award winning portal for scene news and events for the Belfast gay and lesbian community and those visiting the city. Serving the LGBT community since 2003.
Fonacab Sorry Over Gay Taxi Kiss (06 March 2014)
Two Queen's University male student were ordered out of a taxi in Belfast after they kissed each other in the back seat of the cab. Mark McLoughlin, who describes himself as bisexual, said the driver objected and swore at them when his male friend kissed him on the cheek and neck. The taxi firm, Fonacab, said it was investigating and "apologised if any offence has been caused". The firm is one of Belfast's biggest taxi companies and has recently sponsored Belfast Pride, a gay rights festival in the city. Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme, Mr McLoughlin said he was shocked when the driver forced them out and left them on the side of the road. The student had taken the cab with his friend Stuart and two female friends. The group was travelling from student halls at Elms Village to the Kremlin nightclub. "Stuart leaned over the in back seat and kissed me on the cheek and neck, and the taxi driver saw it through his rear view mirror and told us to stop," Mr McLoughlin said. The student added that the driver stopped on the Malone Road and told them to get out. "We were stunned. We said: 'Are you serious?' And he said: 'Yes, I'm not having that in my car'. So we just got out and left and stood at the side of the road and flagged down another taxi, but we rang Fonacab." Mr McLoughlin told the programme the kiss was between good friends and "wasn't anything erotic". I couldn't believe it in this day and age, over something so small." He said the two women passengers who witnessed the incident were "very upset" and one began to cry. The student said the person who answered his complaint call in Fonacab "condemned the behaviour and said that they would ring me back the next morning and apologise and sort it out." In a statement, the firm said: "Fonacab is aware of an alleged incident taking place and we are continuing to conduct an internal investigation into this matter. We have spoken to the customer and have apologised if any offence has been caused. However, as this investigation is on-going, it would be unfair to comment in any more detail. We certainly would not condone this type of behaviour in any circumstance and would not tolerate this within our organisation." The firm added that it is "totally committed to encouraging equality and diversity and eliminating discrimination in our role as an employer and a supplier of taxi services to all those living in our community. Breaches of our internal policy are taken very seriously and as a sponsor and supporter of Belfast Pride, we have liaised fully with the organisation regarding this particular incident." Mr McLoughlin said it was "ironic" that he was evicted by a firm that had sponsored gay pride event, but added he was "more or less happy" with how it had dealt with his complaint. "I am not trying to demonise Fonacab as I know it isn't at all a homophobic company, but rather letting people know of our unfortunate experience with this particular driver," he told the BBC. "I don't think I'll take it much further because I know Fonacab, I know it's not what they are like. It was just that one person," Mr McLoughlin said.
Survey finds majority support same-sex marriages (24 February 2014)
Attitudes towards same-sex relationships are softening in Northern Ireland with over half of us now in favour of gay marriage.The number of people who believe that gay and lesbian relations are "always wrong" has also dropped by more than half over the past two decades, according to a new survey. In 1989, 76% believed such relationships were wrong. By 2012 it was down to 28%.
But more than a third expressed disapproval of gay adoption and of lesbians having equal access to fertility treatment. Researchers from Queen's University Belfast interpreted the data from the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT), which uses a random sample of 1,200 people living across Northern Ireland.
Among those surveyed, less than half of those calling themselves Protestant (45%) were in support of same-sex marriage while the majority of Catholics (66%) and those declaring no religion (74%) were in favour. The researchers noted that knowing someone who was gay or lesbian tended to promote positivity. Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of people who knew someone who was lesbian or gay rose from 46% to 70%. On the issue of gay adoption, despite the preference for heterosexual parents, the research found some softening of attitudes. In 1989, 11% thought that lesbians should be allowed to adopt a baby under the same conditions as heterosexual couples and 5% believed this in relation to gay couples. In the most recent survey, the figures were 40% and 36% respectively.
Researchers Dr Siobhan McAlister and Dr Nicola Carr, from Queen's School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, and youth worker Gail Neill, have been interpreting the trends from NILT before a public seminar on the subject in Belfast. Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Carr said: "Over half of the survey's respondents expressed support for same-sex marriage, however, over one-third disapproved of gay adoption and also to lesbians having access to fertility treatment on the same basis as heterosexual women. At least one in four people did not believe that a lesbian or gay parent or parents with a child constituted a 'family'. "The survey also found that, in general, females and those aged under 65 were more likely to report positive attitudes to same-sex relationships."
The first civil partnerships in the UK took place in Northern Ireland in 2005, closely followed by England, Wales and Scotland. The new Civil Partnership Act provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. The first same-sex weddings will be allowed to take place next month in England and Wales. This comes after the Government's controversial legislation on the issue received Royal Assent in July. The Church of England, the Church in Wales and other faith groups stated their opposition. The Northern Ireland Assembly is not currently considering any legislation to allow same-sex marriage.
Protest outside gay Ballynahinch therapy event (18 January 2014)
Campaigners have protested outside a conference in Ballynahinch held by a group which provides therapy for people who no longer want to be homosexual. The Core Issues Trust hosted the event, called Setting Love In Order. Around 50 gay and lesbian supporters held a protest outside Ballynahinch Baptist Church in the County Down town just outside Belfast.
But the organiser of the conference, Dr Mike Davidson said all they wanted was a proper debate over the issue of homosexuality. "We're not busy with gay cure, we're not busy with conversion therapy. Conversion therapy conveys the impression of a light switch - 1,2,3 and you're done, off you go and live your life," he said. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we're doing in the conference is arguing for the freedom and the right for clients to approach professional psychotherapists and counsellors."
However, John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project said: "We're here today in opposition to this quack therapy that continues to do huge amounts of harm to our community."We're here to send a clear message to those people who are struggling with their sexual orientation that there's a strong community to support them and meet the needs that they have. You cannot change your sexual orientation whether through therapy, through prayer or under any other means."
The Baptist Church issued a statement explaining why it allowed the meeting to take place on their premises. It said it supported freedom of speech. It also said it was against homophobia.
Belfast Gay Icon Titti Retires (6 January 2014)
It's the end of an era for Belfast based drag queen, Baronness Titti von Tramp. Titti's creator Robert McCready has announced her retirement this week.
Robert told the Belfast Telegraph "In the early 90s a young 20-year-old visited his cousin in Birmingham for a weekend and after a fateful job interview stayed in the city for over seven years and the legendary Titti von Tramp was born." Robert continued: “I only went to Birmingham for the weekend but as I was walking past Top Shop I seen they were looking for staff and on the spur of the moment I went in and asked for an application form. They interviewed me there and then and asked me when I could start, so I said ‘a week'. “While I was working in Top Shop one of my colleagues worked for the super club Miss Moneypennys and they were looking for new drag acts. I had nothing to lose so I gave her a picture and they tried me for a week and I was there for over six years. Since then I have worked everywhere from Northern Ireland and England to Ibiza, Switzerland and even Beirut.”
Over the years Titti's creator Robert used his alter-ego to help highlight many issues surrounding gay rights. But despite being considered as an icon of the gay and alternative scene in Belfast, Robert is modest about the impact his character has had. As time passed it was believed Titti von Tramp paved the way for other drag acts and made it acceptable for many young people hoping to enter the drag queen scene. Having led Belfast’s Gay Pride many times over the years as well as launching numerous club nights and events Robert takes his ‘Northern Ireland's Queen of Drag' title with a pinch of salt. He said: “I am just who I am, I try to use my voice in positive ways which benefits the gay community. “My friends and family were always really supportive of me. My parents are a mixed marriage and got a lot of hassle in 70s which is probably why they are both so understanding and supportive to me in my life. The crown is there for whoever wants it, there are some really great drag queens out there who are special in their own particular ways and as far as I am concerned each and every one of them needs a crown for doing what they do.”
Last Saturday night Robert took to the stage at Belfast club El Divino for the last time as Titti von Tramp to rapturous applause. Despite being dubbed Northern Ireland's answer to Lily Savage (AKA Paul O'Grady) Robert played the character Titti for 21 years and soon made a name for Titti as one of the UK's most striking drag queens. Robert said: “I never in my wildest dreams expected to become Titti for 21 years. I suppose I was just in the right place at the right time. I remember my first show like it was yesterday, I didn't have time to think as they messed up running order and I was just pushed on. My last show was amazing, I ended up crying on stage with a packed out club chanting my name.”
Although Robert gained much recognition and fame as Titti, he admits there were times when he considered giving it all up. The make up artist by day revealed: “I was lucky in that I don't really have any bad experiences probably because I was on the scene in Belfast for over 15 years but I did consider giving it up once or twice.” And as Robert begins selling his stash of wigs, costumes and trademark boots, he prepares for a new chapter in his life abroad. He said: “I'm retiring Titti because I've always said you should quit while you look good and people are laughing with you and not at you. “I won't be bringing Titti back ever, she's gone now and I will miss her. I am going travelling around the world for 11 months now and I have no plans after that. “I will miss all the banter and getting served first at bars but I won't miss the shaving, or the sore feet or standing outside in the cold with hardly any clothes on. “I'm looking forward to the future and I can't wait to not shave my whole body and get hairy.”
Heath Department say Gay Couples Free to Adopt (12 December 2013)
Gay and lesbian couples in Northern Ireland may now apply to adopt children in the same way heterosexual couples can. The move brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK where gay couples are already allowed to adopt. Gavin Boyd, an education equality officer from the Rainbow Project who also works for Cara-friend, told the Belfast Telegraph that this is a landmark ruling. He said: "Many many gay couples across Northern Ireland have waited so long for this and it will make a profound difference to their lives." He added the ruling was one step on a road to equality, saying there was "still a long way to go. It could take a long time before we get to a place where all citizens, regardless of their sexuality are afforded dignity and equality."
In June (27th) the Court of Appeal upheld a claim by the NI Human Rights Commission that the ban on gay adoption was in breach of human rights legislation. This helped pave the way for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland to adopt. The Department of Health mounted a challenge to the decision in the Supreme Court, following DUP MLA Edwin Poots and Heath Minister interveined. Poots has always strongly opposed gay and lesbian people adopting children. Hiwever, the judges ruled that the application failed to meet the criteria of raising an arguable point of law of public importance. A Department of Health spokesman said: "Following the Court of Appeal judgment in June 2013, unmarried couples (including same sex couples) and those in a civil partnership arrangement may apply to adopt. The final decision regarding the granting of an adoption order will lie with the court."
Rainbow Welcome for Poots (28 November 2013 )
Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots visit to a Londonderry/Derry hospital was briefly eclipsed by the sight of a rainbow flag, held in protest over his anti-gay views. Shá Gillespie, a local LGBT activist and former chairperson of Foyle Pride, was pictured behind Mr Poots holding a rainbow pride flag at Altnagelvin Hospital on Tuesday.
She told GCN: “I decided to protest because I’m sick of this man dictating to me how I should live my life. A woman is not allowed the right to choose what happens to her own body, there lifetime ban on gay blood donation and he is against gay adoption!” "The man is a bigot and everyone knows that, it’s time for him to go!” A source at the event said that Poots was unfazed by the demonstration and dismissed the flag as "stupid".
Gay Blood Ban to Stay for Now (15 November 2013)
Health Minister Edwin Poots and John Larkin, the Attorney General, have won the latest round of their battle to withhold the legal thinking behind the ban on gay men donating blood. The Information Rights Tribunal found that Mr Larkin and Mr Poots were entitled to keep the information secret. "It seems unfair that a public authority engaged in litigation should have a unilateral duty to disclose its legal advice," NJ Warren, the judge who heard the case, said in a seven-page finding. The finding can be appealed to a second-tier tribunal, and then to the Appeals Court. The case was taken by Matthew McDermott, Policy Manager of the Rainbow Project, is considering all his options. Mr McDermott had launched the request under the Freedom of Information Act and, in March, the Information Commissioner found in his favour. Mr McDermott said: "It is hugely disappointing that the minister has used yet more public funds opposing an issue around equality, this time to keep the legal advice from the Attorney General on the blood ban secret. The decision of the High Court on the blood ban not only found that the minister acted irrationally, but also that he acted without lawful authority and in breach of the Ministerial Code. There is also a political interest in seeing the advice as is evident from calls of various Assembly Members for the advice to be released. If the Assembly is to hold the minister to account, part of that process will be to know upon what legal advice the minister made his decision." The Health Department spokesperson said that the blood ban would remain. "There is no ban on blood donation by gay men per se. The lifetime ban is based on sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation." Click Here for even more 2013 Gay Belfast News