Flags burning in Waterford, homophobic slurs sprayed and scrawled on Pride-coloured postboxes, on posters advertising queer content and on walls near LGBTQ+ spaces, and anti-trans stickers on poles in a Dublin suburb. This is Ireland in 2021.
For our non-LGBTQ+ friends, family and community this may seem surprising but we LGBTQ+ folk know all too well how precious and hard won our liberties and acceptance are in a world that, let’s face it, still has a long road to travel to reach true equality for the queer community.
What we are seeing on our shores signals the reality that a lot of our LGBTQ+ community across Europe and the rest of the globe face daily, and we must do better. The fact that Polish society sees fit to have so-called ‘LGBTfree zones’, the recent introduction of new legislation which bans the “promotion” of LGBTQ+ identities to minors in Hungary, the continued persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya and beyond. Closer to home, the rise of antitrans rhetoric from groups who feign a concern for LGB people, and the fallout for minority communities in the concerning ‘lurch to the right’ in many parts of our world.
What seems laughable to us in this context is the bewildered question of ‘Why do we still need Pride?’ The common misconception is that in a country that has same-sex marriage, gender recognition legislation and openly LGBTQ+ senior politicians, that this Pride lark is merely a bit of colourful attention seeking. And yes, the rainbow wash of certain sectors can make this radical anniversary seem somewhat ubiquitous, but we at GCN know all too well the continued power and importance of celebrating ourselves, our struggles and our triumphs loudly and proudly. As our dear friend and fellow activist Evgeny Shtorn remarked, “Our solidarity is in our visibility”.
GCN has been reflecting LGBTQ+ life in Ireland since 1988. In that time, our community has witnessed and led on some seismic changes to Irish society; decriminalisation, civil partnership, marriage equality, gender recognition legislation and some LGBTQ+ family rights. What ties all this change together is the tenacity and power of a community that knows how to organise, agitate and effect profound change by naming the prejudice and facing the uncomfortable truths with grace and courage.
We also know that we still have so much work to do .Ireland has a poor track record with institutional wrongdoing and our collective ability to self reflect and heal the wrongs is sadly lacking. We need only look at the way we have treated women and children since the inception of the republic to understand that statesanctioned cruelty is nothing new and we still have a cruel and demeaning state-run system called Direct Provision to contend with. We must come together as a community and ally with the people fighting the system in order to address the wrong and make meaningful change for the betterment of all people on this island.
The truth is LGBTQ+ people know the struggle all too well but it mustn’t just be on us to lead the change. That work is exhausting and it leaves very little in the tank to live and love and experience joy which is so important for us all.
What would it be like for people with beautiful and diverse intersectional identities to be allowed to truly flourish and thrive in our country? Think of all the boundless possibilities that would create. The people burning flags and scrawling slurs are frightened of this possibility. We must carry on and support one another to realise and celebrate this potential. Such as the artist Donal Talbot, (@donal.talbot) who put out a call for creatives to design posters to combat the onslaught of ‘Straight Pride’ images littering Waterford City.
When it comes to inequality, there is no hierarchy of oppression, and what we see is that a true alliance of movements is the strongest and most compelling way forward to continue change-making.
Nelson Mandela said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
This is key in respecting and supporting intersectional movements and continuing to lead the change we need to see in our world.
Managing Editor Follow Donal Talbot on Instagram @donal.talbot.