Thursday, 14 April 2011

You may say that I'm a dreamer

John Lennon would have been aged 71 this year if he hadn't have been murdered in 1980 at the age of 40. He certainly led an interesting life, but I don't think that any sane person could doubt the quality of his musical output.

In the USA in 1971 he released his album 'Imagine', which was the title of the first track. Forty years later it is still being played, and for me, still being loved. He asks us to imagine a very different world; to dream of a different world; a world that "will live as one".

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

Is it so wrong to dream of a world without injustice and intolerance? There is much that could be done if only people were prepared to speak out and do it. I have been exercised of late with the subject of suicide because of someones real, or perceived sexuality. In researching the subject, both historically and in the modern day, I have been shocked, horrified and angered at the scale of the incidents. Homosexuality was 'legalised' (you need to study what that means) in England and Wales in 1967; Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982. The problem though is a world-wide one. The list of people is so long, that I couldn't even begin to write it out. Let me draw attention to a few known, and unknown people.


The composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky died in 1893 at the age of 53. His death came nine days after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony, the Pathetique (one of my favourites). The official cause of death was reported to be cholera, as a result of drinking contaminated water a few days earlier.

Even around the time of his death the accuracy of the medical reports from the two physicians who had treated Tchaikovsky was questioned. Theories that Tchaikovsky's death was a suicide began to surface, and since 1979, one theory has gained momentum.

This was that a sentence of suicide was imposed in a 'court of honour' by Tchaikovsky's fellow alumni of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence, as a censure of the composer's homosexuality.

Alan Turing
Alan Turing died in 1954 at the age of 41. He was a mathematician, cryptographer and pioneer of computer science. He was largely responsible for breaking the Enigma Code during the second world war, and without doubt, this saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

He was arrested in 1952 for homosexuality, then a criminal offence. Rather than go to prison, he agreed to a form of castration, which involved oestrogen injections. This cruel punishment is now accepted as part of the reason for his early suicide, and in 2009 the British Government publicly apologised for the way in which this great man had been treated.

On the 7th June 1954, Alan Turing killed himself by taking a bite from an apple he had laced with cyanide. He was found the next day with the apple beside his body. I recommend you read a wonderful Blog by my Son called 'Alan Turing's Apple'. Click

Justin Fashanu
Justin Fashanu died in 1998 at the age of 37. He was a professional footballer, and was the first black player to be bought for £1 million. He was the first, and up to now the only professional footballer to come out as gay, after he agreed an exclusive with The Sun in October 1990. In 1991 he said that no club had offered him a full-time contract since the story first appeared.

He endured years of racist taunts because of his colour, and homophobic taunts because of his sexuality. His brother described him as an "outcast", and while playing for Nottingham Forest, his manager, Brian Clough described him as a "bloody poof".

While embarking on a new career in America in 1998, a 17 year old claimed to have been sexually assaulted by him, and he was questioned by the police in April. He returned to England before it went any further, and on the 3rd May, he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage that he had broken into. In his suicide note he said, "I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family". He denied the charges, and he did not know that the American Police had dropped the investigation.

In a moving Blog at the time of Justin's death, his friend Peter Tatchell acknowledged that like all of us he had his share of failings and mistakes, and they were the culmination of a lifetime of rejection. He comments, "That rejection began when, as a young boy, he was given up by his parents and put in a Barnardo's Children's Home. It was compounded by the racist jibes he suffered on the football pitch, and by the homophobic abuse inflicted on him at Nottingham Forest by his manager Brian Clough. When he turned to the Church for solace, it piled on more rejection, condemning his gay lifestyle and demanding that he renounce his sexuality. Then when he came out as gay, he was rejected by much of his own black community, including his dearly beloved brother, John. Not one prominent black leader supported Justin when he was being crucified in the black press".

Homophobia has been called "The violence of intolerance". It seems that all over the world, lives are being taken simply because of someones sexuality. At the tail end of last year, the Washington Post reported on four suicides of gay teenagers in three weeks in different parts of the country. There was Tyler (15), Seth (13), Asher (13) and Billy (15), all committed suicide because of homophobic bullying. In Uganda last year, the "Rolling Stone" newspaper published a front page story 'outing' 100 Ugandans who the newspaper identified as gay or lesbian and whose photographs were carried alongside the headline "hang them".
In the UK we don't really know how many suicides are due to someones sexuality, as that is not recorded on a death certificate. We do not live in a tolerant society when so much is going on under cover, in what Jonny Walker describes as 'situational tolerance'. Apparently Max Clifford is working to "keep the sexuality of two or three big (football) stars secret". You can read surveys by Stonewall and Galop to see what is 'under the surface' and what far too many people are going through because of their sexuality. Perpetrators of homophobia need to be punished, and punished hard, for as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, "Whenever one group of human beings is treated as inferior to another, hatred and intolerance will triumph".

To conclude, in September 2010 Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke at a conference in Geneva, attended by representatives from 14 countries (only 14 I say), spoke on decriminalising homosexuality throughout the world. Drawing attention to the words of Desmond Tutu, he said, "It should not take hundreds more deaths and beatings to convince us of this truth. It is up to all of us to demand equality for all our fellow human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation or their gender identity".

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

Dreaming though is not enough, action must accompany the dream.

1 comment:

  1. Hi dad - brilliant blog post - as a lifelong Forest supporter Brian Clough used to be a hero of mine - not so sure now...