Waiting for the lovers – Why we can’t rewrite this love song yet

THIS HAUNTING AND POIGNANT SONG is dedicated to those who don’t feel free to love for fear of judgement, or even physical assault, by others who assume their love is wrong:

They met across the dance floor just like many other lovers
Each of them were caught within a trance
And with the nervousness of any other lover
He went to ask him for a dance
But the gang outside are clutching broken bottles
Threatened masculinity aroused
There they stand waiting for the lovers to come out

A little loving and a little bit of caring
Is all a flower really needs
Is this a testament to all the love they’re sharing
That they can grow among the weeds
But the gang outside with flick knives at the ready
In false assumption they are drowned
There they stand waiting for the lovers to come out

Give me your feather touch he said
Give me your feather touch
In each other’s arms
I can love you so much
Give me your feather touch he said
Give me your feather touch
We’re in a safe place now
And I can love you

And in their unity they’re strong within the safety
Of all the loving that surrounds
So they don’t care who’s waiting for the lovers to come out
They’ll never care who’s waiting for the lovers to come out

Songwriter and performer, Liverpool radical folk singer Alun Parry, explains his inspiration:

In October 2008 the family of a teenager named Michael Causer were attending his funeral. He had been murdered in a homophobic attack in Liverpool.

A year on, another gay man, James Parkes, was set upon in Liverpool City Centre by up to 20 youths in another homophobic hate crime. He suffered horrific injuries which were initially life threatening, including multiple skull fractures, a fractured cheekbone, and a fractured eye socket.

A fortnight earlier, a gay man in London, Ian Baynham, died following an anti-gay attack that took place after he got off a bus.

A candel-lit vigil in Liverpool in the aftermath of the James Parkes attack saw 1,500 take to the streets, followed a few weeks later by a march through Liverpool in defiance of homophobic violence.

This song tackles the issue head on. The writer’s hope is that one  day it can be rewritten as the simple love song it should be.

Re-write? Not Yet!

ON May 17th, more than 100 countries around the world celebrated International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO for short), to raise awareness of inequalities and prejudice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world.

In my role as Development Worker for the Michael Causer Foundation, I spent two days this month delivering LGBT Awareness workshops in a further education college on Merseyside. Most of the students and staff I spoke to felt that, in the UK at least, society is more accepting than it has ever been for LGBT people. They were shocked to learn of Michael’s murder and how damaging this kind of prejudice and hate crime can be, if it goes unchallenged, and those affected are not supported. Most of them were around the age Michael was when he was killed aged 18, and close to the age of his attackers, aged 19.

The first workshop was in the week leading up to IDAHO, the second the week after. I changed the second workshop to include stories from the news in the few days after IDAHO, which showed how far we still have to go in this country.

The day after IDAHO, gay journalist Christopher Bryant and his boyfriend were kicked, punched, robbed and left with head and neck injuries after an attack by a gang of six men in a south London park, accompanied by verbal homophobic abuse and death threats. As the journalist was editor of an LGBT website, he understood the importance of reporting the incident – you can read their story and see his photo here – though prepare to be shocked. Sharing the same photo on Facebook, Christopher wrote: ‘This is right after, before the swelling and the bruising.’

Not everyone feels able to report incidents like this, for fear of reprisal or lack of faith in the police. This is improving – police forces around the country report a rise in reports of homophobic and transphobic hate crime, which they attribute to a greater faith in the police’s ability and willingness to take this kind of hate crime seriously. Merseyside Police, which investigated the murder of Michael Causer, reports five years on that homophobic hate crime is still the second most common type of hate crime reported in the region.

It gets better, it’s true, but not quickly enough for those on the receiving end. National research into homophobic bullying by Stonewall in 2007 and 2012 shows a 10% drop in lesbian, gay and bisexual students experiencing direct bullying because of sexuality in the last five years, but more than half (55%) still experience it. And while the number of schools prepared to say homophobic bullying is wrong has doubled, (up from 25% to 50%) half of the schools surveyed still do not. Click here to read ‘The School Report – The experiences of gay young people in Britain’s schools’ (2012)

Then on May 20th, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill returned to the House of Commons for its final reading and debate. While many MPs spoke passionately in favour, some spoke vehemently against with, in some cases, poorly chosen words. Sir Gerald Howarth MP responded to the first openly lesbian Conservative MP, Margot James, who stated that gay rights legislation had simply ‘levelled the playing field’, and served to prohibit ‘outrageous verbal aggression’ against gay people. Howarth said: ‘I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being levelled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further.’ Click here to listen.

Defending his comments after the debate, Howarth said he should have used the word ‘militant’, but added: ‘there are concerns among many of us who take the traditional view on marriage that we will be victimised. Are we going to be accused of a hate crime?’ Perhaps Sir Gerald should talk to Christopher Bryant about hate crime before using the term so casually, then decide if it is something with which he is in fact likely to be accused.

In response, while still recovering from his injuries, Christopher Bryant told The Independent how MPs like Howarth should moderate their language as it appears to condone the actions of those who believe that violence is acceptable. He said in a radio interview that ‘there’s no place in a secular democracy for hiding your prejudices behind religion’. Visit his magazine’s Facebook page and website to show your support.

To speak of the ‘aggressive homosexual community’ is absurd – when did you last hear of a gang of gay men or lesbian women violently attacking someone because they are straight? That’s right – never.

To highlight this absurdity and challenge the ignorance behind it, a Facebook page dedicated to ‘The Aggressive Homosexual Community‘ has appeared and gained more than 2,000 likes in a week! Satire is a powerful response in the face of true aggression and rhetoric which defies justification.

So is music – I’m not ashamed to admit I have been on the verge of tears each time I have heard the song ‘Waiting For The Lovers’. It gives me hope that a straight man can write with such empathy for those of us who still have to scan the area and risk assess whether it’s safe to hold our lover’s hand. Perhaps one day this love song could be ‘rewritten as the simple love song it should be’. But not today.

While MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Bill in its third reading in the House of Commons last Tuesday, next week the bill will be debated in the House of Lords, where some peers are planning a final attempt to block the bill. The debate may go into the night, or into a second day, as seventy-five members have already signed up to speak.

Even before the official debate has begun, peers have made inflammatory comments, such as Lord Tebbit’s claim that ‘ maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son. Why not? Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other? I quite fancy my brother!’ Another absurd argument with no basis in fact, but one which could add fuel to the fire of an aggressive heterosexual who feels homophobic violence is acceptable.

If any good can come from the attack on Christopher Bryant and his partner, let it be a lesson to those in power who are debating the lives of same-sex couples, that careless talk could cost lives.

Click here to follow the progress of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament.

2 thoughts on “Waiting for the lovers – Why we can’t rewrite this love song yet

  1. CJ

    There is no need for violence, you don’t have to like what someone is or agree with their choices but you should never ever ever, treat someone so horribly.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: The £1m Goal To Open Gay Hostel In Memory Of Murdered Son | Musings of a Mild Mannered Man

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