Not a comment I expected to see as I scrolled beneath an online article on Hollywood actress Ellen Page’s recent coming out. Unfortunately, it was not to be the last of the negatives.
While the presence of narrow-minded comments is to be somewhat expected on such articles, the comments on this story were not the kind that I’d come across before. These were cynical, indifferent and surprisingly more disturbing to read than the usual ‘God didn’t create Adam and Steve’ remarks. One reader went so far as to claim that Page’s coming out was ‘clearly a publicity stunt’ and another said that this was merely ‘just another gay story’.
While one might claim that such comments are not worthy of our attention, posted by trolls with nothing better to do, at the time they struck me as something to take note of – representing a glimpse into something more. Are such comments perhaps representative of a growing feeling about the pervasiveness of gay stories in the media? Are straights becoming immune to anything that features the word ‘gay’?
A few days after Page came out, I saw comments of a similar nature beneath an online article featuring interviews with young gay people, detailing the homophobia they had experienced throughout their teenage years. Here, a number of readers said that they were ‘sick of hearing’ about such issues. This emerging disillusionment in regard to LGBT issues, in particular the serious topic of homophobic bullying, is a worrying sign for people who identify as LGB or T.
Are gay rights mundane to you?
In the past few years, the visibility of LGBT issues has increased and in turn so has the acceptance of gay people. Could this be why some people within the straight community are now viewing the gay rights issues in Ireland, not only done and dusted, but bordering on mundane?
Such people need a reality check. If being gay was so mundane, then why would a survey, recently published by GLEN, reveal that 58 per cent of young people reported homophobic bullying in their schools? If being gay was so mundane, why would more than 50 per cent of kids who are identified as LGBT be called abusive names whilst walking the school corridors? If being gay was so mundane, why was Ellen page, a highly confident young Hollywood actress, literally shaking before she announced her sexual orientation to the world? If being gay was so mundane, why did she ever have to hide who she was in the first instance?
Despite the reality of what’s happening on the ground, it’s evident that an element of Irish society is now becoming immune to the discussion around LGBT rights and issues. They are bored with hearing about anything which features the word ‘gay’. One person I know likened the recent upsurge in media coverage around homophobia to an irritating song that has been given too much airplay.
‘You bloody gays, you’re always complaining’
As Rory O’Neill pointed out in his interview a number of weeks ago with Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio: ‘You bloody gays, you’re always complaining’ is the response that gay people are confronted with when they ‘complain’ about certain issues.
There is a prevalence of thought within our society that the gays in Ireland ‘have it good.’ To quote Rory: “as long as someone isn’t beating you with a baseball bat – as long as you’re not in Russia… we have no right to complain.”
However, people who identify as straight need to realise that we shouldn’t be feeling grateful that we don’t live in a country with strict anti-gay laws like Uganda or Russia. We shouldn’t have to be content with our lot because, in comparison to those countries, our relationships are viewed as more ‘acceptable’ by Irish society and our government. In fact, we have the right to air our concerns for as long as we feel that we are being treated differently or discriminated against due to our sexual orientation.
We need our voices heard
If being gay was actually ‘mundane’, I would be delighted. For a start, if straight people didn’t care about who we loved, then homophobic bullying would cease to exist. Perhaps I could hold my partner’s hands while walking through a park without fear of some abusive comment being thrown our way, and ultimately we wouldn’t need to fight for our right to marry in a referendum.
However, people outside the LGBT community do care about who we love. In fact, some care so much that they go out of their way to ensure that we are aware of their disapproval. This is why we do need to keep our voices to be heard, despite people saying we should shut up. It is vital that those members of the straight community who feel, for whatever reason, indifferent when it comes to the issues surrounding LGBT rights, start to care about inequality and begin to support us on our journey in gaining full equality in Irish society. It is a fight we should not have to undertake alone.
Christine Allen is currently in her second year of a Springboard course for the unemployed in DCU. She has written in recent years on LGBT topics for the youth website SpunOut.ie and has also been published in Gay Community News.
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