Let’s celebrate Pride — in the name of love
IT’S Gay Pride this weekend and in fairness the LGBT community has lots to feel pretty proud of, of late. It’s just two years since Ireland became the first country to bring in same sex marriage by popular vote. And our first openly gay Taoiseach (were there secretly gay ones?), Leo Varadkar, took office on June 14 this year — becoming one of only a tiny handful of gay premiers around the world.
There was some argument here, about whether or not it was a big deal that a gay man had become the leader of the Irish Government — with many people who don’t like Leo stressing that it was not because he was gay and attempting to dismiss his sexuality as irrelevant to the broader discussion around whether or not he would be a good Taoiseach.
But of course it is a big deal. In the same way it was a big deal when Barack Obama was voted in as the first black president of the US or in the same way it would have been a big deal had Hillary Clinton been elected the first woman. It is a big deal not because being gay, black or a woman has any effect on your ability to do your job. It’s a big deal because we know at one point prejudice and bigotry would have meant that it would have been impossible
‘LGBT community has lots to feel pretty proud of ’
for a gay, black or female politician to be voted to high office. So the fact that a gay person has been elected Taoiseach says we have moved beyond some of the bigotry that was only recently an integral part of our society.
And lest we forget that such bigotry was entirely genuine, or overly compliment ourselves on the fact that we have now progressed beyond the bad old days of homophobia, we should remember it is still a very real phenomenon.
Only recently, The George pub, a well-known gay bar in Dublin, was daubed with homophobic graffiti. And perhaps more disgustingly, there was some particularly horrible commentary on same sex marriages, following the death of Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, wife of Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone.
One former DCU academic sent a group email to colleagues following her death that started by saying he had known and worked with her for 40 years and she was a lovely woman, then went on to describe in an extremely self-righteous, sanctimonious, manner nonetheless how morally wrong her whole life was — more or less.
What struck me about that email, which went viral, was that even knowing a person for 40 years and seeing that she was a lovely person, wasn’t enough to put a dent in that deep-seated prejudice.
There was clearly nothing she could have done to change some people’s fixed view that her life and her marriage wasn’t somehow lesser to that of straight people.
And these people — who appear to think they were on the moral high ground — didn’t even have the decency to respectfully keep their nasty, pious views to themselves at the time of her death.
I should point out that some of the people who made disparaging remarks about Dr Gilligan and her marriage, after her death were actually gay.
I think this is perhaps the saddest aspect of all with regard to the insidious nature of homophobic bigotry — that it got inside the minds of gay people themselves and left some of them, like many people who’ve been bullied or abused, with a deep sense of self-loathing, so that they are more aggressively homophobic in certain ways than even the general population.
So homophobia is still alive and well in the Emerald Isle and there’s still a way to go to, despite all the clear and obvious advances that have been made, until we truly are a nation of equals in all senses of that word.
In the meantime, however, this is a weekend for forgetting about all that negativity and instead revelling in how far the LGBT community has come. From what was once the love that dared not speak its name back in Oscar Wilde’s day, to the underground gay scene of the 1970s and 1980s, to the now vibrant, open, inclusive and mostly tolerant and supportive society we have today.
Everything’s coming up rainbows.
The love that dared not speak its name in Oscar Wilde’s day