Sunday, 28 November 2010

Items of interest II

I spotted this article on Pink News recently and it really caught my attention. For a number of reasons: primarily the ongoing debate about gay adoption - but also the relatively new dynamic of medical opinion opposed to equality.

In essence the article discusses the aim of a doctor who refused to endorse same-sex adoption applications (and who resigned from an adoption panel on that basis) to appeal to and employment tribunal; and onward the European Court of Justice, on the grounds her medical opinion should override equality legislation. She believes that children should only be raised by mixed sex couples; and she claims this view is based on objective medical studies as well as her religious beliefs.

She is being represented by something called the Christian Law Centre, which said “Much of the population, and many studies, would agree with her professional and personal standpoint. Most professional opinion on this issue happens to fit closely with the Christian view. Yet Christians are being increasingly excluded from the public square and this can no longer go unnoticed".

Having worked in medical regulation for some years I would argue her assertions regarding medical evidence are risky. While I have no doubt there are studies that suggest gay couples are less suitable as parents, there are many that come to the opposite conclusion. When considering whether to launch a case against a doctor, on the grounds of professional misconduct, I have to consider whether the doctor's conduct could cause serious harm to patients, his/her colleagues or public confidence in the medical profession: and whether there is a reasonable prospect of probative evidence.

Allowing your religious views to interfere with your professional duties is clearly actionable. Actively discriminating against same sex couples hoping to adopt (and this breaking the law) is clearly actionable. But, by resigning and claiming scientific evidence to support her views, she has created quite an effective shield. No doubt the Christian Law Centre will seek to create a precedent weakening the application of equality legislation. Either way, I imagine the appropriate authorities will watch the case closely.

Studying for a degree in social research, I found the idea of research being used in this way intriguing. In fact a simple review of the available research suggests that it is very limited - there are too few cases of gay adoption and they are too recent for the impact to be objectively measured. But what qualitative research there is is broadly positive. Certainly the process of adoption, for gay or straight couples, means unsuitable parents are filtered out in ways that going out and getting knocked up in a boozy knee-trembler doesn't (see the clip below for a more eloquent discussion of that point). It might be a topic for my own research, going forward... so a timely controversy I suppose.

My own view is of course that any child is better off in any loving supportive home. Having children is a privilege not a right, and provides an awesome responsibility on those involved. And the fact that gay people want to assume that responsibility should be celebrated, not the subject of legal action.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Redundant systems

It’s a-comin’ gentle reader. Maybe soon!

As I have written before I work in the good old NHS. Although the public sector is facing one helluva squeeze here, there, everywhere the NHS’s whopping £108 billion budget is not only ringfenced but is going to grow. Nevertheless the urgent need to focus resources on sick patients *sigh* has meant a need to cut back. In fact the method decided on has been to simply turn back the clock and reduce costs to the level they were in 2008.

My organisation has actually been somewhat restrained but still needs to make cuts because on current plans, to meet Government priorities, we will be running a deficit. Hence the need to make cuts.

Currently I am a business manager for a directorate – a core one at that. This has given me not only a major role in business planning but also access to very senior people. Also, many of those involved in corporate governance are members of the LGBT network at work and we look out for each other ;-)

Thus I am much better informed than my peers . I know that to make the cuts my directorate needs to, we don’t need to make anyone redundant except two; and we have been able to promote one and arrange a supernumerary secondment for another. The rest of the posts cut are vacant or we move people around.

However... I am also employed as what’s known as flexible resource. I normally do fixed roles that are time limited – a project or programme manager if you will – to help keep costs down. As my current and erstwhile colleagues well know it is quite difficult to get rid of someone once employed by the state. So I do the jobs that will come to an end.

Ironically – or not perhaps – that means I am at risk of redundancy not once but twice. If other directorates get rid of their business manager, we all have to reapply for our jobs. But if and posts in the flexible resource team get made redundant, the same thing applies.

To be honest it’s absolutely fine. I’ve been made redundant before and given my length of service the redundancy pay will be good. The organisation I work for is being shot down in April 2012 so it’s going to happen sooner or later unless I transfer elsewhere.

Overall I’d prefer to survive this round and go to the 2012 redundancies. The money will be better I’ll be near to finishing my maters degree; and my own savings will be greater. That will help Fella and I get our married life off to a better start.

Well, I know already that I will have to go through some kind of process. I know the flexible resource team is being slimmed down, so there we are. The announcement is being made on Monday so I can give you an update next week.

Here’s to the future :-)

NB: The announcement came last week and a it turns out in this round I am not at risk of redundancy - so a year's grace!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Items of interest

There were three articles I saw today that interested me. All gay-related, I thought I’d share them with you, gentle reader, as I hope they interest you too. The first, discussed in this post is “Bring Me sunshine” in this week’s Economist.

The article discussed Richard Florida, an economist apparently much in vogue with the Conservative Party. He is an economist from America with strong ideas about the future direction of economic growth, namely that the West shouldn’t pursue low-level menial work, much the preserve of Asia today, but the creative industries – these should be the core engine of growth for us. He helps set out a blueprint for governments’ role in the economy, a topic of much debate, but most interestingly for us today he describes the best possible future as one that is sustainable environmentally, ethnically and culturally diverse, and gay.

Such a future attracts what he terms “freethinkers”. Not musicians, artists or bohemians per se but anyone open to new ideas. Cities that are tolerant of immigrants and gays will succeed. Those not will fail. He uses as an example the post-industrial failed cities in mid-western America (and I see parallels with the post-coal depressed towns in Wales and the north of England): rigid, white, working class, straight. Top down decision making that could not respond to changing times. Anyone who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain will rightly see such analyses as superficial.

I think the idea social liberalism is the key to future prosperity. Although criticised as a positive stereotype Florida argues that cities like Strumpetville have always attracted hardworking and ambitious people and that gay people in particular not only select cities that meet their requirements for aesthetics and amenity, but – crucially – they expand the aesthetics and amenity of the area they are in. Florida has analysed a correlation between house prices and the concentration of gay and lesbian people in a given area. To sum it up – cities without gays or rock bands are going to lose the economic development race.

The criticism of Florida that resonates most is that he confuses cause and coincidence. For example, I think gays are likely to move to up and coming areas but not to depressed working class areas where they are (a) likely to be isolated from other gays and (b) have the crap kicked out of them. I am living proof of that – I’ve slept with a lot of people in my post-code but I know what streets I/we want to live on.

That being written, I am pleased the hear this government, with a tough job and not much love (as much as it deserves to be sure) is listening to someone who thinks the future is a blend of green, brown and pink. Google it!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Excuses excuses

So, the boiler has broken down. And sometimes gay people get beaten up (or worse) or being who they are.

The connection? Why that perennial favourite, the boiler breaking down. What else?

Let me start at what suits as the beginning, gentle reader:

Fella and I have had our ups and downs walking through the streets of Strumpetville. We’ve been quite lucky I think – some of the things that get reported in the news feed my imagination and paranoia (except... maybe they are out to get us). But there has been some hassle. I really get worried that Fella in particular will get hurt one day if he isn’t careful. I fancy I can handle myself and have a more forbidding demeanour you see... so I don’t like it when Fella displays affection publicly, especially when we’re out late at night. I feel it is risky. In a nutshell: I don’t want either of us to get killed.

So far so hoopy, right?

But the boiler has broken down. And what do we do when the boiler breaks down? We use our shiny Strumpetville Dabloons to purchase the services of a plumber.

Fella organises everything, and the plumber turns out to be a really nice guy. He can’t solve the problem, but gives us lots of advice. Well, he got £70 for his trouble; so fair enough.

Because this is the first time I’ve lived with someone, it’s the first time we’ve had someone in ‘our’ home who isn’t a friend or relative. So it’s the first time I’ve had to manage other reactions to my/our sexuality at home.

Fella was fine, and totally open – calling me “darling” and “sweetheart” in front of the plumber. And the plumber clearly didn’t care. So I’m writing this trying to get some insight into why I was even remotely anxious about it. Why was it necessary to be on my guard?

I wonder if I’m still a little afraid of how people will react to my sexuality; still carrying a little bit of the baggage that stopped me coming out for so long? It’s given me pause for thought... am I projecting my fears onto Fella? Why is it I worry about this? I think there must be something deeper than a reaction to homophobia. I mean there’s plenty of it about but not to the extent I should think about how I behave in my own home. To be fair there are plenty of unprecedented events in my life and it’s easier to deal with anything that life throws at me when I have some measure of control.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Chillaxin... hard

I had a thoroughly unproductive weekend, gentle reader. By that I mean that I did nothing at all but relax (and go to the supermarket with Fella for some supplies).
This week and next I have no classes, so I am taking full advantage the opportunity of doing nothing. It feels weird; when I write unproductive I mean it. I like to have done something each day, be it studying, cleaning, working... whatever. However, while I am still working to accommodate all the demands on my time I am conscious of the risk of burning-out; and without the prospect of a holiday any time soon it was probably wise to chillax and be confronted only by the problem of nothing being on tele.

Truth be told I don’t really like it. I become restless, suffer from cabin fever in a way. Nevertheless, once in a while it is necessary.

The need to get something done has, perhaps oddly, caused me to think about the work I do; my job. I am employed as a flexible resource flexing between roles, putting right what once went wrong and hopping that my next flex is the flex home... Currently I am business manager to a team that is implementing the Government’s new healthcare policies. The really means midwifing a whole new structure whilst achieving quite a difficult cultural change in an environment that politely might be described as brothlike, whilst suffering too many cooks. I manage a team of four lovely and extraordinarily capable ladies, one of whom is friend C who kindly followed me to my new role after we had worked together in my old one for more than a year.
The focus of my thoughts is my legacy, I suppose. How am I going to achieve the things I want to achieve in the six months or so remaining to me in this role? It’s a real challenge and most days I come home not really liking it! But it’s a fantastic opportunity and being a business manager sure opens doors. Plus I get access to very senior people indeed which is a great learning opportunity. And for my plans I have their support. So, what to do?

Instead of writing a list of things to do, I am writing a list of things to achieve. Any task I need to undertake has to be linked to the ultimate outcome. I have found this new viewpoint rather helpful. Instead if what I need to get done by the end of the day, I decide what needs to be done by the end of the week, say, and focus on what I deem necessary to achieve that.

My job is important to me and I don’t want to move on thinking I hadn’t done some good. I like to think since coming out I have had the same attitude in my personal life, though that’s less critical with Fella – the act of being together is the object, not a tool. Maybe it’s time to achieve that same... peace... in my work! In six months. In the meantime, how to keep chillaxin???