Welcome to our annual weddings issue. Every year for this issue, we interview real couples who tied the knot about their relationships and their big day out. It’s always wonderful to hear so many positive stories, to witness lesbian, gay and bisexual people celebrating their love. I’m from a generation who never even imagined that we’d be accepted and endorsed in this way in Ireland, a generation that never heard gay love stories, who were given the message that being gay was a lonely existence.
Nowadays, on some level, we take this acknowledgement of our relationships for granted, as if it’s always been this way. For the couples who do walk down the aisle, however, the day itself brings the privilege of being able to marry into stark relief. As one of the men we interviewed in this issue says, we may be able to get married now, but “it’s not over yet”.
What he means is that the struggle of LGBT+ people is not over. In this issue, alongside so many stories told to us by happy same-sex couples, there’s a starkly diff erent story of a bisexual woman living in Ireland. Clarice Mhonderwa is from Zimbabwe, where homophobia is so rife that a survey this year found that 50 per cent of gay men in Zimbabwe had been physically assaulted and 64 per cent had been disowned by their families. 27 per cent of lesbians also reported disownment.
Clarice has lived in the direct provision (DP) system for three years, waiting for her application for asylum to be decided upon. Just as she was being interviewed for this issue, she was told that her application had been turned down.
Since we launched our Seeking Sanctuary series three issues ago, in which we publish the stories of LGBT+ asylum seekers living in the DP system, have learned a lot, not only about the terrible circumstances these people are fl eeing from, but also about the diffi cult conditions they live under when they get to Ireland. I’ve heard stories of individuals who have been asked by immigration offi cials what their favourite Madonna song is, so that they can prove they’re gay. I’ve heard of people who practically live on the streets during the day rather than be in their DP lodgings, because they’re being bullied and rejected by other people in the system, many of whom come from the same homophobic countries that LGBT+ asylum seekers are feeling from. A few months ago we heard of the death of a trans woman who was put in all-male DP accommodation in Galway.
These people are living in the same Ireland where same-sex couples can marry and have their relationships recognised in our Constitution. believe their continued experience of homophobia is a human rights failure, and it’s something we need to start making noise about. We are rightfully horrifi ed by human rights abuses of LGBT+ people in countries where it is dangerous to be queer, but we should also be horrifi ed that those people fi nd themselves living in a system, often for years, where their suff ering continues. Keep reading our Seeking Sanctuary series, and talk to your friends, family and, most importantly, local representatives about the stories you read. People living in DP often feel they have no voice, so let’s lend them ours.