Claire Black: Games makes stand for gay rights

John Barrowman performs during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park. Picture: Getty
John Barrowman performs during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park. Picture: Getty
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IKNOW, I know, Twitter is for losers. People who have nothing better to do than fire out 140-character gobbets of gab to an audience of mainly strangers.

If this is how you feel then you might want to skip this next bit, because I want to pay tribute to all those tremendous tweeters who came into their own during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last Wednesday. Oh the wit. Oh the perfect expression of the Scottish cringe. It was magnificent.

I was in a cab on the way back from the airport, so it was Twitter that gave me a beamer when Subo fluffed her lines and made me wish I could have a shot of wearing a giant Tunnock’s teacake. And it made me guffaw. “Reports in that Lulu has been spotted backstage rehearsing her Scottish accent,” tweeted one wag. “I’ve cringed myself inside out. Send help,” said another. And then there was the contingent wondering when Mogwai were coming on. But it wasn’t a post-rock kind of a night. No, this was about tartan and teacakes and those amazing wee dugs.

More than that, it was about a new kind of Glasgow kiss. Not Mary Doll nuttin’ some bird from the job centre, but Scotland waving a huge, sparkly rainbow flag in the face of the 42 out of 53 countries in the Commonwealth in which same-sex relationships are a crime. The fact that it was provided by the bi-dialectical panto aficionado that is John never-knowingly-underacted Barrowman in a tartan-ish suit? Let’s not be churlish. I’m just glad it wasn’t Jimmy Krankie in chaps and a gimp mask.

Scotland is showing its commitment to LGBT rights – the rainbow flag is flying at St Andrew’s House for the duration of the Games. In Glasgow, Pride House, a pop-up cafe and LGBT support space, has been funded by the Scottish Government. And these actions mean so much more than the recent barrage of beating gums emanating from politicians south of the Border. They lament the parlous state of LGBT rights in the vast majority of Commonwealth countries but they don’t do much about it. It’s “unacceptable”, complained Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, that almost 80 per cent of the countries involved practise some form of discrimination against LGBT people. You don’t say. Action is what is needed, not empty rhetoric written up by Spads and regurgitated by perennially “outraged” politicians.

That’s why the John Barrowman smacker matters. No, it wasn’t as human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell claimed, “subtle”, but let’s face it: when you’re trying to keep up with Rod Stewart in a silver suit and a cast of dancers dressed as oversized confectionary, subtlety probably isn’t the tack you’re after. In certain Commonwealth countries – Uganda, Brunei and Nigeria to name three – gay rights are moving backwards at a frightening pace. In Nigeria, those caught in same-sex relationships could face up to 14 years in prison. The homophobia and transphobia in the vast majority of Commonwealth countries is extreme and it is a stain on these Games. Subtle? No way.

Green-eyed Scotties

Not that I want to bang on about the dugs – what about them though? Noble wee Scotties, trotting round that track on their tiny legs. Such grace. But can you imagine how hacked off all the Scottish Terriers who weren’t picked for Commonwealth Games duties must be? If you think they were just chilling on their tartan blankets sucking on a rawhide chew, then you didn’t see the research published last week by the University of California, San Diego. It revealed that our canine companions are prone to jealousy. Thirty-six dog owners were asked to ignore their pets and instead lavish their attention on a stuffed toy dog, a plastic bucket or a musical pop-up book instead. When their owners were cooing with the soft toy, the dogs were twice as likely to nudge them for attention than when they were playing with the bucket, and four times as likely to nudge when they were reading the book. Astonishing. Unless you own a dog, that is. Mine resents the hoover, the mop and most of all any visitor who has the temerity to hang about after 9pm. So there’s no way that the Scotties who didn’t parade around Celtic Park are taking this well. I suspect there are peeved pooches all over Scotland.

Enjoy a taste of history

If YOU’RE fatigued by all this sport you could exercise your cultural muscles at the Empire Cafe. The brainchild of writer Louise Welsh and architect Jude Barber, the cafe is a cultural project which runs until Friday. Based in the Briggait in Glasgow’s Merchant City, the idea is to explore Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade. There will be readings, lectures, poems and dishes developed through outreach sessions, while community cooks will create food that explores how our colonial past has shaped our tastes. Taking part are writers including Jackie Kay and Alan Riach. Visit «