Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Summer 1998

From Political to Personal

by Brett Humphreys

Two new organisations have recently been set up to campaign for lesbian and gay rights in the UK, perhaps reflecting growing disillusionment with the new Government’s apparent lack of progress towards reform in this area during its first year of office, and both have quickly established a presence on the Web. YouthSpeak, the campaigning group launched in February for young (under-25) lesbians and gay men, is making good use of new technology by using its website to gather names electronically for a petition to the Home Secretary objecting to the Human Rights Bill’s lack of specific reference to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, and opposing the demand by churches to be exempted from the provisions of the Bill. Other recent projects mentioned on the site include countering an attempt by the Christian Institute to “deliberately twist the facts” in its recent report on Homosexuality and Young People.

The Equality Alliance is the new umbrella organisation launched in April at a meeting sponsored by GALHA at Conway Hall in London. Although its site is still small at the time of writing, it is likely to grow over the coming months. It joins the site of one of the Alliance’s own members, the Scottish campaigning organisation Equality Network, in being hosted by Digital Diversity, a well-established voluntary group whose aim is to use the Internet to promote communication among lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Meanwhile, the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) is the latest national humanist organisation in the UK to set up its own website. Apart from HSS-specific information like contacts and events, this includes pages on general humanist concerns such as rites of passage and segregated schooling, with particular reference to Scotland where appropriate.

Despite continued attempts at censorship in some quarters, the Internet has been said to have the potential for the greatest boost in recent times to freedom of speech. Not only small organisations but also individuals can be their own publishers, at least in parts of the world where Internet access is relatively cheap. Personal websites, with their scope for individual creativity, vary widely in style and content, but generally include some combination of personal history and outlook, and professional or more general interests. Below are a few examples belonging to contributors to Gay and Lesbian Humanist.

A visit to Peter B. Ball’s site, with its plentiful photographs, animated graphics, and background music accompanying a lot of the pages, can quite fairly be described as a multimedia experience. Among several essays on the site are his thoughtful article Are Humanists Atheists or Agnostics? which was published in the Summer 1990 issue of G&LH, and his provocatively-titled Are Mormons Mad?, a critique of the cult from which he himself escaped after many years, as he recounted in this magazine in 1988. There are several lighter-hearted pages too, and a notable feature of the site is its substantial collection of music in the form of 90-odd MIDI files.

Udo Schüklenk is an academic whose research includes, as outlined in his article in the Spring 1997 issue of G&LH, ethical issues arising from the controversial area of the investigation of causes of sexual orientation. The text of the paper on The Ethics of Genetic Research on Sexual Orientation mentioned in that article is now available on his website. Among other published papers worth looking at on the site are Deathly Doctrine: Christian Churches and AIDS; and Ethics, Research and the Public Understanding of Science, in which he argues that “religious beliefs or good intentions are no viable substitute for a rational ethical analysis”. There are useful links to sites in related fields, including bioethics and lesbian and gay studies.

If you want to find out more about Warren Allen Smith, the author of G&LH’s regular column Gossip from Across the Pond, visit his extensive site. Much of the material here is autobiographical, covering a full and varied life and implicitly having a humanist or gay theme in parts. A page covering the Stonewall Rebellion, together with the latest developments in the associated present-day veterans’ organisations, includes his first-hand recollection of those events of June 1969. Another section of the site deals specifically with humanism and provides a list of e-mail addresses of a number of internationally prominent humanists.

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Created : Sunday, 1999-01-31 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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