From my piece which was published in University Times on December 8th – It was originally posted here.
Let’s not talk about homophobia. Let’s not talk about law, or equal marriage. For just a few minutes let’s not even talk about the violent and heinous acts we hear of in newspapers. Let’s not talk about the so often imagined stereotype in which we view homophobia as this instilled fear within people who refuse to live by the golden rule. Instead, lets talk about our daily lives. Let’s talk about the fear that has been instilled in us by a minority of people who shout, laugh, sneer, and sometimes physically hurt LGBT* people daily just for being themselves.
“How many of you have been in the vicinity of LGBT* clubs in Dublin, only to be jeered at, shouted at, have things thrown at you?”
For now let’s talk about the institutionalised and inbuilt fear instilled by an unknown number of homophobic populous in Ireland. On the November 28th, I wrote an essay on my blog entitled The Day I Held My Boyfriend’s Hand. It has since gone viral online. My essay, was an emotional catharsis in which I described the fear I felt as I held my boyfriend’s hand through Cork City. In the essay I described how I held it all the way to Paul Street. That was my breaking point, because I didn’t mention that I actually did let go. I wrote it, in light of the Humans of Homophobia campaign which was launched by UCC LGBT* on November 20th.
However, for the moment, let’s get something clear: there were no taunts, and there were no slurs that day. But there have been before. It was these taunts that instilled this fear I spoke about. The fear we all live with. How many of you have been in the vicinity of LGBT* clubs in Dublin, only to be jeered at, shouted at, have things thrown at you? Because I have, and I am not OK with that anymore. I am not OK with the fear that has been instilled upon myself, and others I am sure, when you take your lover’s hand in public. Homophobia is the secret that we share, and a secret of a “civilised” society.
“I say to him in my head, that I feel afraid to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public, but I’ve been burned before and I know better for it.”
My essay has now been seen and read by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. I stopped reading comments on it a week ago, because I feel like an act of catharsis such as this is open to so much criticism that it’s best left to public conversation rather than my own indulgence. Heterophobia, one Facebook commentator called it. I couldn’t help but feel that the campaign was doing its job in that moment, because it is these people who need to be thought that in the same way you learn not to touch a hot flame because you get burnt, you don’t hold hands with a boy in public, because experience tells you you might get burnt. I am sincerely sorry, I say to him in my head, that I feel afraid to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public, but I’ve been burned before and I know better for it.
In the moments as I walked home, and following further to the hours before I wrote The Day I Held My Boyfriend’s Hand, it occurred to me: you don’t need to be an activist in the stereotypical sense of the word to make a difference. We can all be activists. We all need to hold hands.