Only just found out about Pantigate via the very welcome comment from Archbishop of Ireland that ‘Homophobia insults god’ but I’m horrified at the treatment of Rory O’Neill aka Panti Bliss in Ireland. During a debate over same-sex marriage on RTE he was asked to name examples of homophobia by the host, and the people he mentioned sued him and RTE and got an immediate and massive pay out from RTE of €85,000 in a ‘Gaderene rush’ as David Norris puts it (only he would use that phrase, bless him ;-). And also the next week’s host distanced themselves from the debate, making out it was all Rory’s doing, the classic ‘the views of the guest does not reflect the views of the organisation’ get out clause. No wonder Rory wants an apology.
So he took to the stage (literally) and after the play The Risen People to speak a Nobel Call on oppression and homophobia, a reaction to what happened in the previous three weeks. It’s a moving speech. And I think it should be seen further, as it describes how homophobia works, how strange it is to see people not part of a minority discuss whether you should have equal rights, and how some non-LGBTQ people want to define what is homophobic in a strange Orwellian move.
The latter is a really important definition, as I’ve increasingly seen people who aren’t LGBTQ say ‘that’s not homophobia’ – defining it like some strange reaction to spiders or mice, that if a queen enters a room you involuntary jump onto a chair and scream or something. No, homophobia is much more subtle, and calling for unequal rights of any group makes you prejudiced – whether it’s mysogynist, anti-semite, racist or homophobic. Whatever the reasoning, whether it’s something a floaty skypilot said or you just don’t like ‘those’ people – it is offensive and it is ‘phobic.
But to take the voice of a minority group and say ‘you can’t even define what this is anymore’ is not only upsetting, it’s kyriarchy, it’s highly offensive and politically worrying. The faux outrage defence of ‘But I’m not homophobic!’ is joining the classic ‘But I know plenty of gay people’ (yes, Putin!) or ‘I’m not racist but…’ in the dusty closet of history, but some people still hold on to their beliefs, that speaking for and controlling a less powerful group is Their Right, and that Their Way is best. That is oppression, my dears. We see it in Russia, we see it in Ireland, we see it down my road.
It sounds like there have been some positives, that it’s provoked a lot of discussion on homophobia and sexuality which has resulted in some good soul-searching and support (and even Rory’s parents getting letters from people who support what their son did, how Irish! 😉 ), but really dismayed that RTE happily throws a guest under the bus to save itself, rather than face up to homophobes. It seems Ireland has a LONG way to go. But I think Rory was right from the first discussion, these things change surprisingly quickly in smaller countries, and Ireland as a smaller nation despite the influence of the Church can change.
Keep on, Panti Bliss! You rock.