Gay Marriage

Today I want to discuss a topic that’s never really in the public consciousness much, if at all. So I wanted to bring this little talked about subject into people’s mind to open it up for debate and give it the consideration it deserves. I want to talk about gay marriage…………………..what? there’s already a multitude of news stories and debates about it? How many?………..that many!

Now firstly I have to admit to you a bit of naivety on my part. I had already thought we had gay marriage in the UK, called civil partnership. That’s not me being flippant, I genuinely thought that was the case. Legally there is no difference in rights between civil partnership and marriage in the UK, it even has a process similar to divorce as well. At the moment however, UK law does not recognise same-sex ‘marriage’. Confused? Me too a little, so what’s in a name?….apparently a lot……

Now I’m not claiming to be as qualified or educated as some to speak on behalf of the government, churches, or the gay community etc but hopefully I can offer a reasonable argument which may give some food for thought.

I know the reaction from some of the ultra conservative religious groups in the UK ‘coming out’ (if you’ll forgive the wording) against gay marriage has been very strong to say the least. To hear some of them speak I think in their minds the gay couple getting married will be dressed up as an electrician, Indian, Policeman or Biker, walking down the aisle to ‘It’s raining men’, while the congregation are doing YMCA in the background. That does sound like a fun wedding though…
So let’s try to break down the issue into the main points:

1. Do gay people actually want gay marriage or is civil partnership close enough to marriage?

2. Should the government allow gay marriage and if necessary should they force the church to perform them?

3. How does gay marriage sit with the church and how is it dealt with biblically?

Isn’t civil partnership just gay marriage by another name? All the same legal rights as marriage in the UK are there after all and have been in place for 6 years. But if the whole debate concerning gay marriage was solely focused on legal equality, then civil partnership would surely be perfectly acceptable. However, the word ‘marriage’ is important in this debate. It conjures up words like love, faithfulness and permanence and stability. Civil partnership conjures up in my mind two people entering into a business legal contract with one another. Its not the same in its power to define a loving relationship to the public. What civil partnership perhaps misses in ‘name only’ is the essence that the word marriage conjures and why should we deny that to a couple just because the ‘love’ part of the word ‘marriage’ is between two people of the same sex? and what about the issues of equality?

Another point to consider is how the gay community really feel about all this. Is there an actual strong desire for gay marriage in the UK or do they consider it just a word? Is it instead a deliberate politicised issue in a cynical act by parties to get more votes?

The government have already accepted and allowed gay marriage in all but name. There is no difference in legal rights, so why didn’t they go all the way? The short answer is to avoid all the debates, backlash and press that would come along with it. That was six years ago. Now things are hopefully slightly different, we are more accepting and the issue of gay marriage has been broached again with that hope that people will be more accepting of it. Now I think the time is right, perhaps overdue, as the current situation does resemble allowing gay people onto the airplane of a ‘visible, public lifelong commitment of a couple’ but not allowing them to upgrade to first class ‘marriage’ section becuase they are the same sex. Its marriage but not quite and seems unfair.

In March the government began a 12-week consultation on the topic of allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry. One of the proposals in the consultation paper is that both civil partnerships and same sex marriage will both be possible. Surely this should be one or the other? Why not reclassify civil partnerships to be classed as marriages? Otherwise we have two tier or classes of commitment vehicles with civil partnerships as economy and marriage as first class. (and more checkboxes on an application form.)

Another important proposal in the consultation paper says it will maintain the legal ban on same-sex couples marrying in a religious service. Firstly is it their right to legally ban or not ban gay marriage in a church? At face value it seems to be there to appease and put the mind of the religious institutions at rest. Or, is it a case of the government easing the church door open a bit more to allow at some point in the future gay marriages being performed there? first civil partnerships, then gay marriage, then gay marriages in the church, slowly bringing them round to the idea. I think that religious institutions have every right to comment upon the issue but it is up to the government to introduce gay marriage as a legal right. However, it is the churches right to allow, or not allow, them being performed in a church. The distinction is very different.

Roman Catholic congregations across England and Wales were read a letter from the Church’s two most senior archbishops saying the change would reduce the significance of marriage. I think they are wrong in this regard. It is the high divorce rate at all ages over the past years that have reduced the significance of marriage. If a gay couple were to marry and live a long, loving, committed relationship till the day they die, surely that increases the significance of marriage as something important and worthwhile?

I could write a entire doctorate on various points of biblical scripture that are: for, against, or indifferent to homosexuality and gay marriage. These different views depend on interpretation, context and historical social context at the time of writing each book within the bible. This produces the formation of somewhat individualistic views, which makes it interesting but not that helpful sometimes in getting a clear cut answer. Perhaps it was written with that in mind so readers would be challenged to form their own conclusions while still holding onto the overall message.

Now it might be the literary equivalent of walking into a lion’s cage with a rib eye steak in my boxers but I could, for example, say that in the New Testament Jesus never commented about homosexuality but Paul however did. If it was really important I would have thought Jesus may have mentioned it once or twice. Same sex marriages or partnerships are never mentioned in the bible, is this omission because they weren’t even considered at the time?

There are better people than me to debate this and I would suggest further reading on the wealth of information out there.

As a Christian, in my opinion the bible teaches self thought and free will. It says ‘do not judge, or you too will be judged’ and to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. If two people who love each other and want to make a lifelong commitment in front of their family, friends and God, then they should be able to do so. It shouldn’t matter if they are gay or not. There are Christians who are openly gay and I think that church leaders should be very careful in interpreting what they think God thinks about that. Its obvious that a big important discussion needs to happen within the church in this government consultation period, in order to come up with some form of formal option or response.

I also wouldn’t want to see atheist parties use the reluctance of some of the church members to accept gay marriage as an opportunity to oppose all faiths as an outdated concept. (Yes Mr Dawkings I mean you)

I think it would be wrong for the government to force churches to officiate over gay marriages but I hope that they will open their doors to them. Perhaps as a short term solution it could be down to the individual churches to decide based on their views.

Hopefully the government consultations will bring together all the reverent parties into an honest, open debate and the outcome will be understanding, acceptance and welcoming. In the end though the ultimate decision will be individually ours.

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How to Fix a Fashion-Challenged Boyfriend

Adrian Fernand – Australia’s seriously stylish agony uncle and creator of – answers your questions on life, the universe and everything. This week, Adrian has advice on how to deal with a boyfriend’s wardrobe which needs to be raided by the fashion police!

Dear Agony Uncle,

After years of hanging out with well-dressed gay men, I find myself cringing at my new boyfriend’s fashion sense. He looks great naked but is it wrong of me to want more? Help me, Agony Uncle!

Fag Hag, Melbourne

Dear Fag Hag,

When someone’s clothes look better on the floor than on their person, presumably they would look absolutely smashing in a bonfire. Now, I’m not suggesting you go all Guy Fawkes by busying yourself collecting kindling, used newspaper and other assorted bric-a-brac, but I do feel that a ritualistic wardrobe cleansing is required. Meddling with a paramour’s appearance is never easy and that gentle remark about a pair of ill-fitting trousers can be perceived as a hypercritical verbal petrol dousing.

Start with a positive: compliment a piece of his clothing that truly suits him (and he loves), then suggest that he wears that particular item the next time you are planning to head out together. Instigate an impromptu shopping expedition—never plan one in advance for it will surely end in a break-up—and pick pieces for him to try that are inspired by the ‘one good piece’. Highlight how it suits him and why it’s reminiscent of what he already owns; and if all goes well, it’ll be in the (shopping) bag. Once he trusts your sartorial judgement, it’ll be a natural transition where he will refer to you for fashion advice, thus allowing you to influence his grooming and overall aesthetic.

Failing this, rely on your gays as an outlet for your paper doll, prêt-à-porter perfection, and your boyfriend for indoor exploits only. You said it yourself—he doesn’t need clothing to look his best!

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The Resurrection of Oscar Wilde

Wilde’s persecution and exile have been regarded by some as a “crucifixion”. There has been a crucifixion, so, it follows; there must be a resurrection. Such is the power of the narrative; of the myth-making machinery that operates in our culture in the creation of icons.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde has a remarkable capacity to touch the lives of the twenty-first century reader, to make people feel as though he is someone with whom they are so familiar that it is as if he is their personal friend.

In fact, at times, he seems so contemporary and like “one of us” that we could be forgiven for thinking he is alive and well and living in the twenty-first century. The word that always springs to mind when considering such notions is “spirit”.

Indeed, over the past century, there have been numerous reports from people, claiming that Wilde has “appeared” to them, or has been “spotted.” One sighting, by a student at Magdalen College in 1934, claimed that he was seen drifting across the College quad in his graduation gown.

John Stokes in his book, Myths Miracles and Imitations, writes of Wilde having been seen in New York in 1905 and again in 1912 by his own nephew, Arthur Cravan.  In the latter example it is a dark and rainy night … and the apparition of Wilde appeared to Craven in his flat. According to Stokes, Cravan turned upon Wilde and abused him, but, suddenly overcome by pity, ran after him, calling his name and, when he realised Wilde had gone forever, he returned a desolate man.

Such a story seems to me to provide the perfect metaphor for the history of Wilde’s cultural reputation.  It is almost a story in miniature of his fall and subsequent rise to glory.  He was abused, he fled this world and now that world is sorry and wants to call him back, so much so that wishful thinking sometimes overflows into belief that he has been “seen”, spotted somewhere.

Elvis Presley also has the capacity to generate such rumours.  Elvis has been “seen” in some fairly surreal situations: pushing a trolley full of fish fingers outside a supermarket in L.A., where his Cadillac was parked in the disabled spot; eating a meal in Burger King wearing a white robe (what else do ghosts wear?); washing his smalls in a laundrette in West London, telling the attendant “you ain’t nothing but a hound dog” when they ran out of soap flakes.

There have been various attempts to make “contact” with Wilde. Perhaps the most amusing case was the recording made of the late Leslie Flint, a famous medium back in the 1960s.

When asked to speak, he replied, “I have never been known to say nothing” and he told the medium he was still writing and having his plays performed, saying that, “more money has been made out of my reputation since my death than I was ever able to make out of my plays, which goes to show that sin is very successful.”

The point of these ramblings about sightings and so forth is that such cases are illustrative of the power of personality – the power of the spirit. Aided and abetted by the advent of the media and its rapid expansion since Wilde’s time, some of that power is accrued through the reproduction of images, the Oscar Wilde industry, as it has become known.

Although dead for over a century Oscar is very much alive to us, not simply in the sense of being immortalised through his works as indeed many authors are, but because he was – is – larger than life – because he was more than a writer – he was a celebrity. Like many celebrities, such as Elvis Presley, it is hard for many to believe that he is dead.

He is so much a part of modern life that it is hard to believe he died all those years ago.  Wilde, in the manner of a spirit, retains a “presence” – one might be tempted to say “omnipresence” – within popular culture.

Of particular note is Wilde’s appeal to the teenage demographic, an appeal which is at least in part due to the fact that he speaks to the outsider in people.

It is no wonder then, that the author Michael Bracewell had, he confessed, two posters on his bedroom wall when he was growing up: one of David Bowie and one of Oscar. “Bowie came down after awhile”, he noted. “But Oscar stayed.” Stephen Fry too, noted that teenagers “trembling on the brink of bourgeoisification” look to Oscar as an inspiration. Indeed, there is a certain fragility about his position in Victorian society, his status as a wit and an artist – that seems to provide the perfect metaphor for the struggle against conformity endured by young people, especially teenagers, for whom individuality (a.k.a. identity) is vitally important, but who are all too keenly aware of their vulnerability to the ravages of social pressure.

Wilde’s brief career is very “teen”, in the sense that it represented a brief oasis of self-expression, flourishing in a desert of conformity.  It was all too quickly quelled, he was packed off to prison where he was stripped of his individuality, had to wear a uniform and to do what he was told.  He can be regarded as a metaphor for those with artistic aspirations who maybe cultivated an interesting style for just a few brief years of their lives, before they have to forsake themselves and end up working in an environment that does not make room for individual expression.  Like the 1890s itself, his was a flame that burned too brightly and was all too soon snuffed out.

Of course, Wilde does not merely appeal to teenagers. HE appeals to people from all walks of life. He has, albeit posthumously, become a figurehead for a whole range of communities, that have gathered around him, fought over his legacy and claimed him as their own.  The main one of these is, of course, the gay community. Over the years, much has been written about Oscar’s gay identity, about whether or not he would care to be seen as a “gay” author.

On the centenary of Wilde’s death, thousands of people came from all over the world to pay their respects, leaving flowers and messages at his graveside, such as, “love you always” and “I will keep you forever in my heart”. One message, written in French, said, “For Oscar Wilde the outraged martyr, who died in the name of love”.

The notion of Wilde as a modern celebrity is a frequently discussed one. In the twentieth and twenty-first century, with artists and celebrities becoming, for many people, like Gods or Guru figures, Wilde and his reputation fit with ease into this cultural template.

Wilde himself would perhaps not be surprised, living as he did in a culture where this had already started to happen, when the spiritualist Madam Blavatsky was looking to nominate her guru to popularise spiritualism and when actresses like Sarah Bernhard were commanding the kind of adulation now given to stars like Madonna and Kylie. Indeed, Wilde himself commanded such adulation, when on his American tour with his manager and publicist, the Victorian equivalent of Max Clifford.

Wilde epitomises the spirit of our time and that is why it feels as if he is alive and well and living in Chelsea, or Paris, or wherever one might picture him to be.

As Ellmann so aptly pointed out, “he belongs to our world more than to Victoria’s”. After a decade of celebrations Wilde’s “resurrection” is finally complete and he is restored to us in all his resplendent glory.

Julia Wood is the author of The Resurrection of Oscar Wilde: A Cultural Afterlife. (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2007) £15.00 pbk 164pp ISBN 978-0-7188-3071-7

Happy Birthday Joe McElderry

On 16 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Joe McElderry born on this day in 1991. Joe McElderry won the sixth series of the ITV show The X Factor in 2009. His first single “The Climb” reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and Irish Singles Charts. Joe McElderry was also crowned the winner of the second series of Popstar to Operastar, two years later in 2011. To date he has released three albums – two of them reaching the UK top three. He is currently working on his fourth studio album. On 30 July 2010, Joe McElderry announced on his official website that he is gay. The gay charity Stonewall has listed McElderry as a gay role model.

Joe McElderry


Joe McElderry won The X Factor in 2009, mentored by Cheryl Cole, beating runner up Olly Murs with his version of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb”. He signed a recording contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco record label, whose parent company is Sony Music Entertainment. Joe McElderry’s debut single, “The Climb”, was released in December 2009 and had the fifth highest sales of all UK singles released in 2009 staying one week at number 1. It was also the top selling Irish single of 2009 where it remained at the top spot for four consecutive weeks.

In 2010, Joe McElderry recorded his debut album Wide Awake. The first single released from Wide Awake was “Ambitions”, a cover of a song by Norwegian band Donkeyboy. The song debuted at #6 on the UK Singles Chart and #4 on the Irish Chart. Wide Awake debuted at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart but fell to number 20 the following week, and to number 40 the week after that. “Someone Wake Me Up” was the second single taken from the album and it debuted and peaked at number 68 on the UK Singles Chart.

Joe McElderry was approached by Twentieth Century Fox to record the specially written track, “There’s A Place For Us”, written by American songstress Carrie Underwood, which features in the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and was also the B-side to “Someone Wake Me Up”. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2011 for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.

After “Someone Wake Me Up,” Joe McElderry released no further singles or albums with Syco. On 15 April 2011, it was reported in the media that his contract with Syco would not be renewed. Joe McElderry has stated that his split with Syco was amicable.

In 2011, Joe McElderry appeared as a contestant on the second series of ITV’s Popstar to Operastar and won the show on 10 July 2011. After the show it was revealed that, in all of the episodes in which he competed, McElderry received more votes than all of the other contestants combined. He defeated Cheryl Baker in the final with 77.1% of the public vote.

He signed a new recording contract with Decca Records and his second studio album, Classic, was released in August 2011 and debuted on the official UK top 40 albums chart at number 2. The album was certified gold, within 10 days after the release.

Joe McElderry took part in the Great North Run half marathon on 19 September 2010 raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust, which he is also an ambassador for. He ran the Great North Run again in 2011, once again supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust, finishing in 1 hour and 42 minutes. Also in 2011, Joe McElderry was put up for auction on the shopping channel QVC in aid of Breast Cancer Care and eventually sold for £6,350. The top bidder received a unique concert from Joe in her living room.

Joe McElderry embarked on his debut solo tour, Classic Tour in November 2011 and released a Christmas album titled Classic Christmas later that month. The album debuted at number 15 on the UK Albums Chart. On 8 December, he performed at Durham Cathedral to an audience of 1,500, singing, “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “A Winter’s Tale”.

Joe McElderry started recording his fourth album in February 2012. It is due for release in September 2012 and is set to include collaborations with Marcella Detroit and Ludovico Einaudi.

On 3 June 2012, he performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Water Pageant, he sang for guests on board a Dunkirk ship, The Viscount.

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Happy Birthday Zachary Quinto

On 02 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of the American actor and producer Zachary Quinto who was born on this day in 1977. Zachary Quinto is famous for his role as series antagonist Sylar in the science fiction drama Heroes from 2006 to 2010. He was cast as Spock in Star Trek (2009). Zachary Quinto publicly came out as gay in October 2011. He explained that, after the suicide of gay teenager Jamey Rodemeyer, he realized “that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it, is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.”

"Sylar" "Heroes" "Spock" "Star Trek"

Zachary Quinto in 2011


Quinto, who is of half-Italian and half-Irish descent, was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Green Tree, Pennsylvania, with his mother Margo and his brother Joe. His father, John, who was a barber, died of cancer when Quinto was 7 years old. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1995, where he participated in their musicals and won the Gene Kelly Award for Best Supporting Actor, and then attended Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, from which he graduated in 1999.

Quinto first appeared on television in the short-lived television series The Others, and appeared as a guest star on shows including CSI, Touched by an Angel, Charmed, Six Feet Under, Lizzie McGuire, and L.A. Dragnet. In 2003, he landed a recurring role as computer expert Adam Kaufman on the Fox series 24; Quinto appeared in 23 episodes of the third season.

In 2006, Quinto played the role of Sasan, the haughty, gay Iranian-American best friend of Tori Spelling on her VH1 series So NoTORIous. Later that year, he joined the cast of Tim Kring’s Heroes as Gabriel Gray, better known as the serial killer Sylar. He worked on the series until its cancellation in 2010 after four seasons.

His casting as a young Spock in the J. J. Abrams-directed reboot of the Star Trek film franchise was officially announced at the 2007 Comic-Con. Speaking alongside Leonard Nimoy at a press conference to promote the new Star Trek film, Quinto revealed that Nimoy had been given casting approval over who would play the role of the young Spock. “For me Leonard’s involvement was only liberating, frankly,” says Quinto. “I knew that he had approval over the actor that would play young Spock, so when I got the role I knew from the beginning it was with his blessing.”

In a September 2008 interview, Abrams said of Quinto’s performance as Spock: “Zachary brought a gravity and an incredible sense of humor, which is a wonderful combination because Spock’s character is deceivingly complicated. The revelation for me watching the movie, when I finally got to watch the whole thing after working on sequences, was that he is extraordinary. He was doing things I didn’t even realize while we were shooting – these amazing things to track his story.”

Following Star Trek, he appeared in the comedy short Boutonniere (2009). It “…was a movie written and directed by my former landlady and friend [actress Coley Sohn]. She called up and said, ‘Would you do me a favor and be in my short film?'”

"Oscars 2012"

Zachary Quinto at the 84th Annual Academy Awards 2012

Quinto has joined with Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson to form Before the Door Pictures. The company is working on projects in film, television, new media, and the graphic novel arena. It announced a three-book publishing deal with comic book publisher Archaia at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. The first project from the partnership is expected to be a 100-page graphic novel called Mr. Murder is Dead, created by writer Victor Quinaz. It will be followed by the comic book series LUCID: A Matthew Dee Adventure written by writer/actor Michael McMillian.

Quinto’s theatre experience includes roles in a variety of productions, including Much Ado About Nothing at the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival and Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at the Old Globe Theatre. Baseline Studio Systems announced in January 2010 that Steven Spielberg may direct a biopic about George Gershwin, which is scheduled for release in 2012, with Quinto confirmed for the lead role. From October, 2010 to February 2011, Quinto played the lead role of Louis Ironson in an Off-Broadway revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America at the Signature Theatre, New York City. For this role, Quinto received the Theatreworld Outstanding Debut Performance award. He has modeled for magazines including GQ and August.

In 2010, Quinto’s company Before the Door Pictures produced Margin Call, an independent film about the financial crisis. Quinto played the role of Peter Sullivan in the film, in a cast that included Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore. Margin Call premiered in January 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival. In October 2011, Quinto began his recurring role on the FX series, American Horror Story, as Chad, former owner of the house. Quinto will return for the second season in a lead role.

Quinto publicly came out as gay in October 2011. Prior to his coming out, Quinto had long been an active supporter of gay rights and organizations like the Trevor Project. In 2009, he appeared in the one-night production Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, a benefit stage reading in response to the passing of Proposition 8, as well as in the play The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. In 2010, Quinto contributed a video (see below) to the It Gets Better Project, an Internet-based campaign that aims to prevent suicide among LGBT youth.

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How to be a Gay Cougar

Adrian Fernand – Australia’s seriously stylish agony uncle – answers your questions on life, the universe and everything. This week, Adrian has advice on how a confirmed homosexual bachelor can become a gay cougar.

Dear Agony Uncle,

As a long-established (homosexual) bachelor who has never felt the need to compromise myself by entering into relationships, I feel I am experiencing somewhat of a mid-life crisis.  Since meeting a dear friend’s new, much younger ‘gentleman friend’ I am starting to have urges and worrying thoughts of DVD nights at home, pyjama romps and joint dinner parties…especially with the youth in question. Your words of wisdom are keenly sought. Should I:

1. Move in for the kill;
2. Wait for the inevitable ‘irretrievable breakdown of their relationship’, then move in for the kill;
3. Look further afield and procure one of my own; or
4. Come to my senses, shake a Bex powder down my throat and have a good lie down?

Young at Heart, Melbourne

Dear Young at Heart,

Never fear, contrary to popular belief there are still single people out there. I know; I happen to be one. Sure, the further you get along in life it’s inevitable that your peer group will pair up and start prancing onto Arq like it’s nobody’s business. It’s unfortunate that you’ll be forced to watch from the dry dock, but that’s the choice you made when becoming a ‘confirmed bachelor’. I understand that an extra pillow or a half-size replica of Carol Channing isn’t as comforting as another human’s touch, but that doesn’t entitle you to become The Picture of Whorian Gay and muscle in on your friend’s paramour.

Unfortunately, lovers cannot be bought in egg cartons at the supermarket like the foetuses you wish to attract, so you will have to take offensive action. Coming on strong to will have the opposite effect and drive potential suitors away, so, before you hitch your junk up and don your leopard print swimwear, give a little consideration to the stealth tactics of your animal print-clad female counterpart—the cougar.

1. They always hunt in packs, so ensure that you’re not the lone drunkard sipping whisky at the bar.

2. They’re always the life of the party. Someone who has the same vim and vigour as someone significantly younger is always more attractive. Be the dominant male in your pride.

2. They’re always ready for the kill. Have an exit strategy in place for when you need to slink off with your new-found mate. Oh, and wear your best undies.

Don’t worry, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Rather than citing the fish/sea cliché, let me quote my dear German friend and her Deutsch forbears: “There are plenty of other mothers with better looking sons”; just be certain they’re of legal age.

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Marriage Equality & the Ice Cream Truck of Love

Here at City Connect, we believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love no matter what their sexual orientation. That is why we are proud to support Features Writer Adrian Fernand and his project to raise awareness about marriage equality in Australia.

Many of you know Adrian Fernand as the creator of the blog I Do Believe I Came With A Hat and he is a regular contributor on City Connect sharing his unique etiquette and social protocol advice as the unoffical Agony Uncle of Australia and the World!

We all love ice cream (unless you’re lactose intolerant!). Some people like vanilla. Others like chocolate and some prefer strawberry. If the government were to say that someone wasn’t allowed ice cream just because they prefer strawberry rather than vanilla, that wouldn’t be considered very fair.

When it comes to marriage equality, it’s the same principle. Why should a loving and committed gay or lesbian couple be denied the right to get officially married just because of their sexual orientation?

Adrian Fernand has become a spokesperson for marriage equality in Australia and has come up with the innovative idea of the Ice Cream Truck of Love which will be travelling around Australia handing out free ice cream to demonstrate that people should be treated the same regardless of their personal preference.

The campaign is a non-political and a-religious way to raise awareness about marriage equality across several locations in Australia including Sydney and Brisbane. Adrian says: “For too long now only a certain portion of the community has been able to get hitched to the person they love, and quite frankly we think that stinks. What’s to say that marriage can’t be between two people, no matter their gender or whether they’re purple and covered in yellow polka dots? So we’re doing something about it.”

Soon, the Australian Senate will be discussing same sex marriage and what it means for the country. Adrian believes that the Senate needs to hear the voice of those who believe that same sex marriage should be made legal. At City Connect, we tend to agree with him. Watch the video below for more information about this worthwhile cause.

City Connect is supporting Adrian’s worthy cause to get the Ice Cream Truck of Love on the road and spread the word about marriage equality. Adrian is raising money through crowd funding for the project which is estimated to cost $30,000 AUD. Your donations will help give Australians not just free ice cream but hopefully the ability to marry the person they love regardless of gender when the Senate votes on marriage equality.

If you would like to support this worthwhile project, please click here to donate. No matter how big or small your donation, you will be supporting the important issue of marriage equality and helping to change the lives of same sex couples all over Australia who want to get married. In the UK, City Connect also supports marriage equality for same sex couples and we will be responding to the UK Government’s consultation in support of this key issue.

To keep updated on what’s happening with the Ice Cream Truck of Love project, follow all the latest developments on Twitter or Facebook.

The Student Migration: International Students in the UK

A Benedictine monk and a Ghanaian walk past each other…

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. This is university. In the UK, our universities serve to bring together all nations, colours and religions in one place, an eye-opening experience for any student and representative of one of our country’s great assets: multiculturalism and diversity. I have met students from all over the world, from Iran to Cyprus in my time as a student. Their experiences have in many ways marked me, with a sense of our common humanity, and also, with a profound understanding of how differently we see the world.

International students often come to the UK to work hard, learn and experience new things: for example, a German friend of mine, Hans*, refuses to speak in German whilst he is in England. He wants to respect the land he is studying in and improve his English, or, as he puts it, what’s the point of coming here? This enthusiasm can enable international students to not only learn but teach UK students to appreciate their country. I knew a Nigerian, Ikenna*, who was sitting next to me as the first snow fell. The look on his face was like a child’s; so delighted and awestruck at seeing what had only been in pictures actually falling outside his window. He was grinning like a boy on Christmas day, while trains and cars came to a standstill around the campus. I had never appreciated the cold white stuff so much. The weather we grow up to complain about had become a magical thing again.

Other cultures can often teach us to let go and have fun. In the endless repetition of going out, getting drunk, and recovering from a hangover, I was shown one night that I had forgotten how to enjoy myself, how to listen to the music and actually dance. At a reggae and R&B night on campus, I found myself in a group of students from Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and El Salvador. Decidedly, this was the most talented group of nations in the art of dancing. So we had a street-dance type contest in the middle of the bar: African vs. Caribbean vs. Latino. Having learned to dance in West Africa, I represented the group I most identified with, but we were soundly beaten by the Caribbeans, who had the benefit of a soundly muscled dreadlocked guy who rolled his hips like no man I’ve ever seen! Clapping and whooping in a circle of so many different faces was exhilarating. That night, I learnt to feel something different, to let go of my English inhibition and really enjoy myself.

On the other hand, this lack of inhibition can be daunting for some students who have come from a country that has stricter codes of behaviour than ours, often enforced by law. For example, I met a postgraduate student at a karaoke bar named Yousef*. He was put off by the noise, the binge drinking and the sexual promiscuity, all things that would not have been allowed in his native Iran. He said that the culture shock was, at first, hard to get over. The most controversial part of UK life, he told me, was something we take for granted every day: I, a woman, not his sister or aunt or wife, was sat talking to him in a bar. Men and women mingle everywhere, talking and laughing and hugging each other, all in the spirit of friendship, and this is entirely normal; but not for Yousef. He recalled an incident in Iran where he went for a drive with a childhood friend, drinking coffee and talking. Sounds innocent enough, no? Apparently not, as the car was pulled over by the Iranian police and Yousef was almost arrested. He had to beg for mercy and was let off with a warning, for the crime of sitting next to a woman in a car. This was his idea of normality. And after the free socialising of different genders in the UK, when he went home for the holidays he admitted that it was hard to keep himself in check and his time away sometimes shed a harsh new light on his native country. Despite this, he is apprehensive of the promiscuity of women and men in the UK and the damage this may be doing to our young people. I can see his point.

How does one return home after a taste of such freedom? Yousef admitted that he was considering staying in England, and I’ve heard this opinion before, from Ikenna, who has not returned to Nigeria after his Postgraduate degree. He found life in the UK far too tempting and really made himself a home here. I guess, for him, the grass really was greener on the other side. Some people don’t integrate so well, however. A flatmate of mine from Bermuda, Serena*, never seemed to leave her room and found it hard to socialise with our all-white, loud, mostly English corridor of students. I don’t blame her. She was a long way from home and obviously found it hard to be away from everything she had ever known.

There are others for whom the choice to stay or to go is not so easy. Another postgraduate friend of mine, Fatima*, is from a troubled country in the Middle East. She found herself unable to return home, fearing for her safety in her war-torn homeland, and spent the Christmas holidays on campus. She faces not only danger but prejudice back home; being a lesbian, she has been free to explore her sexuality and meet like-minded people at university. Back in her home country, homosexuality is illegal. There have been many stories like hers, of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people making the most of their liberty in the UK and dreading the return to a homophobic culture. I know people who have come from Middle-Eastern and African countries that can’t be out on Facebook, have to control their interactions carefully, and could never come out to their families and friends back home for fear of victimisation and even imprisonment.

On the one hand, our more tolerant society offers opportunities to live openly and unashamedly as an LGBT person, as a woman, as a person with equal rights. On the other hand, as me and Yousef have discussed at length, how will their respective native countries ever change and progress (in terms of tolerance) if the international students never return home to contribute their experiences and knowledge to their national future? I can see both arguments, and would never judge either choice. All I know is that I personally am glad to have widened my worldview, met some extremely interesting people and learned to understand and appreciate the unique benefits that living in this country provides.

*Names have been changed to respect the subjects’ privacy.