You might be forgiven for thinking this advert was about raising funds for those affected by HIV/AIDS – Wrong!
It’s World AIDS Day, and to celebrate the Lesbian and Gay Foundation have decided to throw in some free advertising for gay escort websites that promote bareback porn worshiping unsafe sex acts. – You just couldn’t make it up if you tried!
So just what exactly is one of Britain’s biggest, most well funded biggest gay health charities playing at this time?
Are they raising funds for HIV/AIDS?
No, infact the advert doesn’t even mention the issue despite the connotations and the black and red silhouette photo of Queen front-man Freddie Mercury. The Mercury Phoenix Trust might have something to say on the matter considering they also use this iconic image but unlike the LGF they have the rights to use Mercury’s name and image for the purposes of raising funds for HIV/AIDS related causes as it was established by Mercury’s fellow band members after his death.
So why have they specifically chosen this iconic image to raise funds?
The hidden implication of this fundraising campaign by the cash-strapped Lesbian and Gay Foundation suggests that if you are facing an early death from AIDS (as Freddie Mercury sadly did) and you’ve got a bit of spare cash set aside that could infact still be sitting in the bank once you’re dead and buried then you might be wise to give it to them in the hope it’s a worthy cause.
What’s so wrong with that you? -might be right to ask.
Well nothing, but there are plenty of other more worthy causes out there you might wish to consider Read here about how they fleeced the public by redirecting money raised from Manchester Pride.
Eric is a volunteer at Body Positive, another charity in Manchester that supports people living with HIV. After seeing the above advert in this month’s OutNorthWest magazine produced by the LGF he contacted GayMafiaWatch to inform us he was making a complaint.
“I’m disgusted the LGF have gone straight for the blood on this one, they are already ramming home the message for people to give them money as it is whilst they are still alive – now they want it even when we’re dead!” “they are taking advantage of the fact many of their readers may be facing an early death from HIV and want to cash in on their life savings, it’s grotesque. This is a new low for them, many of us didn’t think they could actually get
any lower. I will be complaining to the highest authority”
– Eric, Volunteer Body Positive North West for nearly 10 years.
But don’t they pay for all the free condoms and lube in Manchester’s Gay Village?
No. Manchester’s LGBT Community has infact been held to ransom and now pays for the “free” condom and lube distribution scheme itself through wristband sales at Manchester Pride. Around 25% of ticket sales go towards funding the LGF’s involvement in this initiative.
But they produce lots of information on sexual health for gay men, don’t they?
Sort of. The sexual health literature they produce is actually funded publicly through the NHS via Manchester Primary Care Trust’s Public Health Development Service. This cosy relationship isn’t just professional either. Curiously it’s Senior Public Health Development Advisor is married to (well Civil Partnered anyway!) the Chief Executive of the NHS. They have a lovely four bed semi in the leafy outer-outer London district of Chorlton, South Manchester
So what are they raising money for?
It’s hard to say as their annual accounts are vague to say the least. What they do reveal however between the glossy pie charts and colourful lack of detail is the startling fact that the Lesbian and Gay Foundation spends more on raising funds than it actually generates.
Shockingly last year the charity’s accounts showed this had lumped them with a major deficit. No wonder they are pushing so hard from every possible angle using as much emotive language to get people to donate. If these figures add up as they appear to it looks as if the LGF actually lost around £22,000 in 2007.
£55,000 (income received from fundraising activities)
£77,000 (income spent on fundraising activities
(Source: LGF Annual Review 2007)
Over the past year it’s no wonder various rumors have begun circulating suggesting the LGF are now facing a serious financial deficit. Pleading with the public in the covering page of it’s 2007 annual review the LGF’s Chief Executive Paul Martin stated:
“it is becoming increasingly more difficult to gain funding for the work that we are doing” – “The LGF has never made a direct request for financial support before.”
This is a complete Lie.
Since it’s conception the LGF has collected public donations in and around Manchester’s Gay Village and through various events including World AIDS Day and Manchester Pride. Before it came into existence after a merger between Healthy Gay Manchester (a council and NHS run initiative) with Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard both organisations had dozens of collection tins in bars all over the village, after the merger they replaced them with LGF branded collection tins. Funds raised by one of Manchester Pride’s previous incarnations have nearly always gone into the LGF’s fat purse.
In 2001 “Manchester GayFest” granted the LGF a sum of over £30,000 which it decided to spend on upgrading it’s former premises on Charles Street with a wheelchair ramp. Several months later the LGF moved up the road to Princess House deeming the entire idea a complete waste of money.
“You do have the potential to end homophobia by please financially supporting the LGF.” – Paul Martin confidently declares.
Really Paul? – Maybe money really can solve everything! However, in response to the controversy over the LGF’s involvement in Manchester Pride local Councillor Iain Lindley rubbished Martin’s suggestion in his blog by stating:
“I wasn’t aware that you have to pay a £20 entry fee in order to be against homophobia, bigotry and hatred… – what nonsense.” – Cllr Iain Lindley, Salford Walkden South
In the proceeding comments one member of the community also made an even stronger accusation about the LGF’s alleged abuse of funding and further confirming the bullying tactics we reported on back in May:
“As someone who is active in the womens/lesbian community in Greater Manchester I am sick and tired of the Manchester-centric, village obsessed Lesbian and Gay Foundation claiming to represent me and somehow by producing a never ending supply of pointless and wasteful literature about “ending homophobia”, a cause they cannot be expected to defeat alone or within our lifetimes.
I am very frustrated about how they constantly manipulate members of the community unto thinking they are the champions for equality and safer lifestyles when a great deal many of other individuals and groups have the same intentions yet are blocked from having the opportunity to do so because of their domination and monopolisation of the funding and the opportunity to promote the good work of voluntary groups other than themselves. They are not accountable to anyone, they
purposely duck and dive and keep their meetings in secret, they carryout no consultation whatsoever with the wider community and arrogantly claim to represent the voices and needs of anyone who cares as much as they claim to.” – Laura
The charity’s dubious relationship with commercial sponsors who profit from the “Pink Pound” in Manchester’s gay village recently prompted us to investigate how the manufacturers of the popular recreational drugs marketed as “Poppers” (or “Room Odorisers”!) were using the LGF’s “community health and lifestyle” magazine “OutNorthWest” to direct their advertising at gay men – “Poppers the Sweet Smell of Hypocrisy“.
The use of Poppers have been scientifically proven to lower the body’s immune system (not good for anyone with HIV!).
After which there came an angry response causing the LGF to remove most of the adverts for poppers in the next issue. We also received a number of comments including this one from a worried teacher:
“I am a teacher at a large comprehensive school in East Manchester I am also a member of the Lesbian community I was astonished to read your article regarding poppers adverts combined with subliminal messages promoting their use in the LGF’s magazine. The following day we had a visit from a group who were running a workshop on homophobic bullying and they left behind (along with some excellent resources on how to combat homophobia in their defence) several copies of the LGF magazine. Worried that I may become blamed for distributing this type of dangerous advertising to my pupils I quickly informed the Deputy Headteacher who advised me to promptly bin the publication.“
– Amanda (Teacher)
In the latest issue of OutNorthWest (December 2008), right next to the aforementioned full page glossy appeal for money direct from the death beds of AIDS sufferers there appeared a peculiar article on “Sex Workers” which was also promoted on the contents page under the full on face shot of a rather photogenic young man under the title “Sex Bomb – HIV explodes amongst young gay men” with the slightly smaller title “A three page special on gay men and lesbians who sell sex.“
Alongside the Sex Workers article they were kind enough to provide listings to other organisations who could offer support and advice (a rare thing for the LGF unless of course they are run by their friends or by themselves under different names!). However they also felt it appropriate to also list a well known gay escorts website manchesterlads.com apparently because it has pages with “advice for anyone selling sex“. This may be true but they also list other more suitable sources of information, so how is it the LGF is providing free advertising accompanying such an article in this context for manchesterlads, which is a purely commercial website which (although it claims not to be an escort agency) that makes money from escorts by charging them to host a listing.
In a further sickening twist, the site also carries numerous bold advertisements for explicit gay DVD’s that glorify unsafe-sex and “Bug-Chasing” or “Breeding” (the practice of purposely seeking to become infected with HIV) including “Council Trash”, “Bare Huge Dicks #9, “London Cum Pigs 2”, “Fuck Me Raw”, “Breeding Season” and “I’m Gonna Fuck You Hard and Bareback“amongst many others.
Interestingly some of the same escorts listed on manchesterlads also appear in a number of the videos advertised on the site.
Although they mostly go under pseudonymous on the escort listings page, many of these (mostly young) men are well known faces in Manchester’s gay village, and many of them also happen to be from low-income families, have left school with few if any qualifications and possibly also vulnerable.
We caught up with a “Liam” – a male sex worker from Wythenshawe, one the poorest council estates in Britain located in the south of Manchester. This is what he had to say about his own experiences:
“I had just dropped out of college and a bit stuck really, I would have stayed on the course but since I just about passed for 18 I had started going out nearly every night into the (gay) village and was taking a lot of “K” (Ketamine) and pills so my head was really too messed up to focus. After clubbing some nights we used to go to B******* Sauna mostly only because the night buses around here are rubbish so we’d hang out there, get wasted, sometimes have a shag with some random guy then get the first bus home and sleep off the come-down!
After people started to get know me around the village I got friendly with a group of young guys I’d met in the Sauna who suggested I try escorting to earn a bit of extra cash. They’d signed up to manchesterlads already and one night at the sauna we logged onto the website and they got me signed up to it as well. Being skint all the time I jumped at the chance. I was already really used to going with anyone in the dark room just ‘cos I was mashed and horny so getting paid to do it never seemed like a bad thing. I don’t use manchesterlads now as they charge quite a bit to keep your listing online (amounting to £240 a year) and now I’ve got a few regular clients I don’t need to pay manchesterlads to get me new business. I live right near the airport so it’s quite handy for most of the guys I meet and it suits me for now but I do regret dropping out of college and don’t think I will ever go back now. My life is too centered on scene”
– Liam, 19, Escort
Ultimately the Lesbian and Gay Foundation may exist as a force for good, even though it appears the continuing influence of a small number of corrupt, self-important, greedy vampires has warped them from their original objectives.
Unfortunately they are making matters so much worse thanks to their tendency to blend dodgy advertising that contradicts their sexual health message in their flagship publication time after time, dubiously siphoning away funding from other smaller charities (as Laura has claimed) into their own ghost projects and then finishing it all off with a never ending slurry of explosive “sex-sells” imagery that is a main cause of why many gay men of all ages continue to experience serious issue of low self-esteem, responsible for individuals engaging in wreckless, self-destructive behaviour, recreational drug use, abusing steroids to get a better body, engaging in risky sexual encounters (like bug-chasing), selling their body over the internet and possibly contracting HIV as a result.
You could say that the Lesbian and Gay Foundation are part of a vicious circle when it comes to sexual health prevention and promotion.
First they came for your blood, and now they’re after your money!