The Marriage Referendum Result-Notes from the ‘No’ constituency

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Well, it’s all over. The dust has settled, the votes have been counted, and the country has voted yes in an overwhelming fashion that I did not dare let myself hope was possible. To say that I am relieved is an understatement. By the end, I had completely switched off the TV debates for my own self care. The daily demonization was just too much.

Of course, there was one fly in the ointment-Roscommon South Leitrim, the only constitutions in the country to vote No. Every time I see a map of Ireland in my Twitter feed with Roscommon/South Leitrim lit up in red and sticking out like a sore thumb, I cringe. The jokes and memes are already all over the internet, and I even noticed a tongue in cheek ‘petition’ to sell off Roscommon to Northern Ireland. The kind of people creating and sharing these are possibly quite progressive politically. They probably voted voted Yes, and proudly displayed a Yes Equality logo on their social media profiles for the last few months.

Call me a humourless wagon, and yeah, it’s quite possible that I am, but I honestly am struggling to find this situation funny. I am a bisexual woman living in the constituency, and the fact that the majority of my neighbours either voted against or were simply not bothered to vote in favour of marriage equality hurts me. I am sure that there are dozens of other LGBTQIA+ people in the region feeling similarly let down. There are young queer teens waking up today in Roscommon and Leitrim, and though they will be no doubt buoyed by the Yes victory, the knowledge that their county men & women voted against the referendum will possibly make them feel even more isolated in a rural area that does not enjoy the same strong support networks that their more urban counterparts do. I feel for those kids today. I and others should not feel that we have to leave our home to feel loved and included. In the light of all this, the jeering and Roscommon-bashing feels neither funny nor progressive to me.

Kudos must go to Yes Equality Roscommon and YE Leitrim, tiny grassroots groups with little to zero funding, consisting of volunteers giving up their own time to get the message out. Would that I could say the same of the local political parties, who seemed to decide that they’d rather sit this one out, despite the fact that the national parties came out in favour. I e-mailed my local politicians in frustration, with only one or two even deigning to acknowledge me. By way of contrast, the No campaign had a very robust presence, with leaflets being handed out at masses and placed on windscreens in church car parks in every parish. No posters outnumbered yes by 10 to 1 easily, with a fresh crop going up on the eve of the referendum. It was an uphill struggle, despite what the likes of self-pitying Iona members will say today.

2/3 of the electorate voting Yes is a great result, but we need to do more. Hundreds of thousands of people rejected the proposal, and many of those will undoubtedly be parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts of queer children. Donegal, Cavan and other north-west and border counties shaded it by a mere few thousand votes, with some remote pockets of overwhelming Nos. Now that marriage equality has been achieved, we need to keep up the momentum in the push for liberation. Gender recognition, blood donation bans, section 37.1 of the Employment Act that entitles schools to fire LGBT teachers with impunity must be on the political agenda. The movement needs to centre trans people, people of colour, people with disabilities and sex workers.  Many LGBT people will be suffering under the austerity measures implemented by the Fine Gael/Labour government who are reassuring us how pro-equality they are today. We also, of course need to repeal the 8th amendment, as our draconian abortion laws disproportionately affect poor and migrant people, many of whom are queer and trans.

This victory is a wonderful, cathartic event and to paraphrase Panti, Ireland didn’t change yesterday, it confirmed a change that has already begun to take place. Yesterday was far from an end, but merely a start.


Paddy McKenna, the RTE journalist and Leitrim has written a decent post on this on his blog here. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but I think it’s worth a read.

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The Marriage Equality Referendum-it’s personal

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As a bisexual woman the run in to this referendum has hurt me. I’ve certainly been on the brink of tears on a few occasions. The campaigning by those opposed to the amendment has been insidious and ugly in a way that feels very personal.The posters that dominate the landscape on my way into work make my heart sink every time I drive past them, the daily demonisation of queer people, the dogwhistle misogyny of some of the rhetoric about mothers and women and what our proper place in society is-it’s all too much.

Hurtful and all as the bile from the No camp is, I’ve been disappointed to see erasure by some on our own side. Now, I know how it all works  I know the rules of engagement for referenda-especially for the side that are campaigning for change-issues will be flattened for the sake of simplicity. Referenda are by their very nature single issue campaigns, and clarity is key. I get that. I realise that people perpetuating the erasure are most likely well intentioned. It still hurts.

As someone who has lived in a rural area all my life, the outside world certainly feels like a far colder world than the little lefty feminist bubble I like to stay in online. People I’ve known all my life-who will always give a friendly wave when you drive past the house, who were good and kind to my grandparents when they were still alive- are now busy handing out leaflets claiming that the likes of me are out to destroy the fabric of society. It feels at times that people speak as if it’s impossible that a queer person might also be in the room. As I travel on the bus home from a shopping trip or stand in line in the post office, I’m reminded of a line in Panti’s wonderful Noble call-“Do they think that about me?”

As other people, like the brilliant Aoife (@flyingteacosy) have written before me, this referendum is about so much more than marriage. If the referendum is passed, it will be a victory for progress and decency. It will send out a strong message, especially to young LGBT people, that our lives and loves are valid and that society embraces us as equal citizens. It won’t be the end of the struggle by any means, but it will represent a loosening of the grip of reactionary, oppressive forces on us and our lives.

I know it’s naive and foolhardy of me, but I haven’t even been able to entertain the thought of a No victory, because the prospect is so unbearable. Should Yes win the day, the No side can shrug it off and go home. Mind you, the victim complex of the likes of the Iona Institute will be through the roof for a while, but a month, six weeks down the line, the whole thing will just be a memory to most people. This will not be the case if the reverse happens. An Ireland that rejects marriage equality on May 22nd will feel like a much colder, harsher place. The No campaign has, to a degree, legitimized homophobia as a valid position to take in a “respectable” campaign and if they win the day, well, they can say they have been given a stamp of approval by nation. It will be as if the entire country has taken stock of us and found us wanting. Like I said, unthinkable.

The divorce referendum of 1995 was won by 9,114 votes, apparently an extra vote in every ballot box in Ireland. I urge you to do whatever you can to cast your Yes vote on Friday, and to get your loved ones, not-so-loved ones and local milkman to do likewise. It might seem like such a small act, but it could mean so, so much to a lot of people.

VOTE YES.