Let’s cel­e­brate Pride — in the name of love

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - DR CIARA KELLY -

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.

@cia­rakel­ly­doc

The love that dared not speak its name in Os­car Wilde’s day

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