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London. 2011. The world’s most multicultural and cosmopolitan city.

Gay Pride – Saturday 2nd July.

Surely gays and lesbians don’t need to parade their existence down Oxford Street anymore…we’re sorted in this city, right? What is Gay Pride anyway?

Is Pride about going to the gym every day the week before and getting your haircut just right, or perhaps volunteering to help one of the many organisations that need help on the day and truly feeling part of a community?

Come Pride, will you be with those ‘shiny new people’ you now interact with on Facebook, or spending time with actual friends who have invested genuine energy into your friendship and given a crap about you?

I remember seeing the London Gay Pride marches on television news, growing up in school, itching to one day be able to go, as a proud adult fighting homophobia with other homofriendly adults. My first pride in the 90s didn’t disappoint! It was a sensory feast. A sea of movement, walking with purpose. Cheering, friendly people, hot guys and hot gals, music, everyone happy – it was most definitely a powerful, ‘we’re here, we’re queer and we (don’t!) drink beer’ moment. Feeling suppression being defeated. Feeling part of a community. And then the glorious Trafalgar Square rally. Beautiful!

Fast forward to 2011. Millions descending onto the streets of London, marching, whistling, partying. Dancing in Leicester and Soho Squares. Who but a boring party-pooper would not be excited by all the revelry?!

But, we can do this every weekend. What’s so special about one day?

The difference? The march. The first march for gay rights in the UK was in 1970, when 150 gay men protested through Highbury Fields in north London, The first official UK Gay Pride Rally was in 1972. Since then the march has grown in number and importance, originating from the 1969 Stonewall riots, through to Section 28, age of consent and equality for all.

Huge issues that had / have serious consequences on our well-being. The only reason we can still celebrate today is because of the march and the ongoing fight for gay rights.

London Gay Pride March - 1972

Which is why the march and rally are always important. Having fun with loved ones too. But inbetween all the ogling at half-naked torsos, perhaps drinking and drugs, and general carefree merriment, it’s important to remember why we can be free in the first place, and why other places unfortunately can’t.

Iran, Uganda, Malawi, Russia, Latvia, Serbia…just some of the countries where our LGBT community are struggling to have the same rights we take for granted, sometimes even just being alive. We must march for them.

But in London we still have battles. Homophobia still exists in sport. Hate is still being preached by bigots in the name or religion, be it a minority of youths flyering Tower Hamlets ‘supposedly’ they claim in the name of Allah, or Christian leaders who think Jesus would equate homosexuality with paedophilia. Or atheists who will never treat an LGBT person as an equal.

For some, the march may be redundant. ‘Who cares? I don’t need to fight for anything anymore’. For me? Marching as a British Muslim who is gay and out has impassioned me. Obviously some people may not be able to relate to that.

But there is a growing divide between gays whose families are secular and their perception of what’s left in the gay struggle, and those gays whose families are from minority groups, e.g. blacks, Muslims etc. The first time I saw a group of gay Muslims marching together was a lightning-bolt moment, my eyes nearly popped out, I felt fired up. Years later, I spoke on stage at the 2007 Pride Rally at Trafalgar Square, as a trustee on behalf of Imaan (LGBT Muslim support group). The square was as packed as ever, but it was the day after police arrested a few individuals outside Tiger Tiger club in Piccadilly for an alleged terrorist bomb plot. I expected animosity and jeering, but was overjoyed that the whole crowd rallied together, cheering with full gusto at fighting homophobia, Islamophobia, all prejudice, and celebrating our diverse community, both it’s similarities and differences.

London Gay Pride 2006 - Me and other LGBT Muslim supporters

Speaking personally, as a double minority it is much easier in the short-term to bury your head in the sand, to not confront the issue, and this is also true for secular gays and religious straights. Showing the world you’re gay and Muslim can be twice as hard than being a secular gay. And shunning people who associate with religion / gays is cowardice, whether you’re gay or straight. But for me the greater good, forcing Muslims to accept the existence of gays and forcing gays to accept the existence of other minorities, is vital to escape the ‘dark ages’. If I/we don’t do it, than who will? We can’t depend on others or the next generation to do the hard work for us, as much as it would be a much more peaceful life for us! A journey not without heartache, but hopefully one that avoids future heartache for many.

It’s not normal to get on with everyone and like everyone, it’s human nature for people to have things in common with some, and have not much in common with others. But there can be a danger of the gay scene becoming ‘ghettoised’. Unnecessary factions. For example, it would be bad if gay Muslims just stuck to each other and didn’t socialise with others. I am heavily against the new trend of some minority groups, such as some Muslims, being completely segregated. My grandparents came to London in the 1960s and wouldn’t have bothered coming if they did not happily integrate as proud British Muslims.

It works both ways. Everyone’s heard the paradigm of it being a ‘straight, white male world’, a comment on the least oppressed, people on top of the ‘dog eat dog’ world. Anyone who is ‘missing’ at least one of these characteristics will have experienced the pain of oppression, and would have fought to assert their rights, e.g. gay white males, straight white females, straight black males. Those who are oppressed usually become more accepting overall of other minorities, not just their own, as they understand the shared struggle for universal human rights. But worryingly, there seems to be a trend where those that were once oppressed have forgotten. My theory is that, just for example let’s say some gay whites, you get to the ‘top of the tree’, you’re in the big city smoke and finally feel accepted, and you can do what you want and no longer feel oppressed. And for some, that might mean that at best you’re not bothered about socialising with other minority groups and at worst you ‘ghettoise’ yourself from them, maybe because for some, finally being at the ‘top of the tree’ really is important (e.g. taken to extreme, the fact that some gay people join far-right political organisations). I will defend an atheist’s right to question my or anyone’s religion, but that’s a completely different thing from being anti-Muslim / anti-whatever religion / anti-minority, which is just as bad as being homophobic.

But like I said, it works both ways.

More than being LGBT which is one strand of our being, we are people; a false sense of elitism achieves nothing.

Pride is about having self-pride. Respect, love and honesty for yourself and others. Be with positive people. Help those in need. Maximise time with those who appreciate you and minimise time with those who don’t. Remembering your real friends and family.

AND…Pride also means not feeling you HAVE to go out on the day, fearing you’re missing out; it is OK not to go sometimes, have a quiet one in solitude or with loved ones.

As long as homophobia exists in this country or indeed any other, and as long as people aren’t inclusive of all gay people, religious to atheist, black to white, young to old, fat to skinny, as long as people aren’t accepting of the rainbow of diversity that the LGBT community is and instead want to create divisions in soulless cliques…

…then yes, parading is important to show we are united…and a damn site more fun and sexier than the haters too. 😉

So whether you’re parting hard and celebrating, or having a quiet reflective one, solo or with loved ones either here or in memory of those who’ve passed, Happy Pride.

Love Fiez X

Bit random to include Gaga and no this isn’t a plug for her, as much as she’s fabulous! But this advert came on while blogging and I like the happy sentiment.

CONGRATULATIONS to Prince William and Kate Middleton on their big day!

It’ll be information overload for a few weeks. But here are the facts you really want to know! (Perhaps. 😉 ).

Ahh. (Courtesy of Mario Testino).

* Although only 29 years of age, Kate will be the oldest bride to marry into the Royal Family. Princess Diana, was barely 20 years old when she married Prince Charles in 1981. Statistics show that marrying at this age means that Will and Kate are less likely to divorce.

* William and Kate are 12th cousins once removed according to The Daily Mail (!) (ancestor Sir Thomas Leighton) or 15th cousins (descended from Sir Thomas Fairfax) according to other sources – from the 16th century.

* David Cameron wants the nation to “get on and have fun and celebrate our country” this Friday, advising councils to allow the British public to throw street parties. Around 4000 applications for street-party licenses were received and an estimated 2 million people will be celebrating on the streets.

* Among the 1,900 guests include (make of this what you will!) Victoria and David Beckham, rugby coach Clive Woodward, comedian Rowan Atkinson, director Guy Ritchie, Kanye West, the landlord of Kate’s local pub, TV presenter Ben Fogle….as well as two of Kate’s exes and four of William’s (including Jessica Craig, Olivia Hunt, and Rupert Finch…heterosexual pairings btw! 😉 ).

* Around 40 foreign royals have been invited, including the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the Sultan of Brunei, the Emperor of Japan, and kings of Malaysia, Tonga, and Thailand.

* President Obama has not been included due to the high costs of additional security, but will visit the UK in May for a royal dinner and ball to pay his respects to the newlyweds. Sarah Ferguson has also been snubbed, oh dear. :-/

* Senior Royals and dignitaries will be shuttled between Buckingham Palace and Westminister Abbey in minibuses…not Prince Charles though, he’ll be chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce style. (Get him! 😉 ).

* Male military guests will be required to wear their armed forces dress uniform, while women have been advised to wear elegant afternoon dresses with or without a smart coat or hat.

* Prince William’s Mum got married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. Like Princess Diana, Kate is following in her would-be mother-in-law’s footsteps by not promising ‘to obey’.

* The Wales-Middleton union will be the 15th royal wedding conducted during the 1,000-year history of the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, to give Westminster Abbey its formal name. Victoria’s granddaughter, Patricia of Connaught, chose to marry her naval aide-de-camp Alexander Ramsay in 1919. Only then did the trend for 20th-century royal weddings begin.

* Prince William and Kate Middleton are said to have chosen the abbey for its beauty, historic and recent personal royal connections and intimacy.

* In particular, Prince William’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales had her emotional funeral service here. 29th April 2011 will surely be an important day for him in many ways when he places a wedding ring next to his mother’s engagement ring on his bride’s finger.

* After the royal couple’s first press conference, Kate wants to be known as Princess Catherine. If she and William make it to the throne, Kate will be the sixth Queen Catherine of England. (Get her! 😉 ).

* William and Kate are allegedly going to be the first royal couple to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement.

* William and Kate’s wedding reception will have 600 chosen guests enjoying a lunchtime buffet – his parents celebrated with a 120-guest breakfast hosted by the Queen.

* Kate will spend her last night as a single woman at The Goring Hotel in Belgravia – the Queen Mother called it her favourite hotel and in 1952 most Royal guests for the Queen’s coronation stayed there.

* William will not wear a ring but Kate will wear a gold ring passed down to William from the Queen, traditionally sourced from the Clogau St David’s mine at Bontddu in North Wales.

* Lookalike agencies can be in huge demand. And having ‘Wills & Kate’ on the books could be the holy grail of all lookalikes. Easyjet recently ran a competition, the 2 winners of which winning free flights for a year (Wills & Kate on Easyjet?!) Out of 20 finalists, Simon Watkinson, 29, from London and Orsola Rossi, 29, from Milan have been crowned the most convincing Prince William & Kate Middleton lookalikes across the whole of Europe. Simon and another Kate lookalike – Jodie Bredo – feature in this T-Mobile Royal Wedding viral ad…love the song choice!

* It’s the Royal wedding of media firsts — first to be announced on Twitter, have a soundtrack released online within hours of the service and the first Royal wedding to have its own flood of smartphone apps. But no 3D… this time. All guests have been warned to switch off mobiles during the service and NOT to update Twitter. (Ha! Hopefully! We’ll see! 😉 )

* The royal couple have asked their guests donate to charity instead of buying gifts – one of 26 charities. Click HERE to see them!

* The Metropolitan Police have been carrying out extensive security checks around Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Police have been checking every possible threat from the inside of traffic lights to inside the street-gutters. The operation is costing an estimated £20 million.

* 80,000 commoners will flock to London to cheer on the happy couple, up to a billion are expected to tune in at home. It’ll be a media beast — 8,000 TV and radio journalists, CNN is drafting in an extra 50 US staffers to add to its London desk of 75, the BBC has stationed 850 staff and Sky and ITV have 460 between them.

* The Queen is said to have sent out ‘save-the-date’ invitations via fax machine. Cute!

* Kate might get called a tart – it’s a tradition for Royal brides to get a pudding named after them, in 1947 there was the Bombe Glace Princess Elizabeth and in 1923 the Fraises Duchesse Elizabeth.

* William has invited several individuals recently saved from homelessness by his late mother’s charity, Centrepoint. He apparently wanted to include those who have touched his life in some way.

* According to it’s statistics, the alumni of St Andrew’s University, where the pair met, have a 10% chance of marrying a fellow alumnus.

* Kate has shunned riding to the Abbey in the glass carriage used by Princess Diana on her wedding in favour of taking a car — either a 1950s classic used by the Queen or the Phantom IV used by Charles and Camilla during the infamous incident at the student fees protests last year. But the newlyweds will take Charles and Di’s carriage on the ride to Buckingham Palace.

* The Royal Wedding route will include The Mall, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and Parliament Square.

Likely Royal Wedding Procession (courtesy of Google and http://www.direct.gov.uk).

* Burglary is expected to rise significantly on Friday due to the mass public partaking in street parties while forgetting domestic security. Thieves are likely to use the occasion as a prime opportunity to target people’s houses. Be careful people!

* If William had wanted to marry before his 25th birthday he would have required the consent of his grandmother The Queen!

* Gamblers can take a punt on all things Royal wedding — topping the polls at the moment are bets on whether Harry will lose the rings (38/1) or end up drunk (33/1), and what colour of hat will be worn by Her Majesty.

* The organizers of the Rugby World Cup have invited the couple to spend their honeymoon at the tournament in New Zealand.

* When (assuming so!) he becomes King, William, at 6ft 3ins, will be the tallest monarch ever.

* The economy is set to experience a hefty boom due to amount of consumers spending on celebration products such as: bunting, decorations, alcohol and party equipment. This is estimated to generate an extra £480million to retailers across the UK…!!!

* Memorabilia Meltdown!!! Fridges embossed with a giant photo of the Royal couple, a Kate and Wills meat pie and a limited edition Princess Catherine engagement doll, who has her own Facebook page and sold at Hamleys toy store, are just some of the options. Japanese toy line Sylvanian Families has designed rabbit replicas of the royal couple, to go on sale in the UK around the time of the wedding.

* The see-through Charlotte Todd dress that Kate wore in a charity fashion show at St. Andrews University back in 2002 was recently auctioned off for £78,000. It is supposed that this modelling moment for Kate was how she first caught the attention of the young Prince.

* The Royal couple have opted for wedding music that includes Westminster Abbey Choir, Chapel Royal Choir and the London Chamber Orchestra over celebrity performers.

Courtesy of Mario Testino

* The wedding flowers will be white gardenias, lily of the valley, delphinium and roses — all grown in Britain — and will stay in Westminster in the week after the service to be seen by the public. Kate’s bouquet will include a sprig of myrtle, known as ‘the herb of love’, in keeping with a tradition started by Queen Victoria in 1840. The wedding bouquet will go on the tomb of the unknown soldier, a tradition started in 1923 by the Queen Mother on her wedding day.

* Michelle Mone from Ultimo wanted to design the wedding day lingerie and even sent designs to Kate, but the regal bride is more likely to be supported in undergarments by Rigby and Peller, the Queen’s corsetières.

Kylie - i-D 1991 - wearing a corset designed by the royally approved Rigby and Peller.

* Some pop stars will feature on the DVD of the Royal Wedding. Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley has recorded a duet of ‘True’ with Irish pop princess Carol Anthony.

* William’s no-bake chocolate crunch cake, a childhood favourite, will contain 1,700 McVitie’s biscuits and more than 18kg of dark chocolate.

* Two of the horses taking part in the ceremony are named after Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The horses are part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

* The couple WILL re-enact a kissing photo-op on Buckingham Palace balcony.

* Despite not making it on to the guest list, rapper Snoop Dogg (left, below the Beckhams), sent William a wedding gift, a song called Wet, which he composed for the stag do.

* Four stylists — James Pryce, Richard Ward and their two assistants — have been drafted in to monitor Kate’s hair throughout the day.

* Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who will marry the couple, is hard of hearing in one ear, unable to drive and at school had a note permanently excusing him from PE.

* The bride has commissioned four pairs of shoes for the day with varying heel sizes but will walk down the aisle in a pair of silk slipper flats.

* Cake-maker Fiona Cairns, behind the multi-tiered wedding cake iced in 16 different blooms, first met Prince Charles 10 years ago at a Fortnum & Masons event in London when his opening chit-chat was “Do you do wedding cakes?”

* A recession-conscious Queen has opted for ‘two bite’ buffet canapes for her 600 guests at the Palace rather than a sitdown meal. The lucky 300 guests invited to Prince Charles’ do later in the day will be treated to an organic three-course meal served up by award-winning Swiss chef Anton Mosimann.

* Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, is the name emerging from royal quarters as the designer of Kate’s dress.

Happy Royal Wedding Day everyone! XXX I wonder if they’ll be dancing to this?…

SOURCES: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk , http://www.foyles.co.uk , http://www.guardian.co.uk

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

Hope everyone enjoyed time with loved ones and ate loads. 😉

I had Christmas on my own this year. It’s normally a time for families of sorts to come together. I had a reflective one.

And I also took part in something I had wanted to do for a while.

Sadly we’re all no strangers to seeing homeless people on the streets. And maybe for some Christmas can be particularly difficult.

Crisis is a charity for homeless and rough sleepers. Like other such charities, they work year round to help provide accommodation and improve lives for those affected in this way. At Christmas, many charities have a particular push, and for the past 39 years Crisis have launched an increasingly successful campaign.

From 23 – 30 Dec, Christmas Centres are opened across London that offer vital companionship, food, warmth, and a variety of important services that homeless people often are unable to access.

The charity estimates that this year, more than 2,500 guests will visit their nine centres across London; for some this might mean leaving homelessness for good.

After applying online, I found out that there are different volunteering roles. I had wanted to be a ‘service volunteer‘ – those who provide a particular service to the homeless guests, such as hairdressing, podiatry, legal advice to name a few. Many guests are also in urgent need of dental treatment, which is what I offered. However, luckily for the guests (but sadly for me!) I was informed that this was full, I had applied too late!

So, I plumped for the ‘general volunteer‘ role, and as this was my first ‘Crisis at Christmas’ I was more than happy. This includes greeting guests, providing companionship, giving out clothing and toiletries, feeding guests and more. You have to do a minimum of two 7-8 hours shifts on different days, and so after picking my days and submitting all necessary details, I was set!

My first shift was at a Day Centre in Stratford. After an introduction, we were allocated different roles randomly. It was a great to see so many people eager to volunteer. And it was clear to see that the senior volunteers were really passionate about bringing everyone together, and it was nice to be part of a team. And the place was teeming with guests; chatting, watching performances, playing games, eating, having a wash or just chilling. It was nice to see so many people happy, but sad that there were so many.

So…my roles! First up!…toilet duty. (Great!) Well, someone has to! We were all rotated at 1.5 hourly intervals and worked in pairs. So I cleaned the toilet-rooms, and then monitor the cloakroom, help carry food and equipment, and man the registration desk. In between I had a chance to speak with the guests. That was the best bit for me. It was great to chat together, especially when so many repeated the same thing, ‘we only ever see people’s knees’. If I don’t have money I apologise and say so, and was told that is so much better than just being ignored. But even when I give change, after hearing of some of their stories, it can feel like just a drop in the ocean.

Crisis also have Residential Centres over the same period where people can stay over night. As you can imagine, these are hugely sought after, and sadly after just one day there were no more spaces, leaving the rest to take comfort in the Day Centres, but from which they must leave come nightfall.

The Day Centres close at 9pm. Transport is often arranged to take people back to an easier location. This bit sucks. As much as they appreciate somewhere to stay in the day, you can feel rotten knowing they’ve got to go back to the streets at night. But they were cheery all the same, singing songs and making jokes (some very blue ones at that!).

So my first shift was over. Volunteers are normally required to do all their shifts at the same centre. But hit by a bad cold over Christmas, the thought of also travelling to Stratford again but with limited public transport wasn’t exactly appealing when I just wanted to stay at home and make the most of the 4-day weekend! If you’re ill you can of course stay away, but it wasn’t a flu and I felt I made a promise. And what I felt was nothing compared to how some of the guests sometimes feel.

The Day Centre in Bermondsey was supposedly fully-staffed…but as I live in Bermondsey, was a bit poorly but wanted to volunteer, and it was a possibility that some volunteers might cancel (as is the way), it was seen as probably totally fine if I go there first thing in the morning and explain.

So at 8:30am, Christmas Day I rocked up to the Bermondsey centre (having slept at 5am from a fun night at the 2 Brewers before…! :-/ ). I was told I could of course stay – hoorah! But even better…some of the dentists were based here. Explaining I was a dentist, I was warmly encouraged to make myself known to the clinicians, and luckily for me this time, I was informed they were actually under-staffed. Win-win!

I got to do what I had wanted originally after all! And as a bonus, I met a friend and fellow dentist – Soureya – who also happened to be volunteering her services (and who also had a cold!). Oral hygiene & dietary advice, smoking cessation information, scaling & polishing, restorations and extractions was what I achieved for the different guests over the whole shift. It was good to see the difference it made, and hear about the other services they had that made them feel good, whether a haircut, podiatry or even massage. The government have recently launched centres making it easier for the homeless to access dental care, starting in London, so it’s nice to know that when Christmas is over hopefully dental services for the homeless won’t be.

After the shift, I made it just in time for a late Christmas lunch at Balan’s restaurant in Soho. At the window, I coincidentally saw a homeless ‘Big Issue’ seller. I looked at the mince pie and christmas cake left on my plate which I was too stuffed to finish, and hoping I didn’t appear patronising, signed to ask if he wanted it…I was glad he said yes! His name was Jay. We had a chat after, and I gave him some change on leaving. Not expecting him to jump for joy – I was after all buggering off to a home and yet he was still on the streets – I nevertheless thought he looked a little disappointed. I had to turn back.

Sorry, that’s all I have. Is that OK?
Oh thanks, it’s just I needed some more.

I told him about Crisis and where I had been in Bermondsey, and I wondered to myself if there was anywhere similar nearby (there wasn’t unfortunately). Bless him, I knew he was wondering if I could take him there, and I explained they close at 9pm, and so I wouldn’t want to take him there if he’d be stuck with nowhere to go.

Oh, no problem. I just need £18 for a place I know at Victoria where I can get food and a shower and somewhere to stay overnight.
Oh, sorry, I’m out of money!’
OK, well, if you have a card and draw out money, I could wait?
Oh, it’s just I’m in a rush!’
OK, well, would it affect your life much if you were £18 less off? It would make a huge difference to me.’

Hmmm. Being 100% honest, I was trying to think of an answer! LOL. But I couldn’t. He was right. And even if he was lying about exactly why he needed £18, it would help him much more than I needed it at that point.

OK. Just stay here, I just need to get to my car. I will draw out money for you and come back, don’t move!

I got to the car and was about to pull-off, when there was a knock at the front passenger window, before the door opened. It was Jay.

There’s a cash machine just there!

And he sat in and closed the door. I won’t lie…I did think, ‘Oh goodness…I bet this looks great‘. But, who cares! He looked so comfortable, bless him. I drew out £20 for him and dropped him off at the corner. He gave me a ‘thousand blessings’, and we shook hands and wished each other a Merry Christmas. Driving off back to my flat, I thought it a funny coincidence meeting him after volunteering. I wondered what he would do over this period and felt sad, but after our encounter I did feel a little less alone over Christmas.

*********************

CRISIS

This is kinda off the record, but there was a lady I met there who’s story particularly touched me. She’s American, hasn’t got on with her family there, and came to the Stratford centre having just had an operation in London which she owes the hospital money for. She’s got by with some donations from people she knows here. I got her email address and promised her I’d try and help her out too…so if you’re interested in donating and want to know more, feel free to contact me! But otherwise, if you fancy doing something different next Christmas, or even throughout the year, you must check Crisis out! They are always looking for help and it’s great to see a good difference being made. www.crisis.org.uk

Albert Kennedy Trust

This is a great charity that for many years has helped lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans young people to live in accepting, supportive and caring homes, providing services to help individuals who would otherwise be homeless or in a hostile environment. www.akt.org.uk

Shelter

Since 1966, Shelter has helped the homeless by giving advice, information and advocacy, and by campaigning for political change to ensure a world where everyone has a home. www.shelter.org.uk

***********************************

HAPPY 2011 ALL. Have a happy and healthy year! XXX

So the spiritiual month of Ramadan has ended and once again Eid al-Fitr is here!

Like Christmas, for Muslims this means rejoicing with those at the mosque, having a huge feast, exchanging gifts and being with loved ones.

I must admit I found Ramadan a bit of a struggle this year…studying and personal battles are always trying and Ramadan can give a lot of inner strength, but when such a month brings family together and one experiences a huge loss and/or change in these foundations, all things combined can leave one feeling a little isolated.

Luckily, Ramadan is also a time for extra charity. And nothing helped more than fundraising again with a group of strangers and friends. Knowing you were helping the needy and starving helped make Ramadan more tangible for me…try as I might I couldn’t phrase that without it sounding so crappily cheesy and cliche! But honestly, making a positive change feels good, even if at the very least it’s a welcome temporary distraction from one’s turmoils.

Ramadan – like many religious periods – invites a hotbed of debate, and this year’s was no different.

And I’m pleased to say I drew strength from these. Actually a few discussions in particular will never go away. I can hold my hands up and say I’m sometimes wrong and sometimes stubborn ( 🙂 ), but it never ceases to amaze me how certain views about equality and human rights I find universal are met with disagreement by some.

So this Eid al-Fitr, I wanted to wish all my loved ones Eid Mubarak and hope God blesses you all.

For those who follow a faith and say you can’t be gay if you are supossed to be Muslim, Christian, Jewish / any of the non-Abrahamic religions, I say God created all people equal. And despite loving another person clearly being poles apart from being a sin, only two people can judge you – yourself and God. May God bless you too.

For those who are atheist and say you can’t be Muslim, Christian, Jewish / any of the non-Abrahamic religions if you are supossed to be gay, I say it is no more wrong to say that than when religious leaders have told the LGBT community that their feelings are unnatural. If someone can happily follow a faith and happily embrace theirs and others’ sexuality, then as you would tell those same religious leaders, live and let live. May the Cosmos bless you.

And to all my friends and loved ones who aren’t Muslim or who are indeed agnostic / atheist, I love you as you. I wish you positivity and happiness over the coming year…and if I’ll be seeing you, then get ready to feast and party! 😀

Love To All, X

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