Dreams

Let me tell you about my dreams. When I was younger I dreamed big- I was the kid who was convinced that she was going to the Moon someday. People had done it before, I reasoned, so why not me? And I dreamed of exploring under the sea, discovering new worlds, travelling further and deeper than anyone had before.

I was a kid. I dreamed big. I wanted to see everything and learn all there was to learn.

It felt possible.

It’s not unusual for dreams to shrink. It’s not even always a bad thing- 30s me appreciates that the Moon would be a wonderful place to go, but that there’s also more to discover here than I could ever have imagined. And 30s me also points out that I get carsick if I so much as look down to send a text when I’m in the back seat, so interplanetary travel would probably be less wonder and more days of constant throwing up for me. Not to mention my fear of heights.

Real life might shrink your dreams, but sometimes it just makes you realise that maybe you wouldn’t have liked their reality anyway.

Some of my dreams today are big and wonderful. Some of them are small. I’d love to live in a tiny flat all on my own in Dublin. Just one room would do- I don’t mind, as long as there’s room for a desk and something comfy to sit on as well. A bedsit with a nice window and maybe, if I was lucky, a great big old lazy cat to sit on the windowsill.

That one, though? On days like today, that one feels impossible. When I remember that I’m barely getting by in a job that, while it’s enjoyable most days, barely pays the bills and leaves me exhausted after only a few hours. Days like today when I fell home from work and straight into bed, when I woke up a few hours later feeling dizzy and only then remembered I’d forgotten to eat when I got home. When living where I do means anything social is a two-hour commute away, not to mention paying for buses.

Times when I can’t help but think that I never knew where I’d be at this stage in my life, but I know that this wasn’t it.

This isn’t it.

Do you know what I mean? Where the chasm between where you are and where you want to be feels like it’s always just that one step away, always just that one bit too far. And when where you want to be feels like such a simple goddamn thing.

The sheer unfairness of it all. The constant work for no reward, or work that is its own reward, and you love that, but it doesn’t put food on your table or pay your rent or make your life one jot easier in any way. And that doesn’t stop you doing it- you love it, remember, and you believe in what you do- but you wish that you could get something back from it. Something that’s just for you.

And then- oh, then- then you are reminded of the thousands and thousands of people who have it worse. And for a while, you feel guilty for wanting what you do, and for not being grateful that you have food every day and a decent internet connection and a job to go to most days, and you went to college and don’t even live in a country where that leaves you with decades of debts.

But then you stop feeling guilty, and that guilt turns to anger. Because it’s not your fault, and it is not acceptable that these things- something to eat and somewhere to put your things and a job that can send you away without notice where you’re paid less than you were in your first job out of school- are considered something to be grateful for, and not a bare minimum of acceptability. Because you’re tired of hearing that asking for something in return for your work- for your hours, time and effort, little slices of your finite life- is called entitlement, and wishing for a place to live and maybe even being able to go away on your time off is a thing that in your fourth decade of life feels impossible.

And you remember that none of this was inevitable, that it is a result of choices made by people who’ve never had to have impossible dreams of tiny bedsits they’ll never afford and who have plenty and just want more. And yes, it’s a result of choices you made as well: choices that were constrained by the practical, the possible, the bearable, the narrow path where you can just about pay the rent and spend time working in your spare time on the things you care about when you’re not too goddamn exhausted to even start. But that that’s a hell of a way to have to do things.

And you know that not every day feels like this. Some days feel possible. Some days the future feels like it might be okay. But it’s been a long time since you have slept a night without waking, afraid that you’ll never get out. A long time since you learned that pressing an almost-burning hot water bottle to your chest helps to soothe that fear. A long time since you didn’t have to do that.

You know what I mean.

 

Even bloggers have to pay the bills! Monthly subscriptions- no matter how small- help give me the security to devote time to this place and keep a roof over my head:

Monthly subscription onetime donationWhy Donate?

 

Someone’s come out. So what?

Someone’s come out. Big whoop, right? Who cares anyway? People come out every day. It’s not like it’s a big deal. Can’t we move on and talk about something interesting?

You get this every time someone comes out. Straight people- it’s almost always straight people- falling over themselves to talk about how they don’t care. It’s not just when celebrities come out, either. How many conversations have you heard recounted where someone comes out to someone close to them- a best friend, a close relative- and that person reacts with a “so what” or a “cool.. pass the peas, will you?”

I’m not saying there aren’t situations where that’s appropriate. When you’re dealing with someone who’s been out for yonks who you’ve just met? Good reaction. If I mentioned, say, fancying Ellen Page or a woman I was dating in the staff room at work? I’m hoping for blasé.

But when someone is coming out for the first time? This cooler-than-thou insistence on not caring about someone’s orientation- on it being irrelevant- is horrible. It ignores how hard it is to come out. It ignores the fact that this thing you won’t acknowledge as important could be something that they’ve been holding in for years. For decades. It shuts its eyes and ears to the harm that heteronormativity and homophobia have done to the person standing right in front of you. All so that you can feel good about how progressive and right-on you are, without taking a single moment to account for the consequences of the privilege you wear to lightly.

It’s something I thought about as I watched Ingrid Nilsen’s coming out video. You know what’s palpable thoughout? The years of pain that this young woman went through- her feelings of not deserving happiness, of playacting at what she was supposed to be, of shoving her real feelings into a box, and the years of pushing even the possibility of love or connection away.

Whether she or I is queer or straight might not matter to you, straight people. But it sure as hell matters to us. And the harm that people like us go through is your harm to fix.

So next time someone comes out to you? Put the goddamn peas down and listen to them.

 

Even bloggers have to pay the bills! Monthly subscriptions- no matter how small- help give me the security to devote time to this place and keep a roof over my head:

Monthly subscription onetime donationWhy Donate?

 

Tim Hunt has resigned. This is good. This is not about revenge.

This week, a Nobel laureate resigned his post after controversy surrounding comments about women in the lab. He joked that when women enter labs (a previously male-only space), three things happen:  they fall in love with men, men fall in love with them, and they cry.

Later, he apologised, after a fashion, saying that he should not have spoken “like that in front of so many journalists”.

And now, yes, he has resigned.

How can we view this?

We can view it as an act of revenge- bitter women, insulted by this great man and determined to bring him down. We can see it as irrelevant to his work- our focus on our own hurt feelings threatening to bring back scientific progress.

After all, everyone knows that science ain’t for wusses.

We could view it like that. Or we can take a look at the effects of leaving him as he was on science as a whole. [Read more…]

Guest posts: what next? What this means.

As a follow-up to last week’s Guest Posts for Equality series (read them!), I asked people to share their thoughts on two topics: what does the referendum’s result mean to them, and what comes next.

Today’s offering is a little different to the usual- two people who I’ve spoken to on Facebook who’ve allowed me to share what it felt like to be in Ireland this weekend. 

equalityheart

Here’s Naomi O’Kelly. Naomi  is an Irish woman based in Scotland, where she works as a community artist, storyteller and theatre maker. You can find her at Walking Around Like We Own The Place, and this is what she had to say about the overwhelming sense of joy and relief that came with the referendum- a sense that many people outside our country can’t really grasp to its full extent:

I get the impression that some outside of Ireland are sceptical about the mass emotion – an ecstatic hysteria – coming out of the country at the moment about the referendum. And I totally get that, because from the outside it might seem that the Irish people are saying, “Ok, gay folks, I now annoint you with equal rights, yeah, you can thank me later. Actually – thank me now – yeah, keep thanking me, go on, we’re great.” Ha! And I really, really want to explain to sceptical ‘outsiders’ that it’s not like that.

I think that the huge outpouring of emotion is actually about something other than gay rights. It’s about a national release from what I can only think of as ‘evil’. (Yes, a very emotional choice of word.) The Authority in Ireland is traditionally narrow minded to a very cruel extent (abortion is denied even to minors who have been raped), whereas the broader population of ordinary people in Ireland are just not like this. The roar of relief from Ireland is reaction to the fact the NO VOTE DIDN’T WIN. It’s about finally, finally, getting to say, “No, you don’t get to persecute people in my name and in the name of my nation.”

So, for me, and I think for many, it’s not only about granting a right that should, of course, already be in place (equal marriage rights). It’s about having the opportunity to do that. After this referendum, I see my own country as a place where my own gay relations can be less afraid, and I also see the hope that women will be allowed to choose what happens to their bodies. I never saw Ireland this way before, and it matters so much to me. This is BIG.

And here’s John. If you’d like to hear more about his wedding and what led him there, you can read more in this gorgeous article from Confetti. Here he is, though, speaking about what this means for his own life, and his own family:

For me, this weekend’s results meant everything. I’ve been with my partner for over 10 years and last July we had a civil partnership surrounded by our friends and family. Up until this weekend, that was the most loved I’d felt. The day we said “I Do”, I could feel genuine love and acceptance in the air from our friends and family. This weekend I felt it from every corner of Ireland.

Next up, we’ll get married. We are in no rush however as in my eyes, the day we said ‘I Do’ in July 2014 was the day I married the man I love. Now I get to say “I Do” all over again to the same man.

John CP

 

Guest posts: What Next? A safe space to be free.

As a follow-up to last week’s Guest Posts for Equality series (read them!), I asked people to share their thoughts on two topics: what does the referendum’s result mean to them, and what comes next. 

This one’s from Emer. You can read more from her on Twitter and over at her blog, Letters from a Patchwork Wizard. She also wrote an excellent piece, Yes to Love, for Guest Posts for Equality.  

equalityheart

Saturday afternoon.

I’m in the pub – they’re hosting a livestream of the referendum coverage. I have never seen this place hopping with so many LGBTQ people in my life, and because they are there, it makes me feel safe and wanted. I’m with friends who campaigned for YesEquality just as I did, they hug me and kiss me and we all revel in this atmosphere of pure, unadulterated love. I remember telling a pair of married friends that I hope that one day, I’ll have a wedding just as beautiful as theirs. I remember breaking down crying in front of the livestream and another friend putting her arm around me. I remember being at the bar, tweeting that I was crying, that my heart was fit to burst, and that my love counted. A Yes campaigner who’s been hovering behind me sees me typing this, and tells me that that was beautiful. I cry again. He cries again. We both hug and cry.

For the most part, it’s been the most beautiful day. There’s been so much love in this small space, and a bunch of us move away to watch Eurovision (I may have insisted on that, sorry guys), have drinks, have snacks, and talk shit before going out for a Yes celebration later. We all clamber onto the sofa at one point to take a selfie, and I’ll treasure that picture forever because the love, happiness, and friendship radiates from it. We are so happy. I look at myself in that picture. I am so happy. I am now an equal citizen in the eyes of the state.

For the most part of the day, I have held it together. And I have been able to hold it together because of love, goodwill, and support.

I make it into the party with my friends. But for some reason, it doesn’t feel like a celebration of our victory. It feels like another Saturday night. I have friends here but I don’t feel safe. What’s worse is that a person from my past, a person who has caused me a lot of pain, hurt, and trauma, is there and is very close by. Whereas I could withstand his presence in the pub earlier, for some reason I lose my nerve now. I’m tired and exhausted and I lose my nerve and I leave early. I get a takeaway, go home, answer a kind email from a friend about the result, and attempt to sober up.

And I’m angry. That night was not his night, and never should have been. It was mine. It belonged to me, and the Irish LGBTQ community. He will probably get some kind of sick satisfaction from knowing this, but on the day when I should be the happiest queer in the world, I can’t even properly celebrate my own attainment of civil rights without feeling triggered or upset.

A Yes result means that, in the future, I can stand in front of someone and make a commitment of love to them, and my sexual orientation won’t matter a jot. A Yes result has shown the goodwill and kindness of the Irish people towards its fellow citizens. A Yes result shows that we are moving away from this country’s past, and hopefully it will galvanise us towards more change.

But I am still sickened that I could not enjoy this result to the full.

Guest post: What now? Why do we throw our less respectable queers under the bus?

As a follow-up to last week’s Guest Posts for Equality series (read them!), I asked people to share their thoughts on two topics: what does the referendum’s result mean to them, and what comes next. 

The author of this post has asked to remain anonymous, as they are currently only out to a small number of their close friends.  

equalityheart

Now that the referendum campaigning is done, and the yesses have it, I’d like to talk about something I felt I couldn’t much during the past few weeks. The run up to the vote has been wearying, painful and damaging to the queer community. The venomous homophobia spewing forth from the many heads of the Iona hydra has taken its toll on everyone. How deeply that pain is felt depends heavily on the network of support a person has around them, and I for one am grateful that my immediate family and circle of friends are, at least most of the time, not outwardly homophobic.

However.

While hateful lies published by right-wing scummers are easy to criticise, to mock, and, for some, to brush off, it will be harder for those of us on the Yes side to self-reflect and see the many ways in which our campaigns have been harmful to the very people they claim to represent. A good example of this is the incredibly misguided “Straight Up For Equality” campaign. The slogan serves no purpose, other than to state that you can vote in favour of same sex marriage, even if you’re Not A Gay. For straight people, literally the only people not directly affected by the outcome of this referendum, this campaign gives them an excuse to assert their own heteronormativity, to maintain an “us and them” straight versus gay dichotomy, while allowing themselves to feel like progressive liberal heroes. Straight people, listen up; this is not about you.

Another thing that the Straight Up For Equality slogan implies is that there are only two types of relationships, straight or gay, and that your sexuality depends on which relationships you happen to be in. What of queers who aren’t gay? Do two bi women in a relationship suddenly become lesbians? Are a straight woman and her pan husband in a straight marriage? What of individuals of nonbinary gender? I can imagine the answer from our self-professed straight allies would be something along the lines of, “…huh?”

This notion of straight and gay binary has been rampant throughout the referendum campaign. Using terms such as “gay marriage” when you mean “same sex marriage” erases the identity of the majority of people on the queer spectrum. I was surprised to see some of my bi friends championing former president Mary McAleese for the speech she gave to BeLonG To, in which she stated, “the only children affected by this referendum are Ireland’s gay children.” Using “gay” as a catch all phrase to mean the LGBTQIA community hurts those of us who are queer in anything other than the most mainstream, socially acceptable way.

A powerful symbol of the appeal to acceptability is the mural in Dublin of two men embracing, with the slightest suggestion of a kiss, which was followed almost as an afterthought by a mural in Galway of two women, decidedly not kissing. An important thing to note here is that all four individuals in these murals are white, able-bodied, and to be presumed cis. Where are the murals of our queers of colour, our queer Travellers, our queer trans folk, our queers with visible disabilities? No, poster gays (and lesbians if you insist) only please!

Why do we throw our less respectable queers under the bus? Are we afraid that mainstream society would vote against same sex marriage if it knew the reality of queer diversity? Is that is a society into which you would happily be assimilated?

I can only hope that the inevitable post referendum drop-off of “acceptable” queers (i.e.; gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry) will give rise to a more radicalised approach to queer politics in Ireland.

Fingers crossed.

Guest Posts: What Now? Thoughts as we celebrate the 34th Amendment

As a follow-up to last week’s Guest Posts for Equality series (read them!), I asked people to share their thoughts on two topics: what does the referendum’s result mean to them, and what comes next. 

Jon Hanna was born in County Down, but has lived in the Republic for all of his adult life, and Dublin for all but a few months of that. He once swore off activism on the basis that he doesn’t think he’s very good at it, but does still occasionally write things like this.

equalityheart

The strong sisters told the brothers that there were two important things to remember about the coming revolutions. The first is that we will get our asses kicked. The second is that we will win.

25 years ago, those words were part of the Queer Nation Manifesto handed out by the Act Up contingent at the Pride parade in New York.

At a time closer to the Stonewall Riots the parades commemorate than to today,
at a time when here in Ireland the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, and the 1885 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act made sexual acts between two consenting men illegal,
at a time when one of the ways you could identify someone on television as gay was visible Kaposi’s sarcoma,
at a time when people ganging up with the clear and premeditated intent to kill a gay man, because he was a gay man, and doing so, could expect to be given a suspended sentence,
at a time not long after that had happened,
I began to realise I liked boys as well as girls.

The right to same-sex marriage isn’t a right I hope to exercise, because I still liked girls as well as boys, and the person I since met, that I want to spend the rest of my life with, is a woman. And we got to celebrate our love and our wish to be together recently, in a beautiful wedding.

But you are who you are. And I am who I am. And when as a schoolboy I came out a little over 20 years ago, I was lucky to have that received well by good people. And I’ve mostly been lucky to have other such good people around me throughout my life, whether I was married, single, dating a woman, or dating a man. That my life never ended up such that I ever wanted to marry a man, is far from the point, and that is the same for many others who are LGBT (and let us not for a minute forget the T, or anyone else that doesn’t fit the cis, hetero pattern that we’ve for so long been told is “normal”).

Not everybody has been lucky in that way. And nobody should have to be lucky that way. People need protected rights, protected not just by a few good people they are lucky to have around them, but by the people; that “we the people” don’t hand out moments of decency, but insist that all of us the people are treated with respect.

And those who are gay need to have their gay lives, and their gay loves or lack of them as those gay lives unfold, treated with respect.

And those who are trans* and those who are ace need to not have their lives forced into the mould of another’s.

And those of us who are bi need to have our lives treated with respect, with the loves that may come to us as our lives unfold neither allowed because they are straight enough to fit the norm, or allowed because they are gay enough to distance us firmly from the norm, but accepted because they are our loves and they are our lives, and we are all of cherished as citizens by all of us.

And we the people should have been able to legislate for same-sex marriage through our representatives. But when some in the Dáil insisted it wasn’t constitutionally possible without a referendum, that was what we the people had. And, on the day that would have been Harvey Milk’s 85th birthday, a million Irish people said that they think all of our loves and all of our lives should be given the same respect. And that brought with it something that no constitution can give the Dáil the power to deliver, something that goes further than the right to marry the person you love, or even the equality it still brings to those with no intention of such a marriage; it brought a genuine sense that we belong in this country, that we the queer people are indeed seen as part of we the people.

And in a moment of fear that we would lose, and that the loss would push us back grievously, I thought of the few rare optimistic words in the Queer Manifesto; “The second is that we will win.”

The strong sisters could tell the brothers that, because the sisters had been in other fights before, and they knew that we would win, just as they knew that we would get our asses kicked.

They were right on both counts.

And if it’s tempting now to think that we are near the beginning of the end, we need only look at the sisters’ fights to know that this isn’t the case (Repeal the 8th!). There will still be fights, and we will get our asses kicked, and we will win. As will the sisters. It’s not the end, but an Ireland where a million people vote to allow marriage to be lawful “without distinction as to their sex” — an Ireland where people will not only travel to their polling station to do so, but thousands will fly or sail into the country to do so — can be one where we might be near the end of the beginning.

Never Stop Holding Hands: how love took on a monster, and won.

image

Panti said that she got through an entire day without checking herself, and that she does not feel oppressed.

A couple of friends of mine walked to the local shop together. A man approached them shook their hands, and told them to never stop holding hands.

Another friend talked about all the same-sex couples she saw holding hands, embracing, being unapologetically together on our streets and in our parks.

And I walk down the street alone with a Yes badge on my shirt- I can’t bear to take it off yet. It’s met on every street with infectious, unstoppable smiles. Moments of overjoyed connection with strangers- and not just the strangers we’ve been led to expect. The buttoned-up, the middle-aged, the most conservative appearing of us can’t help but break into grins when we see each other.

This is about marriage, but this is about so much more. This was about changing a society, and it was about letting everyone in that society know how it had changed.

This campaign was hard. It was cruel at times. The helpless frustration of seeing signs on every street telling you that you are unfit, inadequate, should be happy to put up with less. Hearing unashamed bigotry dressed up as genuine concerns in a cowardly media. Feeling the weight of money and influence wielded by people who hate us so much that they threw everything they had into keeping us down. Hearing stories of kids of same sex couples, of adopted kids, of kids of single parents seeing those same posters telling them that their families weren’t enough, and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

The campaign was cruel, and it was an unnecessary cruelty.

But- and here is the beautiful thing- the campaign was also kind. We didn’t just fight. We cared for each other. We knew that we could only win by sharing some of the most vulnerable parts of ourselves with strangers, and by being judged for those. So we did. On doorsteps and streets and online and in newspapers and even on TV we shared our stories, our families, our lives and our fears, in the hope that they would find a spark or humanity and empathy in people who had never met us. And it did. [Read more…]

Yes we said yes we will YES

It’s looking like a landslide.

I have never ever felt proud of my country like I do this morning.

I haven’t any words right now- I’ll have thousands later- except YES.

We’ve done it.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, a thousand, a million times YES.

Guest Posts for Equality: The personal is political.

In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message

Cat McIlroy moved to Stockholm in 2013 to start a new life adventure with a Swedish person. Despite some bureaucratic frustrations and difficulties with the Swedish Migration Board and Tax Agency, life in Stockholm has revealed many wonderful new possibilities to live and love.

equalityheart

Over the past few months, I have been watching the Marriage Equality Referendum battles from the sidelines in Stockholm, reading online articles, comments and posts from friends. I travelled back to Dublin on Sunday for a number of familial reasons – birthdays, a surgery, and also very importantly, to vote.

On 12 August 2014, my partner, Ulrika, and I got married in New York. We had decided to go there for a holiday, planned to get the marriage licence, and do it quickly and easily the following day. It was just the two of us, with a friend, Maria, who acted as both our witness and photographer, along with all of the other couples waiting our turn.

I have to admit for the first 40 years of my life I was quite sure that I would never get married; it was not something that was on my horizon at all, not even something that I wanted or considered. But things change. I was Spouse A.

We were one of many queer couples to get married in the Manhattan Marriage Bureau that day. Slightly older dykes in jeans and matching waistcoats with rainbow-coloured roses in their lapels, their friends and families standing happily and proudly beside them – so touching to be there and be part of it all. And then it was our turn. Such a wonderful, memorable, surreal experience.

Our marriage is recognised in 37 states of the United States, and in a growing number of countries around the world, including Sweden, but not Ireland. There is still no legal recognition of trans* people in Ireland either. In fact, with the proposed gender recognition legislation, trans* people who are married or civilly partnered will be specifically excluded and prevented from being legally recognised. The on-going lack of recognition and respect for trans* people and our families is shameful.

This can change tomorrow.

I am Irish. I am trans*. And I am married.

It is time that my country recognises and respects that.