Friday, 13 March 2015

Jyoti, found higher than a doctor.

This is possibly going to be a hard and long post to write, because it is so complex and it's issues have had a similar effect all around the world.

The incident I refer to in this blog post is to do with the now, world famous gang-rape incident in India, which, eventually, lead to the loss of life of a woman, Jyoti.

I write this after having seen a documentary/ film, called "India's Daughter". The film itself is still at the time of writing, still banned and facing legal challenges in the courts of India, and here, I fail to see why.

The story is told from the beginning of this case, right the way through until it's end of production time, whereby it has to finish where the news is "awaiting supreme court decision" on the final verdict over the sentencing of some of the men involved in this incident.

I'm sure you remember it....

The scene's you see above came within 24-hours of an incident that shocked the world. A woman and her male friend boarded a bus in Delhi, India, thinking it would be taking them home, or near to. Instead the male was beaten and the woman was dragged to the back of the bus, where she was raped by up to 6 men, one of whom later pulled out her intestines, before her body was dragged out of the bus and left on the side of the road.

News of this incident was fast to spread and in what turns out to be quite a shock for India, people took to the streets to say, all in all, women deserve to be treated equally.

Now, for those readers who wish to watch the documentary, click here to see it. Now, that link will take you to the BBC's uk website. As the film still faces legal battles in India, I would presume the film will have restrictions upon it, where it can be viewed etc, I do hear through Indian news websites that the film IS available in several western countries... hello the UK.

In an update on the case though, you may be shocked to learn that the court system, well, specifically the supreme court of India, is now dragging it's heels. Unknown reasons, but still, it is causing a delay for no good reason, but here's where I have to question my own morals on this.

See, a while back, on here, I wrote about the case of Mathew Shepherd, a very famous case in the LGBT community, but, his killers were found and at first, his parents pushed for the death penalty, but, in a last minute switch around, they said no, infact, his farther is recorded saying....

However, in western culture, we are taught, well, most of us, what is right and what is wrong, so it is possible for his killers to remain alive, in prison, regretting their actions every single day they live, for the rest of their lives.

In India though, would it be possible for that to happen? By saying that I mean, women are truly seen as a 2nd class, no, even 3rd class citizens. In recent statistics a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. Horrible little fact isn't it, but that shows how little women are thought of.

I should also point out here that while yes, I do have an Indian boyfriend, he too is no expert on this matter, he has only visited India once and was as shocked by the film as I was.

Back to the point here though, because it does make you think after watching the film, about should the death sentence be used, because if these men were allowed to live out the rest of their lives behind bars, is there any chance at all that they would regret their actions? I mean, they may regret their actions in the way that yes it took away their freedom, but would they ever regret doing it on the grounds that they KNOW that should not have happened to a woman and that to treat a woman in that way is not acceptable.

I am left sat here now wondering myself if the death sentence is the only way forward for these men, I mean, what other option is there? It is now too late for education.

Jyoti though, I don't think has died in vein. I think a message has been formed and I would like to see her name used over and over again, as women gain equality in India, and other places around the world too, but to use the incident involving her as an example of "that's how it was in the past, let us move forward today".

She is once quoted as saying "What is higher than a doctor", well, I think she found it. Her name is already written down in history, we must now use her name to move women's rights forward, to give other women the chance in life that she never had.

In closing, this film should not be banned, anywhere. Yes, it does have some scene's in it which are not suitable for children, so it's not for everybody to watch, but certainly the rest of the world should be seeing this. We should be seeing the bus driver when he basically says that it is a womans fault if she gets raped, we should see it an encourage a change of mindset in the country and around the world where women are seen as objects and not people.

It is time for equality, Jyoti's story is, I hope, the beginning of this change.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Meeting my idols, how it all went.

They say, never meet your idols, because you build up a mental picture which can be setting the standards so high, that nobody could meet them standards and be able to please you. Such were the thoughts I had in the months leading up to my meeting of the Leffew family, aka, Depfox / Gay Family Values. I don't think i'd set the standards too high, but it was possible that I might have lost a little reality, in just thinking, they are who I would love to be in the future, which is a thought I've had for a while now.

I was worried about meeting them, i'll not lie. It would be possible to meet them, and them to easily say "You said _____ on facebook/twitter and that's wrong and..." etc. It would be possible for me to mess up and them to disapprove of me in one way or another. I was scared in literally every way I could be, but that was over-shadowed by the thought of... "holy shit, i'm going to meet them".

I filmed the video that has come out the same day as this post, and found it difficult to make. Not from an editing point of view, but my thought's all the way from the hotel were "what do you say", "what can we talk about... what don't we talk about" etc.

I arrived at the pub, me and Suny bought a drink, because in my excitement, i'd made us arrive where we were meeting up, half an hour early. I was filming and some people may notice that I see some people off to my screen right (my left), and the film ends. It wasn't Jay and Bryan arriving, it was however, two guy's I had met at the film screening I did in Manchester some 3 ish years ago. I was really happy to see them there, because i'd been checking the facebook event for a while to see if both had been invited and make sure they were coming, since let's face it... the Leffew family we're not only coming over to meet me.

Mid-way through conversation and it went silent. Time seemed to stand still for me. I looked over, and there in a Beige coat walking up towards us, was Jay. The man who had gotten the family on to Youtube in the first place, who's helped me in so many ways in the past, with helping organise the film screening with me, and helping to arrange meeting up in London, who's always given me help and support on facebook when I've been down etc... there he was just a few steps away from me. My heart was beating so fast, I didn't know what to do. I saw, not far behind him, Daniel, Then Bryan and Selina. My eyes were glazing over as I stood there, as if frozen in time, when Jay came over to me and said "It's good to eventually meet you".

Hugging Bryan and Daniel and a little shy wave to Selina, we all moved into the pub and had a nice little chat for about 5 minutes, until somebody came up and said "You guys cannot be in here, I should have locked the door, but I forgot". We moved downstairs into another section of the bar and while on the way, in a bid to calm my nerves, I went outside for a smoke and to eventually head back to the bar for my 2nd drink.

When me and Suny went back into where everybody was sat, I was again stunned by something. There was two seats free, opposite each other, but one was between Jay and Bryan. Not wanting to shove myself in between the two of them and have people thinking I was stealing the lime light, I was unsure what to do, until somebody said "oh that seat's for you", so my dream had come true, I was sat between my two gay idols.

I should point out at this moment, that I refer to them as my gay idols. It's not meant in a way of, they're only my idol's because they're gay, but because they have done what I could only dream of. During time's when I was only looking in to what a gay family was and wondering, as a gay man, did these really exist, or was my future to be spent doing poppers in a gay bar on a weekend... there they were, settled down, a family getting on with life. This for me, was not only a bit of a shock to see how they had their family, but to see that they were like the guy's i'd have often blanked in a gay bar, while I was too busy strutting my stuff to Cher, or trying not to slaughter the scissor sisters on karaoke. See you had Jay, the police man, the activist who wanted to create change. A man who spoke his mind when he felt something wasn't right and I could tell, he wanted to change people's perception of what they thought of the gay community. Then you had Bryan who was this quiet guy, who I thought wouldn't ever want to create the change that Jay wanted to and while he'd be supportive of his husbands actions, he'd be more the guy to do the paperwork, side of things... so if you could imagine a protest of some sort, well, Jay would be out in the street, shouting for the change, Bryan would be on google maps finding out where the protest went and finding out when the next one was. So, yeah, they are my GAY idols. They changed my views on a lot of different topics, more so than I could have imagined when I first found them on Youtube.

Bryan turned to me first and I think asked about how my day had gone so far... and we chatted loads! The reason? Well, I like to think my judgement of people is right, and Bryan, well, my brain thinks... he's the one who knows what he's going to be talking about, and I've longed for years to be able to pick at his brains and try to see the world from his point of view. We chatted and chatted and I was really enjoying myself... until jay said.... "Hey Bryan, wanna swap seats so you can talk to the people on this side?" and they did.

Then of course, I get to pick at Jay's brains. I knew a fair bit about where he stood on some topics because of video's they had done, but of course in recent times, America's police had come under heavy fire from people saying that some officers were racist in their actions... where did he stand on that? As a man who works for the police, how did he feel about the current state of the force, given that not too many years ago, the same force would have been bursting into gay bars and arresting the gay men inside etc. I really enjoyed my time with him, because him, and Bryan, both seemed interested in me and what I had to say and what I thought on certain things. While I had gone with full intention of talking all about them, they were... and of course always have been... normal. They were there to talk to the people who had come to see them, they wanted to know about us, as much as we wanted to know about them. Yes, they have a big following on social media, yes, they've had a movie based on them and their fight for equality.... but what easily gets forgotten, even by me, is that they are normal people.

We talked and talked until the time came to go and walk through London, heading over to the London eye, which once stood as the largest ferris wheel in Europe, only to now be a shadow compared to some more recent ones to open. On the way over there, me and Suny walked at the back of the group, Suny has foot drop in his left foot, which means he walks abit slower and has to take his time, since he has no feelings in his left foot, so has to think about each step... but, to be fair, we hadn't spoken about it to anybody in the group, so nobody was to know. Bryan fell behind the group and walked with us. I don't think either of us expected what would happen to us within the next few minutes.

As we walked, me and Bryan we're just chatting about anything and everything really, and we reached a point where Bryan said "I could really use a bathroom".... and funnily enough, i'd just been thinking the same thing. It just so happens that we were passing a London underground station, so me, presuming that all of them had toilets, I suggested we go in and try to find a toilet. The group stopped and me and Bryan set off to go and find the toilet. We walked in at the ground level... no toilets, so, on we went up to the next floor above... no toilets, so I asked a member of staff and he said that they did have toilets, but they were on the other side of the platform. I think both of us just thought we'd cross a small bridge and be at the toilets, only then did we go up a flight of stairs to realise... the other side of the platform, is the other side of the thames river. We decided that we needed to go, and we'd already come this far.... but we couldn't keep the group waiting any longer, so, we ran. then ran a little more, then some more... eventually arriving at the other side, to have to go down a flight of stairs, then we made it to the toilets. Coming out of the toilets, of course, we'd kept the group waiting about 5 minutes by now, so... we had to run back, which is why in the video, it randomly cuts to me and Bryan running across the station... and yes, that is one of my fave bit's from meeting them, just because it was a little bit crazy to go that far for a toilet break.

We made it back to the group and eventually made it to the London eye... where the que could have easily measured about a quarter of a mile. It was huuuuge, so we decided against the London eye and that we'd instead go on a river taxi, down to the millennium dome, now known as "The o2 Arena", which was almost opposite our hotel.

While we were on the journey, Jay came over and talked to us, and I got to pick at his brains a little bit more, since he does have an interesting job and America's police had been making the news recently, and he is a policeman.... so what did he think of all that's been going on recently? Eventually, while nattering away, we got in to our stop, and my heart was beginning to sink in to the water below, because we all knew that soon, we'd have to go our separate ways. Me and Suny would because we we're tired and had to travel back home the next morning. Jay and Bryan would have to because they had a flight to catch and packing still to do.... the meet up was running out of time.

We all got together one last time in a bar in the o2 arena. The chat had gone from a sort of "getting to know you" to a sort of "whats been in the news" type of chat, which oddly, everybody was fine with. Everyone seemed chilled out and just happy to be there, which set a nice vibe.  Desserts and a few drinks later, it was time to head on home, I was super gutted. I got my picture with Jay and Bryan which is when we then all began to walk our different ways. I only managed to say bye to Bryan and a few of the others that had made it to the meet up, but I later messaged Jay to thank him for making all that happen.

My journey to London too was at an end which was sad in itself, but I felt weirdly, uplifted by the whole experience. I mean, over their Youtube video's Jay and Bryan had made me think differently about a whole range of topics, and here, i'd been given the chance to ask them both about other stuff that they may not have wanted to put on social media in any way. I had the chance to actually see them in person, without any chance of video editing... etc. It worked in both way's though. They had a chance to meet me, the one person crazy enough to say that despite being thousands of miles away, I wanted to see their film, so hosted two screenings of it, the one who has always enjoyed their video's and been supportive of them, even if they found themselves being attacked online, I'd not be too far away in commenting myself.

It was just, mind blowing to meet them, it really was. I write this almost 3 months on from meeting them and I still have a buzz when I think back, and oddly, not one thought of "oooh, I shouldn't have done that" or "maybe I shouldn't have said that", which i'm proud of because normally when i'm as nervous as I was for meeting them, I normally mess up in one way or another.

So back to the original saying of "don't meet your idols". I can see why people would say it, I really can. If you went and met your singing idol, i'm more than sure you wouldn't have been able to sit down with them, have a few drinks and then end up travelling all over London with them. Yet, my idol's, who have done more than any singer could for me, in showing me that I can lead a normal life in a time when many people thought you couldn't, have proven that if your idol is normal, you can meet them, and not be let-down in any way.