#OrlandoStrong #OrlandoUnited

Context: This blog is an amalgamation and update of two previous Facebook posts. I was in Orlando, Florida on the day of the Orlando Pulse nightclub terrorist attack, but not involved. I did not want the posts to be lost in the firehose of social media.

I’ve only ever once experienced direct homophobia

When I was at university I was walking along the seafront one evening, hand-in-hand with boyfriend-du-jour. We passed a group of three lads, who went stony silent as they passed us. They waited until we were about 30 metres away before one of them yelled “QUEER BOYS!” at us. How original.

I was furious. University was my fresh start with my sexuality and I had always been open about it since arriving, having hidden it at Sixth Form (where I experienced indirect homophobia, almost always through ignorance rather than anything else), and this cunt violated that.

I started to run towards the one who I knew yelled it, the one with the biggest grin on his face. He broke away from his two friends and I chased him into the town. I caught up with him and I threw him to the ground. He put his arms up and said he was sorry and begged me to leave him alone, having very clearly underestimated me (bear in mind I was nowhere near as physically strong then as I am now). Which I did, after telling him what I thought of him at the top of my voice and instructed him in rather frank terms never to do such a thing again.

Why did I do this? Because what he did, even though it did not cause me or boyfriend any physical harm, was NOT FUCKING ACCEPTABLE, and I was not going to let him get away with it. I hope he never did it again and always thought twice about such idiocy and ignorance after that night.

(In hindsight it was a pretty stupid idea to abandon the boyfriend with the other two, but nothing else happened, I just have to chalk that one up to seeing red.)

Since then, some 20 years on, I have never suffered any sort of homophobic abuse. There are a couple of advantageous factors which have contributed to this, the first being that I “don’t look gay” (whatever that means) and the second being that I have lived in major cities for the majority of my years since university, which are generally considered to be safer for gay people.

But I realise that I am very lucky, and I also realise that it could happen to me, someone close to me or just any other gay person, known or unknown to me at any time. It scares me, and it isn’t right, and I still DO NOT FUCKING ACCEPT IT.

The attack in Orlando on 12th June was deliberately targeted at gay people. Again, it did not affect me directly. The reality is because I’m 40 and don’t go to nightclubs any more it would have never had a chance of affecting me personally. But it did affect 103 people with whom I share community, nearly half of which are now dead. And that is not fucking acceptable.

This will happen again if we don’t start to stand up to the plague of hate that we are suffering at the hands of extremists. This has nothing to do with guns, this was a hate attack, plain and simple, and it could have happened anywhere. I am sick of reading in the news about the plight of gay people in Muslim countries, and now not even that is good enough; now gay people in western countries are being targeted for public massacre. That is not fucking acceptable, and we cannot ignore it or make excuses for it.

Nobody should be in the least bit comfortable about what happened on that day and nobody should ever forget it. Homophobia in any form and from any source is never justifiable. This direct attack on our community, solidarity, hard-earned freedoms, rights, culture and way of life is way over the line, and we need to stand up to it and say that we will not fucking accept this bullshit any longer, regardless of who we may upset in the process.

When I came out to my parents, I told them I was frightened about what might happen to me because I’m gay. That fear upset them, especially my Mum. She’s long gone now, but it turns out that her upset wasn’t without merit. I need to show her that I’m not frightened, and I won’t fucking accept this.

I’m tired, it’s been a stressful day and I’ve been through a wide range of negative emotions, from anger and rage to frustration, disbelief, disgust, shock and of course grief and sadness. Thank you to all those who reached out to me today, it’s been very touching and it meant a lot to me, especially those whose care I arguably do not deserve.

Here’s the Orlando Eye, photographed the day after the attack. Many other buildings around the world were lit up in the rainbow colours in its wake.


This could have happened to any of us

A man from Illinois makes white crosses for every victim after a mass shooting in the United States. Now it’s Orlando’s turn. He’s made 49 white crosses and drove 1,200 miles to Orlando Health Medical Centre, just a couple of blocks from Pulse nightclub. Most of the victims were taken to this hospital.

I went there one week after the atrocity against gay people in Orlando to see these beautiful crosses and to pay my respects to the victims. It’s the least I could do.

People were solemn, people were silent, people were private in their respect and grief. I watched an elderly Japanese man bow to every single one of the 49 crosses. All I could hear was the water from the waterfall and the wind in the trees. There was no traffic to speak of because of the road closures still in place.

I wrote on one of the crosses, that of Alejandro Martinez, who was only just born at the time I was coming out at university. The man from Illinois will, after a while, deliver each of the crosses to their respective families.

Rest in peace, my 49 brothers and sisters.






University application news

Following on from my news on Facebook and Twitter recently that I had not been accepted onto the MSc course I recently applied for I have subsequently received better news. As you know, in November I wrote about applying to do an MSc at the University of Manchester after attending a postgraduate open day. I completed this application and submitted it at the end of January once I had secured the various academic and professional references I required. It was all submitted online and I received a receipt for it and it gave me a link and a login to a website through which I could check the progress of my application.

However, they didn’t indicate how long I should expect to wait for news on my application, whether that news was good or bad. After a couple of weeks I called the postgraduate admissions department and asked them when I should expect a reply either way and they told me to just keep checking the website, any developments, progress or requests for further information would be posted there.

And so I did, for a further four weeks. All the while during this time it was of course impossible to make any long term plans beyond September and I was turning down a number of work opportunities because they would have interfered with the university course was I to be accepted on it. So after six weeks I’d decided that I’d had enough of this and sent the postgraduate admissions department an e-mail asking why it was taking so long for them to reply to my application and explained why this delay was causing me problems.

They wrote back the next day informing me that I had not been successful in my application because the course entry requirements require a 2(i) bachelors  degree and I only have a 2(ii). I was of course fully aware of this requirement before I applied, but you may remember from my previous post on the subject that I was advised by a member of the computer science department’s staff that my industrial experience would be taken into account to compensate for my 2(ii) degree award. Had I not been told this I wouldn’t have bothered applying in the first place.

Naturally, I wasn’t particularly happy about this, and so once I’d calmed down and finished ranting about it on Facebook I composed this balanced and wholly reasonable e-mail back to them:

Many thanks for your prompt reply.

While I expect have no choice but to accept the decision of the admissions department, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of issues and would invite your comments and advice on them.

Firstly, I was of course fully aware of the published entry requirements for the MSc in Advanced Computer Science and IT Management before I submitted my application. The reason why I proceeded with my application was because I attended the Postgraduate Open Day in November, when I had the opportunity of speaking with a member of staff from the Department of Computer Science. She advised that although I only had a 2(ii) bachelors degree my considerable industry experience gained since graduating in 1999 would also be taken into account.

Are you able to confirm whether or not this was taken into account, as advised, or was the decision purely made based on my BSc award? Had I know that what the lady I spoke to said was not true, or had I been told outright that my application would not be considered with a 2(ii) bachelors degree, I would not have submitted an application in the first place and used my time and effort considering other options. In this regard I consider that you have wasted my time and given me false hope.

Furthermore, if it was a simple case of refusing my application based on this one factor, it would have been very useful if you could have informed me of this decision earlier, rather than six weeks after my application was submitted and only after I pressed the issue with you. With respect, it is unreasonable to expect people to wait ad-infinitum for a decision as it is difficult to plan based on unknown factors.

I look forward to hearing from you with any comments you may have on this matter.

It took a couple of days for them to reply, but the reply came and informed me that industrial experience is only taken into account if you want to apply to do the MSc on a part-time basis rather than a full-time basis over just one year and that this should have been made clear to me at the open day (it wasn’t). They then offered to convert my application to a part-time application, to which I agreed.

The good news is that a few days later I was offered a place on part-time course and today the formal offer letter arrived. It’s the same course with the same content, but taught over a period of up to four years rather than just one, so it depends on what sort of time commitment you can make around your other commitments. The more time you can commit the less time it will take to complete the course, so it’s ideal for people like me who work for themselves rather than having a full time job.

When I was initially not accepted onto the full-time version of the course I did look for “plan B” study options at other institutions around the country. Unfortunately it seems that nowhere else in the country does a masters course with management elements such as the MSc from Manchester, so it’s either that course or a straight computer science course elsewhere. In all respects the Manchester course is ideal, so I am very glad to have received this news and very much look forward to starting in September.


Moving house

For the third time in as many years I am moving house. I’m not moving far, just to another apartment in the same building, so it’s not a full blown affair with packing boxes and a rented van, just one flight of stairs (or the lift for the heavier items).

I’m moving in with my friend Chris and renting out my apartment to another friend. This move is designed to help me reduce my living costs for the next couple of years as I prepare for university, study at university and then decide what I want to do once I’ve graduated next year. This is all assuming of course that I get accepted on the course, I’ve not yet finalised my application because I’m waiting on an academic reference to come through from my previous university.

There’s going to be a bit of a period of adjustment because I’m used to living on my own and both Chris and I seem to have rather a lot of stuff, which needs to be thinned out if it’s going to fit in the apartment, despite the fact that it’s 50% larger than mine! It’ll be another change for my cat too, but she seems to be quite adept at moving house as this too will be her third time in as many years and she didn’t seem to mind too much last time.

So there you are. I will keep you posted as to how things go with everything.


Going back to school

m2010-pg-prospectusOn Wednesday of this week I attended a postgraduate open day at the University of Manchester. The world-renowned department of computer science at this institution runs a one year postgraduate MSc course in Advanced Computer Science and I.T. Management, designed for students with existing degrees in computer science. Parts of the course are taught by the Manchester Business School, well known for its MBA programme.

Why am I doing this, 11 years after graduating? There are several reasons:

  1. The industry I work in and the technology and knowledge that drives it changes rapidly and all the time. I can at this point only imagine how much the content of the average computer science course has changed in the ten years since I graduated. I expect to have my existing skills refreshed and to learn new skills and methodologies.
  2. My managerial skills aren’t particularly strong, which is why the I.T. management parts of the course taught by the Manchester Business School particularly interest me. From what I have researched, the course contains the parts of the MBA that are geared towards I.T. At some point in the future I might consider doing a full MBA, but in the meantime this will serve as an important and appropriate stepping stone.
  3. Returning to university after spending over a decade working will be a completely different experience from my first tenure. With such experience I shall be returning to study with “eyes wide open”. Many of my peers have said that they wish they could re-do their university courses armed with their years of subsequent industry experience.
  4. Teaching and study methods have completely transformed since I graduated and it will be very interesting to see what difference they will make to my learning abilities.

The entry requirements state that a first or an upper second class degree is required. I only have a 2:2 from Aberystwyth University in Computer Science, however, I do also have eleven years of industry experience and during the open day I discussed this with a member of the department’s admissions staff and she said to my delight that this experience would compensate suitably in my application. I also need to provide academic and professional references to support my application, along with “transcripts” from Aberystwyth University, which I believe are basically individual module results.

I intend to get my application finished and submitted before Christmas. It being a postgraduate course I don’t have to use UCAS; the application is direct. I’ll keep you posted, wish me luck!

Update 12/03/2010: I didn’t make the grade, unfortunately, my bachelors degree award was not high enough for their entry requirements, despite my industry experience, which by all accounts has not been taken into account. I’ve asked them for an explanation of why I was told it would be when it hasn’t been, but to all intents and purposes I’ve had my time wasted and been given false hope over this. Still, you live and learn, as always. I’m currently considering other options as to what I’m going to do, both academic and otherwise.