Today, 7th August 2016, marks the end of this year’s annual Belfast Pride Festival, and so there seems no better time to share my thoughts on equality in Northern Ireland. Below you’ll find my spoken word piece Generation Why?
Belfast Pride’s website states:
Belfast Pride is a protest and a celebration – a stand for equal rights and a proud and inclusive celebration of LGBTQ+ lives. A broad coalition comes together under the Pride rainbow and we want to encourage more people than ever before to join together to make Belfast Pride even bigger and even more inclusive. It’s time to make a stand and it’s time to join in the celebration.
When the festival first started in 1991, just 100 people took part in the parade. It came nine years after the legalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, and thirty years after the first ever Pride marches (1970 New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco).
Now, do you remember in school when the teacher would ask a question and the other kids would frantically and stubbornly shout out the wrong answer and drown out your little voice calmly stating the right answer? Then, just as you would exasperatedly shout your answer for the last time, the person beside you would hear your answer and shout it out and the teacher would congratulate them? Remember that epic face-palm moment? Why does that feeling come to mind when I think about equality in Northern Ireland?
I don’t believe that Northern Ireland is a cruel place, in fact I think that it is home to some of the kindest and friendliest people in the world. I do, however, think it is full of a lot of those little children whose wisdom is drowned out by louder voices.
During the Peace Process, the LGBT movement stood as a social force for inclusion. As John Nagle states in his 2016 book Social Movements in Violently Divided Societies,
“If Northern Ireland’s narrative told of discrete and homogeneous cultures characterized by sectarian violence, then the organizers of Belfast Pride positioned the LGBT movement as an example of cultural pluralism that provided new models of peaceful coexistence.” (p.147)
The 1998 Northern Ireland Act places importance on equality, not just between religions, but between genders and sexualities. However, in a society so concerned with ‘peacebuilding’ between nationalism and unionism, between Catholics and Protestants, there is still a need for peacebuilding between genders and sexualities. Since the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, records show increasing levels of homophobic attacks and attitudes. Hayes and Nagle (2015) argue that homophobia has now replaced sectarianism as the major expression of societal hate.
I believe it is up to my generation in Northern Ireland, the generation of ceasefire babies, to change this.
I wasn’t in Belfast for Pride this year, but I am extremely proud of Belfast and my post today comes from my pride in my very best friends and their expression of the right to love whoever they want.
We are the millennials;
The future of this here wee country,
We may be young and we may be free,
But we are tired and we are hungry
For the lives that we were promised,
Before we were even born,
By men on a hill in Belfast
When Northern Ireland was torn.
We are the generation
Of Good Fridays and Peace Processes;
But we were raised and we were left
Cleaning up our parents’ messes
In morals, money and mutiny,
And fighting their hatred and division
With words instead of pipe bombs,
Uniting each and all religions.
But can someone please tell me,
Cos google doesn’t seem to know,
When the Taigs became the Queers
And the Huns became the Lesbos?
The enemy doesn’t march on The Twelfth,
He kisses his boyfriend in the park,
And an IRA gunman
Is no longer the worst thing you could cross in the dark.
No, it’s a woman who was born in the wrong body, the wrong life
Who has the cheek to dress in what she feels is right.
It’s the drag artist who performs in the Kremlin on a Tuesday
And lights up the lives of the LGBT community.
The all-knowing politicians
Armed with their mighty conscience clause
Shoot us back to the dark ages
With their barbaric backwards laws.
And the equality that was promised
To both the orange and the green
Is left back in the nineties
Or somewhere in between.
We are the noughties kids,
Generation Y- Why, why do we need discrimination?
To characterise our country
And determine our legislation?
If your religion can’t allow you
To see that this is wrong
Leave it with the Troubles,
Because WE are moving on.