The Gay Liberation Front is 50

A candlelit vigil is being organised for next week, to mark 50 year since the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Peter Tatchell writes in an email about the event:

‘Fifty years ago, on 13 October 1970, the Gay Liberation Front was founded at the the London School of Economics.
The formation of GLF was the watershed moment in British LGBT+ history. For the first time, thousands of LGBT+ people came out and protested against our persecutors. GLF’s slogan “Gay is Good” challenged the centuries-old view that gay was bad – and mad and sad.  
The GLF put LGBT+ rights on the public agenda and transformed LGBT+ consciousness, from shame to pride and defiance.’

The event fittingly takes place where it began: LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2B 4RR, 6pm on Tuesday 13 October 2020.

Anyone attending is asked to bring candles, wear face masks, and maintain social distancing.

They’ve also done a short video clip telling you more about GLF which you can check out below.

Feminist Legal Studies: Call for Editorial Board Members

FLSlogo2-600x396Blog readers might be interested in thecurrent call from Feminist Legal Studies for new editorial board members (upto five positions).

Feminist Legal Studies celebrated its 25 year anniversary in 2018. After two decades of operating successfully from Kent Law School, in 2013 the editorial board of the journal was reconstituted from members from a variety of UK universities. The editorial board continues to operate as a collective and to publish interdisciplinary, theoretically engaged feminist scholarship relating to law and legal phenomena.

The full call can be viewed on the Critical Legal Thinking blog  and you can learn more about the journal on their homepage.

Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and the Law

9781788111140One aspect of my life that fell victim to Covid-19 this year was a planned book launch for my new edited collection, co-edited with Alexander Maine at Leicester.  We’re going to give some thought to a re-arranged launch (possibly virtual) at a later part.  There’s something sad about not having the traditional gathering of friends and colleagues, celebrating the amazing work that went into a book, and enjoying some over-priced but quaffable University wine.  This does not however stop me from posting a shameless plug for you to recommend the book for library purchase/or for yourself if you’re feeling flush!   It’s also available as an e-book in these socially distanced times.

I’m seriously excited by the brilliant collection of authors we pulled together for this collection and global nature. It kicks off with the personal and inside story of Wilkinson v Kitzinger and goes on to blend activism and scholarly insights throughout. I hope you enjoy the book, and I’m sure it will appeal to students of family and criminal law in particular as well as anyone interested in gender, sexuality and law scholarship. Here comes the inflated book blurb:

This innovative and thought-provoking Research Handbook explores not only current debates in the area of gender, sexuality and the law but also points the way for future socio-legal research and scholarship. It presents wide-ranging insights and debates from across the globe, including Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Australia, with contributions from leading scholars and activists alongside exciting emergent voices.

Chapters address a range of current arguments and issues, providing an enhanced theoretical framework and evolving understanding from a variety of feminist and queer perspectives. Relationship recognition debates and LGBT activism and scholarship are examined and discussed, as well as questions around bodily autonomy, kink identities, pornography and healthcare access rights. Research exploring the lived experiences of people facing challenges such as domestic violence, asylum, femicide and hate crime is also assessed.

This Research Handbook will be an invaluable resource for researchers and students in the fields of law, sexuality and gender, as well as family studies, sociology, media and cultural studies, and medicine. Activists will also benefit from its scholarly insight into key policy debates and future strategy.


1 Introduction to the Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and Law 1
Chris Ashford and Alexander Maine

2 From the litigants’ perspective: Wilkinson v Kitzinger and the pursuit of
marriage equality in England and Wales 8
Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger
3 Formal recognition of adult relationships and legal gender in a comparative
perspective 17
Jens M. Scherpe
4 Diplomacy, conditionality and transnational LGBTI rights 32
Kay Lalor
5 Legislating and litigating same sex marriage in China 45
Tingting Liu and Jingshu Zhu
6 Striking women: the politics of gender, sexuality and the law in South Africa 60
Melanie Judge and Dee Smythe

7 Life at the corner of poverty and sexual abjection: lewdness, indecency,
and LGBTQ youth 76
Libby Adler
8 Same sex marriage and Article 12 of the European Convention on
Human Rights 91
Paul Johnson and Silvia Falcetta
9 LGBTI migration in Europe 104
Alexander Schuster
10 Fully recognizing both dignity and equality values under the emergent
ECHR right to a same sex registered partnership 120
Helen Fenwick and Daniel Fenwick
11 Transgender rights in Europe: EU and Council of Europe movements
towards gender identity equality 134
Peter Dunne

12 Normative understandings: sexual identity, stereotypes, and asylum seeking 149
Alex Powell
13 Feminist responses to same sex relationship recognition 164
Rosemary Auchmuty
14 LGBT rights and tax law: a comparative perspective 181
Anthony C. Infanti
15 LGBT rights in Africa 194
Siri Gloppen and Lise Rakner

16 A perfect storm: the UK government’s failed consultation on the Gender
Recognition Act 2004 211
Stephen Whittle and Fiona Simkiss
17 Becoming a legal proxy: the unintended consequences of informed
consent in US transgender medicine 232
stef m. shuster
18 (De)regulating trans identities 244
Flora Renz
19 ‘That’s a bit of a minefield’: supported decision making in intellectually
disabled people’s intimate lives 256
Rosie Harding and Ezgi Taşcıoğlu
20 Dispute resolution, domestic violence and abuse between lesbian partners 271
Maria Federica Moscati

21 The global femicide problem: issues and prospects 286
Rosemary Barberet and Aneesa A. Baboolal
22 Law, society and domestic violence: ‘best practice’ methodologies for
evaluating integrated domestic violence services 301
Nan Seuffert and Trish Mundy
23 Gender and hate crime protections 317
Marian Duggan
24 Feminist mandated reporters question the Title IX system: when civil
rights programs adopt managerial logics and protect institutional interests 330
Jessica Cabrera
25 Vulnerability, victimhood and sex offences 341
Sharon Cowan and Rebecca Hewer

26 Kinky identity and practice in relation to the law 362
Ummni Khan
27 Male sex work – a gendered, (hetro)sexist approach to regulation 379
Thomas Crofts
28 Regulating desire in Russia 396
Alexander Kondakov
29 Normative behaviour, moral boundaries and the state 409
Chris Ashford, Alexander Maine and Giuseppe Zago
30 Deviancy and illicit constructions 425
Brian Simpson

31 Masculinities and families: fragmenting law’s ‘family man’ 443
Richard Collier
32 The healthcare rights of people living with HIV and AIDS 457
Matthew Weait
33 Regulating pornography: developments in evidence, theory and law 471
Fiona Vera-Gray and Clare McGlynn
34 Defending pornography: the case against strategic essentialism 484
Alex Dymock
35 Red, white, and BLACK AND BLUE: the American criminalization of BDSM 497
Stephan Ferris

You can purchase the text from all good bookstores and from Edward Elgar direct (might be a bit cheaper).

International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law

Screenshot 2020-08-17 at 13.49.29It’s absolutely brilliant to share the news that there’s a new Gender, Sexuality and Law journal in town. The journal is part of a  growing ‘stable’ of Open Access journals hosted by the Law School at Northumbria University and forms part of the work of our Gender, Sexuality and Law Research Group.  This latest journal is edited by my wonderful colleague Laura Graham.

The International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law is a new inclusive international journal publishing high quality theoretical and empirical research.  The journal aims to advance the knowledge of legal discourses in gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, heterosexual and queer sexualities.

The International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law is a new inclusive international journal publishing high quality theoretical and empirical research.  The journal aims to advance the knowledge of legal discourses in gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, heterosexual and queer sexualities.

The journal also aims to be an inclusive space for radical and progressive academic debate from a range of disciplines, including but not limited to, law, sociology, criminology, history, geography, psychology, media, cultural studies, sexuality and gender studies.  The journal welcomes scholarship of an inter-disciplinary nature.

Journal content takes the form of substantive peer-reviewed articles, or reviews, in the form of books, films or web materials.  In addition, the journal will also include from time to time additional content such as interviews on short comment pieces in response to recent developments, although this will not form a permanent part of the journal.  It is expected that the majority of journal content will be provided by academic writers, although the board may invite non-academic writers (for example activists and campaigners) to provide material from time to time.

It is anticipated that the journal will find an international audience (reflected in the editorial board) from a range of disciplines exploring gender, sexuality and law although a range of ‘core’ disciplines can be identified consisting of:  law, criminology, sociology, media/cultural studies  (again reflected in the board makeup and emphasised in the editorial assistant geographical distribution) with a clear emphasis on law.

You can check out the first issue and details of how to submit papers on the journal homepage.  The first issue is a special, focussing on ‘Bodies, identities, and gender regimes: Human rights and legal aspects of gender identity registration’, and is produced by C L Quinan, Verena Molitor, Marjolein van den Brink, and Tatiana Zimenkova.

Have We Banned Poppers by Mistake?

This week saw Home Secretary Priti Patel rip off the manky sticking plaster that was – since 2016 – dealing with the ban on poppers in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This was a ban that then turned out not to be a ban, but might actually be a ban after all.   She’s not sure.  Which is reassuring coming from the Home Secretary.  Patel was right that in stating that the law is ‘uncertain’, and it has been since a 2018 Court of Appeal judgment, but everyone was seemingly rather pretending it didn’t happen and therefore didn’t change anything.  Let’s leave that dodgy sticking plaster where it is.

Enter Nurse Patel.  In writing to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), she set out their priorities through to 2023 and indicated three areas in order of priority.  The third of these related to the poppers ban.

The passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 was – amidst a competitive field – not one of David Cameron’s finest moments.  It doesn’t even get a mention in his 2019 memoir chronicling his time in power.  The Home Secretary at the time was Theresa May, who would find the experience of an accidental screw up that would subsequently turn out to be claimed as deliberate before then being regarded once more as an accident would provide a template for her brief but vivid premiership.


The 2016 legislation was intended to address the phenomenon of ‘legal highs’ but the drafting of the legislation seemed to also include poppers, prompting the Conservative MP Crispin Blunt to talk to Parliament of his poppers use, and defending the drug and its practical importance as an anal sphincter relaxant.  The Government refused to add poppers to the list of exemptions. The legislation passed with then Home Office Minister Karen Bradley promising a review (highlighting that it seemed the legislation did ban poppers).  The ACMD would subsequently write to the Home Secretary with their view that poppers didn’t have the effects that met the definition of ‘psychoactive substance’ within the legislation.  The Government accepted this and thus, the maybe ban was now clearly not a ban after all.  With perhaps a sigh of relief, the Government firmly stuck a plaster over the issue. The initial Police raids on premises selling poppers stopped, and sphincters relaxed once more.

The 2018 Court of Appeal case concerned Kirk Rochester who was convicted for the possession with intent to supply of a psychoactive substance – nitrous oxide – more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ at the Love Box Festival.  The question became whether nitrous oxide actually fell within the meaning of ‘psychoactive substance’ and the Court of Appeal ultimately agreed with the trial judge that a distinction between direct and indirect effect was not necessary as the legislation did not make such a distinction and thus an indirect effect is sufficient.   They also noted the ACMD review – by Ministerial direction – that they did in 2016 within a month of the legislation passing, in which they noted ‘peripheral effects’ rather than ‘direct action’ in the use of poppers, and as it doesn’t have a direct effect, it didn’t fall within the legislation.  That was a science judgment.  The law judgment is now clear that such a distinction between direct and indirect does not matter.

Patel’s intervention is to ask the ACMD to look at this legal question, but whatever their considerable scientific expertise, this is beyond it.  They can perhaps clarify their previous advice about indirect effect but if they indicate there is an indirect effect then poppers will be deemed to have been criminalised all along.  If they say there is no indirect effect, it raises questions about other substances.  It’s a mess.

If the Home Secretary believes there is uncertainty in the law, it should be addressed as a priority.  This is a legal question rather than a scientific one.  The Kirk Rochester case also clarified that the ACMD clarification on poppers and subsequent Government acceptance back in 2016 was after Parliament passed the legislation.  It is therefore irrelevant in terms of understanding the intention of Parliament for legal purposes. The intention of Parliament on poppers was that poppers were banned but they knew the Government was going to review this with the ACMD.  They did not know what the outcome of that review would be.  The utter inadequacy of this sticking plaster is now apparent.  The solution can only come through an unambiguous statement that the Government and Parliament do not intend for poppers to be banned and legislative brought forward to clarify this.  Any delay is an alarming abandonment of the basics of the Rule of Law and a particularly troubling development for the LGBTQ Community who will find their behaviour is criminalised.

Glory Holes for Safer Sex During Covid-19

Glory_hole_in_washroom_(155966507)The glory hole – a hole in a partition, traditionally between toilets in public conveniences/bathrooms, and typically large enough through which to push a penis – are an integral part of the historic criminalisation of homosexuality, but which could now be an important element in the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19.

These spaces were historically an important space in which men could engage in anonymous sexual encounters when gay sex was criminalised.  These encounters were often oral based but might also have involved penetrative anal sex, or have been voyeuristic, observing a neighbouring occupier engage in masturbation for example.   The Sexual Offences Act 1967 partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales but also introduced a law that specifically criminalised sex in public lavatories (since re-stated in the Sexual Offences Act 2003), and thus many of the encounters facilitated by the presence of a glory hole, ensuring that the glory hole not only occupies a place in the history of homosexuality, but continues to be a cultural symbol for illicit and forbidden sex.

Nonetheless, the glory hole and the sex it facilitates continues.  Entrenched in queer history and culture, it has also been appropriated into commercial sex spaces around the world.  Adult cinemas or ‘bookstores’ provide dedicated spaces, originally to view pornography, but also with glory holes between cubicle walls.  ‘Gay’ bars and clubs around the world also have glory hole spaces, whilst so too do many saunas and bathhouses – most of which remain closed in response to regulations and laws passed in recent months in response to Covid-19.

Reports that theBritish Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Canada was suggesting the use of glory holes, and earlier reports that New York’ City’s Department of Health similarly encouraged their use, largely drew online laughs and whatever the virtual equivalent of a slightly embarrassed avoidance of eye contact is.  Sex beyond reproductive domestic narratives remains an awkward subject for public discourse.

The BC Centre for Disease Control suggested being creative with ‘physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact’.  The advise provides a logical solution to facilitate sexual encounters, based on known science, and drawing on a device with a long history.

Europe and the Gloryhole

Commercial sex spaces have long drawn on the history of glory holes. Whilst sauna venues across the world are still struggling to re-open due to stringent regulations, some spaces have been able to open with Europe pointing the way.  For example, cruising spaces in Amsterdam were able to re-open in July (see for example Drake’s). Three venues re-opened at the heart of the city providing cinema spaces in which for a flat fee, customers then work through a labyrinth of individual booths equipped with porn screen and glory holes to the neighbouring booth(s). In contrast,  Amsterdam’s bars with cruising and gloryhole spaces have re-opened but not their sex spaces – even though some do have some gloryholes (see for example Dirty Dicks).  The fully open glory hole venues provide spaces in which people do not come into face to face contact but in which people can engage in sexual encounters.

In Berlin, glory hole venues have also re-opened (XXL) – like in Amsterdam – they provide flat-fee commercial spaces featuring multiple booths with gloryholes.

In Spain, gloryhole venues have re-opened but with greater restrictions (see for example Boyberry).  One Barcelona venue advises customers to use a facemask in public areas, and to avoid handshakes and kissing.  Disinfectant gel is provided.  Strikingly, all the above sites also provide information in English, reflecting the international nature of many of their customers, such as the British tourists taking advantage of the ‘air bridges’ in place this Summer to travel overseas.

In parts of the USA, smaller versions of the European glory-hole experience have been able to re-open, with limits on the numbers of customers who can be present.  One long-standing San Francisco ‘adult bookstore’ limits this to the number of cubicle spaces and has a queuing system outside the building.  Another venue in the city called Blow Buddies has been based entirely around gloryhole spaces and operated since the late 1980s.  It’s design was heavily influenced by the desire to provide ‘safer sex’ spaces in response to HIV/AIDS and might be considered to be the perfect venue once more with the onset of Covid-19.  Yet in March 2020 the venue closed, another SOMA victim of gentrification and rising property values in the Californian city.  These venues- which could now be important spaces – are also incredibly vulnerable.

For UK tourists returning to the UK, they will find no comparable spaces to these overseas venues, although some sex clubs, bars, and saunas do have gloryhole spaces.  There is now an opportunity to encourage gloryhole spaces within the UK through regulatory reform, to provide a harm-minimisation for sexual encounters.

A Legal Future?

Whilst there have been reports of the virus being found in sewage and semen, there is as yet no evidence of transmission through either medium.  The UK Government is currently encouraging us to ‘get back to the things we love’ and for many, rather than £10 off a meal out, this will take the form of sexual encounters, and these might be multiple-partner and anonymous encounters.  The glory-hole provides a way to do so in a safer way.  For many queers, our historic criminalised past perhaps provides a solution to the new covid-19 criminalisation that has once more surrounded our sex lives.

Same Sex Marriage and David Cameron’s Comfort Blanket

8947770804_3a77818249_bSome trivial thoughts can fester.  What on earth does former British PM David Cameron now use his Shepherd’s Hut for given he’s published his memoirs?  Does it have a strange array of screws, some rusting gardening tools and a knackered old barbecue clogging up the space?  Is it Dave’s ‘chillax’ space with mounds of moulding copies of Horse and Hound?

You could be forgiven for forgetting about the former Prime Minister.  Once on course to be one of the ‘great’ Tory leaders – taking his party back to power and relevance – he managed to rather spectacularly bugger it all up, and is arguably now fodder for those endless conversations about ‘worst political leader ever’.  Shortly before Christmas he made a brief comeback onto television with a slightly odd interview with a tree.  When not talking to a tree, he also managed to knock together a brief piece for the Christmas issue of The Spectator magazine.  They did a feature asking a range of writers including Grayson Perry, Boris Johnson, Richard Dawkins and a range of other public figures ‘when have you changed your mind’.  I imagine Cameron retreating to his Shepherd’s Hut for at least a week just to come up with a shortlist.

In the end Cameron wrote: ‘well, the gay marriage thing was something I changed my mind on’.  Ahh yes, the gay marriage ‘thing’ aka Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.  A landmark piece of legislation.  He describes it as his ‘biggest change of heart’ before – the mental leap here is impressive – going on to also throw into the mix ‘running’, saying that ‘I once got hypnotised to give up smoking – two days later I suddenly decided to go for a run’.  No mention of hypnotism is provided in relation to same-sex marriage.  Putin must be kicking himself for a strategy unexplored.  Or is he?  Have fun with that one daffy conspiracy theorists.

Cameron does however explore the topic in his memoir – published in the Autumn – entitled For the Record (and currently half price on Waterstones, plus there’s still signed copies available).  In it, he describes his struggle with the issue and talks about the  suggestions of those around him (including his wife) that he needed to change on the issue.  When he did, same-set marriage rolled through.  It feels slightly at odds with the account Lynne Feathertone provides in her excellent 2016 text Equal Ever After in which she talks about a long process of pushing reform and seeking support.  In truth, I think both accounts are right – there was a broad cultural movement.  Had Featherstone not been doing the work to think through issues, the legislation would not have been able to progress sin the way it did, and without Cameron’s ‘conversion’, it wouldn’t have happened.  Still, he mentions Featherstone just one in the index and says merely that Featherstone ‘did an excellent job leading on what became the biggest consultation in government history’ (p440).  Someone else who gets just one index reference is ‘Swampy’, the 90s eco-warrior (page 19 if you’re wondering).  You can’t help but thinking Featherstone deserved better from Cameron.

Cameron concludes his chapter – striking called ‘Love is Love’ with the claim that ‘gay marriage had shown me how you can dramatically change society and lives through sheer persistence and belief (446).  Yes, the sheer persistence of activists, campaigner, and a community calling for change did eventually get through to him.  Moreover, the Spectator column together with his memoir are striking for the way that same-sex marriage is seemingly Cameron’s ‘comfort blanket’ for his time in office – the go to issue to say “this is what I did, and we can all agree it’s a good thing”.  That is pretty remarkable in itself, and perhaps speaks to how far we have evolved as a society in recent years.

Reynhard Sinaga and a New Drugs War

The conviction of Reynhard Sinaga after being found guilty of raping or sexually assaulting 48 young men in Manchester is an extraordinary story with horrifying facts. He has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years at Manchester Crown Court.

Sinaga has been shown to have committed 159 offences, including 136 rapes, which he filmed on two mobile phones. Police have yet to identify at least 70 of his victims. The Guardian notes that ‘Sinaga is already serving 88 concurrent life sentences with a minimum of 20 years before he can be considered for parole following his first two trials, which related to 25 victims and were heard between 2018 and last year. He was sentenced on Monday for trials three and four, where he was convicted of counts relating to a further 23 victims. All but four of the 48 victims whose cases came to court were raped.’

A New Drugs War?

Greater Manchester Police released this photograph of Sinaga GMP PoliceA New Drugs War?

Home Secretary Priti Patel, alongside much of the news coverage has focussed on the question of drugs.  Wasting no time, Patel has written to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), asking them to review the classification of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and closely related compounds under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the scheduling of both drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.  The letter can be viewed in full here.

Patel is not really seeking their advice.  She requests change, writing ‘In the light of the criminal use of GHB and GBL or related substances in the Sinaga case and the use by the murderers Stephen Port and Gerald Motovu, I request that the council reconsider the classification and scheduling of GHB and GBL and closely related compounds under the 1971 Act and 2001 Regulations [my emphasis] to ensure that the potential harms are fully reflected in the way that these drugs are controlled and scheduled.’

And so we return to another – more documented – uncomfortable truth for the queer community: chemsex.  Whilst this is a debate we’ve been having in our own communitiy, it’s now blown wide on to the broader public stage.  Just as the ‘nearly’ poppers ban back in 2016 exposed the truths about how gay men fuck, so too does this raise questions about chemsex and the kinds of sex many of us are having in our community.  It is surely an increasingly rare gay man who has never been around chemsex, engaged in chemsex (as a user or with someone using or suspected of using), or who knows nobody who has engaged in chemsex.  We’ve had plays about Chemsex, films about it, and powerful community interventions, notably 55 Dean Street. That was within our community, for our community.

This is different.  We have a Home Secretary who’s immediate reaction was to ping out a letter that starts the process of deepening the criminalisation that goes with the use of G in our community.  That seems unhelpful in addressing the complex socio-legal issues surrounding chemsex.  If this is the start of a process moving to tougher criminal sanctions, those arguments about the consequences of the move for gay men and men who have sex with men using chems will follow.  For now, we have the raw instinctive reaction of the Home Secretary on display – ban drugs.

Well, some drugs.  The other drug (which is getting much less focus in these stories) that runs through the case is alcohol.  Sinaga didn’t just pray on any old victim.  He deliberately chose those men who were inebriated, who were exiting two specific clubs close to his apartment.  These were not gay clubs, although it was reasonably close to Manchester’s Gay Village.  He sought to then be the ‘good Samaritan’ by offering these guys somewhere to charge their mobile phones, or sort themselves out.  Just as these horrendous crimes could not have taken place without GHB, nor could they have taken place without alcohol.  Patel’s letter asking the ACMD to re-consider the current regulation of alcohol is curiously – but unsurprisingly – absent.

Although alcohol has a long documented association with violence in the home and in public, and as a blight of communities around the world, our society openly talks about our drug use.  Our newspapers tell us the best ones to use.  Philip Schofield will tell you which ones to stock up on in Waitrose.  Election campaign victories feature crates of the stuff tipping up at celebration parties and our two biggest UK soaps – Eastenders and Coronation Street – are both anchored by corner boozers.   It’s the straight world equivalent of having a chemsex party circuit.

So amidst a debate about criminalisation, there will be a need to educate and understand.  A need – uncomfortable at times – to once talk about our sex lives in a way that doesn’t quite fit with the homonormative narratives that have been established in recent years.  It will be stories of regret at times, followed by redemption, whilst at other times it will even more difficult stories of chemsex not as disaster, not as a ‘low’, but as a functioning existence, one that is social and controlled, with messy dangerous nights and ones uplifted by a chems experience.  From coke, to G, to T, it’s a complex narrative.

In the wake of the horrendous actions of a sexual predator, the Home Secretary may not merely have triggered a new drug war today, but also the start of a difficult cultural awakening.







A Return (of sorts)

Yes, I’m back blogging after a lengthy hiatus and a period of struggle before it.  2020 marks a series of turning points for me.  I turn 40 (ushering in the inevitable mid-life crisis) and decided in the final months of 2019 to reflect on my life and what I want from it.  It led to some big changes on the work front, moving away from management over the coming year (with some roles already gone as of today).  This will free up my time to re-engage more fully with research and my teaching.  For too long I’ve been de-energised and frankly burnt out.  In the last eighteen months, three book collections editorial teams were let down by my failure to produce the chapters I’d promised.  I’m being open and honest about that for the first time.  I’m so very sorry to them and know that this led to one terrific scholar being very cross with me indeed.  I’m not sure they’ll ever forgive me.  I had become ‘that guy’ who doesn’t deliver, and it felt unspeakably horrible.

We’ve got better at chronicling the stories of challenge facing junior members of academia.  Those struggles are real and we need to facilitate change for all our colleagues.  Yet they are not alone.  I see burnout and frustration at mid-ranking and senior levels too.  We all need to step up to facilitate change but also recognise that it can’t always be the same people.  The Academy is all of us, and we all need to play an active part in shaping it, as well as the ideas we cherish and seek to explore in our scholarship and teaching.

Whilst I could point to huge achievements and change in my management roles (hello academic humble brag), they weren’t ultimately delivering satisfaction for me and simply perpetuating a mental burnout.  I cried – genuinely – in frustration as I realised I couldn’t deliver on research projects that meant a great deal to me as I once again had to deliver a pointless spreadsheet of data which within two months would be rendered pointless but right now was important for – well, I’m not sure – but it was, or seemingly was at the time.  I turned down some big money and big opportunities in management elsewhere and realised that – for the foreseeable future at any rate – none of that was for me.  I’m grateful that I work with an amazing team and have a wonderful boss and management team who have given me the support to get back to what makes me happy.  So, I’m writing again.  A seemingly simple act but one which for me is important to reconnect me with ideas and energy which drives me.

There is much wrong with HE management and the seemingly endless tide of fuckwittery that seems to characterise the predictably bad decisions and bad leadership that we see across the sector.  I hope you’ll forgive me if I declare my time at the front lines of that battle over with for now.  I’m still up for fighting those battles, but it will be from amongst the ranks, not in the vanguard.  Instead, there are broader ideas to be expressed, debates to join, and cultures to still shape. butterfly-butterflies-insects-insect