Outside the GPO, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1 last Monday

‘Robert’ writes:

It’s a June 2020 I don’t think anyone really envisaged.

For me; single, living in a shared apartment in Dublin with no balcony; with a housemate (who has opposing views and tastes in most of the conversational things in life) celibate, I’ve been adhering to the guidelines and socially responsible for more weeks than I care to count at this point.

It’s a struggle to define the level of loneliness, with all family either on the opposite side of the country or abroad.

I feel strongly that there are many like me and including this may help someone know they’re not alone right now. It may even help to read this lengthy rant I felt the compulsion to write.

We all need to take breaks from social media. It is, however, very hard not to have your attention and heart gripped with what is happening on the other side of the ocean. And many will condemn the protesters for actions which contravened Covid-19 protocols here in Dublin.

However, I have witnessed many house parties in the city centre and, in my observed opinion, most non-adherence to guidelines is happening behind closed doors.

Given the mental health implications of staying at home, I won’t condemn someone who broke guidelines because they could simply no longer go on without human contact and, in doing so, perhaps saved their life.

This is a Pride month like no other and I think it’s very important to establish that if you are not willing to take the time to understand what brought people to the American Embassy – the embassy of a country to which modern Ireland has very deep strong ties – then you probably need to. You also need to learn that no amount of tweets, videos or digital alternatives is a substitute for protest.

Many people (including gay people before they come to terms with it and come out) associate Pride with parades and an extra level of nudity and colourful displays of expression.

But it’s there to remind us of the riot which founded the modern-day movement and to remind everyone that, though oppressors forced most of us to live in a place of hiding, a tipping point was reached.

After lifetimes of oppression, forced double lives, social invisibility, condemnation, murder and disregard as lesser human beings… It was the consistent pressure of an American police force on the only safe space LGBT+ people had left, that ignited the movement that gave me the freedom to be who I am today openly.

One of the people who started to push back was a black trans woman. If she and those around her stood silent and continued to let someone stand on their necks, the foot would have succeeded in complicit silence.

Just over five years ago, Panti Bliss eloquently gave us in Ireland the language to express how we felt. Generations of Irish LGBT+ people had been unable to break Ireland’s complicit silence because we simply didn’t know how, and we certainly didn’t feel, that we could express what it was like.

There is an understanding that a white gay man will never fully understand the experiences of black or people of all colour. To infer that I, or as white gay men, do is wrong. There are, however, far too many similarities in the shared experiences for us not to look at and the chance that they present to increase the strength of the equality movement internationally.

The hope that inclusion for all of humanity to realise the strength of numbers in a shared agenda for unrestricted access to equality, regardless of colour, sexuality, creed or gender, is within the scope of possibilities if we act up and answer the pleas of those fighting to be in a society that promises fair freedom to all citizens.

Mankind has entered an era of sufficient education en masse to recognise each individual’s own worth – the product of generations’ past battles – to better humanity. Here we are.

Like so many, but not all, gay men, I was always afforded the ability to hide from my oppressor. To deepen my voice, check how I walked, check what I wore and check how I held a cigarette helped me evade getting called out, ostracised and beaten (physically or emotionally).

Living the double life I can only postulate has so much to do with the increased levels of mental illnesses which studies show LGBT+ people are more likely to encounter in life.

I’ll never know a life where that ability to hide was not afforded to me, until I was ready to relinquish it. We campaigned door to door with our stories over five years ago as Ireland said “sure come on up here ’till I get a look at ya and see if you’re alright”. We bared our souls publicly and we put ourselves on display, to be examined, nationally.

And yet, even though we won, we had still gone face-to-face, door-to-door and toe-to-toe with our oppressors – the ones we lived in fear of for years.

We knocked on doors waiting in anticipation of an opinion on ourselves – to have a fundamental part of our existence open to opinion and debate, scheduled and systemic, in quick succession, just asking to be considered equal.

Irish LGBT+ people chose this route out of respect and love for the Constitution and the sacrifices that founded this State born from our ancestors’ oppression. We also inherited a situation that – in order for a harmonious respect and inherent love of both identities – there simply was no choice but to start asking.

Seeing black and people of colour hug tearfully outside the US Embassy in Dublin at the weekend, crying out for help and for support, on the first day of Pride month 2020, I suddenly saw myself back in an Ireland before we, as a majority, said Yes.

I remembered how many straight people understood they could never understand, who listened, and said Yes. Having had five years to digest being equal – at home at least – and to look back, I’ve realised that it would be contrary to my fought-for equality and freedom to exist without prejudice while simultaneously denying the same to another anywhere. And silence would be denial.

There stands a hope for two movements to unite in securing their common basic human right to simply be without prejudice. In Ireland five years ago, we underwent the social revolution that allowed us to share and listen, to open ourselves to empathy and, where possible, sympathy. Many people learned that we are not ok with silent suffering.

A hope now exists for what can be achieved as a collection of movements to recognise the common goal, acknowledge that racism within LGBT+ people is an isomer of homophobia in black culture. Humanity’s future – if it is to progress – depends on recognising and respecting that which binds us.

So by all means cast judgement. Tell stories of how racism doesn’t exist in Ireland; that this is just America’s problem; tell me Pride finished its job in 2015; tell me not to feel bothered by “LGBT+ Free Zones” in Poland, after all…it’s over there. Hitler was over there too but he spread just like a virus.

It is impossible to gauge the power and impact of a movement, it is impossible to gauge how many LGBT+ lives were saved by Pride, not just from death but intrinsic self-loathing.

I was born into a world where people said gays were a virus and HIV was the cure, where people like me were blatantly let die, where my own country considered me illegal by nature.

Today, while in Ireland, we enjoy hard-earned freedoms, only to be reminded that things are very different elsewhere as freedoms to just be are revoked in favour of the facist flavour.

Pride gave me space to live. I relinquish freedoms and bear extra responsibilities daily nowadays to save lives. I will not simultaneously condemn those who must protest now to save theirs and those just like them.

Even if the lives saved are because the people protesting felt the combined energy of human good to put an end to suffering by wedging the door of conversation open, helping to ensure ignorance and silent approval is not allowed to take hold here in Ireland. Is that not worth it?

If you feel like you’ve made all the effort against Covid and the people who attended this protest have no respect for your effort, think hard.

And please, listen to the reasons that drove people to protest. If they don’t sound familiar, be thankful. All lives do not matter unless #blacklivesmatter.

Rollingnews

Monday: Meanwhile, In Dublin

 

23 thoughts on “A New Pride

  1. gallantman

    Thats all fine. That is also all beside the point.

    If there is a spike in Covid 19 in two weeks, a disease that has disproportionately effected black people I’m sure your sincerely expressed sentiments will be of little consolation.

    Reply
  2. Yoji

    We have sacrificed so much for the effort to protect the health service and vulnerable in terms of mental health and actually wealth. If it couldn’t have been done as it should have been in the context of covid then it shouldn’t have happened. What was wrong with strongly organising a several mile long distanced march. Bring the whole city to a stop have the march and your chants ring out over the whole city? Too hard to achieve? Then don’t risk everything for it. Beautiful as it may have been those people had no business hugging each other. Your fellow citizens have missed their loved ones last moments and couldn’t have a proper funeral or service. These things are hugely important as well but people have sacrificed. This is a once in a lifetime crisis and anything that makes it last longer will risk more lives and further cripple our already almost destroyed economy.

    The cause you all marched for was 100% the right one and in any other time I would have been standing with you. I’ve marched for hunger strikers, falsely imprisoned, murdered, our city, our planet and a multitude of other causes. You and your other marchers were wrong however in the way you did it. I only hope that it has been so removed from the community that it will not have been too bad. It was a gamble though and I hope the numbers in two weeks are in your favour because if they go up and more people than needed to die you have to look at yourself in the mirror not I.

    Reply
    1. SOQ

      Why does the old gay humour from the Shankill Road in Belfast spring to mind?

      Its not homophobia luv- nobody likes you.

      Reply
    1. fluffybiscuits

      You not met the new lad on the door on the George or remember the door staff in the twinky ridden kip that was the Dragon

      Reply
      1. SOQ

        Oh really? George wouldn’t be a regular of mine.

        No I actually preferred Dragon- at least there was a decent dance floor without the posers- always thought George was way more twinky myself.

        Reply
  3. fluffybiscuits

    Basically, im gay, I can live free, let everyone go out and protest but I wont condemn them for killing others with Covid

    Total clap trap

    Reply
  4. fluffybiscuits

    The long and short of it is that the lonliness increases week on week with every passing day of this and I have spent so long helping others stem the tide of lonliness I am beginning to drown at the best of times. Tomorrow is a funeral of someon i know who passed from it. I have people crawling teh walls from family to flatmates to friends. Two of my closest friends have to cocoon because they have a condition that the virus would destroy their bodies. Tonight I went on a walk with a randomer after I placed an ad on facebook for a buddy to go for a social distancing walk. My mother has fallen into a depression. I dont condemn people who might invite their friend around for a cheeky glass of wine but a whole party? Have you not got your head screwed on or what it appears is you are projecting your own wishes on to people as you wish to partake too in the house parties.

    “Pride gave me space to live. I relinquish freedoms and bear extra responsibilities daily nowadays to save lives. I will not simultaneously condemn those who must protest now to save theirs and those just like them.”

    And if people continue in mass gatherings then you might not live to have any space to live apart from an oak coffin 6 foot by one to hold your corpse.

    Disjointed ramblings that is all this is….

    Reply
  5. Ringsend Incinerator

    Oh get a real sense of oppression.

    I lived in San Francisco. The biggest racists in the city were in the Castro.

    Reply
  6. Ringsend Incinerator

    Pride isn’t a protest. It’s a promotion.

    Pride is a corporate event. Stop bleating about oppression when you’re making money for US and Irish tech, banks, and drinks makers.

    Reply
  7. Clampers Outside

    Social Justice isn’t justice. The “my justice” trumps “your justice” in Roberts piece demonstrates that perfectly.

    Thank you Robert for doing that.

    Reply

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