Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Where do we learn about lgb humanity and history rather than human rights?

Twelve years ago I co-wrote a book with Junior Larkin. I get reminded of it from time to time when people come up to me and say they read it before they came out or their parents or friends gave it to them. I also get told the stories of the sneaky looks in the libraries that readers took when they were planning their escapes from wardrobes and the like. (I love the tales of the shocked librarians who look at the person borrowing the book and the deep breaths the borrowers took.)

I do very much appreciate the feedback and the memories from those who have read it and it seems such a long time ago but it’s interesting to hear that people still find it relevant today. I rang somewhere this morning to leave a message for someone and the person on the end of the phone recognised my name and said ‘Fair dues on the book girl.’ I blushed …even on the phone! But anyway it was nice.

I have been wondering over the past few years about where lesbians and gay men in the 21st century get their coming out information. Whilst there is no doubt the internet plays a huge part I think the Irish net is seriously lacking in a one stop shop for health legal, cultural, historical and other information for young or old or their allies on who lesbians and gay men are, how we live our sexuality and what to do if one gets into trouble in whatever way.

Twelve years ago was only one year after decriminalisation. It might have been a different time but I don’t think the issues have changed. People are still worried that they are the only one going through it. There is still bullying in schools, young people are still being thrown out of home for coming out. Parents are still worried about losing access to their children if they come out. Lesbian health is still no more on the agenda now than it was then. Whilst the dynamics of the HIV/AIDS pandemic have changed, those coming out today don’t know people who have the disease or have died and it seems to have slipped off the agenda and is seen as less threatening somehow. Whilst laws have been introduced to protect us, few seem willing to take cases on the basis of discrimination for fear of being marked. And most people still think of the sexual act when they think of homosexuality, rather than the culture, love and living that is involved with being a lesbian woman or gay man in Ireland.

The questions and queries about different things to do with being lesbian or gay still exist and I am sure the internet, message boards and chatrooms all help those who want to know more. But the physical services that were run voluntarily back in the mid 90’s seem to have been more visible and more active than those that exist today. There’s lots of talk about our human rights but so little about the human. Not everyone has net access or the tools needed to negotiate the crap from the good stuff online. However maybe I’m wrong in all of this and maybe those coming out with the support of online resources are getting what they need. It would be interesting to research this more and find out what the information needs are and how they are being addressed.
PS. This is not a plug, the book is out of print, and I made more from my appearance fee on the Late Late Show than I did from the royalties I received from writing the thing!


At 17:17, Blogger straighttalker05 said...

I agree totally.

When I was struggling with my sexuality, I can not put enough emphasis on the value of the internet. It provided me with alot of information, and still does.

However there is also a risk in that. It's easy to confuse www.belfastpride.com (the official site) and www.belfastpride.org (the religious protestors spoof site).

I know there are facilities in the North. Gay and Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland, the Rainbow Project etc... However it is often difficult to find information about these that is not out of date.


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