If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or even just a vocal ally, you are likely to have been asked by a well-meaning heterosexual cisgender acquaintance, with their heart full of love and good graces, why we still have Pride. To those who aren’t immersed in the community, it admittedly is pretty easy to look at what we have here in Ireland, and all of the strides towards equality made in recent years, and think “What are they all still out there yelling for? Sure they have marriage, shouldn’t that have been the end of it?”
Well unfortunately, though we would have loved the massive nationwide vote on whether LGBTQ+ deserved to marry their life partners that traumatised many in the community to be the end of the struggle, it revealed itself to be just one piece of that jigsaw named equality.
First things first, the marriage equality referendum (MarRef) didn’t even fix the issues around our right to have a legally recognised family, one of the defining points of difference between a civil partnership and a marriage at the time. Gay couples where one of the parents is biologically related to the child were still struggling to have their legal partners recognised as a parent, to the point where it is considered virtually impossible to get a second parent adoption if you’re gay, until May 2020, a full five years after the referendum.
The government is hesitant to fully enact the changes needed in law to bring about the equality mandated by MarRef, either due to laziness or fear of backlash, and Pride is one of the places where we can physically take up enough space and make enough noise to force the government to listen when we say that is not good enough.
As for surrogacy, one of the few options for gay men who wish to have biological children, it remains incredibly inaccessible and unlegislated in Ireland, and so couples who want to have biological children are forced to go abroad to do so, which introduces a whole new heap of issues with regards second parent adoption, citizenship, and the variety of surrogacy laws that exist worldwide. The government is hesitant to fully enact the changes needed in law to bring about the equality mandated by MarRef, either due to laziness or fear of backlash, and Pride is one of the places where we can physically take up enough space and make enough noise to force the government to listen when we say that is not good enough.
WPATH calls for an informed consent model, where those who seek hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or gender affirmation surgery simply have to consent to that process, while of sound mind, knowing the effects and possible downsides of the treatment.
However, even for the queers who are nowhere near settling down, there are so many reasons we need to continue to fight to make our voices heard. One of the most vocal LGBTQ+ campaigns in Ireland is This Is Me, a campaign which is fighting for Ireland to hold its transgender healthcare system to World Professional Association for Transgender Healthcare (WPATH) standards, a standard that the lead clinic previously, and falsely, claimed to meet. WPATH calls for an informed consent model, where those who seek hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or gender affirmation surgery simply have to consent to that process, while of sound mind, knowing the effects and possible downsides of the treatment.
There are reasons why people are hesitant to introduce this model, fearing regret or that people may rush in or change their mind, however there is little credible evidence to support the claim that this is more likely to happen under informed consent, and it is a vastly less emotionally taxing system than what is currently in place.
Currently, Ireland functions under a diagnostic system, where an individual has to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a psychiatrist before accessing any transition related healthcare. This is true whether you are beginning your transition in Ireland, or have been transitioning for years abroad and have recently moved to Ireland, and need to continue your existing treatment. The way those who have been through the system describe their time with the psychiatrist sounds more akin to an interrogation than an assessment, with irrelevant details honed in on, and deeply personal information pulled to the fore regardless of the patient’s discomfort discussing private matters, such as how they masturbate, or if they have any childhood trauma that could have caused, or that they could be misinterpreting as, their gender dysphoria.
Even simply accessing HRT is a process that can take a trans person years, with several appointments with both a psychiatrist and endocrinologist, for medication that a cisgender man or woman can get prescribed by their GP after a blood test.
Setting aside the emotionally draining, near traumatic nature of the process, getting an appointment is almost impossible, with a wait list of almost two years and several occasions of people ringing up to see where they are on the waiting list, only to be told they’ve been removed, or that they’ve disappeared from the system. Even simply accessing HRT is a process that can take a trans person years, with several appointments with both a psychiatrist and endocrinologist, for medication that a cisgender man or woman can get prescribed by their GP after a blood test.
Finally, the rate of hate crimes in Ireland is not as negligible as most media would have you believe. The vast majority of it goes unreported, and often victims of even violent attacks are afraid that what they went through doesn’t count, because it could have been worse.
There has been a renewed push for hate crime legislation in response to the growing number of attacks, but that really only affects cases that go to trial.
Post MarRef, so many think we are past the point where that can still happen here, because we voted in marriage equality with a two thirds majority, but that is forgetting that a third still voted against, and how virulently hateful the ‘No’ campaign was. That sentiment has not disappeared, it only started to work more quietly, and those who feel they can no longer be openly hateful have learned how to cloak it in more acceptable terms. There has been a renewed push for hate crime legislation in response to the growing number of attacks, but that really only affects cases that go to trial. Without a massive push for education and a renewed focus on shutting down bigotry when we see it, and standing up for others whenever it’s needed, the root cause isn’t addressed, and so the problem will continue to grow.
And that is why we continue to march. That is why every June, we make our voices heard, our presence known, and we remind those who have the luxury of looking away for eleven months of the year that we are still here, we are still fighting, and we will not be silent while there is still work to be done. We are still a long way off from Pride being just a party, just a celebration of all the work that has been done by those who have come before us, just an excuse to have a great time and be thankful that all that hardship no longer has to be endured.
There are still so many of us who have to endure it. We all, every single member of the LGBTQ+ community, no matter how otherwise privileged, still endure it. Whether it’s as simple as having to double check that no one is looking before holding your partner’s hand, or having to go through an interrogation to access healthcare, or fight tooth and nail to have your family recognised, we are all still enduring. And that is why we keep on marching.