Buzz O'Neill shares his experience with homophobia in light of Call It Out campaign

Speaking about the Call It Out campaign, Buzz O'Neill recalls the homophobic attack he experienced in Dublin.

Buzz O'Neill shares his experience in light of the Call It Out campaign

A new civil society campaign created to highlight and address the harm caused by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Ireland has been launched. Call It Out is a message to the LGBT+ community saying – this type of prejudice is not acceptable and you don’t have to stand for it.

I was coming out of The George with a friend of mine who was a bit drunk. I was walking him out to a taxi. I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. This taxi was passing with guys in it and one of them shouted out the window, ‘Faggot, fucking faggot’.” For Buzz O’Neill, this was the beginning of a homophobic attack which, surprisingly, is more common in Ireland than many would believe.

“I got into a verbal argument with this guy, then he spat out the window at me. All of a sudden there were three guys jumping out of the taxi at me. And they went to town on me. Only the door staff of The George saw it and they were on it within seconds – one of them was literally about to drop his foot on my head as I was on the ground. They all got back into the taxi, The George staff tried to drag them out but they had already threatened their taxi driver. He was an older man, he felt very intimidated, so he just drove away to Temple Bar and they jumped out and ran away.”

Buzz continued, “The next day I posted it up on social media, and there was a reaction with phone calls and texts from my friends who were surprised that this was still going on – ‘What do you mean people are still getting gay bashed?’”

Call It Out, a groundbreaking new LGBT+ public education and awareness campaign aims to highlight and address the harm caused by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. A joint initiative of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and the Hate and Hostility Research Group (HHRG) at the University of Limerick, it describes that despite recent positive changes for LGBT+ people in Ireland, many still experience harassment and intimidation simply because of who they are.

Amanda Haynes and Jennifer Schweppe of the HHRG reported the results of the Call It Hate survey for Ireland where it was found that one in five, or 21%, have been punched, hit or physically attacked in public for being LGBT+. Of the 1,395 people who replied, one in three members of the LGBT+ community have been threatened with physical violence while one in three also believe that violence against the LGBT+ community is a serious problem in Ireland.

It seems as though the general consensus is that the levels of prejudice within Irish society are greatly underestimated. One of the reasons behind this is, ironically the success of the Marriage  Equality referendum, people assuming that homophobia has faded.

Regarding hate speech, Buzz explained, “Post marriage equality, people copped on and said that’s not an acceptable language, they are not phrases you should use in a derogatory sense against somebody. But Ireland is going back.

“Those words can have such a massive impact on the person on the receiving end. We only have to look at the stats and they are there staring us in the face – suicide rates in the gay community are still proportionately large.”

The Call It Out campaign has three clear messages it wants to convey to the general public. The first is that hate crimes and incidents towards LGBT+ people are message crimes, they not only affect the person subjected to them, but they also affect the whole LGBT+ community because they share the same identity and it can, therefore, create a climate of fear. Secondly, that something that you may think is harmless and funny can be very hurtful to members of the LGBT+ community because those jokes and words have been used as weapons against them. And finally, that it is unacceptable in Ireland in 2019 to commit incidents motivated by homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. This behaviour is at odds with the spirit and values of our country and our people, who are welcoming, fair and decent.

The campaign will run nationally utilising a range of media platforms including billboards, poster sites, infographics, social media, radio ads and regional events in an effort to reach across society with the important message. A short film entitled Have You Ever Felt? featuring a host of emerging Irish actors from across the LGBT+ community will feature prominently on social media.

Ellen Murray, the campaign spokesperson for TENI  said:  “LGBT+ people still live with a background of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as a result of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, it feels like it is part of being who they are. We want to send a clear message that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are not acceptable.

“To the general public, we ask that you call out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia when you encounter them. To our LGBT+ community, we ask that you share your experiences with people you trust. Talk about it to find support.”

On Wednesday, June 5, GCN – in conjunction with TENI and the Call It Out campaign (#CALLITOUT) – will host an evening of conversation exploring the complex and multifaceted nature of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as experienced by LGBT+ people in today’s Ireland.

Project Arts Centre will play host to this vital event, which will include presenter, broadcaster and fashion designer Brendan Courtney, Ellen Murray from TENI, Paddy Smyth from My Disabled Life amongst the panellists.

Admission is €5/€3 unwaged/Student and proceeds will be in support of GCN and TENI. There will also be a limited amount of Call It Out merchandise up for grabs for ticket holders including the beautiful Call It Out T-shirts.

Poster for the upcoming event Call It Out A Queer Perspective

Tickets to the event are available here.

For more information, visit www.callitout.ie.

If you would like support on this issue, you can contact the following:
LGBT Ireland Helpline: 1890-929539
Gender Identity Family Support Line: 01-9073707
Gay Switchboard: 01-8721055
Dublin Lesbian Line: 01-8729911

This story originally appeared on GCN’s June 2019 issue. Read the full issue here.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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