This is only a short blog to get some pent up feelings off my chest. Yes it will be very self-righteous, and yes it will be soppy, but please bear with me.
I watched the above video last night, it is the teaser for an upcoming documentary by LA based actor and LGBT activist Ryan James Yezak called 'Second Class Citizen'. I am not ashamed to admit that on watching the video, I felt my heart break but it was also lifted with hope for the future and hope for change, not just in Northern Ireland, but globally for LGBT people and the discrimination we face daily.
In comparison to the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland still lags behind in terms of social acceptance, religious discrimination and openly gay politicians (of which we have only 1 out of 708), adoption rights, blood donation and marriage equality. Compared to the rest of the UK we are seen as a pariah state when talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans rights and equality. We have a First Minister who refuses to condemn attacks on the LGBT community by members of his own party, a party which also includes a homophobic Health Minister that refuses to lift the ban on blood donation for gay men in Northern Ireland.
Former DUP member, MLA and MP Iris Robinson
70% of suicides in Northern Ireland are attributed to sexual orientation and the stigma and social prejudices that are associated with being a member of the LGBT community. Politicians will talk tough on greater support for youth suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and those who are homeless, but will fall short when it is revealed to them that a sizable number of vulnerable young people are LGBT.
Every year the Christian right in Northern Ireland takes to the streets to condemn and judge the gay community when we only ask for half an hour out of 365 days to show our community spirit and celebrate our individuality at Belfast Pride. They can't even let us have that.
The Greens at Pride 2011 (I'm the one on the far right (irony) blowing the whistle)
Alliance Youth & Lib Dems LGBT at Pride 2011
I know things will change, they have to change, otherwise we will make things change. The lawmakers in this country aren't making the right laws quick enough, so we will speed them up. The LGBT community and our allies need to make enough noise, we need to shout it as loud as we can that we will not go away, that we will not be silenced and it is not a choice. It isn't a choice to live the way you were born and to be yourself, that is a God given right, and we will defend our rights and demand them when they are denied. Such is the nature of democracy, such is the nature of human beings.
(From L to R) John O'Doherty of Rainbow Project, Dolores Kelly MLA, Lord Mayor Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile, Cllr Michael Bowers, Steven Agnew MLA, John McCallister MLA at Pride On The Hill 2011
Those who would deny us the right to marry would have the rest of you think that gay people sit around and plot the downfall of marriage, the destruction of the traditional family and want nothing more than to trample all over their rights. The religious-right has trampled all over our rights for hundreds of years, and it's about time we had what we are entitled to. Poisonous elements in the religious communities would have their flock think that we can be 'cured' if not condemned. Nobody chooses to be LGBT, why would they? Why would anyone want to throw their lot in with such a marginalized section of society who are discriminated against in almost every field? Of course nobody would choose to be gay.
What breaks my heart and sickens me to my stomach is that young people are still taking their lives because of the abuse they are subjected to because of their sexuality, or assumed sexuality, by people in their own homes, their schools and their own politicians. I don't push for greater equality for me, I do it for those who will never get to see it because they lost hope. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in history, and my personal hero once said that "You gotta give 'em hope."
Harvey Milk, circa 1975
That is why I will continue to make as much noise as possible, I will not apologise for the ruckus that I cause and I will not condemn my fellow LGBT activists and straight allies, my colleagues and sometimes even my rivals when they stand up for their rights as human beings in a democratic country as Northern Ireland is supposed to be.
We are not second class citizens.
(Images courtesy of Phil O'Kane)