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Column: Eamon Delaney’s attack on gay people is full of all the oldest tricks

Journalist Eamon Delaney may claim to stand for equality – but his assertions are nothing but the usual homophobic bullying, writes GCN editor Brian Finnegan.

Brian Finnegan

THERE IS A hard and fast rule when writing a column that criticises gay people, whether it be about their politics or their lifestyles: Always state somewhere in the copy, preferably at the beginning, that some of your best friends are gay.

By letting your readers know that you count homosexuals among your homies, you can give yourself carte blanche to say whatever the hell you like and not call it homophobia.

Some of your best friends are gay, so that means you actually really like the gays, doesn’t it?

Eamon Delaney went one step further in his Sunday Independent column ‘Loud and proud gays want to take over the rest of society’ on 30 October, telling us that he once lived in New York’s West Village and was accused of ‘trading off’ on the gay fun there because he wore a copycat denim jacket and tartan shirt.

Mr Delaney never said exactly when he lived in the West Village, though I suspect it was in the early 1970s when denim jackets and tartan shirts were actually fashionable with gays. But I digress.

Once he had assured us of his gay-friendly credentials, Delaney trotted out that other most important gambit of any anti-gay column: the suggestion that the gay community are looking for special treatment in society. When composing this part, the columnist must be very careful not to use the words ‘equal rights’ or ‘equality’ and should substitute them with the words ‘more rights’ and ‘privileges’, which Delaney duly did.

‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?’

I could go on. Delaney’s column is so full of stock arguments to convince the Sunday Indo’s readership of the stalking threat of the gay community to society at large, it’s as if he read The Idiot’s Guide – the gay community is divided over the political fight for our rights; gay men are sexually voracious but at the same time want to be perceived as respectable, and blah, blah, blah.

These lies, of course, led to the central thesis of Delaney’s argument – that same-sex couples should not be allowed to parent children. It always comes down to this – the lady in the church choir, crying: ‘Won’t someone please think of the children?’ It’s what they call the oldest trick in the book.

The clever, if not very emotionally intelligent aspect of Delaney’s column was his insidious use of words like “freewheeling sexual activity” and “radical departure in parenting” that hint at a darker force at work as same-sex couples strive for the right to be recognised under Irish law as parents. Delaney backed all this up with an assertion of his reasonability – he was simply questioning “the direction and motivation of the whole sexual rights agenda”.

Gay people do not have a sexual rights agenda. We have a human rights agenda. We are seeking equal rights to the rights Eamon Delaney enjoys, which we believe we are entitled to because we are fully functioning human beings who contribute equally to society, who just happened to have been born with an attraction to the same sex.

Eamon Delaney has children. I would assume he takes the rights his children have to recognise him as their father under the law for granted, and so he should. All children, whether they be biological or not, should have a right to their parents.

‘I was born gay. Eamon Delaney was born straight. Does it mean he is a better parent than I am?’

Under current Irish civil partnership law, the children of same-sex couples – thousands of them who do exist, more of whom are being born every day – have no legal right to one of their parents, leaving them wide open to discrimination endorsed by the State.

I also assume that even if Eamon Delaney and his wife were not able to biologically parent children, they would take their right to apply to adopt a child for granted. Luckily he’s not had to go down this route, and as a parent he knows the great joy of having a family. He knows of the unconditional love that can only be experienced by being a parent, of the naturally full and rich experience of life that having children entails. I assume he knows all this because I am also a parent.

I was born gay. Eamon Delaney was born straight. Does this mean that he has more of a right to experience the joy and pain, highs and lows, cares and comforts of having a family than I do? Does it mean that he is a better parent than I am?

When Mr Delaney goes on about “more and more rights and privileges” he might as well be talking about himself. He is the one with more rights and more privileges, simply by dint of the fact that he was born straight.

When I talk about being born gay, I do so emphatically because I know that the anti-gay agenda is underpinned by the falsity that being gay is a ‘chosen lifestyle’.

I am the editor of GCN, Ireland’s 24-year-old gay publication, which according to Delaney is full of ads endorsing late-night gyms, sex lines and a freewheeling sexual activity which would be dismissed as sleazy in heterosexual culture. (I doubt Arnotts, who currently advertise on the back page of GCN, would agree.) In my position I am often contacted by people who are experiencing difficulty because they are gay. On several occasions I have been contacted by teenagers who are suicidal, just as I was suicidal when I was a teenager myself.

‘Young people are still suicidal’

Why did I think of taking my own life? Because I was brutally bullied day in, day out at school by boys who identified me as gay. I did not choose to be gay, just as I did not choose to have my head stuck down a toilet or to have boys simulate raping me for the amusement of others.

It is a great sadness to me that although I am now in my 40s, and fully loving and accepting of myself as a gay man, that this problem has not gone away in our schools. Young people are still suicidal, still killing themselves because other young people torture them for being gay. In the Supporting LGBT Lives report, commissioned by the National Office for Suicide Prevention in 2008, over half of those aged 25 or younger at the time of completing the survey admitted to ever having given serious consideration to ending their own lives while just under 20 per cent reported having attempted suicide.

I would hate for one of Eamon Delaney’s children to be identified as gay in school (whether he is gay or not) and bullied for it. I would hate it if one of his children secretly thought of taking his own life and couldn’t talk to his father, a man who thinks that gay people somehow have less of a right to a full human life than other people, about his pain.

It is because of columns like his that anti-gay bullying persists. In fact, with his column, Delaney, who asserts that he is “all for gay rights and an end to prejudice and discrimination”, has become the bully.

There will not be an end to prejudice and discrimination as long as columns that tell lies about gay people are published in respected newspapers. There will not be an end to prejudice and discrimination as long as people like Eamon Delaney believe that gay people do not deserve the same rights as he enjoys.

We don’t want ‘more’. We want the same.

Brian Finnegan is the editor of GCN and can be followed on Twitter: @finneganba. His first novel will be published in 2012.

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