By Ciara Finlay
Please allow me to begin this article as I intend to finish, and that is with honesty. I am a 22-year-old Trinity postgraduate student, I am a Conservative, an older sister, a nerd, a Phil hack, and a lesbian. All of these facts and none of these facts define who I am as a person. Nevertheless, only one of these is has caused me to experience senseless hatred: namely, my homosexuality which is something that I became aware of ten years ago.
When I first realised that I was gay I told my friends. However, children talk, and it wasn’t long before I was “outed” at a rehearsal for the school musical – ironic, I know. Bullying and name-calling would begin the moment I arrived at school and follow me around throughout the course of the day, day after day. This wave of homophobia culminated in a violent assault which remains fixed in my memory. These events form a shared experience for many homosexuals. Some overcome them as I did, others aren’t given that chance. This was the case for Seth Walsh, 13, Asher Brown, 13, Billy Lucas, 15, Tyler Clementi, 18, and Zach Harrington, 19, all of whom were persecuted for their sexuality and killed themselves as a result. These young Americans and their families had just cause to wonder why the USA is known as the “land of the free” in the wake of these truly tragic events.
Since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, gay visibility has increased dramatically and continued to do so when Harvey Milk became San Francisco’s first gay supervisor and called upon homosexuals to “come out, come out”. However, there has been an undeniable trade-off as the cost for being seen is that you become a better target. This was the case in 1998 for Mathew Sheppard who was tortured and then beaten to death. Although this is the startling reality which many homosexuals face, “it gets better”. This is the message which Seattle sex-columnist Dan Savage sought to deliver to struggling teens across the globe through his YouTube Campaign – which rapidly went viral with politicians such as Hilary Clinton and President Obama jumping on the bandwagon.
In Ireland, things have slowly gotten better. For example, the Trinity LGBT, or the LGBT Soc, formerly known as the DU Gay Soc, was founded in 1982, that is 11 years before homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland, and yet Trinity students were given a voice. Senator David Norris succeeded in having homosexuality decriminalised the same year that President Clinton introduced “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. Furthermore, Senator Norris may yet become Ireland’s first gay President. More recently the Civil Partnership Bill was signed into law this July by President Mary McAleese. What is provided is “marriage-lite”, stepping stone, which gives homosexual couples many marriage-like benefits in areas such of property, pensions, and tax – you know the sexy stuff at the core of any civil rights movement. What it leaves out is nevertheless of tremendous significance, namely, the right to have a family.
In the United Kingdom unmarried couples and homosexuals were given the right to adopt in 2002, and later Civil Partnerships created a marriage-by-any-other-name for homosexual couples in 2004. This omission by the Irish government reflects the central role that the family plays in the Irish state, but is an insult to homosexuals, as people and citizens of the state. This is especially true since recent studies suggest that not only do homosexual couples do no worse than their heterosexual counterparts in raising children, but that lesbian couples actually do a better job! Despite these findings there are certain people and groups who object to homosexuals being trusted with children for fear that they might “recruit them”.
In this regard the struggle for our civil rights is like that of any community which has come before us. That is to say that our greatest opponent is unadulterated ignorance. We must challenge these lies with honesty, and thwart ignorance with education. Homosexuals are as “good as you”. We are your sons, and daughter. We are your politicians and playwrights. Lastly, we are you.