Friday, May 22, 2015

Confessions of a Recovering Homophobe

A guest post.

I've been heterosexual as far as I can remember. It's simple enough. Growing up, I've always seen women as attractive. As friends as a young teenager, but also as I grew up I grew to find women attractive in a sexual sense as an adult. I think it progressively happens as one grows into a male adult.

However, it wasn't always that easy. As an 8 year old I was bullied horrendously for hobbies I pursued. I was massively involved in horses and showjumping as a result of hanging out with people who lived near my school who owned horses that got me involved in the sport. I fell in love with horses, and still love them to this day.

I won't toot my own horn as an intellectual 8-10 year old, but at the time I could tell I was being bullied for something that wasn't right. Frequently I was called gay and a faggot, and an absolute homo. Never mind being called an utter queer for the hobbies I enjoyed. It pissed me off to no end. Being a moderately more intelligent individual, I started researching. "What's a homo? What's a faggot? What's a queer?"

The only literature I could find as an 8-10 year old in the late 90's was all the utter nonsense the Church had spouted in mass, and also the utter nonsense they put on the shelves in the library in school. Logically, none of it made sense at the time. Actually, I'll be proud of myself here, because at the time, it literally made zero sense. My first foray into "Where's the logic here?".

I grew to hate homosexuality because it was put down by the Church, and because I was being put down as a result of it as a form of slagging. I very much adopted a "FUCK YOU!" approach to anyone that accused me of being a homosexual. I got the shit kicked out of me for telling people I'm not gay. It wasn't good enough for them because I couldn't prove I wasn't.

I went to Switzerland as a 12 year old with the Scouts in about 2000, and got my first taste of heavy metal. It was like a relief. Hearing Metallica's Master of Puppets for the first time is indescribable. Hearing those over-driven Marshall amps for the first time was a revelation. That fucking music knew what I was going through. It was like the music was taking over from me, to tell everyone that pissed me off to go and fuck themselves. It made me pick up a guitar to learn how to channel that anger myself through those riffs. I cannot thank my brother enough for casually telling me: "Here, you might like this!" and blasting out the entire album. Best and worst decision he's ever made by making me listen to that album! ;)

Anyway!

My dad bought me my copy of the Lord of the Rings on the 7th of April 2002 with the note: "Enjoy!" It was a gift from him that is my most cherished possession. I still remember buying it with him in Easons in Swords, and him bending the front cover of it as he put it under his arm as I gave it to him so I could get out of the car. The crease is still there to this day! ;) 

That trilogy of books was, and is, an absolute escape for any 15 year old, and is still an escape for me. It's still something I pick up to this day. One or two sentences, and it reminds me of the mental escape I found from the bullying and misery that I endured as an 8-10 year old. I was glad and am still glad, that that misery was/is over.

As a teenager, when I heard Viggo Mortensen bought the horses when The Lord of the Rings finished filming and gave them to the horse handlers, all I could think was: "Viggo knows. Viggo knows exactly how I feel when it comes to these animals." Having looked up to him playing Aragorn, my respect for him was quadrupled when I heard that he had such a respect for horses that I had as a kid. One of the first thoughts I had as a young teenager was: "That man knows exactly how I felt as a kid. Loving animals is awesome, and I'm not wrong for believing it."

As I grew into a young man, I grew to find women attractive, as any young man would. One or two teenage romances there was the norm. All innocent stuff.

When 2nd to 3rd year rolled around in school, I noticed friends in my social circle started to come out as gay. Alarm bells started ringing in my head. "What the hell is all this?" "I've been accused of this before. Not for me!" and I didn't want anything to do with them.

It wasn't until about 2005-2006 when I started college when I became friends with some truly wonderful people who are gay that cemented my belief in how awesome these people are.

I had been bullied as a young man by people who used homosexuality as a derogatory term, and it kindled a flame in me that made me angry that the people who I've come to know as some of the kindest, most gentle people ever, were being treated as second class citizens because the people they loved were of the same sex as them.

It's been 8-9 years since I realised that people who are gay in this country are completely normal in every respect. I now regularly go on the piss with my friends who are gay, whinge about hangovers with my friends who are gay, get pints and whine about miserable shit that is pissing me off about day to day life with my friends who are gay, and all other sorts of day to day stuff.

I'm not perfect, and I have fucked up horrendously when drunk or whatever, so I am no saint or straight edge person you might think, but regardless of that, the main message is important.

As a heterosexual man who has been on the receiving end of horrendous gay bashing, I urge everyone to go out and vote on Friday and vote YES. Give all our gay brothers and sisters the chance to marry the people they love so that Ireland is truly equal. Don't be unnerved by anything that tries to dissuade you from the fact that you are voting on the marriage between two individuals who love each other.

Take care and I do hope to see an equal Ireland come Sunday morning.

Friday, May 15, 2015

On The Importance Of Gender Roles And Hysterical Silly Little Bitches

Kerr's Ladies Football Club in 1921I come late to the realisation that my marriage does not meet the standards promulgated by our friends in Mothers and Fathers Matter.

I could forgive their focus on child rearing as the sine qua non of marriage. True, it devalues my childless union. The respect afforded to my parents' marriage is also diminished; their days raising children are now complete. Mothers and Fathers Matter's slurs against marriages that start or continue outside the formative years of progeny are softened by an occasional pleasantry of inclusion, a nod towards my capacity to pass on my genetic code, a formalised affirmation that, although not of the same kind, a technicality allows us to claim to be of the same category as those marriages Mothers and Fathers Matter choose to affirm.

I can no longer even claim this consolation of second class marriage. It seems my wife and I have run afoul of another condition. Let's look at articles written by some of their founders:
"Importance of gender differences in marriage is a matter of common sense... [same sex marriage] is based on a proposition that gender does not matter. But if we take the time to look around, observe and listen, it clearly matters." Prof Ray Kinsella

"[same sex marriage] proponents ... insist that two men can do the job of a mum and a dad just as well, as can two women. This means they deny the importance of sexual complementarity." - David Quinn
"Mothers and fathers bring distinctive gifts to parenting. They tend to show their love, and to provide strength and comfort, in different ways.

Our instinct is to say that there are very real and important differences between men and women and it really does matter whether one is born male or female." Dr Rik Van Nieuwenhove et al 
Emphasis mine in all cases. There is a common thread in these articles - that, solely by virtue of their gender, men and women have unique, distinct traits that are important to a child's upbringing and it is in society's best interests to ensure only marriages which provide the entire gamut of these otherwise inaccessible traits earn state recognition.


It is here I learn that my marriage is not counted as such by Mothers And Fathers Matter. My wife taught me how to drive. I have abandoned teaching her how to iron and instead do her ironing for her. Despite my best efforts she's still better on the farm than I. None of these characteristics are based on our genders. The closest we have ever come to gender specific roles in our relationship is a brief yet binding discussion on the ideal placement of the toilet seat.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child



A guest post by the talented Joanne Duffy of Oriental Cutlery.

Hey Dave, how’s it going?

So I’ve just been watching this video that I found of you speaking against marriage equality, while 6 signs for YES EQUALITY that got ripped down in Galway are sitting in my house waiting to be put back up by the tireless campaigners here. You know all about tireless campaigning, I’m sure.
 
So, you said that this referendum is connected to protecting the 8th amendment. Now, Dave, I know you didn’t mean that. Because later in this same video you go on to tell us that this referendum is about changing Article 41, The Family in our constitution. Gay men, as you so often remind us, cannot have babies. So why would they care about abortion laws? I’m sure this was just a slip up, forgot the morning coffee did you? Sometimes I forget my coffee too and it makes me a little groggy, but it doesn’t make me confuse segments of documents upon which a Republic is founded.

Moving on then. So you’ve said that the media are biased and are on the yes side, and have been perpetuating “uninterrupted propaganda”. Now I’m no history buff, I got an honour in the junior cert but that’s about as far as it goes.  But I know that the word propaganda means  communications, usually from the Government, that are designed to influence the opinion of citizens. Can you point me to where you’ve seen propaganda? Or more importantly, go straight to the BAI. They’ll be very helpful if they hear that there is an outlet somewhere who is not adhering to the balance ruling they made. I really hope that sound I just heard was your coffee machine going on.

You went on to claim that some people are comparing you to racists, and comparing the acquisition and pursuit of same-sex marriage to the pursuit of interracial marriage in the United States. You claim that allowing people of different races to marry is fine, as no one else’s rights are affected. But the thing is, at the time, white people believed their rights were being affected. They believed it to be an affront to society that black people would be allowed to marry white people. Kind of like the way you believe that your rights, and the rights of children you don’t know, won’t ever know, and who haven’t even been born yet will be affected.  Is that coffee ready yet?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Taste of Sincerely Held Beliefs

I've been wearing a wedding ring for three happy years. We'll be celebrating our fourth anniversary in September. More recently I've been celebrating my support of marriage for all couples by wearing a Yes Equality badge, sometimes in English, sometimes in Irish.

Last Wednesday on College Green a lady of sorts asked me if I spoke Irish. "Tá roinnt agam ach ní bíonn mórán seans agam í a úsáid", my brain answered, a plan stymied by the fact my mouth was full.

I waved my hand in front of my face to explain my predicament and she saw my wedding ring. Pausing only to identify herself as a no voter she embarked on a monologue more shouted than spoken. I wasn't "really" married,  she told me. Nor, I learned, was I truly in love. I was merely fulfilling base sexual desire.

Having publicly denigrated the most important relationship in my life she moved focus to its wider social implications.

Those within her considerably expanded earshot learned that my sham marriage was a tool of division, malevolent in its intent to force women in the majority world to rent their wombs.

I'm not an unreasonable sort. I attempted to make the conversation less of a one way affair but she proved unwilling to indulge me. She paused only long enough to add that she was yet to wed before - perhaps sensing the surrounding audience had changed - moving to repeat her cold refrain that I should not call myself married.

I had started walking and she viewed this as an opportunity to join me, her earnestness expressing to those of reasonable hearing that the band on my left ring finger signalled the destruction of childhoods through the combined selfishness of my partner and I.

This continued, unencumbered by social grace, pleasantry, or acknowledgement that my profession of love was anything more than an abstract thought experiment to be dashed by right thinking members of society. We approached my bus stop where I half expected an unfettered treatise on the rights of people like me to avail of public transport. Instead - absent trace of irony - she apologised for being unable to spare me further time and entered Temple Bar.

And I laughed. A nervous laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. Telling me my wife and I are not truly married is as threatening  to me as saying I'm a lightly grilled cheese sandwich. We have signed government documents and constitutional protection of the commitment we have made to each other. The good folks that people this island broadly see the enterprise of our union as positive both for us and for society. They may not celebrate our anniversary with us but in general they wish us well. Our commitment is afforded a certain respect.

What if that were absent? I cannot, indeed dare not call this no voter homophobic. She is the human embodiment of a no poster and I am called upon to celebrate the expression of her sincerely held beliefs in the public square. The no side's obtuse demand is that we consider our partners, our children or our parents - that which is at the heart of our lives - fair game, a distant second priority to their sincerely held beliefs, and utterly undeserving of any modicum of respect.

We see this when Keith Mills of Mothers and Fathers Matter used air quotes to refer a student's mothers on the Late Late show last night. We saw it again, minutes later, when fellow no campaigner Paddy Manning employed the phrase "I don't care what children's charities say",  dismissing the evidence of hundreds of child welfare professionals to better denigrate families not headed by opposite sex parents.

I see it in the single parents and adopted people I have met both through friendships and through canvassing, their families ruled inferior by the stock photos and glib phrases of the No posters. And I see its effects on those who are forced to conceal the truth about the person they love.

Nearly every week I'm joined on a canvas by a first timer. We don't get many natural extroverts. What we do get is people of courage. People willing to risk personal abuse or - to my mind worse - public indifference to their desire to celebrate their love and commitment in the way my wife and I can. As a married person it buoys me to see so many willing to fight for the institution. I see a trend in these new canvassers as they shuffle through their notes and rehearse long practiced conversations. They all worry that they won't correctly recall the myriad legal distinctions between civil partnerships and marriage.

In ten weeks of canvassing that question has never arisen.

To my mind this is because the population already knows the privation inherent in a civil partnership that can never be corrected by legislative tweak: respect. The bulwark of societal support that could counteract the attempts to be made feel less by No posters and their public speakers. The right to share your relationship status without concern for the reaction. The privilege of crossing the road without strangers following you to disavow your love for your spouse. This respect, this difference between civil partnership and marriage is why my experience of what the sincerely held beliefs of that no voter is now an anecdote and not a damaging experience.

Can we grant this respect with a yes vote on May 22nd? Interracial marriage did not end racism. Mixed marriages, as they were once called, did not immediately end sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants. But they were both damn fine starts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Why A Consistent Mothers And Fathers Matter Would Oppose American Marriages

I graduated from DCU more years ago than I dare remember. The march of time was borne home last month when I attended a campus debate on marriage equality. I found several new buildings and a student bar that looked liked it enjoyed a regular clean. My old computer labs were peopled by socially well adjusted students possessing impeccable personal hygiene. I hardly recognised the place.

Arriving as I did dressed in work attire I was initially greeted by the students as a no voter. The reception was warm enough, and as I received directions round the campus on which I'd spent four years of my life I took a moment to clarify my side. I received a free yes badge and did my best to remember my way through a maze of new structures to find Senators Zappone and Mullen, partnered respectively with John Lyons TD and Keith Mills of Mothers and Fathers Matter.

I enjoy a planned speech as much as the next mid thirties chap surrounded by a sea of youth, but for me the joy of a debate is the unrehearsed to and fro of the questions and answers section. The students of my former university did not disappoint and the auditorium strained capacity with articulate and well researched challenges to the no side's unique and strained interpretation of facts, studies, and the very fabric of reality.

Of particular focus was the no side's claim that children of same sex couples fare worse than the offspring of opposite sex married couples. Dwelling on this unevidenced claim is appropriate - it's damaging nonsense. In addition to a strong showing from the student body a sociology professor spoke eloquently about how the crushing weight of reality shattered the assertions of Mullen and Mills. Reputable studies supporting same sex parents were listed, the absence of opposing studies noted. It fell to Mills to mount a defence.

Mills, it seems, does not much favour the available sociological data. He noted that much of it was gleaned from study participants in the United States of America, a land he views as blighted by divorce, young marriage rates, and failed marriages. Ireland, it seems, does marriage better.

But here Mothers and Fathers Matter face an unpalatable conclusion. Mills has identified a sociological group who he deems less suitable for marriage. A group that marries, to his mind, too young. A group he sees as having a higher divorce rate, something likely to - what are his words? - deprive a child of a mother and father.

So why not bar Americans from matrimony?

We could introduce legislation to inform American visitors that their marriages are not recognised on Irish soil. Perhaps we could offer a separate-but-equal track called American unions, allowing some legal protections, but leaving the institution of Irish marriage unsullied. We could poster the streets with false claims about their children and claim we act with their best interests at heart.

You may find this daft. You may wonder why anyone would seek to bar a section of society from the support and stability marriage brings to couples. In fact I rather hope you do. All I ask is that you hold that feeling close when you next hear Mothers And Fathers Matter.

Monday, April 27, 2015

#marref: What Would Fionn Mac Cumhaill's Mothers Say?

"We never intended to raise children" starts Bodhmall, welcoming me to the home she shares with her life partner Liach Luachra in an enchanting rural wood. They've been kind enough to share with me their experiences raising a child as parents of the same gender. Look it up if you don't believe me.
"But when your brother in law is brutally murdered by your father and your sister is forced to live on the run from men who want to burn her alive based on her choice of partner, well, you step up."
Liach nods her agreement as she roasts a hare over their open hearth. She joins in.
"It was a mess. We were totally unprepared. People always think of Fionn Mac Cumhaill as a fearless giant of a man, able to defeat entire armies in single combat. But they don't think what it's like to raise a child with that much energy."
"I think parenting is knowing you've been given the most important job in the world to do. That you've been given something precious - the chance to give someone the best start in life - it's terrifying. Because no matter how hard you work at it you'll never think you're doing justice to the person they're becoming."
"You're too hard on yourself" interrupts Bodhmall, setting the table, "our son led na Fianna, killed the fire breathing fairy Aillen, built the Giant's Causeway, and made us that lovely fishing lake when he threw the Isle of Man into the sea. He turned out fine."
"I hate to ask, but did you ever find opposition from religious leaders?"
Liach considers my question while sharpening the edge of a disemboweling spear designed to be held between the toes.
"No. I can honestly say we've never been troubled by the Druids."
I ask if they can tell me a little about Fionn's early days. Like any parents they smile at the opportunity to share happy memories.
"Martial arts really helped Fionn focus that energy of his. I swear, before he started on the spear and sword we were run ragged. But once we had him sparring a couple of times a day he started sleeping through the night and we were able to make regular time for ourselves. You know, as a couple. It's important as new parents to do that. Especially if either one of you can disembowel a man at twenty paces. It doesn't do to let pent up frustrations linger."
Liach nods sagely. I raise my final question cautiously.
"There are some who say children should only be raised by a man and a woman in in a married relationship. That men and women have unique traits that are essential to raising a child. What would you say to that?"
The silence terrifies. Liach smiles and tries to put me at ease.
"I find people like that don't like to say what these 'unique' roles are. If you look at any claimed gender specific trait closely enough it tends to disappear into the vapour. I mean, Bodhmall and I are undefeated in single combat, and many men have tried. And a lot of Fionn's schooling took place outside the home and some people say that's a woman's responsibility. But even if you did go in for gender roles - are you really going to argue Fionn doesn't fit the traditional mould of masculinity?"
Bodhmall is examining the edge of the spear Liach recently sharpened.
"These Druids who think I'm a bad parent. Would they be within twenty paces of here?"

Sunday, April 19, 2015

They Do Not Care About The Children

Over the coming weeks every household in Ireland will receive a leaflet entitled "7 Great [s
ic] Reasons To Keep Marriage As Is"

One of the groups listed as sponsoring the endeavour is "Marriage Diversity". It shares a name with an American group who consider the natural variety of human sexuality an abhorrence and something to be 'cured'. The stated aim of the organisation is to oppose same sex marriage. They own both www.marriagediversity.com and www.marriagediversity.org and would not have been easily overlooked while choosing a name for an anti marriage equality group. 

Visitors to these sites will find every vile lie ever told about those who do not share my sexuality. (See 'gay marriage facts' if you are strong of stomach.) It pains me to quote from them, but I feel it best to share a tiny sliver of their slanders rather than have you wade through the morass. They pretend those in same sex relationships have a life expectancy of 50, are alcoholic, depressed, violent towards their partners, are disposed towards crime, that the average number of partners for gay men is 308, they pretend it is impossible for two men to be in a monogamous relationship, and then pretend only 1% of the population is gay or bi. If you're not already aware what patent nonsense this is then I suggest you find more pertinent reading material than this blog.

It bears emphasising that every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender child in Ireland will receive this. To their home. In the place where this group we have marginalised should feel safest, those opposed to civil marriage rights have chosen to introduce the name of a hate group. Some of these children will certainly Google those so opposed to their future right to marry and be faced with this hateful, damaging, and dangerous nonsense.

Who is distributing this? In an earlier post I discussed Family and Life, the longest established group who has chosen to add their name to this leaflet. But what of the third partner, Mothers and Fathers Matter?

Thankfully broadsheet.ie has already covered their makeup. Most significantly, we learn that the site is hosted on the same infrastructure as CatholicBishops.ie. The information is now protected by a whois privacy protection service so I am unable to personally verify Broadsheet's findings at this time. Further addendum: having checked the historical domain registration information available it seems mothersandfathersmatter.org was using a privacy protection service before Broadsheet published their piece. My thanks to @mptireland on Twitter for raising the issue. 

Those behind this leaflet either felt it acceptable to choose the name of a homophobic hate club or simply weren't bothered to see if the name was associated with a group so damaging to the mental health of LGBTQ children. Remember this when they claim to act with their best interests at heart.