want someone to confirm that yes, we do want to have marriage and no, equal but different civil partnerships are not enough! If there are people who have been fighting this fight on my behalf, then please set me straight (no pun intended).

It may be rather hypocritical of me to say that I don't feel like part of the gay community but in the same blog lament the lack of a community standing up for my rights. But maybe this easy road that I and many in my age group have been treading, had led us to be complacent and believe that this is not worth fighting for.

The lady on Any Answers mentioned that her husband is buried somewhere with the words "loving husband" engraved on his tombstone. As the law stands, no matter how long I have been in a civil partnership with the man I chose to build a life with, I will not have the option of putting that on my grave. I have been raised in a society where couples mark their commitment through marriage. Regardless as to what social group a woman on the radio places me into, I just want the right to do the same.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Chris Anderson on Independent Content Creators

Chris C. Anderson is a Senior Editor at the Huffington Post. He was kind enough to talk to me when he came to Taiwan as part of a whistle-stop tour of Asia. In the video of this interview he talked about why he chose to move to China in 2006 and gave advice to any young souls feeling stuck in their home countries who want a change of scenery. In this written part of the interview he talks about the role of user generated content in the future of media and advice for any YouTubers feeling disillusioned after Charlie’s I’m Scared video.

Around 2007/08 there was a feel amongst a lot of the mainstream media, especially publications, that user generated content, including vloggers and content creators on YouTube, were their direct competition and the future of the media. It feels like that perception of innovation has disappeared and that content creators are being sucked into a larger business model like Stylish or My Damn Channel, rather than creating their own networks and maybe creating their own equivalent of the Huffington Post. Do you think that there is still a chance for user generated content to become a real competitor in the media without being sucked up into a larger conglomerate?

Chris Anderson:
 I think that people, if they are offered good compensation for something that they have created, that they are always going to look at it.

Do you think it loses a certain amount of integrity when that happens?

I think it loses an amount of its initial juice. That creative spark when you build something, when it gets bought out or you offer it up to somebody, you’re losing that bit of yourself that you put into it. Suddenly you don’t have that control that you had over it, when you were number one.

This is something that happens on YouTube quite a lot. Individuals, channels and group projects are being approached by organisations and are being told to have schedules, cover certain content etc…

There is actually a discussion happening now amongst YouTubers, where a lot of content creators have started questioning the quality of their content and the integrity of what they are posting. As a journalist, do you think that this is something that is present over all creative disciplines, or do you this the intimacy of YouTube means that creators on the site means that they are more susceptible to it. Is this something that you have experienced at some point in your career?

I think everyone runs into a bit of a wall sometimes in terms of creativity. It’s like writer’s block, right? You sit down in front of your keyboard and know you have a good idea and you want to get it out there but for whatever reason your fingers don’t move and your stuck. I don’t think it’s any different for people on YouTube.

However, I think it’s different in how you approach it because you are forced to be in front of a screen as opposed to being behind a screen because you have to always have that same personality. But if you’re a writer it doesn’t matter what you look like or how you act.

You can maybe look back at the content and say that you look good, sound good, think that your presentation is really tight but think, “what the heck was I talking about, why did I say that? I could have said it differently…” and question yourself into a spiral. The next time you’ll be doubting yourself and looking at your content, trying to get it straight the next time, but try not to care about that – just plough through it. You still look good, you still have a following, you still have people who care about what you have to say.

And these people are invested in you. I keep on bringing up the fact that we are brands now, and it is in vogue to say that everyone is their own brand and you have to try and get people to invest in your brand whether you’re doing business, selling merchandise or creating content. We seem to be keen on the idea of getting others to get excited about the idea of you and not just the content you create.

Right, so long as you do go so far out of what you normally do so that you alienate your audience. You know what, if you don’t make the best content one day, just hit it back the next day. Don’t stop doing it. You’re a creative person; just don’t stop.

Chris C. Anderson became a Senior Editor at the Huffington Post in New York after starting his career as a travel and lifestyle journalist in Asia. I met him when he came to National Chengchi University to talk on new media during a trip around Asia. You can find him on Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest where he posts about East Asia, gaming and travel.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Watching Them Get Gold

They say that boys don’t cry, but I can be a bit of a sobber. Show me Apocalypse Now, Forest Gump or an athlete crying on a podium and the waterworks come forth. The latter occurred yesterday when the South African swimmer, Chad Le Clos won gold last night and beat his hero and the greatest Olympian ever, Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly. I was a mess.

I used to compete as a swimmer. I was never going to make it to the big leagues, but I knew exactly how Le Clos felt as he touched, turned around, and saw that he was the best. From his last 25m where you see his body seizing up from the lactate, his face contorting as he wills his body to keep going, stop hurting and push further. It brought all those memories back from the time I used to compete. Hence, tears poured when he started choking up with a shiney piece of metal around his neck.

Kudos also has to be given to Michael Phelps. He was so gracious in defeat and was so courteous to Le Clos, showing him where to go after the ceremony and handing him the limelight. You saw a slight grin on Phelps’ face as he saw the young South African choke up on stage. To Phelps it would have been another ‘topping on his sundae’, for the young man who beat him it was a shock and it clearly meant the world.

This is why I love sport and love The Games. You get to see people achieve their dream for two weeks solid. This is also a dream that I once had. Anyone who competed in any kind of sport relatively seriously at some point wants to get an Olympic gold. It is just a pleasure to see these deserving, hard-working athletes reach where I never could. I guess that’s also why it’s a bit of a tear jerker.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Legitimate Democracy in China

Whenever I go on a prolonged journey by rail or plane, I decide to treat myself to the glory that is TIME Magazine. I like to think my publication selection gives me a sophisticated air; plus the front pages are pretty.

Funnily enough, when these long trips occur, more often than not a China Special will be plastered on the cover. This will often tell us how China is going to eat us all, the country's rise symbolised by a picture of a dragon, a flag or something else equally non-personal. As a sino-file, I of course lap this up. It's also very nice of them to coincide their editorial decisions with my trips, thank you TIME.

In this week's Special the author of "China in Ten Words", YuHua wrote a short piece calling for political reform if China wants there to be continued economic growth.

Interestingly, YuHua never mentions the word democracy, only reform and more transparency. Part of me finds it refreshing that he declined to call for a Democratic People's Republic of China but also a little annoyed at the wishy-washy suggestions that modern China is like a junction with faulty traffic lights.

The fact is, the Chinese Communist Party is internally seen as a legitimate government by the people. They have lifted 500 million people out of poverty in the past 30 years and are providing an economy that is still growing, albeit at a slower pace now. Why would you put your prosperity into jeopardy by calling for an the implementation of an ideology (democracy) that won't necessarily work?

Honestly, if there were a referendum for a democratic government in the PRC, it probably wouldn't pass.

There have been moves to democratisation that are often cited in western literature, namely the community elections in rural villages. But this is simply to provide a different form of legitimacy. Economic growth has not reached these communities, and so they have less reason to support the Party. How do you stop these people feeling disenfranchised and left behind? Give them a say (no matter how small) in how they are governed.

Legitimate your power by giving the masses more money, property and the chance to buy Louis Vuitton. Keep the rest happy by distracting them with sudo-democracy. Get on with overtaking the USA.

Bugger all this democracy bollocks, it didn't work for the Greeks!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Why Obama's views on Gay Marriage are Important

The last day or so I have born witness to a kerfuffle online in response the the US President's comments on one of the largest civil rights issues of modern times, that of gay people having the right to marry.

It seems unsurprising that it was the first black President who happened to be a Democrat who became the first serving US President to come out in favour of the issue. It was the timing that shocked me though. In the UK we are having the same debate, but support for gay marriage is high with a Telegraph poll recently showing public support for gay marriage at 78%. Here politicians are reacting in line with the public mood, but Obama has stuck his neck out on an issue that still cuts a fissure through American society. This is surprising in the run up to an election as well as the fact that two groups on whose vote the incumbent President relies, blacks and hispanics, are amongst the most sceptical about the issue.

It's is, however, worth mentioning that a few of Obama's cabinet, including Vice-President Biden, had started the ball rolling a week or so before. It is unclear as to whether their announcements were planned or not.

Buy why would I be interested in what the US President thinks on this issue when I'm in a country where I will be able to marry whomever I want by the end of this parliamentary term (fingers crossed)? The fact is this is going to be huge for gay rights internationally. I have seen how the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office have, quite literally, flown the flag for gay rights around the world; it has become common to see the rainbow flag flying above a British embassy or consulate during Pride events in different countries in support of foreign LGBT communities. If the most powerful nation in the world begins to take a similar stance then this could be pivotal for the international gay rights movement. Obama has stated that it should still be up to the states to decide their stance on the issue, which I think is fair despite some criticisms from gay commentators. Gay marriage should be wanted by the people and not force-fed, lest resentment of LGBT people becomes worse. But with this kind of ideology at the top, internationally we can hope that stances will evolve.