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GLEN Takes The High Road

It was sad that GLEN felt compelled to wind down after the recent reporting of untidy financial practices. By any measure, they were one of the most successful lobbying organisations in the state’s history, up there with the Catholic Church or vintners’ associations. You get the feeling, despite well-meant parting statements about the good gay fight still going on, that the organisation had lost its drive since the success of the marriage equality campaign.

I hope that GLEN’s records, bound to be pretty extensive for an organisation that was founded in 1988, are preserved and find their way into a protected archive. They are as much a part of Irish gay history as any change in the law or election of a gay politician.

The Good Gay Fight

Another thing that was set up in 1988, of course, is GCN. For most media made of ink on wood pulp, these are heartbreaking times. The old model where advertising revenue paid for journalists has collapsed and the replacements are all too often clickbait trash. Journalism is becoming harder to maintain, both as a full-time job and as an important part of a healthy society, but we should be confident that the new-look gcn will endure.

The good gay fight is not over. We may be in a time when gay Taoisigh are a real possibility, we may have almost all the same rights as other citizens, but gays are still at risk of mental illness because of society’s hostility, drug and alcohol misuse are much more frequent among gays, gays are still attacked on the streets, rates of STIs are increasing once again and what about services for an aging gay population? gcn still has a task to report these things, to be an alternative and credible source of information and comfort for LGBT people in Ireland, even as the world changes faster than ever.

Proud of Pride

Every year during Pride month, there are questions about why it still happens. Non-gay people have different shades of opinion on this. There are the ‘not quite homophobic’ with the sullen viewpoint,: ‘Well, you got everything you wanted – equal rights, marriage, Drag Race slang in everyday use – why are you still marching about like spoilt students?’ More hostile types, if they think beyond #Where’s My Straight Pride?, use Pride events, with their sometimes sexualised exuberance, as evidence that the gays aren’t quite serious or grown-up.

Thankfully, in Ireland at least, if non-gay people think about Pride at all, many see it as a big gay party; a blast of summer colour and noise. It’s a positive example for a large part of the population – liberal Ireland if you like – who enjoy the image that a celebratory Pride or marriage equality creates of the country in other places.

Pride has its queer critics too, of course. Among older, traditionally left-wing LGBTs, there’s unease that the whole event has been so sold-out to sponsors with cash and PR agencies that there’s no longer any room for the kind of radical discombobulation (of gender or otherwise) that was Pride’s purpose back in the day.

At the other end of the political spectrum, there are the log cabin types who have fully taken advantage of the opportunities of gay liberation to integrate as hard as they can. Completely understandable – after all gays are as much about class, education, employment and hometown as they are about their sexuality – but Pride, with its celebration of difference, not to mention exposing so many leather daddies and drag queens to the general public, doesn’t fit their view of themselves in a post-liberation world.

A Beacon of Tolerance

Media around the world got very excited by the news that we now have an out gay man as prime minister – another first for liberal Ireland, joining the likes of Iceland, Belgium and Luxembourg in the ranks of tolerant states. It was entertaining to see how some elements of the mainstream media, eager to present an illusion of choice, created an image of Simon Coveney as rural, traditional, family and community-oriented and one of Varadkar as urban, global and self-reliant – cornflakes v smashed avos for breakfast. For the average punter of course, the real differences between two fans of endless post-recession austerity are probably just as trivial.

While it is a significant event, an historical marker in Ireland’s rapid journey from benighted hagiocracy to world leader in gay rights, what should we expect of a gay Taoiseach? Is there an assumption that an openly gay man – regardless of privilege– is naturally going to be more aware of the pain and poverty visited on so many citizens since the recession, that continues even as the country is reported to be booming again?

I guess the mark of a society with a mature relationship with its gay citizens is that it doesn’t make those kind of assumptions and the gayness of a Taoiseach is far less an indicator of what he will do than his political beliefs or allegiances.

This article appears in the 331 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 331 Issue of GCN