Your Questions Answered, Mr. Delaney

It bothers me when newspapers publish discriminatory bile just for the sake of being a bit scandalous. See Eamon Delaney’s contribution to this weekend’s Independent. You see, I don’t believe that the people in control of the Irish Independent agree with Delaney. And I’m certain that they don’t think this is a useful argument or an important addition to our national discussion. They can recognise as well as the rest of us that it’s a bizarre and badly written ramble, indicative of a lazy and disordered mind. It’s a poorly glued collage of tartan shirts, Rough Guides, late night gyms, and Guardian columnists, which Delaney seems to think is an accurate portrayal of the LGBT community.

I’ve decided not to take his inane argument apart word-by-word. Instead I’ve decided to respond another way. In the article Delaney uses nine question marks. That, combined with his overwhelming ignorance suggests to me that he’s actually looking for answers. So here they are.

1. For example, why is civil partnership not enough, and why do gays also want marriage, a surely traditional heterosexual facility, which gays used to see as patriarchal, and ‘straight’?

See how he’s cleverly woven two totally different questions into one? In answer to the first: Civil Partnership isn’t enough for two reasons. Firstly, because it does not come with as many legal or financial benefits as marriage and so gay couples are still practically disadvantaged. Secondly, marriage is about more than what you can get out of it. It’s about the recognition and support of your community for the relationship at the heart of your life and experience. Civil Partnership simply doesn’t have the same social and emotional significance.

Then there’s a problem with the premise of the second question. You see, the reason marriage is a “traditional heterosexual facility” is that traditionally it’s a facility only available to heterosexual people. Gay people aren’t looking to enter into heterosexual marriages, and I’m confident that point when women marry women and men marry men the institution overall won’t be quite so straight.

2. But isn’t this part of the problem? Many gays want to have it both ways. Thus gay magazines are full of ads endorsing late-night gyms, sex lines and a freewheeling sexual activity which would be dismissed as sleazy in heterosexual culture, but we also have articles that suggest a yearning for bourgeois respectability.

I’m not really sure what ‘the problem’ is. Nor was I aware of magazines having a sexual orientation. And on the topic of confusion, what on earth is a late night gym? I read GCN and I’m still in the dark.

Incidentally, I also read women’s magazines and most issues will have articles featuring tips on how to get the perfect orgasm, while also featuring things like true life stories about marriage and parenting. Some heterosexual people call sex lines. Some heterosexual people are parents. Many heterosexual people engage in fair amounts of “freewheeling sexual activity” in their twenties and then as they get older feel a desire for marriage and family.

We don’t actually consider it sleazy, but as a reflection of human diversity and normal personal progression. Why can’t the same diversity exist among gay people? Again I ask, what exactly is ‘the problem’?

3. But no, Charlie went to the Alternative Families show in the UK and saw all the gay dads with their children. It’s just the same for him, it seems, and, he “stood around and chatted about the absurdity and irrelevance of the ‘biological question'”. Oh, please. What about breastfeeding?

Firstly, there are “gays” with breasts, despite Delaney’s seeming disbelief in the L, B and T. Secondly, given that many (good heterosexual) families to use formula rather than breastfeeding, we can conclude that this isn’t an essential biological connection between mother and child.

If it was, then what would we do about adoptive families, single fathers or mothers who had their children through surrogacy? As is frequently the case with bigoted commentators, Delaney presents us with the false dichotomy of children being raised either by an uppity gay couple or by “natural heterosexual parents”.  Our obligation isn’t to show that gay parents are “totally equivalent” to their nuclear counterparts. Society is populated by a diverse range of family types, all of which are capable of loving and nurturing happy, healthy children. In “a crazy concession to PC culture” I would contend that breastfeeding is not vital to the full development of the individual.

4. Like, when did the gays and lesbian community become the ‘LGBT’, an acronym that also includes Bisexual and Transgender?

The acronym first came into circulation in 1988, and began to be commonly used in the 1990s.

5. Bisexual?

A commonly accepted term for those attracted to people of both genders.

6. Isn’t that reminiscent of the loose Seventies sexual experimentation?

I wouldn’t have thought so. Still, your reminiscences are your own I suppose.

7. How many bisexuals are there?

In the world? More than one, fewer than seven billion.

8. And will the plain people of Ireland be happy with legalising rights for, and spending money on, all of this?

I was born in Ireland. I grew up in Dublin but my extended family is based in Co. Mayo. I speak fluent Irish, I hope to raise my children in Ireland, I’m proud of being Irish and of the Irish community. I sometimes eat my dinner in the middle of the day and am sometimes attracted to other women. I am the plain people of Ireland and Eamon Delaney doesn’t get to tell me otherwise.

Like most members of the LGBT community I’m not about to forget that we’re in the minority. I’m painfully aware of it. But I believe it the people of Ireland a whole lot more than the Irish Independent does. We signed the declaration of Human Rights, we’ve facilitated greater and greater freedoms for every minority group in our society. For the third time running we’ve elected a Human Rights campaigner as our President. We have a remarkable reputation for friendliness, generosity and compassion.

So, to answer the question. Yes. I believe that they will.

9. Gay quotas?

Sure, they might be worth considering.

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10 thoughts on “Your Questions Answered, Mr. Delaney

  1. Great post. It’s a sad affair that so much of the Irish media facilitates the circulation of bigoted and homophobic bile dressed up as “opinion.”. I think that allowing these columnists a soapbox for views is an easy (and lazy) way to get site traffic, well-balanced and rational articles on gay rights simply won’t attract enough attention. It was only published yesterday and it already has 402 comments, most of which with Delaney.

    I live in hope that these bigots masquerading as journalists will disappear soon enough, but as long as they are employed and their rants inspire debate, sadly I can’t see it happening.

  2. “And will the plain people of Ireland be happy with legalising rights for, and spending money on, all of this?”

    Speaking as a fairly plain person, yes. We’re not an economy, we’re a society, and I’d be delighted if my hard-earned tax money went to legalising rights for people.

  3. Have to say, this piece is quite a homonormative response.

    Like, expanding hetero marriage to include same-sex couples doesn’t make it any less a normative form of relationship and doesn’t make it any less exclusionary and oppressive from the perspective of those (queer or straight) who don’t want that form of relationship. But it does split the queer community along the lines of that normative standard.

    In fact it’s precisely the “late-night gyms [by which I presume he means bathhouses], sex lines and a freewheeling sexual activity” which are most under threat from queer assimilationism. c.f. http://www.gayshamesf.org/sexinbars.html

    Also, deploying white privilege and nationalism in defence of gay civil rights, however well-intentioned, is still pretty reactionary. Some of us aren’t the plain people of Ireland and don’t want to be. Plenty of queers in this country also have to deal with racism and the threat of deportation, including several friends of mine. Some of us hate nationalism and don’t want to play up to reactionary ideologies in order to justify our opposition to exclusion from society. (I.e. please stop pinkwashing nationalism.)

  4. Pingback: It's the Eamon Delaney round-up! | gaelick

  5. Thanks for the supportive responses! The last few days have shown, I hope, that the rational and tolerant can take back control from people like Eamon Delaney.

    Also, I considered bringing in wet nurses, but it was a bit off-topic, and once I start talking about Anicent Rome there’s no stopping me. Thanks for bringing them in for me!

  6. Just picking up on rocknbanter’s comment on wet nurses and the Ancient Romans. Hell, for most of the second half of the last millennium there was a move to actively deisassociate breast feeding from motherhood. Those who could afford it would hire a peasant woman to do it for them as it was considered bad for the mother’s health.

    It’s only really in the last half century or so it’s begun to be advocated as a beneficial thing and still that’s only really taken off in the last twenty years.

    Harmless bit of nitpicking there, but it’s so east to tear apart his entire argument it’s a bit of fun to focus on the bits and pieces.

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