Leo Varadkar: why his coming out really is a small kind of queer victory.

One of the things about being the type of queermo who’s been out for a gajillion years (since we were literally partying like it was 1999, people. Because it was, in fact, nineteen ninety-nine. More or less) is that hanging about in your little queer bubbles you get the idea that we’re somehow different.

Of course, there’s nothing about being born something other than a cis heterosexual that makes you special or different. In the beginning, we’re just like everyone else- tiny, adorable, and prone to pooping our pants on a regular basis. It’s not until much later that all that cisheteronormativity starts to kick in and you’re forced to sink or swim and learn to navigate.

It’s not that LGBTQ people are special or different. It’s just that those of us who are able and willing to be outspoken tend to have some things in common. We’re more likely to come from environments that nurtured us instead of excluding us. We’re more likely to be fairly, y’know, ballsy people who Give No Fucks. Or we’re the people who didn’t have a choice about being out or not, cause we tick one stereotype too many to pass under anyone’s radar.

For years, those were the faces you’d see.

And then yesterday morning, our health minister Leo Varadkar came out, leaving a lot of queers, well, deeply uncomfortable. The first government minister to come out (although we have plenty of out TDs and Senators), and he’s from a right-of-centre party and has one of the most unpopular jobs of the lot of them. Seriously, can you remember the last time we were happy with our health minister? I can’t.

We’re deeply uncomfortable. It just doesn’t sit right, does it? We’re not used to a minister and a Taoiseach, both from a right-wing party, joking about coming out and going to gay bars. Aren’t these supposed to be the kind of people who want people like us to shut up and hide? Since when are we so mainstream? And if we are, then why the hell do we still have to look over our goddamned shoulders every time we walk down the street together?

It feels uncomfortable to see someone in a position of such privilege, who has hidden who they are for decades and gotten immense power within that, come out just when the establishment they are a part of starts to show some support for a select few of our issues. Should we be happy that another person has come out? Worried that this is a kind of pinkwashing and creeping homonormativity, another sign that marriage equality is being seen as the be all and end all of inclusion? Congratulating Varadkar for his bravery or angry that it took him so long while we were bearing the brunt of queerphobia?

We’re not special, though, are we? That’s what this is forcing us- us lefties and queer-as-in-fuck-yous- to deal with. There’s nothing about being born not hetero or not cis that makes a person like us. We’ve always known that. We’ve always known that not everyone had the support, the guts, or the inclination to be open. We’ve always said not only that we are everywhere and everyone, but that that is one of the most powerful tools that we have.

I do worry that our critiques of gender and relationship norms are being diluted. I worry that the issues facing the most vulnerable among us are being ignored in the push for the almighty marriage rights. I worry about poverty, mental health, bullying, deportations, homelessness, suicide, and all the everyday exclusions and fears that we’re so used to taking into account that we don’t even think of anymore.

But I can’t help but feel that this is a good thing. It’s a good thing because, yes, it’s nice that another person is open about who he is (whether I like him or not is irrelevant). And it’s a good thing because it’s not just the ballsy queers and the people who don’t have a choice who are out these days. We won’t get the credit, but we’ve been working for years to make this country a safer place for all of us LGBTQ people. If the right-wing doctor politicians can be open about who they are, then in a funny way all of our work is paying off. In a way that probably doesn’t look a bit like what we wanted it to, but is a lot like what we knew it probably would.

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Leo Varadkar: why his coming out really is a small kind of queer victory.

2 thoughts on “Leo Varadkar: why his coming out really is a small kind of queer victory.

  1. 1

    From something I’m reading just now:

    The irony of the street (Compton Street, London) having become a self-promoting ghetto doesn’t anger him today, nor its decay from fought-for space of liberation to vacuous marketing opportunity. He understands that as repression lifts victim identity vaporises and the oppressed become as shallow as their oppressors. Shallower, even, since they do not have the shame of having oppressed to grain their souls. But he remembers too how things were in the all-too-recent past, before advertisers were eager to chase the pink pound – doing the Gay Pride march when it was only two hundred people and you were visible so visible and so unwanted – and he is thankful for the small, if hedonistic and apolitical mercies of this street.

    And if the individuals who frequent it are shallow there is nonetheless depth in their coming together so publicly; in the history of defiance that is built upon.

    The novel’s called Colour Scheme by John R. Gordon. A white guy however, so maybe next year?

    I thought it resonated with what you were saying. Do you think so?

  2. 2

    I’m really not seeing why this is a worrying thing. Surely this is a sign that you are becoming increasingly acknowledged as, you know, humans if even beige volvo drivers are coming out? That this comes with having to give up the idea that you are an underground counterculture is a byproduct of no longer being shoved underground.

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