Today is World Toilet Day…

November 19, 2014

Toilet_SignDid you know 19th of November is World Toilet Day, and no I am not joking, but trust me there is a serious message behind this auspicious day. World Toilet Day is a day to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet and hence this blog post from me.

Of the world’s seven billion people, 2.5 billion people do not have access to a clean and safe toilet (that is about 37% of the world’s population). 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy. Did you know more people in the world have a mobile phone than have access to a clean and safe toilet?

This year UN Water have taken up the theme of ‘Equality and Dignity’, and have a campaign that is seeking to inspire action to end open defecation and put spotlight on how access to improved sanitation leads to a reduction in assault and violence on women and girls. See a bit more about it here.

Water.org also campaign on this issue and many others related to the effect of not having access to clean water throughout the year, their website is well worth a visit.

It was Jim Sim (aka “Mr. Toilet”), who founded the World Toilet Organization and the annual World Toilet Day back in 2001. He was named a TIME Hero of the Environment in 2008, and alas he died in 2009. He was described as “frank and entertaining” when it came to discussing the need for better sanitation. As he once said “No invention has saved more lives than a toilet. More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas”, think about this next time you sit on a loo….

Study highlights risk of suicide among young people who are gender diverse, trans, and intersex

October 17, 2014

If you have seen the films Boys Don’t Cry, Skin I Live In or Transamerica you might think life for gender diverse and trans (an umbrella term which incorporates a variety of trans identities), individuals is a kind of hell on earth, and for some it certainly can be. Little is actually known about the mental health needs of gender diverse, trans, and intersex, young people in Australia which is why researchers at La Trobe University recently conducted a study called From Blues to Rainbows.

This study spoke to gender diverse, trans, and intersex young people aged 14-25 years old. The results found that half of the young people surveyed were diagnosed with depression and two thirds had experienced verbal abuse, a more worrying fact is that almost all of the participants had experienced abuse because of their gender diversity. This ranged from verbal threats to physical violence. Alas for many these threats and eventuated into actual physical abuse, with one fifth reporting this. Some of you will also know that I have written about the devastating effects suicide can have on friends and family, and what I found most shocking in the results is that 90% had thought about suicide in response to the physical abuse they had experienced.

The report also found:

  • 66% of participants had seen a health professional for their mental health in the past year
  • 38% had suicidal thoughts and a quarter had spoken to a medical professional about it
  • One in three did not feel supported by their family and suffered much higher rates of stress, suicide and depression
  • 45% were diagnosed with anxiety compared with an average 25% of the population

Encouragingly the report also emphasized that parental, peer and school support can make a enormous and constructive impact to their wellbeing.

With 66% of this at risk group visiting health professionals it is important that they receive guidance on how best to deal with these and what language to use, given the negative impact the use of incorrect pronouns to address them can have, they are there for help and understanding to getting it right at the very start is key. Many of these young people are subjected to embarrassing questions or simply have their gender dysphoria as a teenage fancy that they will grow out of.

This of course a complex issue but one that needs to be better addressed so that these vulnerable young people get all the support and help they need to live the full and happy lives we all want to live.

Scotland – to be or not to be, that is the question…..

September 17, 2014

Scotland-Countries-Flag-Wallpaper Both sides in the Scottish referendum debate are making their final pitch to voters on the last day of campaigning and from what I have seen they have both ratcheted up the rhetoric in the last few days, but then there is a hell of a lot at stake. Is the Yes vote wins does it mean Great Britain will be a little less great!? And what might it mean to peoples sense on ‘nationality’, will those that think of themselves as British be any less British if the nation itself is decreased? Actually if the Union loses Scotland it will lose 32% of its landmass and say goodbye to 8% of its population.
I have been incredibly engrossed by the debate and am desperate to know what my friends who can vote will vote. I feel oddly engaged in a way that surprises me, I feel like I ought to have some kind of a say, or at least a right to an opinion, but am I Scottish? Well what am I is a good question? One that has come up among my friends and I on several occasions.
I was born in England, but spent some of my early years living in Africa, I have a Scottish surname, my grandfather on my father’s side was very much a Scott but I live in Australia and am now an Australian citizenship, and I have two boys who are both Australian and British (although I have not yet sorted their passport – for either country). I feel a strong connection with my Scottish roots even though I have never lived there and hardly know my oh so Scottish grandfather, so am I entitled to a voice on this matter or not? I guess this blog post is just that so I have already answered that question.
If I were allowed to vote I am not sure what I would do, much like the latest polls suggest the results remain too close to call, with a slender lead for a “No” vote, I think I am leaning (just) to a no myself, but the Yes could still swing.
Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland, says the 300-year-old Union is no longer “fit for purpose” that seems a bit harsh to be me, it is a political union that has stood since 1707, ok I admit not always a smooth ride, but the union itself has evolved a hell of a lot over that time and especially of late. He also said recently “The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands. It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have. Scotland’s future – our country in our hands.” Those are powerful words which pack a real emotional punch and I would challenge any eligible voter not to feel the weight of these words.

Sexy men in shorts, what is not to like…

August 26, 2014

Bingham Positive RGBI have always liked rugby over football (or soccer as they call it here in Australia) and so naturally I have got myself some tickets to go and see the finals of The Bingham Cup that is currently underway in Sydney.  For those of you that don’t know The Bingham Cup, or as it is officially called the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament is a biennial international, non-professional, gay rugby union tournament. Yes gay men really do play rugby, but don’t take my word for it just ask Gareth Thomas, who was until 2011 the most capped Welsh rugby union player, with 100 test match appearances until. After an informal invitational tournament, held in May 2001 the International Gay Rugby Association and Board (IGRAB), came together with the objective of forming an informal invitational tournament which would be an international rugby union competition, or as it has become known the “gay rugby union world cup”.  The tournament itself came to be named after Mark Bingham, a former University rugby star who had played in the May 2001 tournament for San Francisco Fog RFC and was also a cofounder of the Gotham Knights RFC. Mark Bingham died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on board United Airlines Flight 93. He is generally accepted to be one of a group of passengers (along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick) who fought with the hijackers, which eventuated in the crashing of the plane into an empty filed instead of an assumed target in Washington. Mark Bingham was just 31 when he died in 2001, and the Bingham Cup was established the next year in honour of Mark’s courage, strength and love for rugby union. Back in 2002 eight teams competed in San Francisco, and attracted sponsorship from Nike and Guinness, this year in Sydney over 25 will compete and there are an abundance of sponsors, namely Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, AussieBum, Cannon and Lend Lease and is supported by representatives from across sports, such as Wallabies Dave Pocock and Adam Ashley-Cooper, South Sydney’s Greg Inglis and Australian women’s cricketer Alex Blackwell. This years’ tournament is the seventh in the history of the cup, and I will of course be cheering for the Sydney Convicts. For more information and of course to buy yourself some tickets visit the official website: http://binghamcup.com/

Sober for a month and all for a good cause

June 12, 2014

I have decided tdj-logoo participate in Dry July again this year. No this is not as a consequence of all the alcohol I might be drinking over the next few days in celebration of my birthday (well maybe in a small way it is), it is far more meaningful than that, last year I lost 4k over the 4 weeks!

For those of you not in the know Dry July is an organisation that aims to improve the lives of adults living with cancer through an online social community of likeminded individuals giving up booze for the month of July (and raising money as they do it). So for the 31 days of July, I am hoping to raise funds while abstaining.

I have again chosen The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA as my chosen beneficiary for all the money I raise. Professor Chris O’Brien was an incredible man who had tremendous vision and courage.  He was inspirational in both the work he did as a cancer specialist and through his own three year battle with an aggressive brain tumour, a battle that he sadly lost in 2009.

Chris’s vision was for an integrated cancer treatment center so that patients would no longer have to navigate their way through all the different elements of dealing with their illness alone. His vision was realised with the completion of The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA back in 2013, more of which you can read about here: http://www.lifehouserpa.org.au/The_Chris_O_Brien_Lifehouse_at_RPA.aspx

If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here or you could always take part yourself ;-)

Student welfare in our schools should not be the domain of anti-gay religious groups….

May 27, 2014

Let me start this post by saying I am sure many of the chaplains involved in the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools do fantastic work, but money spent by the government, raised by all tax payers regardless of their religion, race, sexuality etc, should not be used for funding for particular religious groups to take the place of qualified mental health professionals or social workers in schools where ALL our children go, not just those of Christians.

There were many cuts in the budget this year that irked many of us, but some of the biggest were to health and education costs, if all goes to plan for the Government they will save $80 billion over 10 years by withdrawing the funding from the states that it provides for services in these two areas.

In terms of education, Tony Abbott’s government will not continue with the fifth year of Labor’s Gonski School funding reforms. This means that rather than increasing school funding by 4.7%, the Abbott government will increase school funding in line with inflation instead. What this means in reality in that they will spend about $130 million less on schools in 2017-18 than the previous government promised.

On top of this there are fundamental changes to University funding and student loans, referred to by Treasurer Joe Hockey in his budget speech as “once-in-a-generation reforms, the government will help build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs”

So while we are on the subject of diversity in the education sector, and being more responsive to what students need, relative to other cuts made, how on earth does the government justify the continued federal funding of the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools?

Some of the organisations in the program have clear connections to homophobic campaigning and yet they will continue to benefit from the government funding. The proposed budget has allocated nearly $250million to this program over four years; it offers schools up to $24,000 per year to pay for a chaplain approximately two days a week.

ACCESS Ministries is one of the key providers of chaplains, providing approximately 330 schools in Victoria with “Special Religious Instructors”, yet it has been revealed that they have distributed homophobic materials that the Victorian Education Department’s own investigation concluded was “inappropriate and offensive”.

Rob Ward who is General Manager of Development and Communications at ACCESS Ministries, and the former Victorian State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby,  has campaigned against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption and is on record as not wanting non-heterosexual orientations as being seen as ‘normal’.  When the “Fair go, sport!” program, an initiative aimed at increasing awareness of sexual and gender diversity in sport, was launched he said “The suggestion that the aim is to have the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender sportspeople…so public that it’s normal, so people don’t think about it is very troubling.”

In addition, Darren McMahon the Director and Presenter of Your Dream Incorporated in Sydney that runs chaplaincy programs through NSW, has significant ties to Hillsong Church, which has had a contentious relationship with the gay community regarding their involvement with the Mercy Ministries and the Living Waters Australia, which both ran ex-gay and conversion camps.

It is a documented fact that LGBTI youth have higher rates of suicide and depression than their heterosexual counterparts and as Jacqui Tomlins, a founding member of the Australian Equality Party, has said “Young people,  especially those who might be questioning their sexuality or sexual identity, need access to good, non-judgemental counsellors who can provide advice and guidance that is not based on any religious foundation”, yet it is via the Chaplaincy Program that these children would be dealt with.

To make matter worse the Abbott Government has changed the conditions to prevent School Principals from being able to elect a secular student welfare worker instead of a chaplain, non-religious student welfare workers could get access to funding under the previous Labor Government.

So just how Mr Hockey does the government propose to ensure we build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs with this program?

Not only was I annoyed enough to write this blog post but I also signed this petition: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/australia-budget-thanks

Remembering Lex Watson

May 8, 2014

Lex Watson who passed away this week was the first president of the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) and a Co-founder of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), in addition to being the founder of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, in short he was one of the most important gay rights activists in Australia.

We forget how things have changed over the past few decades and the fact that we have so many rights not afforded us in the past is in no small part down to the work Lex and others like him did on our behalf. He played an important role in the foundation of many of the LGBT rights groups in New South Wales. In 1970 he was one of the first gay people to advocate openly for their rights on Australian television, a very brave act indeed back then, to many LGBT people in their teens, twenties or even 30’s just how brave and pioneering an act this was would be hard to comprehend in a world where an openly gay person won Big Brother in 2012.

Homosexuality was legalized in New South Wales in 1984, 14 years after the start-up of CAMP, and in that time activists like Lex were at the forefront of the fight for equality and endured more than most on our behalf to ensure our rights were recognised. For example in 1976 whilst on a current affairs program on ABC Lex was pelted with human excrement during a debate, his response to this act…. was to point out that that was precisely the kind of persecution that homosexuals had to put up with, touché .

In his later years Lex  served as the President of Sydney’s Pride History Group, Lex Watson is part of our history, he was a pioneer for the LGBT community and one I hope history never forgets.

Do you love Sex…..

February 19, 2014

Image

Love Sex Durex… now that is a tag line I like. Durex are sponsoring the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras this year and are embracing the promotion of same-sex relationships as part of the initiative.  They are not the only sponsors this year, other sponsors are ANZ (principle sponsor), SBS2 and 2day FM who are the broadcast partners and Fitness First, Air Asia, Google, Gaydar, Finlandia (it’s a vodka), as well as NSW NOW, Destination NSW, City of Sydney as strategic partners.

Not all partners are launching campaigns to tie in with their sponsorship, but Durex have taken the opportunity to do just that with their Durex Love Same Sex. It is primarily a social media campaign, which aims to focus on and celebrate the years of “love and commitment of long-term same-sex relationships in Australia”.

The brand is encouraging people in Australia that are in same-sex relationships to celebrate the number of years they have been in a relationship, they do this by visiting the Durex Australia Facebook page and pledge their years of commitment. There is a year counter on the Facebook page that tallies the total years all participating couples have been together, so far it stands at 4,345 years.

The brand was also present at Fair Day this year where they set up a booth and got over 3,500 couples to pledge there years of commitment, one such couple was Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster and her partner Virginia Edwards who celebrated seven years together.

This is a great fit with the Mardi Gras event and nice to see them doing this, but as mentioned before this is not new, brands have been targeting the LGBT communities more and more over the past decade, and especially around events such as these, as written about here before.

My love of sharks just got bigger

February 5, 2014

P1540236calypso_newI was just 4 years old when Jaws came out at the cinema, it is a movie I absolutely love and always have done. Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name it was to become the archetypal summer blockbuster, its release is regarded as a turning point in motion picture history (it gave birth the Summer Blockbuster phenomenon). Jaws became the highest-grossing film in history at the time, and it was the most successful film of all time until Star Wars (another film many of you know I have a love of). It is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time, along with Star Wars, so you see I really do have good taste in movies…

Anyway, I digress, I know the movie does not exactly show sharks in a particularly good light but for some reason it sparked an interest in great white sharks that I have always had. For years I have dreamed of being in the water with them, it was on my proverbial bucket list as it were, well that was until this past weekend then I finally got to tick it off.

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), also known as simply great white, white pointer or white shark  is mainly known for its size, with mature individuals growing up to 6.4 m (21 ft) in length. We went to Port Lincoln in South Australia to meet a few of these fellas and the largest one we saw was probably about 4.5m and as he glided majestically past our boat for the very first time I was reminded of this famous line from Jaws when Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody says “we’re going to need a bigger boat”, a phrase I used for much of the day.

It really was something to see them up close, there is something so serene and majestic about them, not viscous and evil as they are often portrayed. I thought I might be nervous when the time came to get into the water, even though I was going to be in a cage, but in fact I was excited. It was amazing to see them in their environment; they really are beautiful creatures if you take the time to appreciate them and not vilify them. As an experience it is up there with the time I went swimming with whale sharks.

They are estimated to live for as long as 70 years or more, and can accelerate to speeds that exceed 56 km/h (35 mph). Great white sharks have been deemed to be at high risk of extinction in the wild since 1996, living to a ripe old age of 70 or more is becoming harder and harder for them as overfishing and culling initiatives greatly reduce their numbers and life expectancy. I acknowledge that the very film that ignited my love of these creatures also gave them the image as “man eater” in the public mind. However, in Australia since 1791 there have only been 892 shark attacks of any kind, 217 of which were fatal.

I am more in awe of them now having been up close and personal, and I would highly recommend anyone to experience them. Long live the great white.

The films I saw at the movies in 2013…

January 8, 2014

Ok what with the Oscars nominations impending publication I thought I would jot down the movies I was last year. There were only 38 this year, that is 11 down on last year, well I have had a busy one!

Listed in chronological order of having been watched, and scored out of 5 where 5 is the highest score… A good year for me a few 5s in there and even one 5*

  1. Life of Pi = 5
  2. Jack Reacher = 3 ½
  3. The Impossible = 5
  4. The Hobbit = 5
  5. Hitchcock = 4 ½
  6. Paris Manhattan = 3
  7. Zero Dark 30 = 4 ½
  8. Flight = 4
  9. Django Unchained = 4 ½
  10. Lincoln = 4
  11. Les Miserables = 3
  12. Amour = 4
  13. I Give It a Year = 4
  14. Oblivion = 4 ½
  15. Rust & Bone = 5
  16. The Company You Keep = 5
  17. Star Trek, Into Darkness = 5
  18. Dead Man Down = 4
  19. Place Beyond The Pines = 4
  20. World War Z = 5
  21. Man of Steel = 4
  22. Happiness Never Comes Alone = 5
  23. This Is The End = 3
  24. Before Midnight = 4
  25. Now You See Me = 3 ½
  26. Elysium = 4
  27. Red Obsession = 3 ½
  28. Behind The Candelabra = 3 ½
  29. We’re The Millers = 3
  30. Gravity = 5*
  31. The Family = 3 ½
  32. Blue Jasmine = 4
  33. The Butler = 3 ½
  34. About Time = 4
  35. The Councillor = 2 ½
  36. The Hunger Games (2) = 4 ½
  37. Enough Said = 4
  38. American Hassle = 4

The Books I Read In 2013….

January 1, 2014

33 of them all up, which is two more than in 2012. If I had to recommend any overall it would be the trilogy by Hugh Howey, starting with Wool. If you like a good thriller/crime book then the books bt Stella Rimington are well worth a go.

Listed in chronological order of having been read, and scored out of 5 where 5 is the highest score. A few got close to the top marks, but no 5 this year:

  1. Wolf Hall by Hilary mantel = 4
  2. The Dinner by Herman Koch = 3
  3. Wool by Hugh Howey = 4
  4. No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by A.McCall-Smith = 3
  5. Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher = 3
  6. All That I Am by Anna Funder = 4
  7. Shift by Hugh Howey = 4
  8. Closure Limited by Max Brooks = 4
  9. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham = 3
  10. Devil in Disguise by Julian Clary = 2 ½
  11. Since Tomorrow by Morgan Nyberg = 2
  12. The Rapture by Liz Jensen = 4
  13. The Rise and Fall of The House of Bo by John Garnaut = 3 ½
  14. Poppet by Mo Hayder = 4
  15. Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel = 4
  16. Secret Asset by Stella Rimington = 4
  17. Reclaiming Epicurus by Luke Slatergy = 3
  18. The City and The Pillar = Gore Vidal = 4
  19. The Olive Readers by Christine Aziz = 3
  20. Union Jack by Val McDermid = 3
  21. The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne = 3 ½
  22. At Risk by Stella Rimington = 4
  23. The Cuckoos’ Calling by Rpbert Gallbraith = 4 ½
  24. Dust by Hugh Howey = 4 ½
  25. Wrecked by Charlotte Roche = 3
  26. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green = 4
  27. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn = 4 ½
  28. Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas = 3
  29. Take Your Best Shot by Jacqueline Kent = 3
  30. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion = 4
  31. Dead Line by Stella Rimington = 4
  32. 1222 by Ann Holt = 3 ½
  33. Zoo by James Patterson = 2

2013 in review, not a bad year…

January 1, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Movember is surely the sexiest month of the year…

October 22, 2013

moJust 10 days to go before men all over the world let their facial hair grow for 30 hair-raising days and it is all for a very good cause, yes Movember is almost upon us. Mine will be one of  millions of moustaches around the world that will be scaring small children and reminding us that porn stars of the 1970’s were real men with real hair (unlike the shaved and waxed all over men of porn today, allegedly, I never watch the stuff), this picture is from my last effort.

But it is not all just for a spot of office ridicule, no the Mo has a job to do, those growing the Mo will also be raising vital funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. In 2012, over 1.1 million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas around the world joined the movement, raising AUS $141.5 million. I have joined together with a few work mates to form The Jigsaw Crumb Catchers team and if you would like to sponsor us you can do so here:

http://au.movember.com/mospace/6764325

I have written about my love of facial hair and Movember before, but for those of you that don’t know, on the 1st of Movember we start off with a clean-shaven face start our Mo growing journey. Then for the entire month, we become walking, talking billboards for 30 days. Through our growing efforts we raise awareness for the often ignored issues of men’s health, by prompting conversations wherever we go, I will get strangers talking about it, trust me.

Movember’s not just for men. The women of Movember are known as Mo Sistas. They play a vital role in the success of Movember by supporting and encouraging the men in their life to get involved. Mo Sistas also get involved by signing up at Movember.com, and participate by raising funds and awareness themselves.

Suicide takes way too many lives and damages those left behind…

September 26, 2013

September the 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), this initiative was launched back in 2003 and every year on this day there are now various events, conferences, campaigns and local activities in several countries all held to call public attention to one of the world’s largest causes of premature and unnecessary deaths.

Having lost my best friend to suicide when I was in my early 20’s, and he just a year younger than I, this is an issue that has always been both upsetting and challenging to me. And alas it is an issue that if anything has gotten worse over the years not better. One awful side effect of suicide is the stigma that goes with it, friends and family find it hard to deal with and often feel they ought to have known something. They grapple with the guilt that they may have been able to prevent the death of their loved one in the first place, and this is what feeds the stigma and makes it hard for them to deal with their loss and grieve in a way that others might who have lost someone that was not to suicide. It took me years to deal with these issues and I still think of my friend and what he would be doing with his life were he still here, and indeed what he would make of some of the choices I have made in my life over the 20 years since he died.

It is his birthday in a couple of weeks and I’ll be sure to have a drink in his honour as I always do and visit a church to light a candle for him, something I know his catholic mother would appreciate.

Some facts that you might not know are that here in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 44 and for women under the age of 34. In addition suicides take more lives each year than car accidents or skin cancer. So much is done to combat skin cancer here in Australia and the number of public health messages relating to this is great, but very few deal with the issue of suicide, maybe it’s time our government did more to address this issue rather than spending millions of dollars on ads trying to scare refuges off from coming to Australia (but that’s a whole other post).

Not a happy blog post I know, but one from the heart.


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