The author of this post has asked to remain anonymous, as they are currently only out to a small number of their close friends.
Now that the referendum campaigning is done, and the yesses have it, I’d like to talk about something I felt I couldn’t much during the past few weeks. The run up to the vote has been wearying, painful and damaging to the queer community. The venomous homophobia spewing forth from the many heads of the Iona hydra has taken its toll on everyone. How deeply that pain is felt depends heavily on the network of support a person has around them, and I for one am grateful that my immediate family and circle of friends are, at least most of the time, not outwardly homophobic.
While hateful lies published by right-wing scummers are easy to criticise, to mock, and, for some, to brush off, it will be harder for those of us on the Yes side to self-reflect and see the many ways in which our campaigns have been harmful to the very people they claim to represent. A good example of this is the incredibly misguided “Straight Up For Equality” campaign. The slogan serves no purpose, other than to state that you can vote in favour of same sex marriage, even if you’re Not A Gay. For straight people, literally the only people not directly affected by the outcome of this referendum, this campaign gives them an excuse to assert their own heteronormativity, to maintain an “us and them” straight versus gay dichotomy, while allowing themselves to feel like progressive liberal heroes. Straight people, listen up; this is not about you.
Another thing that the Straight Up For Equality slogan implies is that there are only two types of relationships, straight or gay, and that your sexuality depends on which relationships you happen to be in. What of queers who aren’t gay? Do two bi women in a relationship suddenly become lesbians? Are a straight woman and her pan husband in a straight marriage? What of individuals of nonbinary gender? I can imagine the answer from our self-professed straight allies would be something along the lines of, “…huh?”
This notion of straight and gay binary has been rampant throughout the referendum campaign. Using terms such as “gay marriage” when you mean “same sex marriage” erases the identity of the majority of people on the queer spectrum. I was surprised to see some of my bi friends championing former president Mary McAleese for the speech she gave to BeLonG To, in which she stated, “the only children affected by this referendum are Ireland’s gay children.” Using “gay” as a catch all phrase to mean the LGBTQIA community hurts those of us who are queer in anything other than the most mainstream, socially acceptable way.
A powerful symbol of the appeal to acceptability is the mural in Dublin of two men embracing, with the slightest suggestion of a kiss, which was followed almost as an afterthought by a mural in Galway of two women, decidedly not kissing. An important thing to note here is that all four individuals in these murals are white, able-bodied, and to be presumed cis. Where are the murals of our queers of colour, our queer Travellers, our queer trans folk, our queers with visible disabilities? No, poster gays (and lesbians if you insist) only please!
Why do we throw our less respectable queers under the bus? Are we afraid that mainstream society would vote against same sex marriage if it knew the reality of queer diversity? Is that is a society into which you would happily be assimilated?
I can only hope that the inevitable post referendum drop-off of “acceptable” queers (i.e.; gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry) will give rise to a more radicalised approach to queer politics in Ireland.