Robert Hampton

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December 2013

2nd December 2013

Posted by at 8.33pm | Gay, In the News | 2 responses

A few years ago, when I was finally inching out of the closet, I thought about making an announcement in video form. A short, three minute video. I got as far as writing the script (no, I’m not letting you see it) before I had second thoughts. I concluded – correctly, as it turned out – that my sexuality was No Big Deal to my family and friends, and making a video would have added a whole other level of unnecessary drama.

On the other hand, when British sporting hero and all round good egg Tom Daley makes a coming out video, it is a very big deal:

It’s a remarkably honest and straightforward video; I just hope that Daley made it because he wanted to, rather than his hand being forced by some shitty tabloid about to break the story.

Within minutes of the news breaking, Twitter was awash with people declaring that they knew all along, it was so obvious, etc. I was disappointed at some of the catty comments, many of which came from other gay people. Even if “everyone knows”, to acknowledge it publicly is a big, brave step to take. Bravo to him.

George Alagiah, on the Six O’Clock News, asked, “is it a big deal?” Well, if you’re asking the question on the BBC’s main national newscast, I’m going to guess that yes, it is a big deal. I agree with Owen Jones, who believes the day will come when sexuality is a non-issue, but until then any public figure coming out is always going to be newsworthy, even if Daily Telegraph commenters disagree.

There’s a lot of news articles using the word ‘bisexual’. Daley himself is careful to avoid any labels – he simply states, matter of factly, that he’s in a relationship with a man, but also that he still fancies girls. The lack of a definitive identity is probably going to disappoint some people, but give the guy a break – he’s 19, and a lot of people are still figuring things out at that age. For every gay guy who confidently pronounces that he knew he was gay when he was 5 years old, there are others, like me, who didn’t work things out until their early twenties. Certainly, when I was Daley’s age, I didn’t have any words – except, maybe, ‘confused’ – with which to label myself. As Jake Basford of So So Gay points out, nobody but Daley himself can choose which category – gay, bi, straight, other – he falls into.

Ideally, Daley would be left alone to work out these things for himself in the fullness of time. Unfortunately, he will probably find himself under intense media scrutiny. He was already on a pedestal thanks to his diving prowess, but now he is now being lined up as the latest role model for LGBT people in sport. There’s probably already a queue of journalists waiting to ask him what he thinks about Sochi 2014.

Daley will be under a lot of pressure, but this is a guy who competed in the Olympics at the age of 13. If he can cope with that, I’m sure he’ll cope with this. If the above video is any indication, he has the maturity and strength to handle whatever gets thrown at him. Well done that man.

4th December 2013

Robert & Ian’s Excellent Adventure

Remember back in September when Ian and I rode the Caledonian Sleeper? Well, I finally got around to editing the video footage of our adventure.

This video blog of the trip contains bulging bags, shenanigans in the lounge car, discussion of the merits of top vs bottom, and ill-advised mentions of Michael Portillo.

10th December 2013

On Mandela
Posted by at 10.57pm | In the News | No responses

In case you missed it, Nelson Mandela died on Thursday. I’m not going to try and write a lengthy blog about him, but I did want to point you all towards the speech Mandela made at his 1964 trial. BBC News has an edited version of it. Read the whole thing, but this passage, towards the end, stood out for me; a perfect summary of what Mandela stood for.

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

There are many parts of the world where that ideal is far from reality and despots and tyrants still rule. Even in supposedly democratic societies, those ideals are threatened every day, often by politicians and leaders who claim to have our best interests at heart. We definitely need more people like Mandela in this world who are prepared to stand up for democracy, no matter what.

18th December 2013

Biggs Deal
Posted by at 9.04pm | In the News, Trains | 1 response

So Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs has died. The robbery has gone down in folklore, thanks to the scale of the initial crime and Biggs’ subsequent escape from justice. Countless books and films have been inspired – the latest is airing on BBC1 as I type this.

I can’t get on board with the recasting of Biggs as a cheeky Cockney geezer, though, because it overlooks the fact that the violent robbery caused lasting effects on two victims in particular: Jack Mills, the train’s driver, and David Whitby, the secondman. Both were treated roughly by the robbers (it has never been established which one inflicted the injuries). Mills was hit over the head with an iron bar, before they were both handcuffed and thrown in the locomotive’s engine room.

Mills suffered Trauma headaches for the rest of his life, and Whitby suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of just 34. Although no direct link was made between the men’s premature deaths and the injuries they suffered, it’s not hard to imagine that the attack would have had a lasting negative effect.

An audacious heist, maybe, but one with two victims who were unlucky enough to be doing their jobs. They’re the dead people we should be focusing on tonight.

20th December 2013

Net: A Filter

BT and Sky have joined TalkTalk in installing nanny-state filters on their broadband connections, under the guise of protecting children from porn (in other words, doing what should be a parent’s job).

Worryingly, a Newsnight investigation revealed that, while some porn sites were not caught by the filter, legitimate sites offering information on sexual health, relationships and other issues important to teens were being censored.

BT even offer a tool to increase the level of filtering, allowing over-zealous parents to censor all sex education sites, even age-appropriate ones. One of the blocked web site categories is “respect for a partner” – because why would kids need access to information about that?

This is not a hypothetical situation for me. Back in 1999 or thereabouts, when I was first becoming aware of, and struggling to come to terms with, my sexuality, the web sites available on the nascent web were vital for me. Had they been filtered, there’s no way I would have felt able to go to my parents to ask for permission to unblock them.

The filters do seem to be disproportionately affecting gay and lesbian web sites, including the LGBT Liberal Democrats and London Friend, one of the capital’s oldest LGBT charities providing support services. The whole thing smacks of anti-gay prejudice from the people who drew up the filter list – children, apparently, must be protected from anything LGBT-related, even when it is completely non-sexual in nature.

I could have told the powers-that-be that this would happen (in fact, I did, six months ago). I can speak from experience at the office where I work. We tried to put in a filter which would only allow work-related sites to be accessed. For months we tweaked it so that it would not block sites that people needed for work purposes. Almost every day, without fail, we would have to add another load of sites to the whitelist. Eventually, we gave up and turned the filters off. Not sure how our workplace survived with unfettered access to the internet, but somehow… we managed.

So, in summary, we’re preventing vulnerable children and teenagers from accessing vital information they might need while giving parents a false sense of security? Nice one, Cameron: you’ve probably broken the Internet for ever. Twat. (filter that!)

For more on this you might want to check out the Open Rights Group blog on the subject of over-blocking.

24th December 2013

Turing Blessed
Posted by at 5.50pm | In the News | 1 response

Alan Turing, the brilliant computer scientist who was instrumental in cracking enemy codes during World War II, and played a crucial role in the development of early computers during the 40s and 50s, has received a royal pardon for his historic conviction of “gross indecency”.

Turing’s treatment, from today’s perspective, seems appalling. He fell in love with and had consensual sex with another man, a serious crime in those times. Turing was convicted in March 1952 and forced, as part of his punishment, to accept oestrogen injections to reduce his libido. The “treatment” left Turing, a former track and field athlete, a shadow of his former self. He died just over two years later after eating a cyanide-laced apple (the coroner ruled it a suicide, although Turing’s mother disagreed with the verdict, believing it to be an accident).

On the face of it, Turing’s pardon should be a welcome gesture, a signal from the Government of changing attitudes. I do, however, have a problem with one man receiving a pardon for his conviction under an unjust law, while 50,000 other people (according to Peter Tatchell’s estimate) will not be pardoned. Some of these people are still alive – a pardon would be more than a symbolic gesture for them.

Turing should not be singled out because of his contribution to science and the war effort, great though it was. It seems that you can just about get away with being gay, as long as you are a national hero as well.