Bisexual

Alive, Alive No.

I pulled a free copy of Alive, Ireland’s Catholic Monthly Newspaper from our letterbox yesterday evening. I threw the pile of mail onto the kitchen table and took off my coat. I proceeded to filter out the junk flyers and fire them into the recycling bin. In a lazy attempt of avoiding dinner preparation, I stopped when I reached Alive. I sat down and began to flick through the pages. I had a pre-conceived idea of what the topics literature would focus on. So it’s with utter disgust that I say it was far worse than my initial predictions. I got all the way to page 2 before encountering what was to be the first of 7 articles perfectly intertwined with modern day homophobia.

The initial article presented itself as a weak argument against marriage equality. In the opinion column, Derek Byrne writes that gay couples are not monogamous. He insists that the majority of gay couples don’t lead monogamous lifestyles. And well, since Mr. Byrne is himself a gay man, this sweeping, generic and fact-less statement must be true. Lies! The article is a pathetic attempt to smear the assumed stereotypical over-erotic or sensuous lifestyle that gay people, even gay couples lead. Well I’m sorry to disappoint the readers, but the lives of my friends and I are just as normal as yours. I lead an entirely monogamous lifestyle consisting of regular early nights and the occasional breakfast in bed. Not exactly exotic, or any different to the rest of Irish couples. Thank you though Derek, for feeding the readers an absolutely ridiculous lie and painting a truly flawed picture of genuine gay couples in Irish society. Two pages in and Alive have already managed to plant their ‘subtle-not-subtle’ seed of homophobia. A seed which steadily cultivates as one reads on.

Grudgingly turning to page 4, we encounter the first of Alive’s articles concerning Marriage Equality. Here we go. Author Gerard Murphy marvelously conveys a condescending and arrogant response to the Marriage Equality campaign underway in Ireland. The RTE Saturday night show had Minister Simon Coveney as a recent guest. On the show he spoke of how he is part of the campaign fighting for Irish law to introduce Marriage Equality. That’s it. Plain and simple. But Murphy just can’t fathom this. It’s an ‘odd notion’ as he calls it. Poor Gerry. Butter wouldn’t melt. He just can’t understand why Minister Coveney (and hundreds of thousands others might I add) are fighting for this equality. It is absolutely astonishing how he manages to write the article in such a subtle passive aggressive tone. It is equally if not more frightening, that some readers might not pick up on this, and simply take what Murphy says as Gospel (excuse the pun). Looking at it through my eyes, all I see is blatant pro-inequality rambling. But what do others see? This worry’s me. Finishing page 4 has turned my dinner preparation procrastination into a much more sinister affair.

On we go to page 7 where Alive have managed to pack two anti-marriage equality two onto the same page. How economical. First up, it’s Ashers Bakery in Belfast. This made headlines back in November when the bakery refused to bake a cake for Queer Space, a  volunteer organisation supporting LGBT people in Northern Ireland. Why did Ashers refuse to bake the cake? Well, in the words of their General Manager David McArthur,

“In the past, we’ve declined several orders which have contained pornographic images and offensive, foul language.”

Ok David, but what has that got to do with gay people? Am I missing something? Hang on… Oh. He’s grouping porn, foul language and gay people all together. As Irish Central author Cahir O’Doherty points out –

‘the ease with which McArthur compares all three says all you need to know about his – and his company’s [discrimination]’.

In this particular Alive article, it’s the editor McKevitt who has a few words to say. He thanks the bakery for their practice of discrimination (albeit not in those words), insists that the issue at hand is not actually about discrimination, and compares equality laws to the Sharia. Sharia! After a weak argument against secularization, McKevitt goes on to say that our society is now centred on “empty notions like ‘equality’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘rights’.” Since when are these empty notions? Not in any society that I want to live in. I’d also like to add that McKevitt put ‘Sharia’ in his article title, big and bold, yet he mentions it just once. In the second last paragraph. Shameful scare tactics there, continuing to water this seed of homophobia.

I don’t have to look far for the next article, as on the same page lies yet another concerning Minister Conveney and RTE’s Saturday Night show. One piece just wasn’t good enough for the Alive readers it seems. On it goes repeating itself, and introducing some new discriminatory views. Referencing the recent show with Minister McConveney as a guest, editor McKevitt calls RTE out for not allowing both sides of a debate to be heard. Well now, where have we heard that before? Ah yes, that small Pantigate affair. No one from Alive seemed to have a problem when only their side was being heard then did they? The editor then actually calls our equality striving government ‘thugs’ for this reason alone. I’m really hoping that people aren’t falling for this.

Let’s move on to page 10. Here we have an article shedding light on the health risks to gay men. Now I can’t imagine many gay men look to Alive when they want to get some helpful medical information. So what’s the point of this article in a Catholics newspaper? The only reason for this disgustingly written article is to ‘gay shame’.

“American government officials have reported that men with same-sex attraction, just 2% of the total male population, accounted for 63% of all new HIV/AIDS cases in the US in 2010.”

JUST 2%. Just 2%. In other words, we’re going to make it look like we genuinely care about the health of gay men, when in fact we’re actually just trying to portray them as a small and ‘infected’ minority. This is too much condescending to take. The article proceeds to highlight plenty more facts about how gay men are at risk despite knowing how to protect themselves. Why don’t they just use condoms? If they were in straight or monogamous relationships then this wouldn’t be happening to them. It’s all their fault etc. etc. Not a very original attack, but hey, anything to help water that seed.

My patience is certainly wearing thin. Finally, on page 14 the last article is basically a repeat of the praise given to Ashers Bakery for their act of discrimination. Huzzah Ashers Bakery! Two articles in Alive newspaper. Flippin’ famous. I threw the magazine in the bin and angrily began to make dinner. How in God’s name (pun entirely intended) is this the written word of modern Catholics? I am a Catholic. Yet when I read a newspaper for my own faith, there are 7 entire articles that criticize who I am.

The authors of this newspaper are undoubtedly model citizens. They’re probably dream neighbors. And it’s these exact people who cause the biggest threat to Marriage Equality in Ireland and worldwide. No one favours an extremist. Just look at the Westboro Baptist Church. They have successfully turned the entire world against them. Unfortunately this isn’t just because of their message, but rather because of their methods. People favour a more subtle approach when it comes to homophobia. You know, ‘Oh I’m not homophobic, I just think that marriage just be between a man and a woman’. Awh, you said it so sweetly I could almost agree. Wait, WHAT? You are against Marriage Equality. You are against EQUALITY. That is entirely homophobic. By all means, make up your own mind. But please, do not entertain the warped views of these authors. Alive, Alive No.

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Listen: Mid-Week Tune – Chloe Jac, ‘Lost to You’

And look,  it’s Wednesday already. A bit of home grown talent for you this week. Dublin singer-songwriter Chloe Jac is currently gigging her way through London, and making some serious tunes while she’s at it. Go ahead and lose yourself to the her touching track, ‘Lost To You’.

Chloe takes her inspiration from many artists, including Laura Marling and Paolo Nutini. It’s an energy rollercoaster watching Chloe perform. You hear her eclectic personality in her music, so you get soft tunes and absolutely high enegry tunes in the same show. It’s wonderful. There’s a distinctive French flare to her music and personality too. This no doubt stems from her multi-cultural upbringing with a French father. As a result, artists like C2C and Brigitte have also made an impact on the singers’ style. I’ve known Chloe since early school days, so perhaps I’m a little bias when I say that she’s one of the best singer-songwriters around. Make your own judgement I guess. But I stand by what I said!

For more music and info on upcoming gigs, check out chloe.ie

A Female Pen: The Extent of Gendered Marketing

Sometimes we need a bit of gender segregation. Separate toilets are a perfect example. So are certain gendered greeting cards. Now I’m not talking about the ones that say ‘Happy Birthday Brother‘ with a picture of a motorbike. Your brother has probably zero interest in them, but hey, at least it’s manly. No. I’m talking about the ones like we make. You know – ‘Happy Anniversary‘ with two dickie bows to signify it’s not your regular Hallmark hetero relationship card. But I digress. Gender segregation has seeped into every crevice of society, and we’re lapping up it to the delight of marketing directors worldwide.

Even my childhood was not without basic gender segregation. Growing up I played with Polly Pockets and teddy bears, whilst my big brother played with toy guns and soldiers. He’s an actual soldier now though, so maybe that’s a bad example. He obviously really like those toys!  And now that I think about it, I remember really loving those Polly Pockets. Perhaps I’m trying to find a non-existent fault here. Because playing with ‘girl’ toys made me pretty damn happy. Why though? Was it because television adverts showed me images of girls my age having the time of their lives playing with Polly? Well they certainly didn’t show girls running around playing toy soldier.

It’s too far gone to remember my rational from childhood. I didn’t know what rational was, so I doubt I even had any. In adulthood however, I’ve no excuse. Now when it comes to clothes, I don’t see a gender divide. I suppose that’s the gay in me. I’ll happily shop for a t-shirt in the man’s section, and shoes in the women’s. But if I’m buying a razor, off to the pink aisle I go. I remember wondering to myself what the difference between female and males razors is before. I think I settled on the colour and went ahead with my pink purchase. But now I’m wondering, is that it? Is that actually the only difference? What is the point?!

Oh how we fall so easily into the market traps. From female Lego to male eye cream, Australian show ‘The Checkout’ highlights the differences between gender specific products. Of which, there are basically NONE!

Gender Identity: Ruby Breaks Free

Gender identity is a person’s private sense of their own gender. In all societies there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females. For a lot of people it can be pretty simple. A biological male can be completely comfortable being categorised in all aspects assigned to men. For many others however, it’s not as straight forward. People can identify anywhere along the gender spectrum. This can mean the opposite sex, or anywhere in between the two sexes. Repression can arise when society reacts offensively or inappropriately to a person’s display of their unique gender identity. Whether rooted in ignorance or discrimination, it is this reaction which is becoming a much discussed topic among those who are affected by it.

Australian model, DJ and LGBT spokesperson Ruby Rose recently released a short film which focused on this subject of gender identities. Rose is known for genderbending, and in her own words, it’s a ‘short film about gender roles, Trans, and what it is like to have an identity that deviates from the status quo’.

There is no doubt that Rose is a beautiful person. In response to the video, there have been countless messages of support and love. But as we could cynically predict, not all reaction has been positive. Some people have commented that she ‘looks better’ at the beginning when she portrays a more socially acceptable feminine identity. I’ve even heard one person say that she ‘ruined herself by cutting off her hair and stuff’. Now whether they missed the entire point of the video or not is questionable, because it’s unfathomable to me how one could think that the awkward, clearly uncomfortable Rose, ‘ruined herself’ by embracing the androgynous identity at the end which she clearly feels comfortable with. It showed me that there are people in society who would rather see someone portray and live in an identity they do not hold but it socially acceptable, rather than #breakfree and live the identity that they truly possess.

What I found worst of all was that this opinion came from a member of the LGBT community. I don’t know why that should be worse than if the opinion came from a straight person. Perhaps it’s because LGBT discrimination usually comes from those outside the community. I find it uncomfortable and hypocritical to experience it coming from someone within, who is all too familiar with certain societal restraints impressed on those who identify as LGBT. Rose obviously picked up on this herself as she posted the following on her Facebook page:

“You know what needs to stop just as much as homophobia, bullying within the LGBT Community… A ‘bisexual’ isn’t just greedy.. ‘Pansexual’ exists and isn’t a cop out.. ‘Straight’ people can be gay huge advocates and blessings to the community… you can identify as trans without surgery, you can be gender fluid… in fact guess what… you can be whoever you are and like whoever you like and WE should spread the love and acceptance we constantly say we don’t receive. I will delete any inter fan/follower bullying.. because its so backwards and does not belong on my page.”

We have an ongoing struggle in this world for equality and acceptance in the lives of LGBT people. But if we have discrimination within the community, how can we hope to eliminate discrimination from outside it? I applaud Rose for her brave portrayal of a sensitive topic. I hope that it generates recognition and acceptance for anyone who relates to her story. I already know of one person who has been inspired, and so at least for that Ruby, I am grateful.