Lez Miserable: “Everyone's coming out, including Hillary Clinton and Snoop Lion”

While it’s great to have Hillary and Snoop on board the equal marriage bandwagon, Eleanor can’t help feeling they care a little bit too much about vote-chasing and record sales to be celebrated as true converts to the cause just yet.

 

Everyone’s coming out. From Hillary Clinton to Snoop Lion (the former Mr Snoop Dogg), some of America’s most influential people are “evolving” and embracing same-sex marriage. As the US Supreme Court examines the constitutionality of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) – which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, barring gays and lesbians from receiving federal spousal benefits – gay rights activists are picking up allies in the most unlikely of places. From rappers to Republicans like Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the voices demanding equality for same-sex couples are growing more diverse by the day.

Rainbow is the new black, and I mean that quite literally. In the 1960s, the campaign for desegregation shifted from being a minority issue to something demanded by the majority of the American public. The push for gay rights has now reached a similar tipping point. Of course, marriage is only the beginning. Just as post-Civil Rights America remains riddled with racism, there’s little chance of DOMA’s possible repeal erasing so many Americans’ deep-seated hatred of LGBT people.

It’s a start, at least. But you can’t help but wonder how many recent high-profile reversals on marriage equality were driven by political or commercial concerns. Take Mrs Clinton. In 1996, Hillary Clinton did a bad thing. She backed DOMA. Staunchly. When her husband put his big, fat, swirly (I imagine) signature on a piece of paper that said, “gays shall not marry”, she was right behind him. Now, seventeen years later, she claims to have “evolved”. This term, first used by President Obama to describe his U-turn on equal marriage, has become a buzzword in this latest fight for gay rights. It couldn’t be more perfect. (And by the by, it must go down like a bowl of cold grits in the creationist Bible Belt.) Because, absolutely, when you change your view on gay marriage from con to pro, you transform from grunting Neanderthal who chucks poo at mammoths for a laugh, to a homo sapiens who uses a toilet and sees nothing funny about turd-throwing whatsoever. No, really.

Now, we all know that the chances of the newly “evolved” Hill-meister running for President in 2016 are decent. So, funny isn’t it? Funny that the first potential Madam President should suddenly, as she gears up for a massive vote grabathon, start waving a rainbow flag along with all the cool kids. And her “evolution” is aimed at The Kids. According to the Pew research organisation, 70 per cent of Americans aged 18 to 32 approve of same-sex marriage – too big a demographic for any wannabe White House resident to ignore. See, we gays have fun. I can’t help feeling that Hillary Clinton is showing up to our big, sparkly hootenanny with a box of petrol station Ferrero Rocher, and a goofy grin.

And, hey, we’re a friendly bunch – so of course we’re going to vote her in. I’m not saying that anyone who’s prepared publicly to stand up for gays should be shunned even if their motive is arguably open to interpretation. We need all the help we can get, and if that means partying with fuddy-duddies, so be it. But why are we letting these people suggest that their, post-deep consideration, support for granting gays one of the most basic human rights is some grand gesture? I can only speculate on how Hillary Clinton would feel if Chelsea decided to shack up with, I don’t know, Belgravia. But, I’ll say it again, the woman backed DOMA. I can’t quite imagine her driving the removal van. Likewise, Snoop Lion/Dogg, a guy who’s never been opposed to throwing homophobic slurs into his lyrics, showing up at our big gay party seems just a little bit of a chutzpah.

As glad as we are to have him on board, an apology for the repeated use of the word “faggot” over a career spanning two decades would be nice. Same goes for 50 Cent, who’s also voiced support for the gay cause. Hey Fiddy, didn’t you tweet something about shooting up a gay wedding in a Twitter beef with Perez Hilton a few years ago?

So excuse us if we in the gay community don’t quite erect a statue in your honour and tell our grandchildren about the time you bravely “evolved” your stance on us marrying. As important as it is that the hip-hop world is starting to let go of some of its homophobia, I can’t help thinking that record sales, like Clinton’s ever-so-slightly brazen vote-mongering are playing some part in it.

Snoop Lion/Dog. Photograph: Getty Images

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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A year in my life as a Brexit bargaining chip

After Brexit, like many other EU citizens in Britain, I spent a year not knowing what my future held. Here's what that was like.

I moved back to the UK in January 2016. I like to say “move back”, because that’s how it feels – I loved living in London so much during my Erasmus year that I always intended to come work here after graduation. 

I am French, and a journalist, and live in north London. I refer to the UK as “home”. By all appearances, in January 2016 I am part of what budding Brexiteers call the “liberal elite”, even though I rent a single room and my most expensive possession after my laptop is a teapot.

But by June, I have been given a new label. I am now one of the 3 million “EU citizens in the UK”. As Britain heads toward turbulent negotiations to leave the European Union, following a referendum in which I did not have a vote, I have become a “bargaining chip”. 

This is my account of that year.

April 2016

Moving back includes chores such as getting a UK phone number, a National Insurance number and opening a bank account – three tasks that go even smoother that I thought they would. For the bank account, I have been advised to go to Lloyds Bank, which makes it “easy for Europeans”. (A thread on Twitter recently proved it also is more inclined to help refugees than other banks.)

I also eagerly register to vote – another right of mine in the UK under EU rules, for local and European elections. And I am excited: I will have a vote in the London mayoral election.

I closely follow the referendum campaign. “Vote Remain” signs and stickers are omnipresent in my  neighbourhood.  I feel reassured. So do the other EU nationals quietly passing me in the street. “I don't recall seeing any Leave Campaign. It made me think it would be an easy win,” echoes Tiago Gomes, 27, a Portuguese musician.

In the pub, I get into a testy exchange with an acquaintance who holds French and British passports and is proudly campaigning for Leave. I struggle to understand why. Maybe, just like Ukip leader Nigel Farage, he knows he has a way out, if it all goes to shit.

Worried that people could wrongly see me as a Brexiteer because of my Union Jack Converses, I put a “I’m IN” sticker on each roundel.

May 2016

I vote in the London mayoral election. I have voted many times in France, but this is different – I am almost a Brit! I even take a happy selfie with my polling card, like a proud 18 year-old.

This turns out to be the only UK election I will ever have a vote in, as a friend will note a few months later.

June 2016

Jo Cox MP is murdered on the streets of her constituency. I report on the murder all afternoon and when I get the tube home, I feel shaken. A Leave supporter enters the tube carriage with an England flag. I want to ask him: "Do you even know what happened?" But I say nothing.

The violent turn taken by the campaign is felt in London, too. Samir Dwesar, a 27-year-old parliamentary assistant, remembers the abuse he suffered while campaigning for Remain: “I was called a p**i, and told to go back to ‘your f’ing country'.” Samir is British and has lived all his life in Croydon, South London.

Yet I am hopeful on 23 June 2016. I blow up “I’m IN” balloons, taste EU referendum cupcakes from my local bakery. I’m living history.

And it is history. I doubt anyone in Britain, and especially the country’s EU citizens, will forget the nightmarish morning of 24 June 2016. My heart sinks as I read the BBC news alert informing me I am no longer home – not really. On my wall, a poster of the Private Eye cover “What Britain will look like after Brexit”, which I found hilarious in April, looks like a doomed omen.

The mood is low among all Europeans. For Nassia Matsa, 27, a Greek woman from Athens who has lived in London for 9 years, it is even worse: 24 June marks her birthday. “Nigel and Boris ruined my birthday,” she says.

At least in London we are not alone. I discover many Brits identify as European. When I finally leave my house, my neighbourhood is still plastered IN signs and EU flags. “I found myself offering support to my British friends,” says Matsa. “Were talking about Brexit with an Italian, Swiss, Croatian, French and me, and all of us Europeans were comforting a Londoner who was ready to cry.”

July-August 2016

I go to France for a summer holiday. Everyone keeps asking what my situation will be in the UK after Brexit. My answer is always the same, and still hasn’t changed: I have no idea. My dad spends months repeating that Brexit will not happen: “They’ll realise it’s a mistake.” (They don’t.)

Bad adverts with Brexit puns bloom on the Tube. "We're Out," proclaims one for a city lifestyle app. I don’t laugh. But at least I don't have any Facebook friend boasting about Brexit. Mikael David Levin, a 24-year-old Italian who has lived in London for 16 years, does. "Their statuses frustrate and irritate me," he says. "They do not know how 'lucky' they are to be born in the UK."

After David Cameron’s resignation, the Tory leadership election and Theresa May’s premiership, the discussion focuses on when to pull the trigger, and what to do with people like us in the meantime. We are now, officially, bargaining chips.

September 2016

I start flying with my passport when I visit my family in France, even though I know my French ID is still valid until Britain officially leaves. At Stansted airport, the limited life expectancy of the “EU only” line makes me gloomy. Alex Roszkowski, a 27-year-old Polish-American who has lived in London for a year and a half, tells me he may now carry both his passports on every trip, as well as “copies of [his] lease, numerous old envelopes with [his] name and address, [his] business card".

Those EU citizens arriving in the UK have surreal experiences too. Joseph Sotinel, 28, who moved to London from Paris in September, encounters a bank official, who tells him: “Thanks for coming to the UK, you are still welcome no matter what.”

“It was as if I had done something heroic,” he says. “It was absurd.”

October 2016

Registering all EU citizens in the UK could take 140 years, according to a cheery statistic.

We are seeking an early deal to secure the rights of EU citizens, says the British government. Companies employing EU workers must provide a list of their employees, says the British government. Companies employing EU workers won’t have to provide a list of their employees, says the British government. EU citizens will need a “form of ID” in post-Brexit UK, says the British government.  EU citizens must be prepared to leave, says the British government.

Literally no one knows what will happen to EU citizens.

November- December 2016

EU nationals who have decided to apply to permanent residency or British citizenship start receiving letters urging them to leave the country. I fear mine could follow and think about it every time I get post. I read an article advising EU citizens to collect proof of living in the UK. As I am a lodger currently working freelance, I start keeping every single one of my shopping receipts in a box, and consider asking British friends for reference letters.

Matt Bock [unrelated to this journalist], a German freelance renewable energy project manager, worries about how to provide documentation showing he was living in the UK before Brexit too: “I don’t have an employer, I am outside the UK for a large amount of time for work, I am a freelancer largely paid by my own German company, I don’t have private health insurance, I am not married and I haven’t even been here for the prerequisite 5 years.”" He has chosen not to apply to right to remain because his chances of success are "remote", and says he is "ready to leave if need be."

As I, like Matt and many EU citizens, start thinking about moving back home, others rush to move to the UK. Alexandra Ibrová, 26, a Czech PhD student, moves to London on 28 December, worried she could not get a National Insurance number after 15 March. “I was trying to get the appointment before that date because it is actually the only official document that proves that you have been living here before the cut off date,” she says.

January- February 2017

Gina Miller’s legal challenge forces the government’s Brexit bill to go to a vote in Parliament. I am hopeful, for about five minutes, that the Labour MP Harriet Harman’s amendment to secure my rights has got a chance. It doesn’t. I complain about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s three-line whip to my local Labour councillors during their Sunday canvassing. “As a traditionally left-wing voter, I'm more angry with Corbyn's Labour than with the Tories,” echoes Marta Maria Casetti, 39, from Italy, in London since 2006.

March 2017

The day before the triggering or Article 50, the Haringey LibDems send me a letter in “support” of EU nationals. I am now a bargaining chip and a stat on a micro-targeting list.

On 29 March, Theresa May officially begins the Brexit negotiations, even though 2017 is the worst possible time to leave the EU. It has almost been a year that 3 million people living in the UK have been left in limbo.

I don’t own a house or have children at school in the UK. Many EU citizens do – they have built their family life in this country, and now fear they may lose it all overnight.

Adriana Bruni, 44, an Italian who married an Englishman and has lived in Chelmsford for six years, says her family would not exist without the European Union: “From today [29 March], a family like mine will never be formed in the same way again.” Bianca Ford Epskamp, a Dutch national and school governor who has lived Dorset since 2001, adds: “Both my children are born here, go to school here, have made friends. I've always been employed, contributed, paid taxes, do voluntary things. Morally, it’s draining.”

Elena Paolini, 51, an Italian translator married to Brit who has lived in London for 27 years, says she doesn’t believe EU nationals will be deported, but she is concerned about her access to the NHS, pensions or bank accounts. She asks out loud the question that has been floating in all our minds for months: “Will I be considered a second rate citizen?”

As for me, I used to say I wanted to be British. I don't say that any more.

Update on 23 June 2017

Last night, Theresa May told EU leaders in Brussels the UK government would offer the same rights as Britons to EU citizens who arrived "lawfully" before Brexit. I can't help but think that it took a year to guarantee rights me, and the other 3 million, already had and took for granted up until 23 June last year.

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