|(l-r) Sophie and Sinead McCrone c/o Mashable.com|
This is an issue close to my heart, so please bear with me, even if you have already made your mind up to vote No in the coming Marriage referendum.
My first cousin Sinead is 30, gay, in a civil partnership and is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter. She is a breastfeeding mom, an attachment parent, she is a working mother, a brilliant friend and one of the most positive people I have ever had the pleasure to know.
A few weeks ago I was having a bad week, she came around with her baby daughter, brought lunch for me, a dvd for my boys, and sent me to bed for a couple of hours to rest. She is one of those people you look forward to spending time with and wish you could see more of. Her partner Sophie is also the kind of person who would bend over backwards to help you out and look after you, warm and inspiring to be around. Their personalities shouldn't even come into it, but I think it's easier to vote "No" if you don't know anyone in this situation personally, so I'll continue to describe two of my favourite people.
Despite all the prejudice this couple face on a daily basis, from people they know, strangers in the street, our own government, I have never heard them once make a judgement about anyone. Their lives are lived in a circle of close trusted friends, their holidays planned to be in a "safe" environment, every decision they make has to be one to protect themselves against possible discrimination because that is the reality we have created for same-sex couples in our society. They are sociable and fun, and honestly the happiest most supportive couple I know. They live life to the full and love each other passionately, and are featured today in this Mashable.com article, here.
Of course the majority of long-term relationships are marked by having children, which is not as easy a decision for same-sex couples, obviously. They had to take into account the whys and hows, the financial commitment, the possible implications for their child in the future, thinking of things the rest of us take for granted. They planned for, conceived and birthed a beautiful baby girl last summer, who is the centre of their lives now. She is being raised by the most attentive, conscientious parents. She will hopefully grow up in a different Ireland to the one her mothers grew up in. She will hopefully be treated as an equal child of an equal marriage, not just the daughter of one of them, but both of them.
I can't imagine what it must be like having your life and family discussed in the public domain, putting your future in the hands of Joe Soap to vote whether or not he sees you as an equal. I can't imagine the anxiety in the LGBT community this week waiting and hoping and campaigning for just an equal footing in our country, no extras, just to be treated as equals. The No side has been downright dirty in their attacks with their misleading lies (surrogacy/adoption/"think of the children" - all issues that are NOT going to change should the Yes side win the referendum).
If this was a race issue would we be obliged to give screen and air time to racists talking about the inherent "wrongness" of another race? It is a human rights issue, as big as a race or gender issue. If this was men vs women like we had in the 70s would we stand for it, being told to get back in the kitchen and give up our independence? This is the same thing, but now we have the "straights" against the "gays", and we need to wake up and see them as just people. Our cousins, our siblings, our workmates, our friends.
I don't even want to get into the subject of teenage boys, depression and suicide rates. Suffice to say that all the children's charities and advocacy groups eg. Barnardos are admitting that gay teen males are in the highest suicide category. I taught for years in a boy's secondary school in South County Dublin, privileged kids with the world as their oyster, yet the homophobic bullying was mind-blowing. If one of my kids is gay my biggest fear would be how they are treated because of it. That's our fault, we've set up our society to make it ok to call kids names, because they are NOT equal, yet. We've been turning a blind eye. I'll never forget a friend ringing me to come and collect him on the way to a house party in my 20s, he'd got off a bus in Dun Laoghaire at night and was chased and verbally abused by a group of lads because he was gay. He would have been physically attacked had he not got away. He was hiding in a shop doorway when I met him and really upset, this wasn't the first time he'd been singled out. Other gay friends have emigrated to larger cities in other countries because they can't live their lives peacefully here. We need to make Ireland a safer place for ALL our children, and this starts with a Yes vote.
Now for some uplifting beauty, please check out this video Sinead made today talking about being a parent in a same-sex union:
Please don't assume this is in the bag, we need you to talk to your family, friends, co-workers about the issues at stake here, and make sure nobody forgets to vote on Friday. Let's get Ireland into the 21st century, and show all our citizens they are equal in our eyes.