On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBit) 2023

Earlier this week, I attended the launch of Cork LGBT+ Awareness Week at Cork City Hall. Dressed in my Cork Hellhounds RFC gear, I listened to speeches from Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr. John Maher (Labour), veteran gay rights campaigner Arthur Leahy, and Luna Lara Liboni of the ICCL, as well as listening to the beautiful performance of Cork’s LGBT inclusive choir, Choral Con Fusion.

In previous years, I would’ve felt that the week-long series of events was a nice effort, but possibly unnecessary. Not anymore. Recently I’ve become more and more aware of homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic comments from (supposedly) Irish people on social media. Naïvely, I once dismissed such bile as being limited to Trump’s America, Brexit Britain, or some other far-off land, but not possible in Ireland. In Ireland, I experienced a golden era of sorts; the introduction of civil partnership, marriage equality, and gender recognition legislation. I grew up in an Ireland – or at least in her cities – where gay people felt a little more comfortable in being themselves. Being open. Visible. Proud.

Recently, though, homophobic and transphobic voices appear to have grown louder and more aggressive. As I write this, reports are coming out about a teenager being queer-bashed by a group of teens in Navan, Co. Meath. I’m not sure whether to call it apt or ironic, but either way, the fact that I write this during IDAHOBiT feels all the more relevant and powerful. Despite the years of progress we have seen and enjoyed in Ireland, the threat to reverse that progress feels like it’s growing in strength.

A Political Act

Today reminded me that in the face of such hate, intolerance, and vitriol, the simple act of being openly gay (or LGBT, use whichever suits you best) remains a political act. Pride parades remain relevant, important, and a political protest as well as a celebration of our community. Gay bars remain a necessary community hub and safe space; a sanctuary, yet still under threat. If you walk down the street holding your same-sex partner’s hand, or kiss them in public, you do it in spite of the looks you may well receive from passers-by.

In recent years, I’ve considered my lifestyle to be relatively free from activism, but in some ways I’ve dismissed or underestimated my own self-confidence in living as a gay man. I’ve been out since I was 15, and in recent years I’ve played and spoken on behalf of a gay/inclusive rugby club. I’ve marched in pride parades in Cork, Belfast, Limerick, Dublin, and Copenhagen, and even when I thought I was living a private life away from activism, it remained a political one.

How wonderful it would be to be able to kiss my boyfriend on the street, and not consider who could be watching in disapproval or disgust.

Unfortunately, Ireland is not immune from the shift towards xenophobia, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and national conservatism that other countries have been impacted by. That means that those most vulnerable are the same ones in greater danger from others who have started to feel justified in their opinions and actions. I generally consider myself an optimistic person, but it is unnerving to see these changes taking place, when we were once celebrating a new and socially liberal Ireland. It makes IDAHOBiT, Pride, and simply living openly, all the more important.

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