A friend tells me she has been going out at night with her garden loppers to cut down the referendum posters now clinging to every lamppost in her neighbourhood. She believes in the right of the people who put them there to publicise their views; it’s just that every single one of the posters is urging a No vote. Where are the Yes posters, she asks? Aren’t we supposed to hear both sides of the argument equally?
There are lots of paranoid-sounding stories circulating about how the anti-repeal side are being lavishly funded by right-wing US Christian groups, often deviously via sudden steep increases in private donations to non-Church religious organisations here.
Whatever the truth, the anecdotal evidence of day-to-day travel around the city suggests that there are far more No posters. The N11 from Foxrock through Donnybrook was No all the way last Saturday, for example. What’s more, whoever is putting up these posters seems untroubled by trivialities like facts – how did they distort statistics (let alone language) to come up with ‘1 in 5 babies in England are aborted’, for instance?
Should we worry that the No side might be better funded? Maybe not: we saw how noble the Irish electorate can be when the majority saw past prejudice to the truth of personal experience with the marriage equality referendum three years ago. This time, however, the government sponsoring the referendum seem even less inclined to put its energy behind it, and abortion, despite the horror stories the current legal situation creates every day, remains something Ireland is deeply ambivalent about. Perhaps the sudden upsurge in donations to the Yes side, such as the recent record-breaking crowd-funding camapign by Togerher For Yes, will rebalance things, both on those lamp posts and in voters’ intentions.
FORGETTING AND FORGIVING
New Zealand recently became the latest country to join the select list of places to enact so-called Turing laws. These are usually retrospective pardons for gay men convicted in the past for breaking anti-sodomy laws. They are named after Alan Turing, the gay English mathematician whose creation of one of the first effective computers gave the anti-Nazi coalition a powerful weapon that brought World War II to an end many months if not years earlier than may otherwise have happened.
He was a bona fide war hero. However, his achievement, which saved the lives of so many people, wasn’t enough to save him from ostracism, chemical castration and his eventual suicide, when the authorities had got what they needed from him. A pardon issued by the UK government decades later seems like poor recompense for his treatment.
Surely the whole idea of pardoning gay men for historical convictions is arseways? A pardon is about forgiving a sin, but is that the right way to deal with historical injustice? Shouldn’t it be gay men, who were treated so harshly by society and its laws, doing the pardoning?
Last year, a Labour bill to pardon the 2,000 or so gay men convicted of crimes under the Victorian-era anti-sodomy laws that existed here before 1993 was debated in the Seanad. Most politicians and media types who noticed agreed it was a ‘good thing to do’ – a symbolic societal expiation of past sins. We’re all equal now, it implies; look, we’re even fixing history to show just how equal we are.
There are lots of stories circulating about how the anti-repeal side are being lavishly funded by right-wing US Christian groups.
Some people will disagree, if not with the wrong-headed but well-meaning intention, then with the priority. It’s easy, after all, to forgive past sins, especially if the sinned against sinners are dead and therefore beyond seeking material recompense. The harder expiation of injustice would be to fix the present, to make this a society where young LGB and especially T people don’t carry the burden of homophobia, both subtle and outrageous. Y’know the kind of place? Where teaching kids concepts like consent or respect for difference don’t seem like radical ideas?
Much more likely though will be a ‘pardon’ for all those men in Ireland’s benighted past who were punished, degraded or worse. Maybe it’s lucky for Ireland that most of them are no longer around to accept it.
SERVING UP TOO MUCH REALNESS
It’s hard to say this, but I think I might be getting a bit sick of Drag Race. I still love Mama Ru’s gamut of emotions, so dependably sashaying all the way from A to B, and the hot-gun editing to create the melodramatic fakery of the werk-room remains glorious. But how did a show that was about magical transformation and helping the queens develop their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent become so much more often about re-enforcing stereotypes with a definite bang of bigotry?
How many of the black queens have ‘flava’? How many of the ‘big girls’ – in the fattest country on earth – are deemed exceptional only because they confound anti-fat prejudice? How do the producers stand by not allowing transsexual women to enter? In season ten, the most non-American drag queens, Miss Vanjie and Yuhua Hamasaki, were among the first to exit – and the remaining bunch seem to have split along race lines – hardly the nicest of looks.