by Brian Merriman,
Artistic Director International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, Exec Producer Mr. Gay Ireland/Northern Ireland
Radio Television Eireann (Ireland) probably thought they were doing something ‘avant garde’ in inviting one of Ireland’s most articulate and talented drag artistes/advocate, Panti on the ‘Saturday Night Show’. In the course of an interview Rory O Neill named a few ‘right wing’ journalists and a ‘catholic’ funded Iona Institute as being homophobic in their activity. The mainstream audience burst into applause when he advised them to ‘feck off out of my life’. Within hours this segment was censored by RTE and taken down from the RTE Player service and then the following week’s programme opened with a staggering ‘apology’ and a defence of criticism of gay life and love.
The Iona Institute claimed it has also received ‘damages’ for its suffering. In a time when we already have to endure a celebration of Russian life through the saturation coverage of the Olympics in Sochi, it is the last straw. The word Sochi reminds us of Putin’s relentless campaign of associating gay culture with child abuse, and gives permission for serious violence and imprisonment of LGBT people, in the week of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The holocaust has its roots in the demeaning of the status of minorities including homophobia that went unchallenged in Germany of the 1930s.
Today, as LGBT Ireland will endure another humiliation of having to ask permission for marriage equality in a Constitutional referendum promised and supported by the Government in 2015, the seed of the attitudes that fuelled the Holocaust is emerging with vengeful force in Russia, Africa, Arab States and thriving in certain religions.
These and other themes like religion, politics, media, history, etc. are unpacked in my analysis of the importance of telling our history and the modern LGBT lifestyle and culture on the stages of the biggest International Gay Theatre Festival in the world, held each May in Dublin – www.gaytheatre.ie and in my book ‘Wilde Stages in Dublin – a Decade of Gay Theatre’ available online, or on the website.
“I’ve had enough”: Complaint letter sent to RTE over Saturday Night Show ‘apology’:
The recent apology by RTE for the fair comments made by Rory O Neill is a disgrace, an act of censorship and is a very worrying addition to the debate which is fuelling homophobia.
A phobia is a fear. Homophobia is the term used for people who fear gay people and the impact of their quest for equality on their own status. The individuals referred to by O’ Neill are notorious in perpetuating the following unchallenged on your programmes and in other media:
-Traditional marriage will be in some way undermined by equal marriage for all adults. (The reason gay marriage is not traditional is that it was and is banned. You cannot have a ‘tradition’ and be failed for not having it when society deliberately constructed terms that criminalised its existence).
– Children of gay parents are in some way disadvantaged (completely untrue – children don’t need straight or gay parents – they need good parents)
– Civil partnership (with all its lesser status and rights) is good enough for gay couples.
-Gay marriage undermines the quality and status of heterosexual marriage. etc. etc.
All these nasty comments are based on a ‘fear’ of equal rights for gay people. They are apparently remedied only if the current inequality is maintained.
If you have a fear – you have a phobia. If you have a fear of equality for LGBT people you are correctly described as homophobic.
To ‘apologise’ for offence to such individuals, when no apology has even been given to gay people for their treatment, and no request even asked by RTE reporters of our legislators and other decision makers is an outrage.
Here is what should be apologised for:
– it’s Holocaust Memorial Week. Gay people were imprisoned, given harder labour and fewer rations in concentration camps. When the camps were liberated by the allies, all were released except for gay people – many of whom were sent directly back to prison as criminals, made by the Allies to serve out the sentences passed by the Nazi courts, with no recognition of time served in the concentration camps. Has any RTE journalist ever asked anyone in authority to apologise for that? – No. Whose sensitivities are impugned by such a shocking and dreadful legacy? – Certainly no one in RTE.
– David Norris won his human rights case in 1988 – nothing was done for five years. Then government decriminalised – the lowest form of recognition was legal erasement. Have you asked anyone apologise for that, or the ongoing resultant discrimination? – no.
– In 1982 Aine O Connor asked a gay couple in Cork, brave enough to go on camera, were they ‘sick’ – any apology for that? (Ref Ed Lynch’s documentary Did Anybody Notice us).
– The recent broadcast of ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ had drag queens at a fake wedding. People were asked to go to The George, have a few drinks and be bussed North. Do straight people bring the stripper from the hen party to the wedding and is that shown as the only depiction of gay marriage this year. The depiction of gay life and love in that programme pressed every negative voyeuristic stereotype in the book. It was a disgraceful episode designed to trivialise gay relationships in a year of a referendum. It was made despite them asking the festival to take part and me strongly advising them of their deeply flawed approach – Where’s the apology? What’s the potential damage to the cause of equal marriage rights?
– a recent Prime Time discussion portrayed ‘balance’ when they found a gay man who doesn’t believe in his own equal rights – a classic symptom of internalised homophobia and a member of the Iona Institute to ‘debate’ the right to adoption and family life for gay people. Has anyone in RTE who has adopted a child or fallen in love ever been put on TV to be challenged by the Iona Institute to justify their life choices of a partner or to give safe and loving home to a child – no this only happens if the person is LGBT – appallingly discriminatory editorial control.
At last, probably in an unscheduled way, one person ‘fought back’. He described the perpetuation on our airwaves that equal rights for gay life, love and families, somehow undermines the status of heterosexual marriage and families in a manner appropriate to a victim of such never-ending broadcast discrimination.
The fear mongering that this encourages is a phobia. He named it and you crumbled. By doing so you have seriously undermined O’Neill’s good name and character. You have allowed this group which no longer reflects the ethos of their church, as Pope Francis declares ‘Who Am I to judge’ unfettered access to promote their own brand of fundamentalism?
RTE judges, it cooperates in the ongoing and never-ending demand that LGBT people must continue to justify their existence in the 21st century and must beg for permission for their families to make a positive contribution to Irish society on an equal basis.
RTE collaborates in this disgrace on a daily basis, despite the increase in attacks on LGBT people, the mental health of people who are constantly told their lives are of a lesser status, homophobia in schools and the high rate of suicide especially amongst young men in rural Ireland.
The Saturday Night show should if anything have offered a right to reply. Then it could have hosted an informed debate and finally given decent LGBT people who wish to live ordinary private lives with their partners and children free from discrimination, the right to challenge this homophobia, which from the instances cited above, now appears to be institutionalised as ‘balanced debate’ in RTE.
You are a national broadcaster, not a puppet of those who wish to perpetuate their own ‘advantages’ at the expense of the human rights of others! Pitching ‘extremists’ against the ordinary desire to marry the person of your choice and raise children well, is not balanced journalism – it is dangerous debate – apologise!
International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival
Exec Producer Mr. Gay Ireland/Northern Ireland
Update 7th February 2014:
Irish state broadcaster RTE pays out €85,000 compensation for suggestion that the legal discrimination of ‘Gays’ does not = ‘homophobia’
by Brian Merriman,