I’m sure most of you have already heard but I just thought I’d put up this post regardless. Today, the 23rd of May, marks the start of a bright new future for Ireland. The majority of voters said “Yes” to same sex marriage and it feels absolutely wonderful. I woke up this morning and was still unequal but by four o’ clock all of that changed.
People of all ages came out in full force to support this referendum. It was my first time voting and I feel so proud to have made history alongside my fellow voters. My civil partner and I went out canvassing for marriage equality and were met with such mixed reactions that I really didn’t know what result to expect today. Doors were slammed in our faces and we were told by some people that they would be voting “No” to our equality.
The strangest reaction we received was from one gentleman who confidently told us that gay and lesbian people do not exist. Apparently, according to this guy, lesbians are ugly women who can’t get a man and gay men are just guys who don’t have the courage to speak to women. Obviously.
Over the past few days I’ve felt such a mixture of emotions. Seeing the pictures of people returning home from other countries, making the journey home from college and work and going out to vote both alone and with their families has really moved me. Such support is overwhelming and I will never forget how I felt when the results were announced. My partner and I had our civil partnership almost four years ago and have always felt, in a way, like we were married but now this is different. This is not in our minds or in our hearts. This is our love given the validation it deserves. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’m posting this for two reasons. 1. To show my support for the trans* community. 2. To share my recent and one of my first experiences of ignorance towards what it means to be trans.
I was having a group conversation with some people recently when someone from our area who is transitioning was brought up. This individual is undergoing hormone treatment and is transitioning from male to female. This individual has also had surgery to get the breasts she’s always dreamed of having. Anyway, the people I was talking to said this woman was a man pretending to be a woman and that he was dressing as a woman for attention and kept emphasising that because this woman still has a penis she is definitely a man. The worst thing was I don’t even think that these people fully realised how ignorant, damaging and almost cruel their statements were. I told this group that gender is in your mind and doesn’t require the individual to have genitalia that perfectly match their preferred gender. I tried to explain that not every trans person will have bottom surgery and that’s okay because they are still their true gender and should be referred to as such. The fact that someone can transition from being male to female, still have a penis and be referred to as a woman completely baffled these people and I think they still walked away thinking that it couldn’t be true and that if you have a penis you must be a man regardless of how you present yourself.
The conversation then extended to either trans people should tell people what genitalia they have before dating them. This, again, divided opinions. I think this is completely up to each trans person and how comfortable they feel disclosing that information.
I tried to appeal to these people by asking them to imagine what it would feel like to be born into the wrong body. I also asked them to imagine how devastating it would be to be presenting as the woman you always knew you are while taking hormones and after undergoing surgery just to still be called a man. This still didn’t really work.
This conversation gave me a very small taste of what it’s really like to be trans and it opened my eyes to how judgemental people really can be. I know it may not sound like it but this group of people are generally quite open minded yet when their idea of what it means to be male or female was challenged they completely closed the doors of their minds and almost refused to even consider any new information. I truly empathise with the trans community and am furious that people who think this way are out there. Maybe it’s simply a lack of education or maybe it’s blatant transphobia. I walked away from that conversation still angry that people could put down another human being so easily. Just know that you all have an ally in me.
Recently I have found myself in a number of different work places through education, training and volunteering. The one thing these places all have in common is the fact that they all come with a certain amount of small talk. This small talk revolves around family life, nights out and general interests. You know, the usual stuff. My problem is that I’m struggling to decide either I should come out in these work environments to be honest. It’s not necessary for them to know but even a simple question like “What did you do at the weekend?” has the potential to make you squirm when there’s something you don’t want to reveal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally out usually and would never lie about my sexuality. I’ve even appeared in a local newspaper in relation to my sexuality! Being out and proud is not the question here – being accepted is. I’m afraid that if I come out in these work places that I may not be granted the same opportunities as others. Is that silly or justified? In Ireland religion still rules a lot of work places attitudes however with the marriage equality referendum in full swing it’s becoming apparent that a lot of people are completely for the equal treatment of same sex couples. It’s easy to come out in a work place which has policies in place that protect LGBT people against discrimination and prejudice. These work places automatically promote equality for all of their staff.
When the people in these workplaces are casually mentioning their families and husbands or wives I’m unsure either I should too. If I met the same people outside of these environments I would absolutely come out to them without hesitation but it feels like I’ve more to lose here. I think that I’m worried partially about being treated unfairly but also about being stuck volunteering in close proximity with someone who may develop ill feelings towards me because of my sexuality. I guess that’s their problem, not mine, but I just want to avoid any hassle.
I would love to tell them all about my wonderful relationship and about the happiness it brings to my life. My other half means the world to me and it upsets me that it isn’t easy for me to share every part of my life with everyone. If the marriage referendum passes with a yes vote then I would love to shout my joy from the rooftops and tell everyone how happy I am to now be able to marry the person I love and have the same rights as a heterosexual couple. I know that a workplace is a professional environment and revelations sbout my personal life shouldn’t be a concern at all but others can freely do it. Can I? What are your experiences with coming out at work?
Last week I found myself in a new course which, of course, equalled to coming out all over again. It’s a natural part of my life as a lesbian but it can be a little bit of an intimidating task when you know you’re going to be in the same class as these people for the next few months. I’m way too proud of who I am to let anyone else change that but you don’t want any hassle either. I’m sure most of you can relate to that.
I let it drop into casual conversation that I have a wife (civil partner) which surprised a lot of people. Why were they surprised? Because I’m a lesbian? Nope! It was actually because I’m so young. I’m 22 but I’m often told that I look younger. The fourth anniversary of our civil partnership is in September which was even more shocking to them. They were impressed by our dedication to each other at such a young age in these modern times and were genuinely happy for us because we have found true love. The fact that my true love is a woman was irrelevant.
Receiving such warmth and acceptance from these people really made me look forward to a future where those kind of responses are the norm. They were actually so accepting that they made me feel like there was actually nothing to accept in the first place. I was not seeking equality in their eyes because to them I’m already equal. Pretty cool, right?
Just wanted to pop up a short post to let all of my followers all over the world know exactly what’s been happening here in Ireland for LGBT people. In case you didn’t already know, on May 22nd a public vote will be held regarding marriage equality. Campaigners are working hard at the moment in the hopes that the yes side will win and the no side are working equally as hard. Some amazing videos have been uploaded in the hopes that we’ll be able to appeal to the public to vote yes. I, like so many other LGBT people and allies, am desperately hoping that history will be made in May.
In 1993 homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland so, really, we’ve come a long way since then but we still have so much more to achieve. Check out one of my favourite marriage equality promotional videos below and keep your videos crossed for us!
Yesterday they walked together hand in hand as they took their touches for granted. The town is alive with a hive of activity. It’s occupants seem to be too busy to notice. They don’t see the interlocked fingers as sweaty palms embrace. Their gaze does not include the love before them. The open declaration inspires little in it’s wake.
Today I too walked the same crowded streets as I weaved between those too busy to take a breath. Today was different. Right now I am the main attraction as I hold on tightly to her hand. Too many stares penetrated my space. I can suddenly relate to that goldfish confined to such a small bowl, a centrepiece to feast your eyes upon. Foul language and volatile behaviour rain down upon as we continue our nervous march. We exchange a look and silently agree. We will not let go.
Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow equality will welcome us as we march in a proud parade. Our colours will shine as we are given a guard of honour by supporters, children and animals alike. We will march as one to the beat of the same drum as we leave behind our reality to pretend we too can act like them. Tomorrow we will get a taste of what the future might be as we mingle safely in our numbers. Tomorrow I can be me. I can be me safely without judgement, fear or risk. I shall consider that day to be the greatest sample of freedom I could ever be given.
Tomorrow is spaghetti day which is something I’ve been looking forward to even though I was the one who decided it should happen on a Tuesday. I enjoy looking forward to things even if its something as simple as a meal that I’m going to cook myself. I’m not feeling well physically tonight but my mind is at ease. I’ve been cleaning and throwing out unwanted clutter which always seems to lift my mood. Most people get a buzz from getting something new but I actually get more of a thrill from getting rid of things. Even though these items aren’t actually cluttering up anything I still like to call it decluttering because it helps me to feel like there is more order and organisation surrounding me. How are you doing? Is life treating you well and is it everything you want it to be?
Not too long ago I was feeling like any effort I was making to change my life and better myself was going unnoticed or wasn’t good enough. Perhaps this was a bit of a silly idea but it was a feeling which consumed my thoughts greatly back then. I thought that I’d made bad choices career wise but now I see that I’m heading in the exact direction that I’m destined for. I love being able to help people and make meaningful connections with others so a caring profession is right up my street. I’m going to make a difference, I promise. I see that I can be good for others and I can be a trustworthy, inspiring figure in someone’s life.
Why do I want to make such a difference, you ask. I grew up feeling invisible and unwanted. I felt turned away from social groups, family and my own father. I felt like teachers expected too much and couldn’t see how much help I needed. Friends who promised a lifetime of loyalty when we were teenagers gave up on me so easily so I figured in the end that I didn’t have an important place in the world. I felt that my existence was unnecessary and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way so I’m leaving my mark on this world through helping others. It may sound selfish in ways but I genuinely want to see others live their lives how they want to and I want to help other people to find happiness. I hate seeing other people experiencing the same deep emotional pain I felt for so long. Surely I can help to change the path of at least one person.
I look forward to making more meaningful connections with people and having deep conversations. Life left me frayed around the edges but my core remains warm sending flames of life to my worn exterior. Life is a roller coaster, friend, but always hold on tight and you will make it through anything. That’s what I learned anyway. Things get so much better than you’ll ever believe.
Ireland is actually so bad sometimes at supporting LGBT events in smaller towns. These small towns are the ones who need the support for their LGBT groups and communities the most. These places don’t have drop in centres, LGBT cafés or gay bars. They’re not granted the funding required to enable them to get their own premises so their meeting venues are the most difficult to source. They rarely get any funding at all but have so much passion and so many ideas. This is the reality for any group outside of the cities here in Ireland so putting an event together is even harder for them and advertising it is twice as hard. Night club venues don’t want to offer a room on one of their busy nights so you need to hope that people will bother coming to your event on a night that is not usually worth going out on. There’s so many obstacles so why are our own LGBT community one of them?
It would be so easy to fill a venue if the gay people from each area actually got together and went to these events and brought along their friends or family members. Wouldn’t it be great to just sit and chill at an event full of same sex loving peers? It’s so hard to meet other LGBT people in rural areas so when groups put effort into getting an event together I like to see a good crowd at it but unfortunately that’s rarely the case. Rural based groups from all around Ireland post pictures of their events online and the main thing they usually have in common is poor attendance. Why? I love going to these events when the opportunity arises for so many different reasons yet I am constantly disappointed by the lack of support from other people. A group can’t be held responsible for a lack of public support yet the public must have their reasons too for not attending. We need each other to fill these events and keep these small groups going. Together we can make them bigger and we can help to enable them to be more progressive and successful. It would be so sad if these groups and localised events disappeared, it really would. I hope that doesn’t happen.
Today I was involved in a conversation about anger, challenging behaviour and how to deal with conflict. To be honest with you all, I am the type of person that would happily run a mile from a potential argument but I now realise that’s a habit that I must consider changing. Don’t get me wrong here: I don’t mean that I should be aggressive or irrationally challenging. That would make any situation so much worse. The advice I received today was so simple yet I never considered it before. I was told that if someone does something which upsets me I should always highlight it immediately. I shouldn’t let it slide or think that it doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t be afraid to speak up for myself or defend my feelings.
The woman who gave this advice also claimed that taking this strategy on board herself changed how she valued herself and how others treated her. We all should have a massive amount of respect for ourselves because let’s face it; respecting yourself encourages others to show you the same treatment. I’m going to try telling people that they’ve upset me before they get the opportunity to do it again. It’ll be difficult to break such a long term habit so I guess the greatest challenge will be standing up to my own ideas of what I’m worth rather than the challenge of standing up to the person before me. I think a lot of the time we do not mention the ways others hurt us because we think we don’t deserve to be treated any better than that. You never deserve to have someone intentionally or even unintentionally hurt you. Speak out. You’re worth every syllable.
Hey all! I have been swamped with assignments hence my absence from WordPress and blog land. The downside – missing out on my virtual socialising, the plus side – an awesome qualification at the end of all this hard work.
I’m hoping that volunteer work is on the horizon for me pretty soon which prompted this thought process… does being butch actually decrease your job opportunities? Will this be a factor in a future employers decision regarding your potential employment? Or does this discrimination only exist in certain types of work? To be honest I’ve never been served in a shop by a butch woman. I actually haven’t encountered one elsewhere either for that matter but I am not sure if that means that butches aren’t being hired or if they’re just not applying for these jobs in particular. Even if they are applying for these jobs it must also be said that a lack of qualifications is a possible reason for them not achieving employment also. It could be any number of reasons really so it’s hard to blame discrimination alone.
Like I already mentioned, I am hoping to get some work experience through volunteer work which will revolve around caring for people who have intellectual disabilities. One thought which struck me recently was “Should I grow my hair? Should I make myself look less butch?”. I know, I know, you should always be true to yourself but I still found myself thinking about how my looks could potentially impact people’s impression of me. I was initially thinking that having longer hair may help my cause but then I got a haircut so I failed big time there. Then I wondered if my small chest is a factor when I’m presumed to be a guy but no way on earth would I be happy wearing something designed to emphasise what little breasts I do have. Wearing make-up just isn’t me… I’d probably end up looking like a drag queen to be honest.
In the end I thought to myself “Why can’t being butch be an asset for me instead of simply being something negative?”. After some research I found out that there is very little out there to help or educate people who have intellectual disabilities and identify as LGBT so this lead me to thinking that I could actually be able to offer some form of support for these people. Maybe sharing my experiences and knowledge could actually inspire understanding and compassion amongst those who have intellectual disabilities. It’s something that many heterosexual workers and volunteers may not feel equipped to handle so perhaps that could be where I can help?
I guess my point is that sometimes your sexuality and your style may be more of an asset than you first realise. Our world is undeniably becoming more accepting and even more fond of us rainbow folk and I’m glad I didn’t even entertain the idea of changing myself to fit in or be more accepted when this energy can be better put into helping to transform attitudes for the better. Right now I’m genuinely pretty excited about the possibility of speaking about a topic that remained taboo for such vulnerable people for so long. I’m feeling determined and ready to play an active role in my community.
I hope all of you are having a great week.
Take care of yourselves. 🙂