In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message.
Luke Bukha is a Zimbabwean born Irish activist with Anti Racism Network (ARN)
This was originally published as a letter in the Irish Times:
The Irish Times speculates “tens of thousands of Christian immigrants who have become Irish citizens” and even “up to 200,000 immigrants” may “help swing the vote in favour of No on May 22” and paints a picture of African people in Ireland especially as one unvaried, homogenous group (““New Irish” Christians gather to vote No in referendum”, Sunday 17th May). It is common, as Irish people know, for migrants to be seen as stereotypes rather than as we really are, in all our diversity. The media tries, in articles like this, to pigeon hole us, the “New Irish”, in a particular way that does not reflect us as we really are. We in the migrant communities in Ireland are diverse and our paths to this country and our experiences before and during our journey here were also many, and have shaped how we live our lives now, in the present. Some of us are Christian, some Muslim; some of us are of no religion, some atheists. Some of us are straight, some LGBT. Some of us have come here to escape persecution and threats to our lives and the lives of our families because of our political views, our ethnicity, our gender, because of poverty, to escape war, to make a better life for ourselves and our families, and some of us to escape persecution because we are LGBT.
That is why this referendum is about more than same-sex marriage for those of us who are calling for a Yes vote in the migrant communities. Voting Yes on Friday is about opening up to the other who may be different to you or me. It is about overcoming suspicion of anyone who doesn’t behave or look like ‘us’. Racial and ethnic minorities in this country know what it feels like to be discriminated against and held suspect because of our skin colour, our accent, our way of life, our religion. Voting Yes will help this country that is now our home to move away from the intolerant Ireland that was not a place for non-white people, and closer to a future where we can all be accepted as we are.
To show that many of us in the migrant communities, LGBT and straight, support Yes for Equality, a number of us came together to make a video with Anti-Racism Network Ireland (ARN) calling for a Yes vote on Friday. Articles such as the one published this week in the Irish Times ignore our existence, but we are here, and for every one of us calling publically for a Yes vote, there are many, many more.
In common with all citizens in Ireland, for those of us who can vote the referendum is our chance to define the country we want to live in. Let’s go and vote, but let’s vote for the future, not for the past.
Luke Bukha, Dublin 2