Taking Libertas

February 11, 2009

York based Lesbian bookshop “Libertas” was once known as a beacon of light in a sea of isolation.

Sadly the day of the specialist bookstore has come and gone. Even the the big high-street chains have had several years of trouble seeing a string of mass mergers between the mainstream book and multimedia retailers, companies that have established links and distribution contracts with one of the main gay mafia “families” also in the same business.

Dillons was bought by HMV, Ottakers was taken over by Waterstones which became a subsidiary of HMV. The group proceeded to take over a number of stores from struggling rivals including Fopp and 8 Books etc stores from rival Borders UK. The market now consists of three key players – Virgin, WHSmith and HMV (HMV have been poised to take WHSmith over).

Despite being a relatively small, local operation based in a small shop in York,  it’s owners quick thinking and success in mastering the mail-order market had paid off. Only 4 years after it was founded the company became “Europe’s Number 1 Lesbian Bookstore”. Sadly the actual bookshop itself which also sold gifts, greetings cards and specialist Lesbian products and local merchandise operated at a loss but stayed open despite facing an uphill battle.

The founders of Libertas are now retired and approaching their 70’s. It’s obvious they cared a great deal about their romantic little lesbian bookshop and must have been heartbroken to be forced to close shop for the last time in 2004. The actual bookshop itself wasn’t just a shop, it was a meeting place for Lesbians and other Women from all over the country. Something that to this day is missing although that does continue to some extent through the York Lesbian Arts Festival that was founded by a group of Women who used to meet at the shop. Various other Women’s groups, reading clubs and small businesses also used the premises including the once independent “DykeLife” newsletter, a free community alternative to the mainstream women’s mags such as DIVA.

The famous Lesbian colonies that still exist throughout the small villages of Yorkshire such as Hebden Bridge weren’t the only people who saw Libertas as refreshing. As the country’s only Lesbian bookshop it also offered gay, bisexual and trans women a national alternative to the male dominated gay lifestyle stores like Clone Zone and Prowler.

When it was announced the shop may be forced to close various reports and letters appeared in the gay press from it’s supporters expressing their shock and dismay. This is a slightly different story than the one portrayed by the Millivres Prowler Group – owners of rival online book store “DIVA Direct”, DIVA magazine (as well as many other titles including GayTimes, AXM, the Pink Paper as well as owning their own chain of gay lifestyle shops and publishing houses) which claimed they were stepping in as the bookshop’s saviors and would keep it alive through the established Libertas online store.

As a result, Millivres Prowler completely took the operation over and moved operations to it’s London office. Two years later the group relaunched DykeLife as a glossy magazine and filled it with targeted advertising and placements for it’s own products, capitalising on the acquisition of the 7,000 strong subscriber base built on the bones of the grassroots alternative it once was.

Despite the claims by the Millivres Prowler Group that the spirit of the bookshop would continue through the continued existence of the Libertas online store at http://www.libertas.co.uk which now redirects to “DIVA Direct”. It’s final remnants exist as the “Libertas forum” – a message board for reviewing titles available through DIVA Direct.

Today it appears Libertas is well and truly dead, although spinning in her grave – May she rest in peace.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
~Groucho Marx

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world an loses his own soul?”
~Robert Fulghum

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DIVA editor attacks Peter Tatchell

January 29, 2009

Editor of Lesbian lifestyle magazine DIVA Jane Czyzselska (who has also written for the Horse and Hound!) with help from fellow pen pusher Ben Summerskill of “gay equality group” Stonewall have dedicated an entire page in the Guardian’s Comment is Free to launching a rather scathing and hollow attack on fellow trooper Peter Tatchell entitled “Take Pride in Gay Respectability”.

She has decided to compare the likes of money-mad Stonewall to the legendary American gay rights personality and the subject of a new Hollywood film – Harvey Milk.  She believes “if he were alive now he’d be rooting for more “smug marrieds” – meaning complacent gays and lesbians who sit on the fence when it comes to the rights.

In reality, if Harvey Milk were alive today he would notice how different the world is. He won’t be sitting smug in a swanky office on London’s Southbank. He’d be wondering why married doesn’t mean civil partnered and why police still spend vast resources on persecuting gay men who have sex in the woods. He’d be questioning why an organisation named Stonewall, has consistently alienated so many marginalised groups he spent his life (and eventually was killed fighting for both within the LGBT Community on it’s fringe such as sex workers.

Harvey Milk was heavily involved in the founding of many frontline, radicalised activist movements including the San Francisco Coalition on Prostitution, one of the first such “sex-workers unions” in the world. Yet it’s European cousin which still exists today was protesting in unison with angry transgender people outside the Stonewall Awards only last November in protest at the nomination of Julie Bindel (another controversial Guardian Comment is Free journalist).

He’d be asking why the annual turnover of the LGBT voluntary sector in Britain is just £10 million – with about 20% of that going into Stonewall’s wallet with the remaining estimated 1,500 other LGBT groups left to fight for the rest. This may sound like a lot of money the size of the pot available to LGBT community groups – the type of organisations pioneered by queer activists such as Harvey Milk in the 1960’s and 70’s equates to just 0.03% of the income of the entire charitable sector.

It’s also worth pointing out that Czyzelska’s employers Millivres Prowler Group are one of Stonewall’s biggest private sponsors. According to it’s chairman, Chris Graham Bell the company “has historic roots in gay and lesbian rights campaigning and has strong values and beliefs regarding the support of civil rights for our community.”Offering more proof of private business interfering with an apparently independent lobby group.

Even though Summerskill already has his own regular column in the same newspaper, in which he often makes similar attacks on Peter Tatchell and grassroots campaigning this week Stonewall’s highest paid member of staff was given another opportunity to dismiss the work of pretty much anyone who isn’t in the gay rights game for the money. As Jane Czyzelska’s article starts off it quickly descends into appearing to be a platform for Stonewall’s work and yet another outlet for Summerskill and his gay mafia friends to make false claims about the success of their work.

The picture Summerskill paints of his “radicalism” is a fraud. What he describes isn’t radicalism, it’s fraud. Note his nod to the “radicalism”of companies in the FTSE 100. Many of these big players in the stock-market along with a number of institutionally homophobic institutions recently did paid Stonewall in excess of £1,500 in exchange for a place in the group’s own prestigious “stock-market of inequality”.

Stonewall’s work with young people around homophobic bullying gets a regular cash boost from it’s annual “Equality Dinner” where wealthy members of the public make donations in return for spending an evening with celebrities at the Dorchester Hotel. What a shame this cash isn’t reaching the places that really need it.

In August 2008 Stonewall received criticism from the gay community in Liverpool after it failed to speak out after the homophobic murder of gay teenager Michael Causer. In October a planned recruitment day in Liverpool run by Stonewall for the youth volunteering project mentioned in Czyzelska’s article had to be canceled because hardly anyone had registered. The local gay youth group “GYRO” which recently launched it’s own homophobic bullying resources complained they weren’t even told about the event. Another questionable claim made in the article is that Stonewall has seen it’s “active” supporters double and them under 30 is higher than ever causing Czyzelska to blindly state “this is hardly a sign of apathy and complacency”. The truth is – lending one’s support to an organisation like the Stonewall of today is exactly that – apathy and a sign of being complacent. Czyzelska her self describes Stonewall of representing “apathetic conformity” at the start of her article.

Summerskill has a rather contorted view of what activism is. According to Summerskill activism is either “politicised” (the camp he places the likes of Peter Tatchell firmly in) or “smug” (much like himself) – but argues both are equally as radical.

He may well be right, but the terminology is wrong, and it’s designed to confuse people.

Most people will hear the word “political” in this way and instantly assume he’s talking about smiley politicians and out of touch political parties – boring, moaning, infighting and lacking in integrity. But in truth Stonewall itself and those who founded it (Labour Party activists) are no less political, and probably more so.

“Politics” is close to Stonewall’s heart. It courts with representatives of all parties inviting them to debate gay issues whilst leaving fringe activists standing out in the cold like it did at it’s recent Awards ceremony at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Tony Blair was the guest of honour at last year’s Stonewall Equality fund-raiser. Ben Summerskill himself used to be a Labour politician. His predecessor, Angela Mason now works for the Labour government as the Director of the Women and Equality Unit. It is Stonewall who are in the politicised camp that has a narrow agenda not set by the community they work for but political think tanks and business men with lots of opinions.

Most of the “radicals” he tries so hard to tarnish through his use of clever wording are grassroots campaigners who focus on thorny issues Stonewall itself finds hard to grasp (and it’s financial backers wouldn’t touch with a barge pole) such as transphobia, laws around sexual offenses and international human rights abuses (which Stonewall’s funders such as Barclays Bank and Lloyds TSB have been accused of providing finance to).

While Stonewall are leaving by the back door of Lloyds TSB with a nice fat suitcase of money, the real Human Rights activists are banging down the front door in anger at the bank’s decision to block money going to humanitarian charities based in Gaza. This year Stonewall decided to put Lloyds TSB at the very top of it’s “Diversity Champions” index.

No wonder Ben Summerskill just loves brandishing his knife at the real activists like Peter Tatchell who not only tackle domestic issues without asking for the world on the plate, but also around the world. OutRage! has stood up for the human rights of LGBT people in Palestine. Whilst Stonewall smug in to bed with the perpetrators of human rights abuses., happily taking the cash and doing whatever their master tells them – there’s a name for that.

Although she makes many valid points and even provides some balance in her padding of yet another out of touch Summerskill rant, as Czyzelska implies in the title and as the 80’s pop duo once Mel and Kim once sung, – “we ain’t never gonna be respectable”

– well Jane we don’t need your respect any more than Harvey Milk need buy your trashy magazine.


Juliette Bindoll: plastic parody or femme fatale?

December 22, 2008

julie_bindel_doll

We asked two of our most well-defined regular female contributors to give us their thoughts on the release of FATALE’s two hundredth anniversary of this legendary limited edition figurine…


AGAINST – Judy Pringle

I hate everyone, I especially hate this doll. What’s so special about the 200th anniversary of an 18th century super-slut, now revamped for a politically-correct millennium audience?

It really does make my stomach churn to know that the creators of this dangerous toy have modeled it up on the amoral nymphomaniac anti-heroine “Juliette” made famous by the writings of novelist Marquis de Sade in 1801. By contrast, the doll’s real life, modern day twin sister resembles her fictional counterpart Justine who Sade described as ” a virtuous woman who consequently encountered nothing but despair and abuse”. Is it any wonder Napoleon ordered the arrest of this disgraceful author?

I don’t care if it’s meant to be a lesbian, bisexual or bionic, this has no place on the shelf in a child’s bedroom.

Thankfully it’s suitable for the microwave, and despite the level of ignorance displayed by readers of my regular national newspaper column comments page I am sure there are still people out there with half a brain cell. High power for 60 seconds and presto – feminism is alive and well and all it takes is an 800w Daweoo microwave oven.

I can’t help but see a little bit of myself when I look at the Juliette Bindoll, I guess we all do. Ultimately people like me and those I inspire are all viewed as disposable, that’s why people seek to destroy us.

Long may the tradition continue.

FOR – Christine Björn-agan

So what if FATALE have based this soft, lovable icon of childhood and femedom on a peculiar yet delightful fusion of a well-known lesbian journalist and another bad-apple from French literary history?

Infact, Stephen King based his best selling novel “Christine” on yours truly! I was actually rather flattered having previously thought I was more of a Barbara Windsor dead-ringer myself. So Judy really should lighten up and get with the festive spirit a little and view this as a compliment.

Anyone with an ounce of love in their heart should consider purchasing this lovely toy for their daughter this Christmas or if you are unable to have children then why not donate one to a random passing child in the street?

It would be sad to simply let this adorable (yet slightly artificial) symbol of femininity be destroyed in such a horrific manner just because it is misunderstood, people have said the same about me and my friends but if we go for lunch and discuss our differences over a bowl of cold salad then perhaps we can find some common ground. Peace Out.

Below: Poster for John Carpenters 1984 release of “Christine” based on the novel by Stephen King which our columnist Christine Björn-agan claims is based on her life. “The likeness is uncanny” she explained. It seems Christine has the ability to see the value of inspiring others creative works even if they do make a few quid out of it at her own expense.

christine_born_bad
“She’ll Posses You, – then she’ll destroy you”

Hell hath no Fury…like Christine.

Disclaimer:

This article was written for entertainment purposes.
Any resemblance to real people is purely by coincidence.
Feedback is welcome, simply post a comment and we might publish it!


Media Tactics launched against Stonewall Awards Protest

November 4, 2008

gay_media_trust1 Just two days before their annual awards ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum is set to be besieged by coach loads of angry trans activists, “gay lobby group” Stonewall are once again up to their dirty tricks and have enlisted the former Gay Times editor and henchwoman of the “Soho Gay Mafia”in an attempt to distract the more independent gay and mainstream press away from Thursday’s demonstrations.

At 11am on Tuesday 4th November 2008 “Head Lesbian” Vicky Powell rushed out the following news release from Stonewall’s London office with the headline “Lesbians find sexism a bigger barrier to work success than homophobia” – a news release which GayMafiaWatch believes is the start of a “damage limitation” exercise orchestrated by Stonewall bosses with the assistance of their gay media monopoly friends.

Unable to cope with the demand on their press office flooded with complaints and faced with a very large public protest outside the event after they controversially nominated a Transphobia Lesbian Feminist for their “Journalist of the Year” award – it seems Stonewall’s plan of action includes promoting sexism as a bigger issue than homophobia and no doubt any other specific oppression against the LGBT community. This press release has been sent out for no other purpose but a direct attempt to sabotage and divert attention away from the protests in a few days time and possibly win over as many lesbians and women to their array of invented and false projects this press release talks of.

vicky_powel

Then there’s Vicky Powell herself who left Gay Times in October 2006 to join Stonewall and has since very rarely (if ever) sent out a press release on behalf of Stonewall (it is virtually always Gary Nunn). So professional is dear Vicky that she fatally (not for the first time!) forgot to “blind copy” the recipients of the press release email, revealing every single one of their press contacts, a serious breach of confidentiality and privacy to say the least!

How cynical this appears, just because this story is about women it gets sent out by a woman. It seems like poor Vicky is a victim of Stonewall’s own sexist attitudes as she only gets to have her name on something if it relates to Lesbians otherwise it’s left to Nunn. She hasn’t released anything from Stonewall since January 2007, Garry Nunn sends stuff out on an almost weekly basis.

“It’s no surprise therefore that Britain’s two million lesbians remain almost invisible at work.” Interviewees pointed to a lack of openly gay women in the workplace” – commented Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s head of policy. – Maybe that’s because they all work for Stonewall!