Aoife Read has been on the Yes Equality Bus tour, canvassing across Ireland for a Yes, and while the reception has been largely good, she’s been educated in changing the hearts and minds of potential No voters.
Last week I was on the Yes Equality Bus tour. We went around Ireland, to various towns, meeting local LGBT groups and canvassing. On one of the days we even had Taoiseach, Enda Kenny join us. It was all about promoting LGBT visibility and encouraging Yes voters to get out and make their presence felt. It was also about showing solidarity to the smaller groups dotted around the country.
It was a wonderful experience. So wonderful in fact, that I will be back on the bus this week for the final leg of the tour.
One of the most interesting things about it was meeting people with different stories to tell. We got to educate and inform and sometimes just listen to a vast array of people from every walk of life. After five days on the bus I would say that the country, in theory at least, is mostly behind us.
Unfortunately, despite all of the support we received, all the brave and fantastic people we met, there are still those few extremists out there who shock, scare and hurt you. There are still people who will shout at you on the streets. There are still people out there who will threaten you and make you feel vulnerable and frightened.
This begs the question, what happens if the country votes No?
Acceptance of Homophobia
What a lot of people fail to realise is that it won’t simply mean that we won’t be afforded the privilege of having civil marriage extended to us. It will mean much more than that.
It will mean that our country has decided that it doesn’t fully support us. It will mean that our country has spoken and decided that we are lesser citizens. It will mean that our country has decided that we are still firmly to be considered as outsiders. It will mean that we are not considered equals.
As we are all aware there is a dark underbelly of voters out there who are going to vote No, not out of a place of concern for children and not because of their religious belief systems, but out of a place of hatred. A no vote will give credence and validation to these people to act however they see fit. It will allow for a certain amount of acceptance of homophobia. It has the potential to turn Ireland into an unsafe and scary place for the LGBT community.
As I said, the bus tour taught me a lot, and while the country does seem to be behind us, we need to turn that into actual votes. There is no room for complacency. Every single vote matters.
Our Job Right Now
Every person reading this has the power to turn a No vote into a Yes. There are plenty of potential No voters out there who are doing so because they don’t fully understand what it is that they are voting against. It is all of our jobs right now to educate these people.
Personalise it for them. Make them understand not just what a Yes vote will mean to you, but how a No vote will affect you. Make them realise that the implications reach far beyond denying us the right to civil marriage.
We still have time to change some minds and make them understand and empathise with our situation. Our futures are in their hands, and the responsibility rests squarely on our shoulders.
The Yes Equality Bus Tour will be in Dublin on Thursday, May 14, Carlow on May 15, and Galway on May 16. Check out www.yesequality.ie for further information
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