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.