For anyone who hasn’t read today’s Sunday Independent, or indeed isn’t Irish, I felt obliged to draw attention to an article written by author and journalist Eamon Delaney. The article, entitled “Loud and proud gays want to take over rest of society” is – as you can imagine – a sustained attack on the gay community for both their forced existence outside of what one would deem “normal” society, and for their attempts to secure the same rights and privileges as those living within that system.
However, what is more disturbing than the ideology underlying Mr. Delaney’s opinions – as this is rhetoric expressed by everyone from religious heirarchicals to political unimaginatives – is some sweeping assumptions contained in the article.
“And there are other things about the growing gay rights movement which make outsiders impatient and uneasy. Like, when did the gays and lesbian community become the ‘LGBT’, an acronym that also includes Bisexual and Transgender?
Sorry, but this is broadening the boundaries in a way that makes many of us understandably sceptical.
Bisexual? Isn’t that reminiscent of the loose Seventies sexual experimentation? How many bisexuals are there? And will the plain people of Ireland be happy with legalising rights for, and spending money on, all of this?”
This is the point at which Mr. Delaney’s comments stray from colourful and hurtful opinion into something far more dangerous. These are not opinions on the activities of a minority, these are claims that a minority does not exist. And when Ireland’s highest circulation Sunday paper is willing to print this level of denialism, especially knowing that it feeds into a country with a history of gross abuse of minorities, then it goes beyond the mere pot-stirring that this article might have been intended to drag up.
Eamon Delaney is saying that bisexuality and bisexual people do not exist. He is saying that a scientifically proven and vocal minority group not only are wrong, but do not deserve to be even considered as they are suffering from some manner of mass delusion. There are many, many bisexual people across the country desperately trying to be seen as something other than the dysfunctional freakshow that Mr. Delaney portrays.
I am of course not saying that life is an unending trial for bisexual people, but it’s a known fact that people can have a tendency to be entirely dismissive of the mere existence of bisexuality. And if society is anxiously waiting for you to “pick a side”, then of course it puts undue strain on romantic relationships and family ties.
I sympathise not as someone who is bisexual, but as someone who is gay. To grow up in a world of assumed heterosexuality is what doomed hundreds of millions of gay people to live lives of quiet desperation – all traceable, of course, to the fall of the Roman empire and the advent of modern religion and “morality”. The fact is that there were just as many gay people in the world a hundred years ago as there are now, but because it ostensibly didn’t exist back then they had no way of expressing these feelings.
And while the gay rights movement has come a long way, our brothers and sisters (and both and neithers) that make up the “B” and “T” of the LGBT movement are still being left behind. For many bisexual people, this means never coming out – denying your true self because you have the option of fulfilling the heterosexual norm that society has passed down to you. Even as celebrities as wide-ranging as Evan Rachel Wood, Anna Paquin and Tom Hardy explain that their sexual preferences lie nowhere near the “either/or” dichotomy, people continue to push the notion that those who identify as bisexual are confused – or worse, “greedy”.
For the transgendered community things are often far more difficult, with so much confusion and misinformation in the area that people prefer not to discuss it in polite society. As a species we have such a narrow viewpoint of what gender and sexuality mean that many transgendered people find themselves identifying as gay when their real journey is one that will be based on something much less external then their sexual preferences.
But this is the world that Eamon Delaney inhabits – a world of assumed norms, where those who fall outside his level of direct experience simply do not exist. He is palpably angered by the actions of the gay movement because he knows these people are real – after all he does go to pains to explain that “some of [his] best friends are gay” (though after this article went to print I would advise Eamon not to throw a dinner party any time soon). That said, he believes these people are real. And wrong.
Bisexuals, transgendered folk, though? Not so much. What’s laughable is that Mr. Delaney places so many of his opinions on bedrock which falls away if we delve even a little bit into the history of the human race. His assumptions on the nature of sexuality and gender are one mis-step, of course, when if we look at the world from a non-Muslim/Christian mindset we see that the idea of sexual absolutes is something that has been imposed on us by successive regimes. And if we look that little bit next door to the animal kingdom we see countless examples of fluid sexuality and gender.
Similarly, Eamon Delaney also takes time to have a crack at gay parenting.
“Also, on the issue of gays adopting, it makes many of us uneasy and impatient with the idea that raising a child with homosexual parents is totally equivalent to a child being raised by its natural heterosexual parents. It patently is not, and it is a crazy concession to PC culture to say that it is.”
This is a point that those who dress to the right, so to speak, insist on returning to: there is simply no substitute for biological mother and father. Leaving aside how utterly insulting this is to adopted children – who, lest we forget, are in a far far better situation than before their new families – it is also founded on faulty assumptions.
The idea of the “nuclear family” with its mother, father, and two-point-four children is something that is barely older than the United States – a repercussion of the Industrial Revolution, when wealth became something that could be counted and stored and, therefore, divided.
Before those developments, society existed very much in the “it takes a village” mentality, where wealth was a good crop and parenting meant raising a child – and not fighting over who gets to be called what in the raising. Yes, it was a structure based on necessity, but perhaps now we live in a spoiled society – where we are so concerned with the details of how people lead their lives that we don’t look at the calibre of life they lead.
And where does Eamon Delaney fall into this? He is, and understandably so, a product of his upbringing – a world where the lines of sexuality were few and solid, and where living a life differently was synonymous with living it badly. But that world was a place of stifling, splintered morality, where we learned our lessons from the whip and the taunt and where the most callous of moral bankruptcy was institutionalised rather than investigated.
That said, I can’t for a second sympathise with Delaney’s writing. In his opening paragraph he trades on his experience as a social member of the gay community, benefiting from the nightlife that is a consequence of our forced position outside society. And he then goes on to detail the reasons why these friends and well-wishers should make do with the Ireland in which they live.
But let me clear about something – this is not Eamon Delaney’s Ireland. This is my Ireland. His time has passed, and if he wishes to avail of the freedoms that living in a truly open society has afforded him then it is time he understood that those freedoms extend to people beyond the quite literal Pale of straight white men.
It is also time, and I cannot make this any clearer, that Irish journalistic integrity started to treat homophobic offenses as seriously as it would racial or ethnic slurs. More than one person at the Sunday Independent was presented with an article that stated, in no uncertain terms, that a group of people in Ireland simply did not exist. The Irish Press Council Code Of Practice states that:
“Newspapers and magazines shall not publish material intended or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against an individual or group on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, colour, ethnic origin, membership of the travelling community, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness or age.”
The Sunday Independent likes to tread a fine line with its opinion pieces, but this article was a step too far. If your newspaper runs a column, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you agree with it – but it does follow that you agree that this opinion deserves to be heard. The fact that Eamon Delaney discounted the reality of bisexual and transgendered people is not an opinion, it is a scientifically disproven bald-faced lie. And as someone who has grown up in a world which has wiped every gay person since the dawn of time from its written history, I believe it is a gross misjudgement to have let such lies appear in a national newspaper.
I also believe it is time the Sunday Independent explained the exact processes by which Eamon Delaney’s article went to print.
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