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What About Gay Christians Who Want to Get Married in Church?

This originally appeared on HuffpostUK If the Church of England doesn't accept gay marriage- where does it leave the thousands of gay Anglicans in same sex partnerships who want to get married? According to David Cameron, no religious organization will be forced to conduct same sex marriages. Regardless, the Anglicans have got their gilded linen knickers in a twist. With only a day left in the Government's official consultation period, boiling point has been well and fully reached. My partner and I are both Christians. There, I said it. It's much easier to come out as a lesbian than as a Christian these days... but that's a different Huffington Post blog post altogether. A few years ago we had a civil partnership on our 15th anniversary. We booked a small room at Westminster Registry Office. We had our closest male friends as witnesses. We wore vintage dresses and gardenia corsages. Our families were there (well, most of them). But it lacked the fundamental meaning that we both craved- a recognition of our faith. Now, I'm under no illusion. It was exactly what a civil partnership/wedding should be - a secular ceremony to join two people together in the eyes of the law. And we did it for all the legal benefits it accords - boring but helpful nuts and bolts stuff like next of kin rights, property and inheritance tax relief. But as Christians, our civil partnership seemed like a hollow gesture. Signing a bit of paper in a stuffy room above council offices in front of a civil servant I'd never met sucked the meaning out of the event. Sure, our mums shed tears and friends snapped pictures to remember our "special day". But for us, the ceremony was awkward and meaningless. We wanted to get married in church. Not because it's a prettier venue, or to walk down the aisle, or to have atmospheric organ music playing in the background. But because we wanted our partnership sealed in the eyes of God and the Anglican church. I believe God brought us together and has blessed our relationship. The Church is a different story. The current government is not helping matters. It was under the previous Labour government that each and every piece of LGBT equality legislation was passed. I can't help but feel that David Cameron is trying to get same sex marriage onto the lawbooks to atone for his party's past pro-Section 28 sins. And if he does, we'll never hear the end of it. Conservatives eager to show just how "progressive" the party is will harp on for decades about how Labour weren't able to get gay marriage on the statute books, but THEY were... thus sweeping under the carpet every legal advance for equality enabled by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The Anglican Church's arguments against same sex marriage are obviously out of touch with the 21st century. With each and every bishop wheeled onto Radio 4 to argue against the impending doom of loving homos getting hitched, their obsession with semantics hides some deep seated homophobia. Marriage is a loaded word; so is gay. So is Christian. Perhaps language just hasn't caught up with the times - kind of like the Church of England itself. My partner and I have racked up nearly 19 years together, but I refuse to be called her wife. The word is just too weighted. For a start, we aren't officially married. And even if we were (or will be), as a feminist the word 'wife' brings me out in hives. I'm all for reinvention and reclamation of outmoded and derogatory terms, but 'wife' is one I've just not got my head around yet. Regardless of what the government decides on same sex marriage, I still won't be able to get a Gay Upgrade and marry in my parish church. If passed, the Same Sex Marriage Bill means we will be able to get married in a Quaker Meeting House. Nice idea, but I'm not a Quaker. Same for the Unitarian and Lutheran Churches. I doubt the Anglican Church will ever allow it, at least not in my lifetime, and that makes me very sad. I am unsure of the additional benefits of marriage as opposed to civil partnership, and if my faith is ignored in the reformulation of this law, what is it worth? Absolutely nothing. I feel let down by the Anglican Church - that's nothing new, I'm used to it. I'm also being let down by a ConDem Government fudging the issue by allowing Church exemption from conducting same sex marriages. That's nothing new, I'm used to it. So where will gay and lesbian Anglicans get married? Rowan Williams... are you listening? Nope... thought not.

For some people, EVERY Tuesday is Fat Tuesday

It's FAT TUESDAY today- also known as Mardi Gras, Carnevale, or closer to home, Pancake Day. We are meant to clear out our cupboards, use up any butter, eggs, sugar. Today is a gut buster- we are encouraged to line our bellies with richness and fat in anticipation of 40 Lenten days without booze, chocolate and meat. And just when I'm getting ready to go into dietary lockdown, the menu is looking very interesting.

Condiments at the ready, people, because a Dutch scientist has created a laboratory hamburger - grown from stem cells claimed from a cow. It's the world's first synthetic burger but with a £200,000 research price tag, it won't be putting Mickey D's out of business anytime soon. But will we forsake taste for a futuristic all you can eat carnivorous buffet? The petri-dish protein will be mixed with a marble of fat and flavourings to make it palatable, as well as chemicals and antibiotics to stop it rotting. Deee-licious!

Thankfully there won't be any Dutch Frankenburgers on the menu at Burger Queen, a beauty pageant for fatties infused with the spirit of a camp 1970s gameshow. Over five weeks in March, a dozen contestants will don stretch sequins and compete in rounds of Talent, Taste and Trend. The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges with yours truly at the helm - a sort of chubby Simon Cowell - though I promise to leave my tight t-shirts at home. It's more than just an evening of flabulous fun; Burger Queen 2012 serves as a focal point for an exciting new brand of fat activism that definitely hasn't been cooked up in a laboratory test tube.

The event's creator and host Scottee wants to empower fatties and create an open and honest discussion around body politics. "It's a positive event that embraces health at every size and encourages ownership of the word fat," he explains. There are some pretty radical politics at its heart. "At Burger Queen, to identify as 'fat' is to identify as other, regardless what that might be; so you don't necessarily need to be fat in order to identify as fat. Got it? Good. Every radical political movement needs a supporting cast of multi-sized justice-fighters, after all.

Until now, the issue of obesity has been very much an "us" and "them" dynamic- think Supersize vs Superskinny writ large. Burger Queen is asking everyone - regardless of body size - to step into a pair of wide width stilettos and try our chubby lives on for size.

According to Scottee, the timing has never been better. "2012 is an ideal moment to strike back as we are subjected to the Olympics, which just so happens to be sponsored by some of the worlds most calorific brands." Irony, anyone?

Our awareness of fat - fear of it, fascination with it - is heightened in this era of economic austerity. Fat has become not just an aesthetic issue, but a moral issue as well. Documentaries on obesity and competitive TV programmes disguised as light entertainment tell us fat people are broken, unhappy and a drain on the NHS. The government has been accused of browbeating fatties, actively encouraging a trickle down effect of bullying and discrimination. The murky world of dietary advice is played out on our TV screens, magazines, and radio airwaves.

Last week on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Dr Susan Jebb, chief advisor to the UK government on obesity, lectured a woman who had failed at every dieting attempt - according to Jebb, she just needs to try harder in order to slim down. Dr Jebb is a member of Scientific Advisory Boards for Coca-Cola, Heinz, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Kellogg's. Interestingly, Heinz produce Weight Watchers foods - overpriced, undernourishing products that contribute to the organisation's paltry 6% sustained weight loss "success" rate. But they won't tell you that; they want your money, and shareholders like a restless, fat mass of people brainwashed into thinking Weight Watchers is the answer to all their chubby troubles. Not until we recognize the dichotomy of the weight loss industry - the fact it NEEDS us to be fat, unhappy and desperate to shed weight in order to make money from us - will we be truly liberated. Burger Queen is exploring this issue in a very real way.

Scottee has been on a different commercially available diet every week and has documented his experiences; a short film exploring the physical and psychological effects of the diets will be screened at each Burger Queen event. So which was the hardest to stick to? "The well known replacement shake was the worst," he claims. "I was so surprised how little I was allowed to eat and the side effects of headaches, vomiting and lack of concentration that are discussed on their official online forums." Despite losing 5lbs he has regained 2lbs in as many days and found himself thinking about hiding food - something Scottee hasn't thought about since he conquered his addiction to eating in secret years ago.

The essential issue at hand is whether fat is a problem to be solved, or just a fact of life. Scientists may be able to make uniform, perfectly balanced burgers in a petri dish, but humans are much more than a collection of cells glued together with protein, fat and vitamins. We are messy, complex, diverse; thin, fat, and everything inbetween. We educate our children that difference is a glory to be embraced, so we need to include BQ - burger queens - in our list of BME, LGBTQ, ad infinitum. And remember... for some people, EVERY Tuesday is Fat Tuesday.

Burger Queen is every Thursday in March at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London.

Originally published on

Bullying is Making the Obesity Epidemic Worse

You can also read this on the HuffPostUk website, as well as comments/discussion in reaction to this article:

One recent Sunday morning I was sitting in the breakfast room of the Jurys Inn in Belfast, enjoying a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon when a wiry, boisterous man asked if he could join me. Usually I'd say no. Hotel breakfast rooms are full of mad, half-asleep people.

Anyway, this chap had a familiar face, especially to those who may have been interested in Trotskyist diatribes in Merseyside in the 1980s (okay, he was Derek 'Degsy' Hatton). So I said, sit down, please join me.

We were both due to appear on a popular BBC 1 programme called Sunday Morning Live, a topical debate show focusing on moral, ethical and religious issues.

We were discussing the issue of fat on the show - no, not the kind that skirts a ribeye steak, or the type you rub into flour and sugar to make a crumble topping. The kind of fat we were debating just so happened to reside in my midriff, chin, upper arms, thighs, back and arse. Let's just say it was personal.

We were on opposing sides of the argument, and narrowly managed to avoid a confrontation over toast. Later, on the programme, it would become clear that Degsy found my fat repulsive, immoral and a drain on the National Health Service. But for the moment, I was busy fixating on his breakfast plate.

As I tucked in, Degsy flagged down the waitress and placed a special order. "I want four poached eggs, but no yolks - ONLY the whites. Got that?" (to be read in a Scouse accent).

He then proceeded to unwrap what could only be described as a drugs parcel - a foil-wrapped package containing at least two dozen different pills, capsules and potions that Degsy informed me he takes daily to keep him in good health.

To call my appearance on this television show a milestone in the world of fat politics would be an exaggeration, but it did make something pop in my mind.

The topic up for discussion was: "Is it irresponsible to be fat?"

I was subjected to a 15 minute personal attack on my physique by Degsy and some psychobabbly doctor (whose name I can't remember) on live television. When I attempted to make a case against their blatant, rabid body facism, I was shouted down.

Dr Whatsername kept staring at my rotund belly with wonderment and intrigue. Degsy was grabbing my chunky arm, stroking it every time he wanted to make a point. I was getting VERY mixed messages; they were trashing me on live television, yet fascinated with my flesh. My conclusion? CLOSET CHUBBY CHASERS, THE PAIR OF 'EM.

One good thing came out of this misguided TV appearance (by the way, thanks, BBC, for ensuring "fair and balanced coverage"). I received hundreds of messages of support from people all over the UK, not just saying how horribly Degsy and the doctor acted, but sharing their own stories of bullying, exclusion and difficulties of being a fat person in a thin world.

Every news source - papers, TV, magazines - seem to be reporting that we are in the grips of an obesity epidemic. No one has the definitive answer on how to tackle it. In the meantime, reality docu-soaps like Fat Families track the tears, tantrums and takeaways of the nations lardy lads and lasses.

The degrading tone - "hey, let's poke fun at the porkies!" - is hardly groundbreaking or responsible television. But people like to laugh at those less fortunate than themselves.

Schadenfreude, anyone?

Victimisation TV is hugely popular - and it gets in the advertisers, too. Crisps, chocolate, dehydrated gravy granules, fast food joints and diet products all love to appear in the advertising slots of programmes that make fun of fat people.

Mixed messages? Hardly. The shows - and adverts - are playing subtle psychological games with us to make us feel superior, dissatisfied and guilty in quick succession. If we manage to feel depressed - or manipulated - enough to keep tuning in and purchase their products, they've won.

You may think, "oh, come on, it's only a bit of fun" or "they deserve to be laughed at; they're fat, lazy and ugly". Or perhaps you think these programmes actually do the participants some sort of good - it's the kick up the fat ass they need to help them shed their obese excess and find everlasting happiness as a thin person.

What these programmes really do is allow and advocate a carte blanche to abuse anyone not fitting into a narrowly-defined body norm.

Have you ever followed the hashtag Twitter comments during an episode of Embarrassing Fat Bodies? The abuse is phenomenal - Dr Christian has A LOT to answer for.

So what is the real impact of all this? Quite simply, it makes fat people feel angry, depressed and worthless. Which, for some, means they may eat more in order to comfort their pain. Which makes them fatter. And so the cycle continues.

Why must the onus be on fat people to break the cycle; i.e stop eating, rather than the abusers halt their hurtful words? In a society so concerned with 'anti-bullying', this fat-phobia is a despicable tragedy. One recent anti-bullying campaign - against homophobia - had the catchphrase 'It Gets Better'.

Well, quite frankly, it doesn't. For fat people, it gets worse...a lot worse. If you were bullied on the playground for being porky, and expect once you grow up for your fellow adults to treat you with respect, you're in for a shock.

TV shows are sanctioning adult bullies to revel in their hideous playground tactics. All this bullying is making the 'obesity epidemic' worse.

And just in case you thought that TV shows were the only ones to blame, you're wrong. The government is one of the worst culprits, with its threat of a "fat tax", selling off school playing fields, reducing funds available for after-school sports, abolishing the free fruit programme for school children, and being entirely beholden to the food manufacturing industry giants who have a vested interest in us eating cheap, nasty nosh, to keep their profit margins healthy, not us.

The government insists fat people are a drain on the NHS. Well, guess what: I'm fat and pay my taxes, and have every right to access the NHS as any other Joe or Jane Schmo. I don't have children, and never will. Do I decry pregnant women as a drain on the NHS? Or those that can't have children accessing NHS funded IVF treatment? No, I don't. We're all in it together.

And in case you were wondering, that is not some 'Big Society' proclamation. Cameron is a blatant liar - he's dismantling the NHS, but put up billboards across the nation during his election campaign promising he'd do nothing of the sort. In order to cover up his deceit, he's flinging his shit onto fat people. After all, they are slow moving, easy targets.

It seems morning after morning on Radio 4's Today programme, John Humphries and Evan Davis try to uncover the 'magic bullet' answer to the obesity epidemic. Eat less, exercise more, join a weight loss club, get a gastric band, try hypnosis, drink diet shakes, get liposuction, cut out carbs, cut out sweets, cut out fat, cut out anything remotely tasty. Allow doctors to prod, poke, prescribe. Or just stay at home and repent for your sins.

There are many, many reasons why people are fat; the multitude of reasons does not have one easy solution. But not bullying fat people is a very good place to start.

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Morrissey: Our Collective Moral Barometer

My latest blog on Huffington Post. Read it here, or here

Oh dear. Being a Morrissey fan these days isn't easy. What with his comments about the Norwegian massacre and KFC, his pithy views on the Chinese, and now suing the NME for libel three years after the offending article was published, it is becoming a rather heavy cross to bear.

But Morrissey is for life, not just for Christmas. I liken being a Moz fan to finding yourself in an intense relationship with someone you totally fancy and adore, but who is just a teeny bit embarrassing when you take them down the pub to meet your mates. You don't stop loving them, but every time you go out together you say a silent prayer hoping they won't do or say anything too weird.

I've been a Smiths and Morrissey devotee for nearly 25 years; long term fandom is a strange and wonderful thing. Attend any Morrissey concert and you'll see a fine collection of forty somethings with sparse quiffs and beer bellies - and that's just the women. While each concert is, by nature, a collective experience, Morrissey has the unique ability to appear to sing his lyrics of longing to each person individually. This creates a heady atmosphere of undying loyalty and obsessiveness. Dare any Moz fan challenge his comments or advise him to avoid High Court judges?

Some may label Morrissey as a racist, a radical animal rights activist; a miserablist. I see Morrissey as a soothsayer, a rabble rouser, and an uncomfortable but entirely necessary thorn in our sides. I also think he has a devastating sense of humour. Morrissey is someone who makes upsetting, sometimes vile and often insightful observations, then "forgets" he's a global superstar and that the media just might pick up on what he says. Bigmouth strikes again... and again... and again.

We like our pop stars clean, shiny and shrink wrapped; no controversy, no commotion, just pure fluffy fun. Which is fine if you are a tweeniebopper, or on an alcopop binge drinking session at a student disco. But what about the rest of us? There's little hope - we've been culturally victimised by Pop Idol and X Factor. Why should pop stars make a fuss or express an opinion that fans may disagree with when it may affect record sales? If Simon Cowell is your boss, you best keep your mouth shut unless you're singing.

We need people like Morrissey to force us into thinking what we really believe. He is on the vanguard of issues that are affecting the nation: the rise of China as a global superpower and how that will impact the UK; Immigration; Our waistline increasing "fast food" culture.

Morrissey is our collective moral barometer. You may not agree with what he has to say- or the way he says it- but he is pushing the boundaries of public discourse in a direction no one else dares. If you don't like it, then go and download the new Steps album. I've heard it's the perfect filler for an empty mind.

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Spicy Spring

The sun is shining, the daffodils are *just* about to bloom, and there's a real spring in my step. This is due to the marvellous weather no doubt, but also because I have just acquired a new cooking skill, thanks to the fabulous Angela Malik. Asian has never been my strongest point in the kitchen, and whenever I fancy a curry/Malaysian feast/Chinese/sushi/Korean BBQ etc I tend to eat out at one of London's top nosh houses. But thanks to Angela, I am now (semi) proficient at creating my own wontons, dim sum and potsticker dumplings. There's no stopping me now!

The evening class started with an informative chat by Angela explaining her "taste sensation" style of cooking and getting us to identify which foods offer what tastes...including the ever elusive umami. Then she explained the concepts of Yin and Yang in food. The we got stuck in making a fragrant broth (very yin!), stuffing and folding wontons, dropping them into the broth and then devouring the lot...then we chopped shrimp and created a punchy filling for dim sum, steamed them to perfection, and stuffed our faces...and then potstickers! I finally learned the secret to making them crispy on the outside with bits of gelatinous softness and a tender filling...deelish.

In addition to her cooking school & deli in Acton Angela has a stall at Borough Market selling her Indian pestos, sauces and chutneys. I stocked up at the deli, and all week I've been slathering the Vibrant pesto on salmon, made it into a dressing for a hot mackerel, spring onion and chickpea salad, and mixed it with creme fraiche for a crudité dip. While my newfound cooking skills will definitely come in handy, it's always great to have somebody else do the work!!

Thanks Angela, resident chef Geoff and the rest of the team for a brilliant night...can't wait to book in for another.

Eating Las Vegas

It's Vegas, baby, but not as you know it! For a few years now Vegas has been reshaping its image as not *just* a place to go wild & crazy at the roulette table...umm, anybody seen The Hangover? (happy to report my partner in Sin City crime Gerard and I managed to keep all our teeth intact and avoided marrying a stripper...and each other) Not sure this Vegas revision is working, but one area that has definitely improved is the restaurant scene. Cast aside any images you may have of cheap shrimp cocktail and watered down pitchers of beer- Las Vegas has a serious foodie edge.

Well known Michelin starred chefs like Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon have Vegas outposts, exciting new restaurants with up and coming chefs are opening every month, and there's even a weekly Farmers Market aimed at the restaurant trade, encouraging chefs to put local produce on the menu.

Eating in Las Vegas was full of delightful and delicious surprises. Sure, we checked out the all you can eat buffets like Carnival World at The Rio- the largest buffet in the world with a 300 metre long counter of food!!! All the family faves were there- pizza, macaroni & cheese, and a make your own banana split station. We gawped at the mind (and belly) blowing excess of it all, but couldn't knock its popularity- hungry punters can queue for over an hour just to get a table; they then spend at least two hours grazing their way towards digestive overload. I loved every bite!
On the other end of the gastronomic scale the choice was just as overwhelming as the Rio buffet, only studded with truffles and foie gras rather than deep fried bacon bits and cheese fries, and washed down with Californian Pinot Noir rather than Pepsi.
Buffet Brunch at the Wynn

Highlights? Sage, for the sexy de luxe atmosphere and Absinthe trolley, stellar wine list and the nicest staff;
Joel Robuchon for the OTT decor, OTT clientele and OTT food (where else do you get a take home bag of mini desserts and chocolates?); Silk Road at the uber deluxe Vdara hotel for the innovative menu based on the ancient Silk Route from the Far East to Europe; brunch at the Wynn for the all you can drink mimosas; Bradley Ogden for the finest American artisanal cheeses;
Hash House a Go Go for introducing us to the delights of the stuffed hamburger; and the all you can eat brunch at Simon - there were sooo many delicious white trash items on offer, including a belly busting breakfast pizza, a help yourself Candy Bar, and Frosties encrusted french toast. The french toast was so tasty I thought i'd make it at home and share the recipe with you...and a special Hiya! to I Knit London newsletter subscribers...this is the first regular monthly recipe i'll be writing for you!


4 slices brioche
2 eggs
splash of milk
70g crushed Frosties
knob of butter and drizzle of oil for the frying pan
maple syrup

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat
Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl and add the milk.
Put the Frosties in a plastic bag and crush using elbow grease, and empty into a separate shallow bowl.
Soak a slice of the brioche in the eggy mixture, turning over to ensure it is nice and moist. Now, dip into the bowl of Frosties making sure brioche is thoroughly coated. Repeat for remaining brioche slices.
Now put your eggy Frosties encrusted brioche in the sizzling frying pan for a few minutes until golden brown. Flip over and let the other side get nice and crispy.
Serve warm, drizzled with maple syrup. Deelish!
Want it for dessert instead of breakfast? Serve with posh vanilla ice cream...mmm....
Gerard...and Frosties French Toast!