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.