Coming Out: Young Donegal man Ayrton Kelly continues his column series with DonegalDaily.com giving an insight into his journey in the LGBTI+ community and life in Donegal.
Read Ayrton’s first two posts here:
This week, Aryton gives his thoughts on equality, awareness and visibility for the LGBTI+ community:
There is a very common misconception that since the Marriage Equality referendum carried, then inequality, homophobia and transphobia magically disappeared. But this is unfortunately not true.
We have come a long way – the vast majority of people accept LGBTI+ people but it’s still not normalised. But there also seems to be a hierarchy of acceptance and sympathy.
This hierarchy was first explained to me in a different context when I did disclosure training with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Our group was asked what group of people we would feel more sorry for if they told us they were sexually assaulted. Of course children and wives/mothers were at the top, men got a little bit less sympathy and sex workers were at the bottom.
The thing is, sexual assault is sexual assault and the sympathy we give should not be determined by who the victim is.
In the exact same way, equality is equality and the acceptance and equality we give should not be determined by what type of LGBTI+ you are. Gay men and women are by far the most accepted and it goes down steeply as we get to transgender or intersex people.
Even Bi people get more shtick than ‘pure’ gays. ‘You’re just doubling your chances,’ ‘just decide’, ‘I could understand if you were gay but I just don’t get bi’ are all things bi friends of mine have been told.
We all fear what we don’t understand but it doesn’t mean we can’t accept it. I have absolutely no idea how engineers make a 500 tonne piece of metal and plastic fly. But they do, and I trust that it will get me from A to B. Equally, we all need to accept those who appear different.
We need to embrace difference and diversity.
“LGBTQQIAPP+” — as easy as ABC
To embrace differences and diversity, it helps to understand it. The terminology used to describe LGBT people has changed a lot over the years. It’s gone from ‘people with homosexual tendencies’ (The Vatican’s fav), to the gay community, LGB, LGBT, LGBT+, LGBTI+, LGBTQ, LGBTQI+ and even LGBTQQIAPP.
I get why this causes a bit of confusion but the thing is, people develop and language changes all of the time.
Don’t let the different acronyms put you off and in truth, they all kind of reflect the same thing: a group of people who are either not cisgender (identify with the gender you were assigned at birth) and/or straight (attracted to the opposite sex/ heterosexual). That’s it really. As easy as ABC.
Parents and allies must inform themselves
I recently went to a Shoutout workshop for allies who want to become more aware of LGBTI+ terminology and it was really positive – but it highlighted to me what people don’t know.
So, as a foundation and resource, the group TSER (Trans Student Educational Resources) have a great glossary of terms that cover the more basic definitions like sex, gender, gender identity, sexuality and sexual orientation. and terms that you wouldn’t hear on a day-to-day basis like agender, queer, pansexual, etc.
It’s a really good resource if you want to inform yourself but don’t feel too scared or overwhelmed if you’re an ally and don’t understand everything because you won’t. It has taken me the better part of two years to fully understand the diversity that exists when it comes to gender and sexuality.
Genuinely, I completely understand how difficult it is to comprehend the feeling of not identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth (i.e. being transgender).
I have made all the mistakes of calling my friends their birth name, using the wrong pronouns and even describing transgender as ‘being born in the wrong body’.
It’s okay to make mistakes. If your child, friend or student is transitioning then you’re going to make mistakes – but making a conscious effort and developing an awareness are key.
Pride is a protest
This level of awareness is seen so well in the major cities of the country and world. Saturday 30th June saw 60,000 people descend on Dublin to celebrate LGBTQ Pride while the following weekend saw London and Madrid celebrate Pride.
In Dublin we marched through the streets of the capital to both celebrate how far Ireland has come, and to protest against the inequalities that LGBTI+ people face on a daily basis in Ireland and across the world.
The theme this year was ‘We are Family’ and it was so encouraging to see the likes of Mary McAleese, her husband Martin, and their son Justin with his husband march together while Dublin Bus’s Proud Dads video epitomised what it is to accept, to love, and to be family.
I am often asked why there is no Straight Pride, but in reality it’s because we still have not achieved equality in our country for LGBTI+ people.
Pride is not just a celebration – it is at its core a protest against injustice and inequality.
The people of Ireland are inherently good, decent and fair. We know what it’s like to be oppressed and suffer from injustice (The Act of Union, Magdalene Laundries, Direct Provision Centres, and so on… it’s a very long list).
How and ever, equality is in our DNA: In 1916, the Leaders of the Rising stated: ‘The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally’.
One hundred and two years later, we have come a long way but we can do better. It’s not time to get complacent or attach terms and conditions with the provision of equality.
Ayrton Kelly is 20 years old and from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. He is studying Business and French in UCD and before that attended St Eunan’s College. By working with Donegal Youth Service, UCD Students’ Union, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, BeLonG To and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has become interested in equality and social Justice. Most recently, he was on the Youth Advisory Group and Oversight Committee for the National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy.
BreakOut is a project for young LGBTI people, LGBTI Allies and young people that believe in social justice aged 12-30, and is operated by Donegal Youth Service. Currently there are groups meeting up regularly in Letterkenny, Ballybofey, Glenties and Moville offering information, training, one-to-one support and guaranteed craic.
If you would like to come along and see what it’s all about contact Sinead Murray on 074 91 29630/086 124 7968, pop in to 16-18 Port Road, or find BreakOut on Facebook.Tags: