Fairytale or a night­mare to walk in an­other’s shoes

Irish Examiner - - News - Joyce Fe­gan

I am not a “fag­got”. I have no earthly idea what it is like to be a gay, bi or trans man or woman in this world. I have no idea what it must have been like to knock on doors be­fore the mar­riage equal­ity ref­er­en­dum and ask­ing strangers to please al­low me to marry my love.

I also have no idea what it must have been like to live in a coun­try, sup­pos­edly my home, where I was not just wrong, but deemed to have done some­thing il­le­gal sim­ply be­cause of who I loved.

But I do know some­thing, I ab­so­lutely and ut­terly love hear­ing Kirsty McColl’s raspy, but melodic voice, an­nounc­ing that it’s Christ­mas to me, with the words: “The boys of the NYPD choir were singing ‘Gal­way Bay’ and the bells were ring­ing out for Christ­mas Day.”

I have never once con­sid­ered the use of the term “fag­got” in Fairytale of New York, un­til this week. My lack of con­sid­er­a­tion is what peo­ple mean when they say “priv­i­lege.” I move through the world as a straight white woman — per­son­ally pro­tected from things such as ho­mo­pho­bia and racism.

So when I heard the furore this week about cen­sor­ing out the term “fag­got” from this beloved Christ­mas song, I was not too ex­er­cised. My lack of ex­cite­ment is be­cause I have lit­tle in­ter­est in en­gag­ing in so­cial me­dia wars that will bring about lit­tle change.

So much of our de­bate to­day cen­tres around priv­i­leged peo­ple be­ing of­fended by marginalised peo­ple’s of­fence.

This week there was more out­rage from those who were of­fended by gay peo­ple tak­ing of­fence to the term “fag­got”. This sense of fragility and dis­com­fort man­i­fests in ac­cu­sa­tions of “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone mad”.

But mov­ing away from that par­tic­u­lar box­ing ring, it can be use­ful to see how ac­tual gay peo­ple feel about it all.

Colm O’Gor­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Ire­land, while ac­knowl­edg­ing that he did not “love the gusto” with which peo­ple sing out the word “fag­got”, ul­ti­mately agreed with Shane McGowan’s po­si­tion.

“Not all char­ac­ters in songs and sto­ries are an­gels or even de­cent and re­spectable, some­times char­ac­ters in songs and sto­ries have to be evil or nasty in or­der to tell the story ef­fec­tively,” the singer-song­writer said.

Comic Oliver Cal­lan also com­mented on the mat­ter, say­ing: “I don’t think any­one in the his­tory of un­kind­ness has ever used the song as an in­spi­ra­tion to be ho­mo­pho­bic.”

Mean­while, theatre di­rec­tor Oon­agh Mur­phy gave her ex­pe­ri­ence of hear­ing the word shouted and sung in bars at this time of year.

“Yep, just an­other queer per­son here to tell you that when you glee­fully shout ‘fag­got’ even if it is one of our favourite Christ­mas songs, it feels op­pres­sive. Thanks for lis­ten­ing and car­ing,” she said.

And while this na­tional con­ver­sa­tion might be harm­less tita­la­tion to some, and up­set­ting to oth­ers, for one man it means dol­lars in the bank ac­count. Fairytale of New York is es­ti­mated, by the Per­form­ing Rights So­ci­ety in Bri­tain, to earn €462,139 in roy­al­ties an­nu­ally.

Re­gard­less, it is of­ten use­ful to walk around in some­one else’s shoes for a while to un­der­stand their ex­pe­ri­ence.

Stills from the video for ‘Fairytale of New York’, fea­tur­ing Shane Mac­Gowan and Kirsty MacColl.

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