Q Soc celebrates anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality

Aonghus Ó Cochláin

 Student Affairs Editor
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Ireland’s history of institutionalisation means the country should “know the consequences of pretending people don’t exist,” Colm O’Gorman, the director of Amnesty International Ireland, has said. He made the comment in relation to trans right at the 20th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality last Wednesday. The event, which was held by Q Soc as part of their “Allies’ Week” festivities, celebrated the historic involvement of LGBTQ allies in the struggle for equality.

Speaking at the occasion, O’Gorman stated that there are “still significant challenges” to be overcome by the LGBT community in areas such as children’s rights and trans rights. In particular, he criticised the legal situation which means people “have to give up on the idea of being a parent” once their gender is recognised.  He addressed the failure of both law and culture to fully accept trans people in Ireland, while praising the work done by organisations in Ireland such as BeLong To and Front Line Defenders.

O’Gorman also discussed the significance of decriminalisation in 1993 and remarked that this year coincides with the 30thanniversary of the first Irish pride march in 1983, which took place in the place in the wake of the homophobic murder of Declan Flynn and controversial acquittal of the gang members who had been found guilty of his murder. 1983, O’Gorman said, was “an extremely isolating time”, when gay people had few role models.

O’Gorman went on to welcome the change in attitudes in recent years and expressed confidence that the upcoming referendum on marriage equality would be won. He described the 2009 March for Marriage Equality and its impressive turnout as the moment he realised equal marriage was “inevitable”. However, he also discussed his own personal frustration in trying the go through the civil partnership process and stressed the importance of establishing legal precedents in a society often resistant to change. The continued reluctance to “call it anything but marriage” is disappointing, he said.

Senator David Norris, who founded Q Soc in 1982 and was a major figure of the Sexual Liberation Movement in Ireland, also predicted that the referendum could be won. The senator was unable to attend the event but his letter to students was read out by Katie Biggs, the society’s auditor. In his correspondence, Norris, who brought the decriminalisation case to the European Court of Human Rights in 1988, expressed delight that there is now “a whole generation of vital, positive, high achieving and happy young people” among the LGBT community. Ciara Conway, Labour TD for Waterford, was also scheduled to speak at the event, but was unable to attend due to matters relating to the finance bill.

Q Soc celebrated its 30th year on campus in a special commemorative event last year. It was established in 1982 as Trinity Gay Soc, renamed LGBT Soc in 1994, and rebranded in 2011 as recognition of its members’ increasing diversity of sexuality and identity. In an act of solidarity, the officers of Trinity College Students’ Union (TCDSU) acted as the society’s first committee members, due the reluctance of gay students to become publicly visible at the time.