(Sing if you’re) Glad to be Voting Yes to Marriage Equality

I’ve been listening to this song a lot in the last week, pretty much any time a ‘No’ campaigner makes one of those comments that feels like a punch in the chest. Loudly singing along not only provides an outlet for unproductive rage, it’s also a valuable reminder of the historical context in which this campaign is taking place.

This is an exhilarating time to be an LGBT person in Ireland. After decades of exclusion, for the first time ever we have the opportunity to reach out to our families and communities, to share our pride in who we are and, together, to stand for a better future and a warmer, more accepting Ireland.

Unfortunately, a month out from the marriage referendum, I think the joy is fading from the ‘Yes’ campaign. I’m not surprised. As May 22nd draws closer, our opponents voices are getting harsher. And as ‘No’ campaigners ask ever more insidious questions as to whether we are abnormal, anti-social, or threatening to children, we are forbidden to defend ourselves with a simple truth: that those who oppose equality for LGBT people are homophobic.

Fifteen months ago, by threatening legal action against RTÉ and Rory O’Neill, members of Ireland’s extreme conservative establishment sent a clear warning to LGBT people and their allies: you are not entitled to the phrase homophobia, you are not entitled to your anger, you are not entitled to speak, or live, your truth. This has been endlessly reiterated since, most recently in the attack that’s been launched against Joe Caslin’s mural on George’s Street. The message, again, is clear: gay people should stay quiet and stop taking up space.

The worst thing is, I think they’ve gotten away with it. As LGBT campaigners we have allowed ourselves to be intimidated, we are running a campaign whose first goal is not to step on anyone’s toes. Terrified by the prospect of losing the support of the “soft middle”, the campaign has become about smiling nicely, saying unthreatening things about love, not being too flamboyant and not, under any circumstances, expressing anger against what Mary McAleese calls “the architecture of homophobia”.

To paraphrase Panti herself, instead of striving to be the being the best gays possible, we’re checking ourselves, trying not to “give the gay away”. And to me, that feels oppressive. What’s more, it loses sight of the concept that has, for nearly half a century, been at the heart of queer politics — Pride.

Right now, all the talk seems to be about what will happen if we lose the soft middle and, as a result, the referendum. But why not turn that on its head? If we convince ordinary, decent voters with an inspiring vision of the society we’re trying to create, we’re looking at a huge victory, a loud and clear statement that — just two decades after homosexuality was decriminalised — shame no longer has a place in our families, our communities, our politics or our society.

There has, rightly, been a lot of focus on today’s young LGBT people and on future generations of children who deserve to know love and acceptance. However, we also speak for another silent demographic, the generations of gay people for whom leaving the closet was never an option, the people driven from the country by violence, hatred and criminalisation, and the hundreds of gay men who should be with us today but fell victim to the AIDS epidemic, often stigmatised by their communities and left to die in isolation.

For me, and for many young gay people, that past is almost unimaginable, but its legacy continues. Just as future generations deserve our hope and our support, past generations deserve our anger and our pride. This is a fight, between silence and speech, between hatred and love, between shame and pride and, in the most severe cases, between life and death.

We have one month left. Let’s make it a party.

Want to show your support for the Yes Equality campaign? Click here to donate or here to find out more about volunteering.

Homosexual sex is a crime in India. Again.

What a terrible day. An emerging superpower, home to well over a billion people, taking such an appallingly retrograde step. My thoughts are with the Indian LGBT community.

NDTV reports:

The Supreme Court today said gay sex between consenting adults remains a criminal offence, dealing a severe blow to the largely closeted homosexual community in India.

The top court today said that the Delhi High court’s 2009 order decriminalising homosexuality is constitutionally unsustainable.

Activists say the onus is now on Parliament to legislate on homosexuality and repeal Section 377, a British pre-colonial era law that banned “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Conviction carries a fine and a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

Although prosecutions have been rare, gay activists have said that the police used the law to harass and intimidate members of their community.

Transphobia Wins Tropfest

As a card-carrying member of the PC Police, I’m bemused and, frankly, disgusted by the film that has won Tropfest (apparently the world’s largest short film festival). If you take a moment to watch it, you’ll notice that ‘Bamboozled’ is blatantly transphobic and homophobic. As though that wasn’t enough, its punchline involves broadcasting the victim of non-consensual sex on live TV.

Basically, a guy called Peter meets his ex-girlfriend who has transitioned and is now a man called Harry. He’s initially a bit bemused, but they go drinking together, have a romantic evening with lots of booze and kebabs, and end up in bed. So far so humourless, stereotyped and generic. But THEN, when they wake up in the morning, Harry reveals that he’s not actually trans at all and a camera crew bursts into the room with the actual ex, still definitely a woman, and they all yell and laugh at Peter, pull off the sheets and film him naked. It turns out Harry has been the victim of a Candid Camera-type show and his vengeful ex-girlfriend has orchestrated the whole thing. It’s funny, see. Do you get it? It’s funny. You know, like Helen says:

AND NOW, YOU SLEPT WITH A GUY! Hahahahahahaha

Yes, because a man sleeping with another man is the worst thing that could ever happen.

The director, Matt Hardie, has refused to acknowledge that his film is offensive and plays on intensely dangerous stereotyping, explaining that “if we’re always worried about who we’re offending, we’re never going to make anything decent… ” You know what, Matt? You haven’t made anything decent. This film has no comedic value. The “you’ve been bamboozled” trope is incredibly tired and wasn’t really that funny to begin with. All you’ve done is add a twist that plays on incredibly harmful perceptions of trans and gay people. Incidentally, the Tropfest judges should also have to answer for this.

What you’re telling us, Matt, is that the LGBT community is a joke, a punchline, to be used at will by cheap filmmakers like you. Your film is a big in-joke for all the cis, heterosexual homophobes and transphobes out there who get to laugh together at how terrible it would be to have sex with people of the same gender and, by extension, to mock those who do. If there’s an extra layer of comedic subtlety that I’m missing, please do let me know.

If you want to produce something hilarious and thought-provoking exploring the reality of LGBT experience, I look forward to it. For now, your jokes are bad, they’re harmful, and I’m offended by them. 

Pokarekare Ana

New Zealand’s first same-sex weddings took place today. An excellent reason to revisit the breathtaking moment in April when the parliament voted to amend the Marriage Act and the public gallery burst into a Maori love song. I can’t be the only one who weeps uncontrollably whenever I watch it…right?

 

It’s a tough news week, but the world is often beautiful and people often good. Honest.

Allies, Assholes and Morgan Freeman

 

This has appeared time and again in my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the last few days. Like everyone else, when I read this in Morgan Freeman’s voice it’s spoken with a world-weary wisdom. However, when I read it in my voice, I’m not sure I support the sentiment.

In our society, in many ways, homosexuality is scary.

Those brought up in religious homes have a lifetime of association of homosexuality with sin, hell and disgust.

All of us have been raised within stringent gender roles, and very often criticised if we veered outside them.

Many of us went to schools where ‘gay’ was the catch-all term for anything bad or distasteful.

Irresponsible voices in the media still conflate homosexuality and AIDS.

Most governments still send a message that homosexuality is regrettable through their failure to legislate for marriage equality, adoption and protection of ‘gay families’.

Coming out is an achievement because it’s really frightening. It’s reasonable to be afraid of rejection by family or friends, judgement from co-workers or acquaintances, of verbal or physical attacks if you express your sexuality in public, of losing access to the social ideal of marriage and family.

For a parent, the prospect of these challenges for one’s child is frightening.

Obviously, I don’t think there’s any excuse for aggressive behaviour or denial of rights based on this fear. Those who engage in overt acts of homophobia and incite others to do the same are monstrous and their actions are unforgivable.

However, there’s a reason that so often LGBT equality campaigns focus on the personal stories of gay people, and depend on their advocates to come out and put a face on homosexuality. Overcoming the messages that have been forced on you for your entire life is difficult. Yet vast numbers of parents who initially struggle with a child’s sexuality go on to becoming entirely and defiantly supportive. I think they should be commended for that.

It hurts like hell anytime some homophobia happens to you, I know that. But many of those we call homophobes live with discomfort with gay family or friends, never get the opportunity to befriend and fully interact with gay people or, at worst, live repressed and unhappy lives unable to acknowledge their own sexuality. They are also victims of the hateful legacy of homophobia. I think that we all benefit if before condemning them we create an opportunity for them to jump on the enlightened, gay-friendly bandwagon and become allies.

Sadly, people are less likely to be your allies if you’ve previously called them assholes.

Out Magazine’s Subversive Celebration of Successful White Men

This morning I read OUT Magazine’s annual OUT100, which they describe as their “annual salute to the year’s most inspiring [LGBT] people.” The list is beautifully photographed and compiled, and includes all sorts of people; soldiers, models, chefs, artists, journalists, students.

It also includes 19 women. Of the one hundred most inspiring LGBT people of the year, apparently less than a fifth are female. Also, for the record, there are six people on the list who aren’t white.

Thanks a heap community that primarily defines itself as tolerant and inclusive.

P.S. For the purposes of this post, anyone the magazine describes using feminine pronouns is considered to be a woman.

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.