Archive for the LGBT Category

Peter Tatchell: Equality is not Enough

Posted in Cardiff, History, LGBT, Politics with tags , on March 23, 2018 by telescoper

On the evening of Monday 12th February, during LGBT History Month, I went to a lecture by Peter Tatchell which was held in the Sir Martin Evans lecture theatre at Cardiff University. I was going to do a post about it but never found the time. Today I noticed that a video of the lecture had been posted on Cardiff University’s youtube channel which reminded me to say something about it. I admire and respect Peter Tatchell’s integrity and determination, and the way he has stood up against homophobia for more than 50 years is inspirational. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I found myself agreeing with most of the content of this lecture, the main idea of which was that it is not enough for LGBT people to seek equality within a system that is so manifestly discriminatory against whole sectors of the population. The aim of of LGBT campaigners should be to transform society, not to be accommodate within it.

Anyway, here’s his lecture. Form your own opinions!


LGBT+ History Month and the Royal Society

Posted in Biographical, History, LGBT with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2018 by telescoper

You may or may not know that this month is LGBT+ History Month for 2018, and, to mark it, the Royal Society has been marking it on Twitter by celebrating LGBT+ scientists.

I am very proud to be included among those featured on Twitter, although slightly disappointed that no mention was made of my greatest achievement, namely the Beard of Winter 2018 award.

I can’t show all the people in the Twitter thread produced by the Royal Society because there are too many of us, but I will mention two people that I know personally.

The first is radio astronomer Rachael Padman from the University of Cambridge:

Among other things, Rachael recently won an award from Gay Times magazine. I worked quite a bit with Rachael when I was External Examiner for Natural Sciences (Physics), a job I did from 2014-2016, as she was heavily involved in the administration of the examinations process at Cambridge during this time.

The other person I’d like to mention is Tom Welton, who is Professor of Sustainable Chemistry and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial College in London.

I especially wanted to mention Tom because he and I were contemporaries at the University of Sussex way back in the 1980s when I was a research student. I hadn’t seen him since I moved from Sussex in 1990 until two years ago when we were both panellists at an `Out in STEM’ event run by the Royal Society.

I know some of you will be asking whether the Royal Society should be getting involved in LGBT History Month. Some people commenting on the Twitter thread certainly think it shouldn’t.  I think it should, in order to demonstrate that a person can be openly LGBT+ and have a successful career in STEM.  If being visible in this way helps just one career feel more comfortable in themselves and in their career it would be well worth it.


LGBT+ Physical Sciences Climate Survey

Posted in LGBT with tags , on February 13, 2018 by telescoper

Very busy day today so I only have time to post a quick notice about an event coming up in a couple of weeks (on 1st March 2018) at the Institute of Physics in London:

This event celebrates the launch of the LGBT+ physical sciences survey, the first UK and Ireland survey of the working, teaching and studying climate for LGBT+ physicists, astronomers and chemists and those in related sciences.

Speakers from the community will be sharing their perspectives on the successes and challenges of creating a climate that enables everyone to be fully themselves in the workplace and place of study. The event is also an opportunity to find out more about the survey and meet other members of the network at an informal reception with drinks and snacks.

I am greatly honoured to have been asked to give a talk to introduce the event and chair the session, which ends in a panel discussion.The event is open to all, but space is limited at the venue so you will have to sign up if you want to go. You can sign up here.

See you there!

Cardiff Pride “Big Weekend”

Posted in Biographical, LGBT on August 26, 2017 by telescoper

Today I took part in the annual Cardiff Pride Parade – which was much bigger than I expected! – followed by the ‘Big Weekend’ festival in Cathays Park. I walked in the Parade with LGBT Labour Wales. Here’s the group photo taken at the end of the march:

The start, in Windsor Place, was quite congested and we were rather late setting off because of the crowds in front of us, as we were quite near the back.

Here’s the view from the bottom of St Mary Street:

It was a lovely day, marred only by poorly organised access to Cathays Park. I had to queue for 90 minutes..

Once inside, though, there was plenty to do: funfair, music, food and drink, and of course stalls run by various organisations. I had a chat with the good folk of Time To Change Wales, who campaign on mental health issues, and spent some time with Enfys, the Cardiff University Staff LGBT+ network.

And, of course, no Cardiff Pride event would be complete without a Shirley Bassey impersonator!

The ‘Big Weekend’ continues tomorrow, but I’m busy elsewhere so I’ll wish everyone a happy time for the rest of the festival!

Remembering Joe Orton

Posted in History, LGBT with tags , , , on August 9, 2017 by telescoper

Joe Orton, photographed on 1st March 1967.

The playwright and author Joe Orton died on August 9th 1967, which is exactly 50 years ago today. I couldn’t resist a short post in his memory.

Joe Orton’s career was very brief – he was only 34 when he died – but reached brilliant heights with a series of anarchic black comedies that both scandalised and entertained Sixties audiences. Such was his success that he is one of the few playwrights to have  his name remembered  in the English language,  in the form of the adjective `Ortonesque’:

Relating to or characteristic of the English playwright Joe Orton or his works, especially in being unconventional and darkly comic.

My first experience of Orton’s plays was seeing an amateur dramatic society production of Loot when I was a student. I have to say it was a dreadful experience, but that was because of the performance not because of the script. Loot is basically a farce, and I think that must be the most difficult form of comedy to do successfully. The timing has to be perfect, the pace has to be relentless and everyone has to act as if all the absurd things going on make perfect sense. Those are tough requirements for amateurs, and even for professionals. The first, provincial, run of Loot was a flop even with an experienced cast. It was only when it was revived a couple of years later that it became a hit.

The circumstances of Joe Orton’s death were terrible: he was battered to death by his partner Kenneth Halliwell  (with whom he lived in a small bedsit) who then committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets. Orton and Halliwell had been in a relationship since 1951.  Joe had never made any secret about his enjoyment of casual sexual encounters – his diaries are full of descriptions of his adventures – but  I think it was the thought of living alone rather than sexual jealousy that Halliwell couldn’t handle.

I never met Joe Orton (I was only 4 when was murdered) but I have over the years met a number of older gay men who knew him (and Halliwell) in various ways (if you get my drift). They all described him in the same way: cute, funny and extremely flirtatious. Watch this clip of him on TV and I think you’ll see why so many people were attracted to his cheekily boyish manner:

Those who knew Halliwell also say that the usual cliché about him as a failure embittered by Joe’s success is not fair. They were an odd couple (for the time) but what they had seemed to work for them, both romantically and creatively. It makes the horrible end of their lives even more difficult to contemplate. Here’s an interview with Kenneth Williams (who was very repressed about his sexuality) talking about Orton (who was quite the opposite), that gives some insight into the relationship between the two:

Rest in peace, Joe Orton (1933-1967), author and gay icon.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act

Posted in History, LGBT with tags , , on July 27, 2017 by telescoper

1967 act

Just a short post to note that today is the 50th anniversary of the day that the Sexual Offences Act (1967) received the Royal Assent (27th July 1967). This Act partially decriminalised sex between two male adults provided both were over the age of 21 at the time. I’ve emphasised `partially’ because the number of prosecutions of men for consensual sexual acts actually went up in the years following this law. It was not until 2000 that the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalised that age of consent at 16 for both homosexual and heterosexual behaviours throughout the United Kingdom. The 1967 Act was problematic in many ways, but it was a start…

Tainted Love

Posted in LGBT, Music with tags , , on July 7, 2017 by telescoper

And now for something completely different…

A little bird told me that it was exactly 36 years ago today, on 7th July 1981, that the single Tainted Love was released in the UK by Soft Cell. The record climbed rapidly to Number 1 and was the biggest-selling record of the year. Here it is being performed on Top of the Pops..

I was still at school in July 1981, having finished my A-levels; I would return to school after the summer break to take the Cambridge entrance examination.

Here’s a scary fact for those of you who, like me, remember this record from the time of its release: July 7th 1981 is closer to the end of the Second World War (August 1945) than it is to the present day (July 7th 2017).

And on that note I wish you happy weekend!