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Mayor confirms successful bidder to run capital’s Pride celebrations

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today confirmed that London LGBT + Community Pride (LLCP) have been selected to run the capital’s Pride celebrations.

The announcement follows an invitation by the Mayor for non-profit, community based organisations to bid to develop one of the biggest LGBT celebrations in the world. Each summer the parade and festival attract hundreds of thousands of people from across the UK and overseas, and the Mayor is providing funding to secure the event’s long-term future.

London LGBT + Community Pride have been offered a grant agreement worth up to £500,000 over five years, to stage the event in 2013 and develop it over five years. Waiving the fee to use Trafalgar Square, plus assistance from a Greater London Authority events officer, will bring the total value of support to around £650,000.

Boris Johnson said, ‘London’s Pride celebrations are one of the biggest and most high profile events in our city’s cultural calendar. They are enormously popular and underpin London’s status as one of the best cities in the world for LGBT people, who make an enormous contribution to the social and economic life of the capital. With a new partner, strongly rooted in the community, our ambition is to see a successful event that is sustainable in the longer term.’

Speaking on behalf of the Board of London LGBT + Community Pride, Michael Salter said, ’We’re delighted with the support we’ve already had for our bid from the community but the hard work starts now. We have five months to raise the funding required, finalise plans and make our vision a reality. We’ve already begun working with community groups and sponsors and now we are looking for motivated individuals to get involved and join the small army of volunteers that are essential to making Pride a roaring success.  We are a Community Interest Company, which means any surplus made can only be used to support the event in future years or donated to LGBT+ organisations and we hope this will appeal to potential sponsors.’

The company has specific aims and ambitions for the future of Pride events. These include building a longer term and more diverse festival culminating in a weekend of celebration, and eventually moving the event out of the congested streets of Soho and to some of London’s parks. They also aim to build a festival encompassing arts, politics, entertainment and sport that showcases both the talent and contribution of the LGBT+ community and the positive impact it has on the Capital. They will be announcing more details about their plans for this year’s Pride celebrations in due course.

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Stonewall urges equal marriage sympathisers to write to MPs asking for support

Stonewall is urging same-sex Marriage Bill supporters in England and Wales to ask their MPs to argue in favour of the measure by February 5, when it will be finally debated; the Government is publishing the bill to introduce, if approved, equal marriage.

The organisation is also asking for straight people to join in and has advised supporters against complacency. According to results from an Ipsos MORI poll last December, 73% of people in Britain are in favour of equal marriage.

A clear majority supports the measure: three in five individuals of faith and over 80% of under 50s agree to it, as shown in Stonewall’s Living Together report last year, which was based on a YouGov poll.

‘Sadly, the minority of people who oppose equal marriage consistently use mistrust and smears to argue against it’, said Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill. He adds, ‘Supporters of this modest measure mustn’t let a vocal minority block equality’.

Stonewall urges people to tweet, e-mail, phone or write to their MPs and request their support for the bill before its second debate on February 5 2013.

Ben Summerskill explains why: ‘We need straight people with lesbian or gay friends and relatives to stand up for their rights too. Equality benefits everyone, which is why we need every supporter to press MPs to vote for it’. The message, he says, is simple. ‘Speak now, or forever hold your peace’.

Stonewall’s campaign website gives supporters a range of resources to help them on the quest for equality.

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THT and HPA launch pilot scheme allowing gay men to test for HIV by post

HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust along with the Health Protection Agency are co-launching a pilot project that will allow gay and bisexual men to access HIV home sampling kits by post.

From 30 January 2013, men in England will be able to visit Terrence Higgins Trust’s website and request delivery of an HIV home sampling kit. The service is free and confidential, all the user has to do is provide a finger-prick of blood, which they then send to the lab for testing. Users should receive their result within a week of them returning the sample, either by text message (if the result is negative) or with a telephone call to provide support and refer them to specialist HIV services (if the result is reactive). The pilot has been set up to provide an alternative method of testing for men who are unable to access their local sexual health clinic, or who want a more private way to test.

Gay and bisexual men remain one of the groups most at risk of HIV infection in the UK. However, one in four gay and bisexual men with HIV is unaware that they have it. This has been identified as a key factor driving the epidemic among this group.

Jason Warriner, Clinical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said, ‘Currently, we have a big focus on driving down undiagnosed HIV within the gay community. We need to explore every possible avenue to get more men testing more often. Starting to introduce home sampling programmes removes another obstacle to the kind of community-wide focus on testing we need in order to halt the spread of HIV on the gay scene.’

Dr Anthony Nardone, Head of Sexual Health Promotion at the Health Protection Agency, added, ‘The Health Protection Agency is supporting this project because, with an estimated one in four HIV positive gay men unaware of their infection, we must encourage more to test at least annually and more often if they have had unprotected sex with a new or casual partner. Ordering a HIV home sampling kit by post makes following this advice even easier. An early HIV diagnosis means timely treatment and a much improved prognosis.’

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Cameroonian President Paul Biya: ‘Cameroonians are changing their minds about gay people’

On Wednesday January 30, while in Paris, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said that ‘minds in the country are evolving’ on the subject of gay people. This statement followed a massive outcry on behalf of a student in Cameroon, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, who had been sentenced to 3 years in prison under Cameroon’s anti-gay law for sending a love text message to another man. More than 122,000 members of the global movement for equality All Out, have signed a petition to Biya asking him to free Roger and end the laws that make it illegal to be gay in Cameroon.

‘President Biya said there may be movement away from the criminalised and negative treatment of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Cameroon, but the truth is that Roger just had his jail sentence affirmed for sending a text message expressing love to another man, and others remain in jail after being accused of being gay,’ said Andre Banks, Co-founder and Executive Director of All Out. ‘Things are getting worse, not better, for gay people in Cameroon. It is time for more action and less talk. Biya must free Roger and others accused of being gay through an immediate end of the anti-gay law.’

President Biya pointed to a recent ground-breaking case where two individuals, known as Francky and Jonas, were acquitted after being sentenced to 5 years in prison. Francky and Jonas were convicted in 2011 when a judge said the way they dressed, the way they spoke and that they liked Bailey’s Irish Cream proved they were gay.

Biya arrived in France this week to meet with French President Françoise Hollande. During the meetings, Roger, joined by All Out, launched a plea for Hollande to speak to President Biya on Roger’s behalf.  In 2011, Roger was arrested and sentenced to 3 years in prison after sending an SMS to another man. He spent more than a year in prison while facing abuse and ill health, until he was released pending his appeal. His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in Yaounde on 17 December 2012, so Roger could face more jail time if he is not freed from his sentence.

‘Mr. Hollande, here in Cameroon I am a criminal because I am gay. I need your help to convince the President of Cameroon to reverse my 3-year prison sentence, to release all innocent people in prison in Cameroon simply because they ‘seem gay’ and put an end to laws that make being gay a crime!’ said Roger Mbédé. ‘I am calling all people to join All Out to help me raise my voice and fight this injustice.’

Roger’s lawyer, Alice N’Kom, who traveled to Paris as well to make Roger’s plight known to Hollande, said, ‘President Biya has the power to free Roger, and put an end to laws that make it illegal to be gay in Cameroon and disgrace our country.’

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Gaydar launches newly-styled site in time for Valentine’s Day

Gaydar, the UK’s largest gay dating website, has unveiled a sleek new appearance for its three million UK members. Just as a change in season deserves a wardrobe revamp, Gaydar has taken its visual cues from discerning style and fashion brands to deliver a newly-designed site for the New Year.

A toned-down palette of colours has replaced the bright, flamboyant look of the previous Gaydar to coincide with the design savvy vibe of its community. The original gold and yellow logo has been replaced with a sharp, defined look which is still unmistakably ‘Gaydar’. The leading gay and bisexual dating site is delivering the following message to its members: ‘If Mr. Right exists, he’s probably on Gaydar…’.

Trevor Martin, Managing Director of Gaydar, commented, ’We are delighted with the new site; we felt we needed to progress the branding to match the mood and style of our members. 2013 is going to be a really exciting year for Gaydar and this rebrand is the first step of many to come.’

Following the site revamp, Gaydar is set to launch an ‘on your mobile service’ which will provide gay guys with a better targeted and relevant dating service than ever before.

In other Valentine’s related news, a poll by Desire and Pleasure, the online sex toy website from charity FPA, shows that 68% of couples would rather stay in on February 14. The main reason cited for staying in is a lack of money, with 43% preferring to save their cash and make their own fun.

However, the chance to save money wasn’t the only reason – just under a third (31%) of those surveyed believe that by staying in they had a higher chance of having sex. It also seems people will be getting prepared to make their own fun, with 1 in 5 (20%) planning a saucy purchase for Valentine’s night.  The most common sexy gifts are underwear and costumes.  Other popular items are saucy board games and ‘fun’ bondage items like furry handcuffs.

Last year, Brits spent £88m on gifts for each other, with men spending twice as much as women. The average cost of a meal out for two people with a bottle of wine is around £50. Add to this a bunch of flowers at £10, a bottle of perfume or aftershave at £30 a piece, and a box of chocolates, and you can easily spend over £100 per couple.

Terry Hawkins, Business Development Manager at FPA, says, ‘The Fifty Shades… effect has changed the way people see sex toys, and the increase in sales of products backs this up, as more people want to experiment sexually. This, coupled with the pinch on people’s wallets, has resulted in couples looking for new ways to have fun at Valentine’s and save money.’

The website Desire and Pleasure was launched by FPA in September as a social enterprise to help fund the sexual health charity which runs telephone helplines and campaigns on major issues.

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LGBT people urged to consider fostering and adoption

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are being urged to consider adoption and fostering, ahead of the second annual LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, which runs from 4 to 10 March 2013.

Leading adoption and fostering charities believe LGBT people could help make up the shortfall of foster carers and adoptive parents across the UK. It’s estimated that 4,000 children need adopting every year, and an additional 9,000 foster carers must be found.

It’s estimated that if just two percent of LGBT people came forward to foster or adopt, they could meet the shortfall of homes needed for children currently in care.

LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week is a series of events around the country aimed to educate prospective parents and carers about the processes involved, and to let them hear from others in their area who have adopted or fostered children themselves. It is organised by New Family Social, the charity run by LGBT adopters and foster carers for families and families-to-be.

Action for Children is the week’s main sponsor. The charity’s Director of Public Policy, Helen Donohoe, says, ‘From 140 years of working with the UK’s most vulnerable children, we know how important it is to find the best possible placement for each and every child in care – and we know that LGBT people often come to adoption or fostering as the first choice for expanding their family, bringing love, real enthusiasm and resourcefulness.’

‘Throughout LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, our friendly approachable staff will be on hand at events across the UK to answer questions and help potential parents take the first steps towards providing one of the thousands of children desperately in need with a stable, loving home.’

Andy Leary-May, Director of New Family Social, added, ‘Some people are still put off by fears that they won’t be welcomed by agencies, but things are changing. In our group we have huge and diverse range of families, including plenty of parents who are single, or in their fifties. It’s clear to see how well our children are doing, and what a positive and rewarding choice fostering and adoption can be.’

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‘So you think your child is gay?’: New Stonewall parenting guide

Stonewall have published a guide for parents who think their child might be lesbian, gay or bisexual. So You Think Your Child Is Gay? answers parents’ common questions about sexual orientation, including ‘Is it just a phase?’, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ and ‘Will I still be welcome at church?’ Stonewall is distributing the pocket-size guide to thousands of GPs’ surgeries, libraries and schools across Britain.

The guide is designed to give answers to some of those common questions that parents might have when they think their child is gay, or when the child has just come out. Written in plain English, it dispels the common myths about what being gay means for young people, as well as helping parents to create a supportive environment for their children.

YouGov polling for Stonewall’s Living Together report shows 81 per cent of people in Britain would now be comfortable if their child grew up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. However, coming out remains a stressful experience for many gay young people and their parents. Although gay people today have plenty of sources of support when they choose to come out, few resources exist for parents of gay young people. Stonewall’s new guide will help parents support their children, without worrying needlessly about the ‘impact’ of their sexual orientation.

Stonewall Head of Education Wes Streeting said, ‘Many parents worry about what being gay means for their relationship with their children and have all sorts of questions that they’re sometimes afraid to ask for fear of saying the wrong thing. So You Think Your Child Is Gay? provides upbeat and straightforward advice to parents, which focuses on the most important thing of all – giving children love and support, whatever their sexual orientation.’

Stonewall is distributing copies of So You Think Your Child Is Gay? across Britain. The guide is also available online, or can be ordered from Stonewall’s Information Service by calling 08000 50 20 20.