Monday, April 07, 2008

Playing Catch-up

Things have been busy recently over on the Podcast channel, with the result that I've not been keeping up over here in the Blog -- where my general intention was to provide the back story or scripts to the recorded content. In this single post I'm therefore hoping to play catch-up and talk briefly about the all the new items I've been adding over there...

The first addition was an item I had been batting around in various forms for some time.

Religious Belief vs The Secular World

It's long concerned me that people seem to get into an unnecessary mess in trying to understand how rights regarding religion or beliefs can co-exist with other people's rights.

There are lots of places where such apparent conflicts can occur.

Many religions have beliefs or traditions surrounding the role of women that clearly don't accord with our modern-day view of equality. Advances in medicine over the last forty years, in the areas of contraception, safe abortion, test tube fertilisation and surrogacy have simply added to the potential touchpoints for a conflict of ideologies.

Similarly, as secular society's view of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people has advanced in leaps and bounds in the last few years (especially the last decade), the development of non discrimination legislation has led to religious groups feeling as though they needed to fight a desperate rearguard action to preserve space around ideas that they hold dear as well.

I had already written about this topic before, when invited to suggest a form of words that could go into a series of equality guides to explain how balance can operate. I also wanted to put this into a shorter and more digestible form, which I hope I've now achieved in the Podcast that I published last week, under the title "When Rights Conflict". You can listen to that using the player below.

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EHRC Gets Visual

The same day I also spotted an interesting development over at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, where they've launched their own You Tube channel : .

I'm not sure whether I can get away with claiming a little bit of responsibility for this idea -- but I'll try!

At a consultation meeting which I attended with the new commission's communications advisers last summer I raised the suggestion that they should use You Tube and other new media in this way to get across their messages.

The idea was greeted with "We hadn't thought of that", and it was speedily written down. I dare say the idea may have been advanced by others as well though. After all, virtually everyone these days has a presence there -- though I'm content to carry on in the far more adaptable world of audio for some time yet!

The You Tube home page features a lead item on Marcus Ramshaw -- a rather fun sounding Vicar who also happens to be a practicing Goth. (So, you see, religious folk can have fun too -- if they want). You can also see inside Trevor Phillips' office and learn the origins of the big blue sofa.

My favourite video in the initial batch, however, is this one featuring the artist Alison Lapper.

Calpernia Addams - Widdowed by Hate

Over the last weekend I also took a trip down to London to spend some time at the International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival there. I had booked to go and see an expert panel discussing the way that trans people are represented in film and on TV. However it was also an opportunity to meet and interview a US rising star whom I've been watching and following with interest for many years.

Calpernia is a transsexual woman -- a strikingly beautiful one. In recent years her media career has begun to blossom. In 2004, following encouragement from none less than Jane Fonda, she and her business partner staged a unique all-transgender production of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues. A documentary of this was shown at the festival, along with a another short film of hers. She also consulted in the film Transamerica and has just completed a reality dating show in which she is the star figure. At the same time she has produced a really catchy dance track "Stunning", with a tongue in cheek video to match.

In other words, Calpernia is on her way up and we'll doubtless hear far more of her in the future.
Addams' present day success covers a terrible tragedy though.

Ten years ago she met a young soldier, Private Barry Winchell, who promptly fell head over heels for her charms. The two became an item, but this was interpreted by some of Barry's comrades as a homosexual affair. Two of them dealt with this by crushing Barry's skull whilst he lay asleep in his bunk at army camp. If that was not bad enough, Calpernia was then excluded from the opportunity for normal grieving and re-cast by the media and activists alike as a gay man -- since that enabled them to be able to understand the events as a homophobic hate crime.
As an interviewer I dreaded the task of drawing this story from Calpernia for the purposes of an in-depth interview. It involved pressing on when normally you would just stop and hug.

Calpernia wants people to understand the events for what they were though and, though there are moments when her voice slows and begins to crack, she made it through and told the tale as it feels now -- a decade on.

Personally I hope I didn't press too hard. I've never interviewed someone in this position before and I was desperate to find the right balance. Perhaps you'll listen, judge and let me know though. You can hear it below.

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