Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Gay relations

Gays in Derry are preparing for the Foyle Pride Festival from August 13, in a more tolerant atmosphere than a few years ago when homophobic attacks were appallingly common.

The photo shows the famous Free Derry Wall getting a bright pink makeover for the six-day festival, to recognise that the Civil Rights Movement also includes gays.

Says festival organiser David McCartney: "The last time the festival was in Derry, five years ago, there were 93 homophobic attacks in the city that year. This year there have been just two, which shows the change of attitudes towards the gay community."

But an article in the Belfast Telegraph says many gays in Northern Ireland still haven't come out to their parents for fear of the reaction. And many parents haven't told the truth about their gay children to anyone outside the family for the same reason.

Cathy Falconer, 49, who lives in Derry, has written a book 'Good As You' about 11 mothers' reactions to gay sons. She says she couldn't speak to fathers because they found the subject much harder to deal with and talk about.

She explains how her son Barry, 25, came out to her almost eight years ago, and how shocked and upset she was at the time, before she gradually accepted it. She still fears other people's reactions because the old myths about homosexuality are so strong.

So I hope the Festival is well supported, not just by gays but by the whole population of Derry, to show that the familiar stigma is finally lifting.

PS: Graffiti has been sprayed on the wall but it has now been repainted.

Photo courtesy of the Irish Times


  1. Love that they painted it pink, Nick. It is a question of civil rights. I don't get the heterosexist thing whatsoever or the parental shock. So what, your son's gay: get over it.

  2. Well that's a wee bit harsh, Medbh. I guess a mother steeped in heterosexual attitudes might very well be upset until she comes to terms with it and sees it's not such a big deal. Of course ideally we would all be totally cool about it but hey, some people aren't.

  3. Nick, anyone, am not being disingenuous here, but what are the problems that people have with gays, especially with having a gay member of the family?
    I was just sitting here thinking about your post and the only thing I can come up with that I know I've heard articulated is that it's against Christianity. But so are many things, and many of those things are things that Christians choose to do of their own free will. Do people who aren't religious feel the same way? Even if some people believe it's a choice and not part of your make-up or early social conditioning, why is it so resented? I can guess some parents assume they won't have grandchildren of their own, but that can happen for lots of choice and non-choice reasons, and without the hatred or violence.
    What's at the heart of the hatred?

  4. I think it's partly the idea there's something 'unnatural' about sex that isn't 'normal reproductive sex'. Also straight men see it as 'unnatural' for men to fancy each other rather than fancying women. In other words all sorts of odd hangups about what's natural and what isn't. But why is something 'unnatural' also something to be hated?

  5. Fabulous that they painted that - I never knew. Amsterdam gay pride is this weekend, a whole different type of affair I would have thought :-)

    I think the resentment comes from the unknown more than anything. Some people are scared of differences and become defensive and offensive. It is the same with most types of prejudices really. No proper basis apart from fear of the unknown.

  6. Thanks. I'd just suddenly got one of those feelings that there's something everybody knows and I don't.

  7. Con - true, fear of the unknown is a big factor. And some people are so irrationally scared that even if you try to enlighten them, they just don't want to know.

    Bel - hope you're a bit wiser! Another point - a lot of heterosexuals are convinced gay men spend all their time seducing innocent young boys. Which is why there's still a lot of prejudice around male primary school teachers.

    Have a good time in Vancouver BTW. When are you off?

  8. Thanks, end of August. Very much looking forward to it, haven't been to Canada before. Going to meet up with a guy I used to live with and travel around with a friend from Wales who I don't see apart from holidays every year or so.

    So what's the rationale behind gay men liking young boys more than straight men liking young girls?
    Why is it all about the men? Are lesbians not important enough to be hated?

    Love the Pink House, though. x

  9. Well, there's plenty of heat around straight men and young girls too. Paedophilia is a really dirty word, though a blind eye is often turned to teenage girls. And I guess lesbians are still pretty much invisible, or just more discreet and don't cause any ripples.

    Funny how homosexuality can still arouse such hostility while heterosexual violence and rape towards women is excused for so many reasons.

  10. Bel: That was great! Why aren't lesbians hated? Oh the answer is easy my dear, it's what the most popular male fantasy two or more women loving each other ;)

    It's yet another great topic, thank you Nick.

    My view on it is that, societies have labeled everything as normal and not-normal (unnatural as you said, is within the boundaries or not-normal)... The only explanation I can think of for the reaction of parents as they do to their children "not being normal" as dictated by the society. They give birth to sons and then expect them to grow up to marry women, have children and lead "normal" lives. Those who are courageous enough to break the mould, who do not give in to the pressures of the society love, understand and accept, as well as respect their children for who they are.
    It was especially tough for gay men and women in the past more so than now, many had to fight brave fights and endured abuse which served to make it a little easier for everyone else today.

  11. Great point about men's lesbian fantasies meaning they aren't so hated. Interesting word normal, always misunderstood to mean correct rather than usual. Therefore anything non-normal is seen as incorrect rather than different. Yes indeed the legacy of those gay men and women who fought yesterday's prejudice is humbling. How many people are aware of the Stonewall riots in NY in 1969 when gays finally rebelled against their inferior status and fought the police for several days?

  12. As the mother of a gay child, Nick, your post had significance.
    I do not understand the intolerance and the ignorance. I attend a gay service every year for the parents of gays and I am saddened that only 10% of all gay parents publicly support their gay offspring and fight for their equal status. And again, like other prejudices, I find that the most virulent of gay-bashers don't know any gay people.

  13. Very disappointing that such a small number of parents actively fight for their gay children's rights. Clearly some way to go for full acceptance of gays. As you say, many of the anti-gay crowd have no gay acquaintances to challenge their sterotypes.