Identity Ireland? Xenophobia Is Not My Irish Identity.

Twenty-five years ago the phone rang. I’m a little hazy on the details- you have to remember, I was only seven at the time. I remember that I’d been excited, because my dad was going to see my uncle John living in America, and that uncle always sent me on the best presents. Toys you’d never get here- polar explorer play sets, a gorgeous illustrated hardback Hobbit that I wouldn’t appreciate till years afterward.

There was always a kind of glamour to our overseas family, wasn’t there? You’d only see them once or twice a year at most. Their visits were filled with drama- the excitement of meeting them at the airport or in a house stuffed with family, a few days or a week to fit in months worth of experiences, and before you knew it you were saying goodbye again.

I say ‘were’, of course, but the present tense would be just as appropriate, wouldn’t it?

Of course- this won’t surprise you, since I led with it- that phone call twenty-five years ago was different. The details I’m gonna keep to myself, but my uncle- less than a decade older than I am today- had died suddenly.

It happens. It was horrible, of course. Of all my childhood memories- almost all hazy- the feeling of walking into my Nana’s house later that day, the silence of the aunts, uncles and cousins filling the living room lives in sharp, full-colour contrast.

I don’t know the details. I was only a child. But I think that it took days to bring his body home.

Let’s fast forward a few years, shall we?

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Neural Tube Defects: Systemic Problems and Individualised Answers.

Yesterday in the Irish Times, Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, had something to say about folic acid. Up till now, you see, women people planning to become pregnant have been advised to take folic acid supplements daily. Ireland has a high rate of neural tube defects– which cause everything from spina bifida to anencephaly- the majority of which can be prevented with folic acid.

As of yesterday, this advice has changed:

“Up to 50 per cent of all pregnancies are unplanned, but a baby’s crucial neural tube develops in the first few weeks of pregnancy when many women may be unaware they are pregnant,” Dr Mahony said. …“Women who are sexually active should start taking the vitamin daily even if a baby is the last thing on their mind”

Taken at face value, this seems like good advice. If you’re at risk of getting pregnant, then taking a simple step to prevent painful or fatal birth defects seems sensible. And from a purely medical standpoint, I can see her point. Unplanned pregnancies happen! If I were at risk of getting pregnant and thought there was a reasonable chance I’d keep any pregnancy that resulted, I would seriously consider adding some folic acid to my daily routine. And I’m sure that, as a medical practitioner, Dr Mahony sees more of the suffering that neural tube defects can cause than most.

However, this doesn’t mean that Dr Mahony’s perspective- while important- is complete, or that she fully understands the context in which she speaks. Because medical advice is never given in a vacuum, and in this context Dr Mahony’s well-intentioned advice is ill thought-out, ignorant of context and in certain cases may be actively harmful.

Let me explain. Let’s go to the beginning.

Sex is not PIV.

Not every sexually active woman is at risk of becoming pregnant. This may seem obvious to you and me, but it’s important. Not everyone who can get pregnant is a woman. Not every woman can get pregnant. And being sexually active does not necessarily imply engaging in acts that could lead to pregnancy.

Again, this may seem obvious. It may even seem irrelevant. But our society-wide glorification of one kind of sexual act- penis in vagina intercourse (PIV)- over others is a problem. It’s based on a heteronormative ideal that says not only that sex between cis men and women is the only “real” kind of sex, but that even between cis men and cis women, only one act ‘counts’.

When Dr Mahony says “all sexually active women”, and really means “all people with uteruses who regularly engage in PIV”, she’s not just using a neutral kind of shorthand. She’s using a shorthand that actively erases groups of people- queer women, some trans men, cis women who can’t have PIV, infertile women- who are already marginalised.

Sexually active is not a synonym for potential parent.

It’s a small point. On its own, it wouldn’t be a such a big deal. So let’s start getting towards the meat of the problem, shall we?

Some of us know what we want.

Not every person who could become pregnant would want to stay that way.

Dr Mahony correctly points out that half of all pregnancies in Ireland are unplanned. A simple sentence, yes, but one which leaves out what is possibly the most important factor in all of this: unplanned is not the same as unwanted.

Let me say that again. Unplanned is not the same as unwanted.

Sometimes people aren’t planning on getting pregnant but if it happens, would be happy to consider continuing the pregnancy. Sometimes people would love to be pregnant and have a kid, are working to prevent it because they’ve other plans right now, but know that if it happened, they’d change those plans and work something out.

And sometimes people know full well that they don’t want to give birth. Maybe they are certain that they don’t want to be parents. Maybe they’d love to be parents but they have overwhelming reasons why now isn’t the time. Maybe there are medical reasons why they should definitely not carry a pregnancy. Or maybe, for reasons which are entirely their own and none of our business, they are either certain or fairly sure that a pregnancy that happened isn’t one they would continue with.

Unplanned isn’t the same as unwanted. Unplanned isn’t the same as unfeasible. And yet Dr Mahony conflates the two.

In a vacuum, this mightn’t be a problem. Again, we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a society where the assumption that women don’t know what we want- and that the default state of having a uterus is womanhood, and the default state of womanhood is (desired) motherhood- is ubiquitous. And this idea- that you Just Don’t Know What You Would Do If You Got Pregnant- infantilises women, assuming that we don’t know our own minds and are incapable of making decisions about our future. Many of us know perfectly well what choice we would make if we got pregnant, thank you very much.

For those of us who know that we would carry to term, or for those of us who aren’t sure? Folic acid could be a great idea.

But some of us know that we don’t want to be parents. Or we know that we don’t want to, or cannot, carry a pregnancy to term.

Unplanned is not a synonym for dangerous. Or for impossible. Or even for unwanted.

We Do Not Have A Choice

Until now, what we’ve been talking about are mainly annoyances. It’s annoying when ‘sexually active’ is equated with ‘fertile person having PIV’. It’s irritating when people assume that women all secretly want to be mothers.

If this were only about irritations and assumptions, we could deal. But this advice comes in a context where pregnant people legally do not have the choice over whether to remain pregnant or not. According to Irish law, if I become pregnant and don’t want to be, I can be sent to prison for fourteen years for “intentionally destroying unborn human life”. And so can anyone who helped me to terminate. (Side note: this includes letting you know how you can safely access abortion pills online).

I said above that an unplanned pregnancy is not the same as an unwanted one. In Ireland, they are the same, because you have no right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In Ireland, consent to PIV sex is, legally speaking, equivalent to consent to parenthood. There is no distinction. This means that EVERY sexually active person with a uterus is nothing more than a potential vessel.

In this context, the reason why every sexually active woman should take folic acid is this: If you’re having sex, you have no choice in becoming a parent.

In this context, telling all sexually active women to take folic acid daily (every single day, for decades of their lives!) just in case that get pregnant even though they’re trying their damnedest not to? Can only be described as sinister: Do not forget for a second that your body belongs to us.

Of course, it gets worse.

Sometimes, we really do not have a choice.

Let’s imagine for a second a fertile uterus-bearer whose sex life features what, if you know them, will be an entirely unsurprising absence of chances to get pregnant (hello there!).

That doesn’t mean they won’t get pregnant. When at least 1/5 of us have been sexually assaulted (without even taking into account coercion), our risk of pregnancy is often not something that we can decide for ourselves. And remember again that in Ireland, having been raped is not considered legitimate grounds for terminating a pregnancy.

Does this mean that every fertile uterus-bearer, regardless of whether they’re having consensual PIV sex or not, should take folic acid daily? After all, the life of the unborn in Ireland is already prioritised over the health, well-being and choices of a pregnant person.

Individualised Answers Don’t Solve Social Problems.

Okay, you could say. Those points make sense. But queers, childfree women, and people who get pregnant following assault don’t constitute the majority of unplanned pregnancies. We’re outliers, and isn’t it important to get information and advice to people who need it? After all, neural tube defects have risen by a massive 27% in the last two years, at the same time as folic acid intake has fallen. We can sort out our hurt feelings over terminology after we prevent dozens of kids being born with serious impairments.

I couldn’t agree more. Let’s take a closer look, then, at whether there’s something that we can do to make a real difference. From the Irish Times, back in April:

Studies of women attending the Coombe women’s hospital show that as few as a quarter have taken folic acid before conception and that the numbers taking the supplement are declining

Another recently published study has revealed a decline in the number of food products fortified with folic acid. This means women are less likely to consume the vitamin passively in their diet.

…Prof Turner said austerity might be partly to blame, as people had less money for discretionary spending on higher-quality food products fortified with folic acid. The incidence of birth defects has also been found to be higher outside Dublin, as it is thought people in the capital spend more money on food.

And from the Irish Medical Times, also in April this year:

Renewed public health interventions, including mandatory folic acid food fortification, must be considered to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects (NTD), which appears to be on the rise, new Irish research has concluded.

…In Ireland, there is no mandatory folic acid food fortification, partly due to declining NTD rates in recent years.

…Regionally, the incidence of NTDs per 1,000 births was as follows: Dublin (0.76), mid-east (1.06), mid-west (1.09), southeast (1.25), southwest (0.95), border (1.34), midlands (1.46) and west (1.09). “It is possible that socio-economic differences on food expenditure in households may explain the disparity as Dublin households have up to 20 per cent more disposable income on average compared with other regions,” the authors speculated.

…They stated the findings of the study should serve as a basis on which to review the issue of folic acid fortification, which was postponed in 2008.

Tl;dr? We can take several things from this:

  • Neural tube defects have been rising in recent years, and this is likely related to reduced intake of folic acid.
  • Urban/rural and socioeconomic divides affect a person’s likelihood of having sufficient folic acid. Rural and poorer people, who have less disposable income and choices about what food they buy, are significantly less likely to get enough, and significantly more likely to have kid with NTDs.
  • Foods can be and are fortified with folic acid. Discount foods are far less likely to be fortified than their high-end counterparts.
  • Mandatory fortification was considered but the issue was postponed seven years ago and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been looked at since.

Even that’s too much? The people who are most at risk of having babies with NTDs are the women with the least resources. They’re the same people who have the fewest options for pregnancy prevention (contraception ain’t free, and the most effective forms are often the most difficult to access).

Education Is Not The (Primary) Problem

Let’s imagine that every person in the country knew that we should be taking folic acid for NTD prevention in the weeks before and after we get pregnant.

Even if we all knew that, we would still find ourselves in a situation where the most marginalised face higher rates of NTDs than the rest of us. Education is one part of this puzzle, yes. But education doesn’t change the fact that without mandatory fortification, those of us who shop at discount stores will have lower levels of folic acid than those who can afford to go somewhere more fancy. It doesn’t change the fact that even with this information, in the real world the majority of us who aren’t intending on having kids are highly unlikely to remember to prioritise our non-existent potential offspring over our day-to-day concerns.

I mean, let’s get real here: one of the reasons that many of us are already on long-term hormonal birth control (and why typical use of birth control pills leads to much high failure rates than perfect use)  is because remembering to take a pill every day is a giant pain in the ass. It’s a pain in the ass when you have an immediate reason to do it. It’s a pain in the ass when you live with a chronic medical condition that requires it. When you’re asked to do it for the health of a potential baby who you don’t want to have and mightn’t keep anyway? Sure, some people will do it. But there is no way that everyone will.

And because of that, we will continue to have a situation where the most marginalised people suffer higher rates of NTDs than their more privileged counterparts. That will continue. But there’ll be one essential difference: we’ll be able to tell them that it’s their fault.

We’ll be able to tell them that it’s their fault because we told them that this would happen. Because, yes, in every individual case a person could have made the decision, although they didn’t plan on getting pregnant, to take folic acid. On an individual level, it’s easy to assign blame and to force people to live with that guilt.

But on a systemic level? Individual decisions might be the responsibility of individuals. But the fact that we know that marginalised groups are more likely to suffer because of those decisions is not.

The fact that socioeconomic factors are at play here matters. It matters that the most affected here would be poorer women who can’t afford to travel for abortions, who might not have access to healthier food, who might not be able to afford the (negligible to many of us but not all) cost of supplements- or who might want to spend that money on something else instead, because when you’re broke or poor, your decisions have to be immediate. It matters that we are having this conversation in a context where pregnancy and womanhood and fertility are not neutral topics but ones where women have increasing restrictions placed upon them and are publicly shamed if they don’t live up to those. It matters that we’re in a context where the types of foods that used to be fortified with folic acid aren’t anymore, so a social problem again becomes individualised.

And yes, it matters that the people who would be most likely to be negatively affected by this are precisely the people who have the least choice over whether to become or remain pregnant.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Not passing the buck.

This advice comes in a context where mothers and pregnant people, specifically, face incredible restrictions, shaming and stigma surrounding dozens upon dozens of their choices and are expected at all times and in all circumstances to put their children before them, regardless of how damaging this is to them.

I don’t think this will do one jot to improve people’s quality of life.  In a context where we often don’t have the choice to not become pregnant in the first place, and where as long as we remain here we never have the choice of whether to remain pregnant or not.

And this advice comes in a context where we know that higher rates of fortification of foods with folic acid makes a difference. Where we know that women with less access to income and education also have less access to food which has been fortified. And where we know that plans to make this fortification mandatory have been ignored for the better part of a decade, while austerity left us all living with far less and rates of NTDs rose.

This advice? It’s yet another stick to beat women with- an I told you so for every unlucky person who’ll hear again that she should have kept her legs shut or at the very least treated her body as if it were in a decades-long state of pre-pregnancy. A stick wielded by people who have no excuse but to know better, when they and we know that this will continue happening as long as we take the lazy route out and pretend that we can solve systemic problems with individual advice.

 
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To My Fellow Cis People And AFABs, On The Free Glasgow Pride Drag Ban

I don’t know what Free Glasgow Pride should do.

What I do know is this: the situation is complicated. There are a lot of competing factors at play here. There’s complex history- as history always is, especially when you’re talking about the people at the very front line of the intersections of racial, gender, transphobic, homophobic and class oppressions. There’s a complex present, because each and all of those things intersect and conflict with each other and they’ll do so in different ways in every context. In every city and town and country, because all of us have different histories and presents and unless we’ve lived something that is so far removed from the public eye and public discussion, we haven’t got a goddamn clue.

Not even if we’re queer. Not even if we love drag shows. Not even if Some Of Our Best Friends Are Trans Women.

What I will say is this:

To the Pantis, and the Dan Savages, and every other cis person with a large platform who’re using it against a small, local group who are muddling their way through: Stop it. Stop it now. This is using your power and platform to impose a version of LGBTQ community that continues to privilege the voices of cis gay men over everyone else. This is responding to the concerns of people far more vulnerable than you in our community with contempt and dismissal.

And to the rest of us: If you’re cis, or if you’re AFAB? Doesn’t matter how queer you are, we need to stand back and stay the hell out of this conversation. We do not get the context. We do not get the nuance. We do not get the history. We need to stand back and let trans women and other AMAB trans people have some space to have this one out. Without being berated and scrutinised by cis people and AFABs at every turn.

If we want to get involved? We can do that by reading what people have to say. By finding out more about what Free Glasgow Pride’s concerns are and where they come from. By listening to what people within those communities who disagree have to say. By educating ourselves on the drag spaces that gave space to trans women who have/had nothing else, on the drag spaces that trade in racism, misogyny and homophobia, and on the spaces that are all and some and none of those things. By continuing, then, to step back and let the people whose lives are most affected by this have their conversations and make their decisions. By acknowledging that those decisions will vary, because every context and every history and every present is different. And that those decisions will change, because the present moves on.

And throughout all this, to step back. Our job here- our only job, aside from educating ourselves- is to help to open up those spaces for the people who are affected to have their conversations. So we show each other where we can go to educate ourselves. And we step back. And we get the rest of the cis people and the AFABs to step back. So that trans women and AMAB enbees can have spaces to sort this out.

So do that.

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Absence and PSA

Quick note time: as you may have noticed, I haven’t been around for the past month. Or two. I’ve been having some health difficulties- nothing to get worked up about, but it’s made a major dent into my job ’cause it turns out that if your voice goes for weeks/(possibly months) on end, teaching isn’t a thing you can do. Which means that at the moment I’m relocating away from HighRentVille for a bit. Haven’t had the space or spoons to do much thinking about anything beyond the day-to-day while I work it all out.

Give it a couple of weeks, and I’ll be settled again and able to post regularly for the first time in a long time.

Right now, though, I’ve got a few days to pack up my house and work out how I’m gonna store my stuff and figure out what I can’t live without for the next few months and all the rest of the giant pain in the ass that is moving cities.

Fun!

See y’all on the other side.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.