A Numbers Game


The greatest enemy of LGBT rights in Ireland is not RTÉ, or certain newspaper columnists or organisations; it’s our own apathy, says Rob Buchanan.


The energy of the crowd outside the Gaiety Theatre on King Street yesterday was tangible. People of all ages and from walks of life were there, chatting and rubbing their hands together against the cold while we waited for the speeches to begin. The Irish Times says there were 750 there, RTÉ say there were 2,000.

The LGBT Noise protest was over the censorship of Rory O’Neill’s appearance on RTÉ’s Saturday Night Show on January 11th in the wake of solicitor’s letters claiming defamation. The overriding vibe was a keen desire to redress the specific injustice dealt out to payers of the license fee through the censorship of the word ‘homophobia’. The tone of the protest was neither seditious nor revolutionary, it was more a collective desire to right a very specific wrong.

We were shareholders in a national company demanding to know why we have been silenced by that company from speaking the truth about our lives. To add insult to injury, a huge sum of money was paid out by our national broadcaster to members of the Iona Institute and John Waters, a dangerous precedent that gives a green light to institutionalised homophobia, and allows all discriminatory discourse, whether it be against gays, women or any minority in the state, free reign, with no opportunity for anyone to name it for what it is.

Anna McCarty Adams and Caroline Early of LGBT Noise gave stirring speeches, Caroline delineating what constitutes homophobia and how essential it is to identify it and highlight it in our society.

Senator David Norris, as fiery and charismatic as ever, spoke about the conservative, but sadly unsurprising cyclical nature of censorship by right wing cultish elements, who seek to limit our freedom. As Senator Norris said, these people have had the stage for 2,000 years.

They need to be kicked off that stage. They are hypocrites whose entire discourse is antagonistic. They use minorities they don’t understand, willfully misrepresenting us to gain a fiction of superiority. They are charlatans wearing the cloak of authority.

David Carroll, Executive Director of BeLonG To Youth Services, reminded us that state-sanctioned appeasement of those who wish to deny us our equal rights is a form of homophobia in itself. It creates a dangerous climate for both gay and straight kids, where bullying is considered acceptable.

The message RTÉ has sent to young LGBT people over the past few weeks is that their complicity with the pantomime of respectability is essential. Otherwise they will be at best gagged, and at worst tarred and feathered by those in ‘authority’. They will bring shame on their parents and earn the scorn and persecution of their peers.

And the sickest part of it all is that we are all paying an annual fat fee for this message to be delivered.

A dangerous precedent is set by cow-towing to these people who represent a tiny, though pernicious minority. When poisonous discourse goes unchallenged, in fact worse than that, when the challenge is actively censored, the virtue of a nation comes in to question. The social ecology of the country is tainted. A state-sanctioned attack on individual freedom anywhere is a danger to liberty everywhere.

John Moynes and Tara Flynn performed a sketch lampooning the hypocrisy of institutions that pride themselves on good old-fashioned family values, like discrimination, bullying and the stigmatisation of difference as a means of elevating the fiction that one form of love is greater than all others.

For me the highlight of the protest was Max Krzyzanowski’s rallying call on the perils of allowing the enemies of equality to co-opt victimhood as a mask to hide their discrimination behind. He made some great points about how we should deny them oxygen and target our outrage against the systems that facilitate their message of discrimination, not the individuals themselves.

Max stated that homophobia as a term should be used at our discretion, not as a tool to be codified by people who would actively discriminate while hiding behind a veil of respectability. He highlighted the hypocrisy of institutions, whose founding principles are discrimination and dogmatic prejudice, playing the victim card.

A lasting change in attitudes about how we view and value each other, regardless of our differences is essential to alter the social landscape of this nation. This cannot happen while legal and financial considerations in Ireland supersede morality. Litigious groups threatening anyone who dares call them out on their bigoted beliefs must not be pandered too, but exposed for who they really are.

A group of lawyers and cowardly ‘yes men’ decided it would be financially advantageous in the long-run to placate The Iona Institute members and John Waters with a fat paycheck from license fee payer’s money, rather than risk challenging them. The national broadcaster has been compromised.

But the biggest enemy of equality for LGBT people in Ireland is neither newspaper columnists nor Catholic institutions. It is the apathy of queers across this nation. Even if there were 2,000 queers and their supporters at the protest, but that wasn’t near enough. How many thousands more couldn’t be bothered to spend a half hour at a protest on a Sunday to affirm their civil rights, while they’ll be happy to drink up a storm and dance on the streets for Dublin Pride every summer?

Ireland is facing an huge threat when the right to free speech is blatantly censored by our national broadcaster. Alarm bells are ringing. Can you hear them yet?

© 2014 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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