Friday, October 28, 2005

Is there a pecking order for human rights?

George Takei, who played Sulu in Star Trek has come out in the current issue of Frontiers. He is starring in a new play and told journalists that “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay. The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.” He has lived with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years.

This is another interesting addition to the debate on whether homophobia or heterosexism is a civil rights issue in the same way as race, gender, ageism etc. Takei obviously does see some parallels, likening prejudice against gays to racial segregation. “It’s against basic decency and what American values stand for,” he said.

For another take on this there is a great article in Time magazine picking up civil rights and gay rights following debates in Massachusetts about gay marriage. Jeninne Lee-St. John describes how her mother's father didn't want to attend her wedding. She says "To a Chinese immigrant who came to New York as a boy, who had lived and toiled in the back of a laundromat and worked his way up to become a successful insurance business owner and community leader, the prospect of his oldest child marrying a black American man was not just shameful, it was a step backward."

Jennie acknowledges that the history of race discrimination and heterosexism are different and "in the game of Who's Been More Systematically Oppressed?, black people win hands down." But that doesn't discount the hardships of other groups.

She finishes by noting that, "Black Americans don't need to approve of or understand homosexuality to recognize that. And they owe it to successes of the civil rights movement, to their own triumph over inhumane treatment and accusations of an impure agenda, to try." Read more here

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

We have been back from Venezuela for over four weeks now and I have definitely got the post holiday blues. It is dark, rainy and grey. We have work outstanding on the house and I have a 10,000-word dissertation to finish by January, which I have hardly started.

Doom and gloom aside we had a great holiday. I haven’t had a lot of time for posting since I got back and well post a few photos over the next couple of weeks to remind me of sunnier days.

One outstanding memory was our trip to Angel Falls. We travelled from Margarita in a 12 seater single-prop plane, while the pilots read their newspapers and chatted to their friend’s over the radio. Their calm was infective and we happily swooped over cliff edges and skimmed the river as we headed into camp.

The whole Canaima National Park was beautiful with an ancient landscape and gigantic cracked mountains, formed when the earth’s plates thrust up against each other. It looked like a bowl of giant sugar lumps had been scattered over the landscape. The plane dived to sweep over the falls from both sides and it was amazing to see such a high fall. It was not as spectacular in effect as Niagara or the falls in Yosemite Park I saw years ago in terms of the volume of water but the sheer height and fall was amazing.

We then took a boat past other falls including El Sapo. Once on shore we had a short trek until it we loaded the cameras into a waterproof bag, stripped to our shorts and walked behind the waterfall. Yes – the waterfall below!

It was very loud, very wet and a bit scary. We were pounded with water and at some points you could hardly see your way ahead. But it was fantastic – well worth the 240 dollars for the trip and something that I would recommend to anyone visiting Venezuela. We had arranged the tour before we arrived with Walter's Tours, rather than through the holiday company. The advantage of doing it this way was that we were part of a small group comprising us, some Norwegians, Germans and Chileans, which was a great mix, and much better than being with a plane load of other Brits.

Our guide, Arturo, was very informative and managed to keep a running dialogue in English Spanish and German going, while ensuring that no-one in the party lagged behind or was in any trouble with the trek. Here he is from the top of the falls.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gay-Partner Suit is Tossed

Another example of the US having antiquated and discriminatory laws in this story from NY Daily News, about a judicial decision that John Langan cannot sue St. Vincent's Medical Centre for allegedly causing the death of his partner, Neal Spicehandler. The panel's majority said it could not uphold the ruling because the couple's civil union from Vermont is not a marital relationship, making Langan ineligible to sue. Langan and Spicehandler (great name!) were together for 15 years before they exchanged vows in a 2000 civil union ceremony in Vermont.

Again, reassures me that the imminent changes to British law to register same-sex relationships will allow this kind of situation to be avoided. Of course, if you haven't registered then you don't have the automatic rights conferred. Me and my partner have vaguely talked about, but haven't made a definite decision or thought too much about dates. I want to wait a little to see what the process involves and consider whether we treat it as a pseudo-wedding with cake and gifts; a private ceremony with a few close friends; or an administrative process to secure equity of rights in society and no different from getting a new passport or registering with a dentist?

Great headline though!!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Venomous little buggers

As if I needed any further proof that exercise was bad for you my partner had a rather alarming incident yesterday while out running.

He takes a pretty standard route around the block and then over fields and back again. Yesterday he had only been out for about 10 minutes when the door went and I heard "I'm OK, but I need your help now." As he had started his run he had been attacked by a swarm of wasps who had got inside his tee shirt and had a sting-fest. He had run straight home, a little worried as he had never been stung by a wasp before and was worried he may have an allergic reaction. He took his shirt off releasing 3 wasps, which I dispatched in 10 seconds flat. Luckily, we had bought anti-histamine tables and cream for taking on holiday and he took one of those straight away. I then checked the stings, I counted 29!! On his back, shoulders, arms and neck, although some of them were so swollen in clusters there may have been more.

I told him to have a cool shower while I rang NHS Direct for advice. Normally, I wouldn't be worried about a wasp sting, but the large number of stings did worry me. They took some details and once they had established that his breathing was OK and there was no swelling of the throat, lips and face they promised to get a nurse to call back. Meanwhile, my partner was out of the shower and I started to apply anti-histamine cream to the stings. All the while he as quite calm, whereas I would have been blubbing like a baby!

NHS Direct called back and it turns out that we had done all the right things and that if he was going to have a severe reaction it would have happened already. I was reassured as I wouldn't like the venom of 30 wasp stings coursing through my veins. I am glad we had the anti-histamine pills and cream to hand. I also dread to think how a child or a little old lady would have coped with this number of stings.

Thanks to Wikipedia for this great image of a wasp stinger with a drop of venom. 29 of these and not a tear - so well done to my brave little baby!!