You Don’t Have To Be An Activist, You Know?

Chalk in the colours of the rainbow laid out in a row - International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2022

Seeing as today, May 17th, is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2022, I thought that today was the right time to share this piece I recently wrote.

It’s something that was said to me during a recent conversation. I sat there not replying. They just didn’t get it. “You don’t have to be an activist, you know?”

During the first lockdown, I took over as Acting Chair of the London Irish LGBT Network. Believe me when I say that this was something I really didn’t want to do. But, I didn’t want the group to come to an abrupt halt either.

I’ve never been someone who is extremely out there. I live my life, get on with it and if you don’t like it, well, I don’t really need you around anyway. I know I’m very lucky. Not all queer people are afforded that luxury. I’m very lucky where I was born and where I live. But that doesn’t mean there is no homophobia or hatred.

Again, I’ve been lucky. Me and Tallulah got a bottle thrown at us years ago, one night at Whitefriars in Dublin, just at Aungier Street. Terrible throw, missed badly. In Paris, a few lads cheered at us as they were cruising in their banger adjacent to the Seine. Ooh la la!

In Ireland, I was never involved in LGBTQ community groups or work or politics, or anything. Just didn’t do it. It could be a hangover of Catholic guilt or the fact that there’s always someone who knows someone. But, when I moved to London, I really didn’t give a shit who knew anything about me.

Taking over as Chair of the LILGBT Network gave me a sense of purpose during lockdowns. Something other than the day job. Organising online meet-ups and getting really good positive feedback from people, was massive. I was doing something right as Chair.

But what does a London Irish LGBT group need to do, who do we represent? This is one question I’ve been asking since I got involved. Are we a social group, a campaigning group? I wasn’t sure and it took me a while to figure out. As a community group, we can facilitate bringing people together in a safe space, online and now that it’s a bit safer to meet up, in person also.

We’ve run nights speaking to musicians, and actors, talking about housing, and Trans rights. It occurred to me that although not everyone comes to the meet-ups all the time, it’s important that our members, friends, and allies know that we’re always there. We don’t judge them for who they are and it’s a space where they can be themselves.

The Colours of the light spectrum on a dark background -International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
All the colours of the spectrum

Hate Crimes on The Rise

Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have been on the rise for a number of years, it’s been something that has bubbled under the surface as the right-wing media stir the pot up. I organised an online event for London Irish LGBT Network with Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady from Poz Vibe podcast, two HIV activists, and I thought that this was one of the last great taboos. I still do. There’s no shame in having HIV and there is still a huge amount of education surrounding it to be done. But, it was then that I was told ‘You don’t have to be an activist you know?’

That’s not true. I’ve never considered myself an activist. I just do what I do and as a member of the London Irish Queer community, if I can do something to help others in my community, so be it.

That activism and that sense of community are more important today than it has been in years. Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee, two members of the LGBTQ community were brutally murdered in Sligo not long ago. The beautiful west coast of Ireland where this shouldn’t happen. Ireland: the first country where marriage equality was voted in by a public vote.

We Can All Be Activists

I’m a firm believer that if you’re a member of a minority group, you should strive for equality or equity for all minority groups. I believe we should live in a fair society where we live and let live, and everyone has enough to eat. I don’t understand hatred. It takes a lot of energy to be angry and then to remain angry at a person or group of people. Imagine how much energy is wasted on homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic assaults and how many lives are changed for the worse.

Even over the past while, there have been a rising number of these attacks on the LGBTQ community in Ireland. It breaks my heart. At home in Ireland and at home here in London, we as a community need to stand together and use our voices. Hate crimes are not okay and it’s not okay to ignore them just because they don’t affect you. Whether online, verbal, or physical, abuse is wrong. Friends, allies, and siblings in the LGBTQ community, use your voice, call these people out, and report ALL hate crimes. This can’t continue.

The only way to make a better world is if we all act – if we’re all activists.

Thanks for reading, I’d love your feedback and comments on we all can be better activists.