There is an article in today’s Irish Independent on Sunday that you just wonder how on earth did it get published. It is almost as if the opinion writer Eamon Delaney was preparing a piece just in case David Norris instead of Michael D. Higgins had been elected President.
The first paragraph tells you enough that this isn’t going to be an LGBT friendly piece:
“As the cliche goes, some of my best friends are gay. I used to live in a very gay area, the West Village in New York. Indeed, enjoying their nightlife and cultural atmosphere, I was even accused of ‘trading’ off the fun, with my copycat denim jacket and tartan shirt, while not actually joining them.”
Wow! Wearing denim jackets and denim shirts marks you out as gay in the USA. Has anyone told the rodeo stars or is Brokeback Mountain the norm rather than the exception? Talk about cliche, it isn’t the first one that is offensive so much as the thought that the writer things he can become gay!
He carries on:
“I’ve recently begun to get impatient with the endless trumpeting of gay ‘identity’, and the growing appetite for more and more rights and privileges.”
The rights we have been looking for are equal rights, the privileges are merely ones that heterosexual people take for granted. We’d love to expand the right of straight men like Eamon to buy cocktails if they want, but they already can. Or to go dancing with people of the same gender, but this is how the Jewish and Muslim community already dance at weddings.
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in the Republic in 1993 and in Northern Ireland in 1982. Anti-discrimination legislation only came into being in 2004 in the Republic, 2003 in the UK. Civil Partnerships only became legal earlier this year in the Republic but since 2004 in Northern Ireland.
Mr Delaney thinks that the LGBT community, actually his word is ‘gays’, “want to increasingly change mainstream culture to suit them”. Now replace his word gay with blacks, or jews, or any other minority in the following paragraph and see how it reads:
“I’m not being reactionary and I’m all for gay rights and an end to prejudice and discrimination, and always have, but at this stage it seems as if the tables have turned and a minority community — the gays — want to increasingly change mainstream culture to suit them.”
See the thing is while people, see a minority as not being part of the mainstream therein lies the problem. The fact that he sees that the LGBT community are not currently considered ‘mainstream’ means that there is still work to be done for equality to be a natural state. The recent reports into homophobic bullying, the recent comments from people in politics both north and south showing a them and us attitude to LGBT rights shows that things are not normal and the LGBT community is not see as those by many. The fact indeed that in his article Delaney uses the word ‘gay’ 25 times but LGBT a total of once and that in a derogatory manner as follows:
“And there are other things about the growing gay rights movement which make outsiders impatient and uneasy. Like, when did the gays and lesbian community become the ‘LGBT’, an acronym that also includes Bisexual and Transgender?
“Sorry, but this is broadening the boundaries in a way that makes many of us understandably sceptical.
“Bisexual? Isn’t that reminiscent of the loose Seventies sexual experimentation? How many bisexuals are there? And will the plain people of Ireland be happy with legalising rights for, and spending money on, all of this?”
Actually no! What it shows by us including the bi-sexuals and transgender shows that we know there is a struggle to be recognised as being in a sexual minority. Those who are bi-sexual face all manner of issues, especially when changing the gender of their current partner, indeed when re-entering a mixed sex relationship it was something at the time I referred to as going back in. While we also recognise that not all transgendered individuals are Lesbian, Gay or Bi, we also realise that we don’t want to leave them behind. They are an even small minority that the LGBs of this world, but if the LGB community lend their voice to the Ts so that their issues are taken seriously they will be more quickly.
There are many debates within the community about why the Ts are included and how some of the LGBs don’t know enough about the issues that Ts face. But there are those who recognise that with the platform of one set the needs of the other can also be heard.
What I am sceptical about is just how LGBT friendly Mr Delaney really is. He clearly doesn’t seem to have moved on from the time he enjoyed their company in ‘the village’ in New York all those years ago. He hasn’t kept up with the issues faced by the LGBT community in the island of Ireland, something that is clear from the language and lack of understanding he shows through what he writes.
Forgive the cliche, but I think he once met someone who was gay and was quite a good laugh and a very supportive individual. But he has never talked to that one gay acquaintance, nor any other gay acquaintance in depth about the issues they face in their family, their workplace, the church, out on the streets of Dublin, Belfast or Ballywhatever in rural Ireland.