In light of the going’s on at Colaiste Eoin Secondary School in Stillorgan, Mary McLaughlin is on hand to offer her few cents…
(Warning – This article contains zero bullshit)
Over the past few years the subject of homophobia in Ireland has played itself out on our telly’s and in our national media.
Even as I write this I like to think we are a forward thinking progressive little rock in the ocean, and yes in comparison to some places like Russia and Syria we would be fairing well in the sexual orientation equality stakes. On the other hand is comparing our attitude towards the gay community to that of countries that have outlawed homosexuality really that helpful in measuring where we should be as a society? Yes, lets pat ourselves on the back for not imprisoning innocent people or murdering members of the gay community as part of a warped religious propaganda machine.
Or we could stop with the back patting and ask what it’s really like to live in Ireland as a gay person. There is homophobia in our society, I have seen it. I think most of us have. Whether it be blatant violent physical or verbal abuse or just using “that’s sooo gay” or “your sooo gay” as a way to describe something or someone. What is it about the gay community that makes people think that using their moniker is ok to use as an insult? I am sure that members of Ireland LGBT community would like to know the answer to that question too.
We have all been taught growing up about the importance of love, remember all of those stories we were read as kids and the movies we watched. Sleeping beauty, Snow White and for the boys “The Princess Bride” (I know you watched it, lads) and what saved the day every time? …Love……Love is all you need. Well, apparently love is all you need ….as long as it’s between a man and a woman. Why does it have to be so specific, who wrote this rule book and what was he/she thinking?
Whilst I can try to understand the impact of homophobia, I have to accept that as a heterosexual female I will never fully grasp what it is to have a core component of who you are degraded to the point where who you are is bandied about as form of insult for others. So with this in mind I asked a friend about his experience of homophobia in our wonderful little country. At first I was almost optimistic when he said “things have improved with homophobia, it’s not as bad as it was”. Promising I thought. So with positive abound I asked him when he last suffered any form of homophobic abuse.
Two weeks ago in his hometown whilst simply trying to go about his day he was called a “gay bastard” but as he says “that’s mild compared to what others are put through”. Surely his accepting attitude towards those who are un-accepting of who he is should teach us about the reality of homophobia. When did you ever hear of a gay man or woman heckling someone on the street, roaring “you straight bastard”.
Honestly I never have.
So why should anyone in society not only accept that they will be discriminated against but actually expect to be discriminated against. If you are a heterosexual person reading this, close your eyes for a second and think of walking hand in hand with your significant other, that over the top public affection that seems to bubble up when we find a new love interest. Now imagine you are in a same sex relationship, would you feel comfortable, safe and equal enough to be publicly affectionate with your partner? Why shouldn’t you be?
So after talking at length with my friend I was driving along and listening to the radio and the guys on the show were talking about the fact the some gay orientated bars and clubs don’t allow photography inside as there are fears that people in the premises who aren’t openly gay could be inadvertently “out-ed” by a random photograph. How hard must it be to live in the shadows like that, only able to be yourself behind the closed doors of a bar, hidden in the safety and collective acceptance of the community you can only embrace in secret? We owe it to the men and women who are afraid to be in the world just being who they are to support them, let them know that whilst we respect their sexuality we also know there’s a lot more to a person than their sexual orientation and we value them for all that they are, our family, friends, neighbours
Here are five shocking statistics according to GLEN.ie (gay lesbian equality network) who carried out a survey in 2013
• Almost 1/3 of all respondents (31%) said yes to have been physically/sexually attacked or threatened with violence at home or elsewhere for any reason in the past 5 years.
• 55% of respondents reporting being personally harassed in the past five years, compared with the EU LGBT average which stands at 47%.
• 53% avoid certain places or locations for fear of harassment or violence, with the majority reporting avoiding public places and transport.
• 82% of respondents failed to report physical/sexual attacks or threats of violence
• 96% failed to report instances of harassment
So the next time we watch the news or see a headline like this , “ISIS Barbarians Throw Two Gay Men to Their Deaths” let’s remember that even here in our country gay men and women are still being abused, assaulted, insulted and excluded. So it’s not time to pat ourselves on the back just yet. We still have some work to do, but we are on the right track and we can make it better.
These HATE CRIMES can be reported on www.glen.ie and you don’t have to be gay to report a crime against the gay community, you just have to be willing to do the right thing.
1, that’s the number. 1 homophobic crime is 1 too many.
Love is one of the most positive life affirming aspects of life. It offers us comfort, passion, safety and a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and should be celebrated, protected and championed.
Mary McLaughlin is a writer for liberal.ie