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'LGBT people have been terrorised for a very long time'

Outhouse Director George Robotham argues Ireland still has a long way to go before LGBT people achieve full equality.

George Robotham

EVERY DAY WE see the indiscriminate effects of homophobia and transphobia. Addiction, substance abuse, suicidality are disproportionately common amongst LGBT people.

Outhouse, Dublin’s LGBT has operated a non-commercial LGBT community centre for over 20 years. Alongside confidence and hope, we’ve seen a bewildering range of need, insecurity and overt fear embodied in nearly the 35,000 individuals who walk through our door each year.

We also see people come alive when they enter the building – how they feel at home – but sadly they often fade far into the background when they step back into the public space.

LGBT vigil Orlando shootings vigil in Barnardos Square Source: RollingNews.ie

Whitewashing LGBT issues

Some US politicians and media pundits took the focus off the homophobic aspect of Orlando shooting and expediently framed it as Islamic terrorism. We have a history of similar erasure in Ireland. It is the invisibility with which our issues have traditionally been dealt with that compounds our isolation.

According to an LGBTIreland report released in March, one in five LGBT people has suffered physical violence.

Still, in 2016, we do not not have hate crime legislation in Ireland.

The invasive investigations and subsequent court case, where defendants were all acquitted, of the bloody murder of a gay man, Declan Flynn, in Fairview Park in September 1982, illustrated LGBT people’s vulnerability in this state.

It was only in 1997, after a series of ‘gay bashings’, that An Garda Siochána began to engage with hate-motivated crime against members of the LGBT community.

Fairview Park Fairview Park Source: Photocall Ireland!/RollingNews.ie

Continuing homphobia

In the climate of celebration following marriage equality, one would be forgiven for thinking homo/transphobia was a thing of the past. But it is clear to us at Outhouse that it’s far from over.

Anyone who believes that this is not true for Ireland should consult the LGBTIreland report. It was described by former President Mary McAleese at its launch as “as essential and revealing as it is horrifying”. “The ongoing damage is undeniable,” she added.

LGBTI Report Launch of the LGBT helpline report Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The report documents the stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, substance misuse, bullying and exclusion of LGBT people, and also outlines the day-to-day victimisation and harassment experienced.

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Alarmingly, 30% of the 2,264 respondents had been verbally abused in the past year. Many other reports attest to the fact that our community and health services are hugely underfunded compared with any geographically-based community in this country.

This erasure by the state fuels, and actually ensures, our invisibility and our minority status.

Solidarity

The attack in Orlando strikes a particular fear in the hearts of LGBT people worldwide. It was an attack focused on the kind of space where we feel safe to express ourselves and celebrate together. People just like us were murdered – primarily for being themselves.

Expressing our sympathy and solidarity is important, but we must also continue to support movements for full equality and inclusion in Ireland, and we must support such efforts worldwide. We cannot be cowed by these attacks. We must harness our anger and upset, continue to claim our spaces and celebrate our diversity.

Outhouse has opened a book of condolence for the Orlando victims for the entire month of June at 105 Capel St, Dublin. It is open from 10am-10pm Monday-Friday, and on Saturdays from 1-6pm.

George Robotham is the Director and co-founder of Outhouse.

Read: Gay clubs are a sanctuary when being LGBT could get you killed

Read: Orlando shooter was a homophobic killer, deliberately using the ‘Isis’ name

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George Robotham

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