Forgiveness and the missing link

By |September 12th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

I have entered into conversations before on the topic of forgiveness. It has been thrust into our consciousnesses again, since some members of Reeva Steenkamp’s family have expressed their forgiveness of Oscar Pistorius. It is not my intention to comment any further on this case here (the BBC News website has its own dedicated section to the incident, subsequent trial and wider issues). Presumably, I am not the only one interested in this act of forgiveness, as the BBC has done one of their “iWonder” pieces, and you can see their overview of forgiveness and its origins in religion here.

To simplify greatly (and, perhaps, naively) the message of that page, is that the origins of forgiveness is the realisation that no one is perfect and we should forgive others’ mistakes in the knowledge that we have committed and will commit plenty of our own.

This simplification does not always hold, clearly. Some refuse to forgive, and there are doubtless many instances where homicide is not forgiven. But, like in the above case, some forgive and are willing to invite the perpetrators into their own home. That’s a stark difference.

What the iWonder article does not explore is why we forgive. The suggestion is that we blindly forgive to appease the deities to which we serve. In some cases, that may be true. Section 7 of that article suggests how these practices have moved into the secular world, as symbolic forgiveness may be a remedy for dealing with seismic events in our lives.

Furthermore, the article does not discuss what forgiveness is. Wikipedia offers an explanation of what it isn’t:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship). Wikipedia

What is the trigger that decides whether we can forgive or not? For some, it’s their faith. For others, it’s an apology. For me, I have to be able to understand.

I think most would regard me as a tolerant and patient person. I say that not to sound boastful, but to communicate the need to be willing to listen to an explanation or to mull over the causes of bad things that have happened to me. The reasons don’t have to be good ones. People make mistakes and bad choices, and I fully appreciate that.

So did those members of Steenkamp’s family forgive on the basis of understanding? In some ways, I hope so. There would be something powerful in accepting the remorse and explanation from Pistorius, as well as the judgement of the trial proceedings. I would hope that doing so would help to bring some closure to them.

Do I forgive Pistorius? Well, that is a discussion for another day!

A reply from my local MP

In my previous A fight for change post, I posted a letter I sent to my local Member of Parliament. I received his reply today, so I’d like to thank Mr Campbell for his prompt response to my query. His response is below.

Dear Mr Broughton,

Re: Recognition of asexuality

Further to your enquiry to the office regarding the above, this is to confirm that I contacted the House of Commons Library and reiterated your concerns to the employment and equality law specialist.

Please find enclosed your response regarding asexuality and the Equality Act 2010.

I trust the above clarifies the situation, however if you require further assistance, then please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Yours sincerely,
Ronnie Campbell MP

The enclosed document was thorough (three pages, no less) and reflected upon the laws and court action that has been provoked by legislation with regard to asexuality. I thank the gentleman that composed this document. Since it is thorough, I will post highlights of the document, including the warning:

This information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary duties and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or information is required.

You have been warned!

Here is a summary (and a few quotes) of this document.

  • “In short, the constituent [me] is broadly correct: the definition of sexual orientation under the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010) does not expressly encompass asexuality.”He quotes Katherine Monaghan QC, a leading commentator on equality law:

    the EA 2010 does not address discrimination against a person because they are asexual. The EA 2010 assumes that such a person has no sexuality at all (or none justifying protection). This is on the presumed basis that we all have a sexual drive towards one sex or another, or both.

    (Monaghan on Equality Law, 2013, p.238)

  • “This failure to address discrimination against asexuals may be more a product of oversight than intention. The EA 2010’s definition of sexual orientation was based on that used in regulation 2(1) of The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1661), which implemented EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC.”Looking at SI 2003/1661, the definition is, indeed, identical. He suggested that the Government at the time proposed this definition, which was not challenged in Parliament. Similarly, when EA 2010 was adopted, there were few challenges in Parliament, presumably since the Act itself is considered broadly a good thing — and, of course, it is.
  • “Despite the above, it is still possible that the Act could eventually prohibit such discrimination. The courts are required to interpret the Act in accordance with EU law, including case law, which may in time come to encompass asexuality within the definition of sexual orientation. It appears that, at present, the EU has not addressed this issue due to a lack of evidence that asexuals are suffering discrimination.”
  • He noted the response to a question sent by a member of a Spanish Member of Parliament to the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship at the European Commission, Viviane Reding. The summarising question was, “Does the Commission not believe it should give attention to asexual people in programmes to ensure equality regardless of sexual orientation?”The response was reassuring in that the European Commission appears sympathetic; and: “The Commission is not aware of reported cases of discrimination by asexual persons in employment in the framework of this directive and does not dispose of any solid evidence of discrimination suffered by this group” (European Parliament, Official Journal C 55E, 26/02/2014).
  • “Of course, this does not address the constituent’s concern that the EA 2010 does not expressly prohibit discrimination against asexuals, which could only be addressed by amending section 12.”

So, the gist of this document is that there have been no cases of discrimination against asexuals; EA 2010 doesn’t expressly forbid such discrimination; but it may still offer protection to those that need it.

I would appreciate suggestions for what I should be doing next. This letter has both reassured me and confirmed my worries. Ideally, Section 12 of EA 2010 should be changed: not only to protect asexuals, but also for the knowledge that my country recognises who we are. Once this happens, I hope there are fewer children growing up thinking that there must be something wrong with them.

Because England and Wales is roughly London anyway

By |September 7th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

Apple’s latest iPhone models were the smartphones most likely to be stolen in England and Wales between August 2012 and January 2014, figures suggest.

A Mobile Phone Theft Ratio compiled by the Home Office indicates the iPhone 5, 5C, 5S and 4S were most targeted, followed by the Blackberry 9790.

The findings were based on analysis of crime data in London.

Am I the only person that sees a potential flaw in this extrapolation? Maybe the writer of the BBC News article has done a terrible job of describing the data analysis.

Letter to my local MP

Here is a letter that I will be sending to my local MP today.

Dear Mr Campbell,

I am writing to you with regard to the issue of the recognition of asexuality as a sexual orientation within the protective laws of the United Kingdom. Since I identify myself as being asexual, I am concerned that current plans that aim to promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do not appear to extend naturally to asexual people.

Although you may well be aware of what asexuality is — that being the lack of sexual attraction to others — you may not be aware of the issues that affect asexuals and why such promotion and protection is needed.

Even the terms “asexual” and “asexuality” are not readily understood by the public at large. There have been news articles in the media, notably from the BBC News website, that have presented the idea of asexuality. However, beyond these examples, it is difficult to name any celebrities or characters that portray asexuality as role models.

As an aside, Sherlock Holmes has been touted as a possible asexual character. In Conan Doyle’s books and the recent television series there has been no pretext to Holmes’s sexuality. However, there have been plenty of assertions that Holmes may have been sexually attracted to Dr. Watson as a consequence of his sexuality not being known. This serves as an example as to how alien the notion of someone lacking sexual attraction is to the general public.

A past study has suggested that 1% of the population are asexual, and various commentators have suggested that it could be significantly more. The issues of awareness and promotion are stark: not only do asexuals face constant questions about what it means to be asexual, but the lack of information causes a prolonged and painful search for one’s identity. Some asexuals experience depression since they struggle to understand the differences they experience from the majority. Although I realise that I have been asexual all my life, I was not able to understand this until the publication of the aforementioned BBC News articles when I was 27.

With regard to protection, there are many areas of law that are not prepared for the protection of asexual people. One such example is the issue of divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. It is my understanding that the lack of a sexual relationship is sufficient grounds to file a petition for divorce. Therefore, regardless of any understanding reached prior to marriage, a married asexual is susceptible to the threat of a petition from their partner.

It is also clear that, currently, the Equality Act 2010 does not protect asexuals. The Act states in Part 2, Chapter 1, Section 12 the definition of a sexual orientation to be:

“a person’s sexual orientation towards—
a. persons of the same sex,
b. persons of the opposite sex, or
c. persons of either sex.”

This suggests that the Equality Act 2010 does not apply to asexuals at all.

The lack of consideration for asexuality in the definition of sexual orientation extends to other areas of law, such as asylum. It has been reported that asexuals are subject to “corrective rape”, psychological assessments and corrective psychotherapies.

As my local member of parliament, I would be grateful if you could act as my representative to parliament and pass on my concerns. I hope you can understand my concerns and, to that end, I would be happy to address any queries you may have with regard to asexuality and the problems asexuals face.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Broughton.

Life is better with cake

A common in-joke between asexuals is cake: that cake is better than sex and, when we greet each other, we bring cake. So I certainly embrace Mr. Kipling’s new advert. They certainly know what’s what!

Cosmo piece on asexuality

Cosmopolitan magazine has an article on asexuality, featuring interviews with two asexual women.

It was frustrating, like the whole world was in on some joke I wasn’t. I often felt like I was foolish, immature, or even broken because I never hit any of these “milestones” I was told to expect. No crushes, no dates, and no interest. Full stop. My mom actually asked if I was gay a few times, but gender and sex didn’t matter. I’d just shrug.

After learning about asexuality, I felt better knowing I wasn’t alone, but that only goes so far. Face-to-face, once I got through explaining what asexuality was — because no one ever knew — I’d get any variety of confused, pitying, or skeptical looks. I was asked if I was sick,was I raped, was I gay, was I picky, was I lying to get out of a date? I even had a near stranger ask me if I’d had a brain scan and hormone test. You could like boys, girls, or any other gender, but to like no one made no sense.

LOL: Punctuation?

By |August 26th, 2014|Recent news|2 Comments

When instant messaging, I often find myself terminating things I say with “lol”. Rarely do I actually laugh out loud when I use “lol”, but it does convey that I find something amusing or that I’m smiling as I say it.

In that respect, “lol” says so much more than the exclamation mark (“!”). Exclamation marks may represent fear, anger, excitement, elation, a raised voice, or surprise. It’s actually pretty useless: in fact, it’s worse than that. There’s a danger of miscommunication when something you intend as amusing is seen to be threatening.

So perhaps we should start to use “lol” as punctuation, though it’s really quite ugly. So it got me thinking… what could be used instead? I remembered that Catalan uses a mid dot (actually called, quite cutely, an “interpunct” and is known as punt volat in Catalan) in the middle of a double ‘l’. Its use somewhat redundant, though it’s a fairly useful means of quickly distinguishing between Catalan and Castilian languages. It represents the splitting of syllables in words where double ‘l’ exist; double ‘l’ is otherwise spoken somewhat differently. That’s a bit of background, anyway.

So, perhaps we might use l·l at the end of a sentence to represent our amusement? It would perhaps help people realise when I’m actually making a joke l·l

A new chapter

By |August 17th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

Today, Newcastle United’s season began with a defeat at home against Manchester City. But there was so much to be thankful for.

In particular, I was able to be there. We take for granted that it’s only a football match: very few football supporters die going to see a game. But it has happened before. There were 96 Liverpool supporters, 56 supporters attending a match in Bradford, and there are a small number of cases where fans have died on their way to a match. Likewise, over the summer, two Newcastle United supporters were killed while travelling to New Zealand to watch their team play in a pre-season tour. Plenty has been said about this incident: BBC News has its own portal for its news coverage on the crash.

The reaction to the news that two Newcastle United fans were killed was incredible. Not least because supporters of our greatest football rivals, Sunderland AFC, raised in excess of £33,000 for floral tributes and donations to charity. It was a generous and thoughtful gesture. It moved me to tears in fact.

As ever, we look forward to the derby game, but I hope the atmosphere will be different. Of course, I am sure some Sunderland supporters will be upset with the transfer of Jack Colback, and there is plenty of history that the television companies will be only too keen to remind us. But the events of the summer highlighted the bridge between us.

I’ve never had the intense hatred for Sunderland that others purport to have: in fact, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them, and now I have even greater reason to be thankful. Those Sunderland fans are a credit to their football team and they have my personal thanks.

Early experiences of being asexual

I thought I’d share some of my recent experiences of being an “out” asexual. This covers a period of between one and two years.

I won’t say that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive; rather, it hasn’t been negative. But that was very much in line with expectations. I didn’t want a mardi gras in my honour or to be commended by the town mayor; it’s just not that major. However, it did feel like a major thing at the time. It was the culmination of a process of realising that how I felt was broadly in line with the definitions of this thing called “asexuality”.

The biggest problem with telling people is that it’s not mainstream. In general, it’s not that well understood among the wider population. As a thing, it’s quite young, but what’s worse is that it’s hard to understand. For many asexuals, understanding sexuality is difficult; in a society where sexuality is not only the norm but, to some extent, a form of currency*, understanding what it is like to have that element removed must be almost impossible.

Since that time, I’ve been trying to meet other asexual people (albeit online) through specialist asexual social and “dating” websites. I’ve met some really lovely people through those sites — both in the UK and much, much further afield — and, who knows, perhaps one day I will meet some of them face-to-face. That prospect excites me. I still haven’t knowingly met another asexual in the flesh.

It leads to the question of dating and romantic relationships. I’ve given it a lot of thought, but there do not seem to be many answers, so perhaps I’m wasting my time. However, never say never.

* When I say sexuality is a form of currency, I don’t actually mean prostitution. Heard of the phrase “sex sells”? Then you must know what I mean. So many adverts — and products themselves — are presented on the premise that it is in some way associated with sex.