David Quinn of the Iona Institute tweeted ‘Who’s the father?’ in a discussion about lesbian broadcaster, Dil Wickremasinghe’s pregnancy. He would never have asked the same question of a single parent, adoptive parent or an infertile heterosexual couple, says Dil.
This should be the happiest time of my life. After two years of accessing the services of a fertility clinic, I am 6 months pregnant! Becoming a parent is the greatest gift of my life and I am so incredibly excited at the thought of meeting the little person that is growing inside of me as I write this.
However not all is well in my world. Instead of focusing on the experience of being pregnant, decorating the nursery and buying every Paddington Bear babygrow I can find, my attention is sadly drawn elsewhere.
For once it’s not my religious parents, who threw me out of the family home when I was 17 after coming out, making me homeless for three years. They are in fact ecstatic at the thought of becoming grandparents for the first time.
It’s not my job, as I have a successful radio programme on a national radio station, a privilege I don’t take lightly, given that I was fired from my first radio job in Sri Lanka because of my sexuality.
It’s not my mental health, as after years of self-reflection and therapy I am comfortable in my own skin, and through my work as a mental health advocate and support service provider I am helping others in their journey to recovery.
It’s certainly not the lack of a loving and supportive partner because I have been blessed to be with a beautiful caring woman who hasn’t allowed me to carry, lift or vacuum since we got the good news!
Happy announcement not so happy for some
So what could possibly potentially overshadow this miraculous time of my life? Well, it all started last November when we announced our news on Twitter. We received thousands of congratulatory wishes but we also received some very upsetting messages. Some went as far as calling me a child abuser for conceiving a child through IVF. As a survivor of child abuse I was deeply affected by this so I did the sensible thing and blocked them in the hope that they would go away.
However it didn’t end there as for the last three weeks there has been an on-going inflammatory conversation about me on social media mostly relating to my pregnancy. When I became aware of it I contacted the An Garda Síochána and was advised to report it. I genuinely thought it would die down in time.
Getting very personal
I woke up last Sunday morning super-excited because my partner had organised a baby shower with my dearest friends that evening. It was meant to be a happy occasion until I looked at my Twitter feed and saw the most appalling tweets. These were between a person I had previously blocked and David Quinn of the Iona Institute, demanding to know who the father of my child was. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that someone at the forefront of an organisation and a campaign could be so insensitive. How could a person who has continuously requested a fair and respectful debate around the upcoming Same-Sex Marriage Referendum make such a personal attack?
I couldn’t understand how anyone felt they had the right to ask me such a personal question, which would never be asked of a single parent, adoptive parent or infertile heterosexual couple. Even more perplexing is the fact that David Quinn is an adoptive parent and surely would appreciate that the parentage of a child is a highly confidential matter, which needs to remain within the family. Furthermore that tweet not only crossed the line of decency, but it gave others permission to do the same. Over the past 48 hours I have been mercilessly attacked on social media.
With less than three months to go to the referendum I am deeply concerned for the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our country. The debate must remain respectful and cannot involve personal attacks on individuals who are brave enough to provide a human face to the issue of marriage equality. However judging from the disappointing behaviour of those connected with the No campaign, who felt it was acceptable to bully, harass and badger a pregnant woman, I shudder to think how much worse it will get.
My only hope is that once the people of Ireland have spoken on the issue of whether two loving individuals, regardless of gender can enter into a civil marriage, we can finally get on with our lives. As a parent my greatest wish for our child is that when they he or she takes their first breath in this world – they will be born into an equally recognised family where they too will be viewed as an equal citizen of Ireland.
Dil Wickremasinghe is a social justice and mental health broadcaster of Global Village, Newstalk 106-108 FM, Saturday 7-9pm and Training Director with Insight Matters – Inspiring change in self and society through personal development, psychotherapy and counselling. Follow her on Twitter here.
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