The Hist, in association with Trinity Q Soc, held their first panel discussion of the year on the future of the LGBTQ movement in Ireland on Thursday last. The panel consisted of Una Mullaly, journalist for the Irish Times and author of In The Name Of Love, Gordon Grehan, campaign and communications officer for Transgender Equality Network Ireland, and several members of the Hist committee.
Julia McCarthy, auditor of the Hist, took the floor first and discussed the development of the portrayal of the LGBTQ movement in the media. She praised her favourite childhood television programme, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for its queer representation. She explained that it was her only encounter with a lesbian couple in the mainstream media at the time and said that it “informed her growing up.”
Una Mullaly addressed the audience next. She drew attention to the difficulty Stormont is currently having in passing their marriage equality bill, stating: “Gay and lesbian couples don’t have the same rights up there.” However, according to Mullaly, there has been a significant growth in support for marriage equality in Northern Ireland since the passing of the referendum in the Republic. She said that it is “a fallacy” to believe that the Republic has done all that it can now that marriage equality has been achieved and stressed that people in the Republic have a duty to help Northern Ireland accomplish it as well.
Her next point addressed the issue of a continuing culture of homophobia in Ireland, despite the success of the referendum and the Gender Recognition Act passed this summer. “Homophobia is always going to exist, but I think a lot of it has been flushed out and exposed,” she said. She emphasised the importance of providing safe queer spaces and expressed concern about the “erasure of queer spaces, particularly the closing down of gay bars,” such as the Dragon in Dublin.
Gordon Grehan spoke next, focusing on the progress of the trans community in Ireland. He opened his argument by saying that “trans people lack confidence” and still do not have their voices heard despite the recent passing of the Gender Recognition Act. Ireland remains a “transphobic country,” he said, continuing that this is “not acceptable and needs to change.”
Peter Gowan, ex-debates convenor of the Hist, presented the final speech of the afternoon. Among other things, he spoke of some of the deficiencies of the marriage equality campaign, claiming, for example, that there was “very little visibility for bisexual people.” He spoke about a need for diversity in the future of the LGBTQ movement, pointing out the fact that the campaign didn’t have “a single person of colour on their website” throughout the campaigning period.