Good piece on GCN about Rory O'Neill's appearance on The Saturday Night Show.
On Saturday night Rory Oâ€™Neill â€“ aka Irelandâ€™s most famous drag queen, Miss Panti â€“ was interviewed by Brendan Oâ€™Connor on RTEâ€™s The Saturday Night Show. Much of the content of the interview was taken up with Oâ€™Neill growing up gay in the village of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, in the seventies and eighties, and the experiences of young gay men back then, but towards the end of the proceedings, the talk turned to certain newspaper columnists and media commentators and their rhetoric around gay issues. Oâ€™Neill mentioned the Iona Institute, the Irish Timesâ€™ Breda Oâ€™Brien and John Waters, and in the same breath used the word â€œhomophobiaâ€.
Oâ€™Connor said he knew Waters personally and that he wouldnâ€™t use the word homophobe in relation to him, giving Oâ€™Neill a golden opportunity to talk about what homophobia actually is, an opportunity he grabbed with open arms.
He directly compared it to racism, saying that everyoneâ€™s a little bit racist, but that our best instincts get us to recognise this and try to alter our mindsets. Homophobia is exactly the same; everyone â€“ even gay people â€“ is a little bit homophobic. But because there is an underlying belief that racism and homophobia arenâ€™t equal, lots of us, including Breda Oâ€™Brien, John Waters, Helen Lucy Burke, and more, give in to it. We donâ€™t question our own homophobia as we might question our own racism; we donâ€™t use our best instincts.
The idea that homophobia isnâ€™t equal to racism is rooted in the lie that homosexuality is a â€˜chosen lifestyleâ€™. People canâ€™t choose the colour of their skin, but they can sure choose who they sleep with. To some extent, this is true. We do choose who we sleep with. But we are born gay. As Macklemore and Ryan Lewis might say, we canâ€™t change, even if we tried, even if we wanted to. And if we were to choose not to sleep with members of our own gender, never to experience that human love and intimacy we are born to desire, we would be choosing not to really live.
In 2009, when the film Bruno was released, John Waters and I ended up on The Pat Kenny Show to discuss it. Talking about how Sacha Baron Cohen goaded people into homophobic reactions in the film, John Waters said that homophobia didnâ€™t really exist. I begged to differ, citing the hanging of two young gay men in Iran around that time as very real proof that it does. Saying that homophobia doesnâ€™t exist is in itself homophobic.
Rory Oâ€™Neill was right when he told Brendan Oâ€™Connor that John Waters should just get out of his life. Waters should get out of all our lives, as should any other columnist or commentator who has the sad temerity to spread the homophobic word while people who were born gay do not have equal rights in our society, and are abused and disenfranchised because of this. Homophobia is as deep as racism, and it is the same as racism â€“ no two ways about it.
Oâ€™Neill was also right to call homophobia for what it is. In the lead up to the Family Relationships and Children Bill this year, and next yearâ€™s referendum on same-sex marriage, there will be a lot of it about. There might be an argument against using the word â€“ that the use of it will be leapt upon by our detractors and used against us, as it could have been leapt upon when Senator Norris was running for the presidency. But are we to stand back and let homophobes say what they want without naming and shaming them?
Would we do the same with overt racists? I donâ€™t think so.