‘Homophobia’ and same-sex marriage

 

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) seems to think that a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum on marriage equality will be an endorsement of those who seek to stifle the expression of dissenting views on the issue. I can assure her that it will be nothing of the sort. The only outcome of a Yes vote will be that same-sex couples will finally be afforded the same rights that other couples currently enjoy in society. Nothing more, nothing less. – Yours, etc,

ADAM LONG,

Ballina-Killaloe,

Co Tipperary.

Sir, – We must feel pity for any of our public representatives who decide to put forward arguments in defence of marriage, as currently defined by the Constitution, during the forthcoming debate about same-sex marriage. The amount of abuse and bullying they are likely to receive will be enough to silence them as soon as they voice their views – so most likely they will not voice them, which is exactly what the proponents of gay marriage want. They don’t want a debate: they know what they want and seem to have little respect for other people’s views.

Should we not find it unfair and extremely damaging if politicians were to be called anti-Semitic because they expressed their views about Palestinians having a right to protect their land, not agreeing with Israeli settlements being built in Gaza? They do not dislike Jews at all, but understand the politics and social rights of citizens in the Middle East differently from pro-Israelis. The same applies in the current debate about same-sex marriage in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

LUISON LASSALA,

Richmond Avenue South,

Milltown, Dublin 6.

A chara, – May I respectfully suggest that if someone is upset by being called homophobic, they refrain from espousing homophobic views. Problem solved. – Is mise,

EMILY NEENAN,

George’s Quay, Dublin 2.

Sir, – I have been reading with absolute fascination the excellent debate in your letters columns re homophobia and gay marriage and the parallel controversy encompassing your esteemed columnist John Waters and the artist Panti Bliss.

I wonder how many of your contributors are aware that it is exactly 120 years since the Marquess of Queensberry called on Oscar Wilde at 16 Tite Street, London in 1894 and accused him of having an affair with his son Douglas. It was subsequently on February 18th,1895, that the marquess left his calling card at Wilde’s club, the Albemarle inscribed “For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite”. Oscar, greatly embarrassed and much against the advice of his friends and his lawyers then rashly initiated the private prosecution for libel against the Marquess of Queensberry which proved so fatal to himself but made him an immortal hero to the gay community. Maybe the late Seamus Heaney was more than prescient when he said that “hope and history rhyme ”. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL O’FLANAGAN,

Emmet Road,

Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

A chara, – Like Breda O’Brien, I too think that not everybody should be allowed to marry. As a Cork woman I think that Dubliners should not be afforded this right. They are different to us, their relationships are not of the same worth as ours and can sometimes be sinful. Please understand that this does not mean that I have anything against Dubliners or that I am racist. I love people from Dublin, some of them are my best friends. I merely want the superior nature of Corkonians to be protected and recognised by the Irish State. Ideally I would have a quarter page of a national newspaper to espouse my views, but I don’t. Hence the need for a letter. – Is mise,

KAY CHALMERS,

Well Road, Douglas, Cork.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) just doesn’t get it. It isn’t about her. The nobility and purity of one’s intentions are irrelevant. It is not that opposition to marriage equality makes one homophobic, it is that homosexual people experience opposition to marriage equality as homophobia. It’s not about straight commentators’ intentions, it is about gay people’s real lives. – Yours, etc,

ALLAN DEERING,

Ashurst College Road,

Kilkenny.

Sir, – What Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) and most commentators on both sides of the argument fail to acknowledge in this debate in the failure in our vocabulary. If someone were to shout a racist remark in the street, it would not necessarily mean they are a xenophobe. Xenophobia is the fear, dislike or hatred of people from other nations or races. An act of discrimination towards people from other nations or of other races is termed racist. A clear failure of our lexicon is that we don’t differentiate. Homophobia in our society means the fear, dislike and hatred of homosexuals, but it is also colloquially used to describe the manifestations and actions seen in society, which range from subtle to extreme discrimination.

It would be better to use the appropriate term sexualism, the discrimination of some based on sexuality. That way we might be able to differentiate between the homophobia of some and the sexualist behaviour of others. Some groups are hiding behind this blurred line, because their actions are indeed sexualist, but they do not believe they are inherently homophobic. It appears they are throwing off genuine arguments and instead are using homophobia-gate as a defence of discrimination based on sexuality. I challenge us to move on and call those who are sexualist sexualists, but do not forget that our country still suffers from homophobia, in public and private. – Yours, etc,

AMY WORRALL,

New Square, Trinity College

Dublin, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Sean Mullan (February 8th) rightly points out that people “are prisoners of the systems and structures of their times”. Their thinking process is affected by the culture in which they grown up.

Brendan Ryan (February 8th) provided us with details of the naming and shaming vilifications that have, for too long, been part of our national debate and which TV licence payers are now been asked to accept as “robust exchanges”.

What is worth noting in all of this is how the supposedly liberal commentators are locked into the naming and shaming game used by the Catholic Church and are quick to lambast those who disagree with charges of ignorance, hypocrisy or homophobia. The approach is simple: make people feel guilty and browbeat them into giving in.

Should we allow ourselves to be dominated or held prisoners by those who now shout the loudest and attempt to layer on the guilty if we fail to worship at their altar or the altar of equality? Surely the time has come to rid ourselves of such nefarious tactics and name-calling.

Are we not free to believe that the fitting together of the two equal, opposite, physically, biologically and emotionally compatible pieces of the marriage jigsaw is very different from trying to fit two pieces together that have the same shape and psychology? Is it discrimination or discernment to think that results would be different?

Can a pluralistic society not accept and value these differences or do we have to stay locked up in the same old game? – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,

Bullock Park, Carlow.

Sir, – Many commentators seem not to appreciate the power of complacency. I refer in particular to Chris Connolly’s article (pub. February 7th), arguing that, by Panti Bliss’s logic, not supporting polygamy is equivalent towards being prejudiced towards those who wish to partake in same. He asks if we accept the label of “anti-polygamy bigot”. I do, unreservedly.

We live in a society which denies polygamy. I am taking no action to change this, nor do I intend to. Therefore, I am aiding in the oppression of this concept. Likewise, if you live in Ireland – a country which denies marriage equality, and hence legally discriminates against its citizens based on sexual orientation – and you feel that the status quo is perfectly acceptable, you are abetting a homophobic system. You are, whether you want to admit it or not, homophobic. In the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Beware the power of complacency. – Yours, etc,

BARRY NEENAN,

Tullow Road, Carlow.

Sir, – Sadly, the whole debate about same-sex “marriage” is laced with hypocrisy. Fundamentally, we must ask what does “marriage” mean and why does a State give its imprimatur, and special concessions, to a private arrangement between two citizens? Historically, with religious input, it is an effort at social engineering based on the belief that the nuclear family is the ideal societal unit.

If as a society we no longer accept this to be true, then the referendum should be about removing “marriage” as an arrangement with special status from the Constitution and for the State to treat every individual equally. – Yours, etc,

CHARLES O’CONNELL,

The Mill, Phibsboro,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Was the hilarious juxtaposition on Page 16 of Saturday’s paper (February 8th) intentional? Breda O’Brien’s article tilting at the windmills of equality while mounting a woolly defence of her beliefs found itself underneath a delightful cartoon criticising Vladimir Putin’s homophobia and next to Donald Clarke’s article claiming Panti-gate proves oratory is still alive. Was this a sly joke on the part of editors or an example of schizophrenic editorial policy? – Yours, etc,

DARRAGH ROCHE,

Lenihan Avenue,

Prospect,

Limerick.

Sir, – “Are you now, or have you ever been, in favour of retaining the traditional meaning of marriage? Well, you now know that the most likely explanation for that mistaken view is homophobia”, writes Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th).

I have rarely heard the case for marriage equality put more succinctly. But Breda O’Brien is wrong to think of homophobia as a mindset that one can be “accused” of.

One is not accused of arachnophobia, for example.

It is an illness which needs treatment and those suffering from it should be treated with compassion, understanding and sympathy.

So too with homophobia. It can and has been treated successfully. However, while a person is in the grip of a phobia it is important that they be challenged if they are going about trying to instil their phobia in others, especially impressionable young children. Children should not be made afraid of spiders. Nor should they be made fear same-sex relationships.

What makes the sufferer of homophobia so dangerous around children is that they often call on God to justify their phobia, implying that God too suffers from homophobia. This can have a devastating effect on children, even adults.

Ms O’Brien adds: “By any reasonable person’s standards, to describe someone as homophobic is to take their good name”.

But surely this is impossible. A good name can never be damaged because one suffers from a mental or emotional disorder.

One is simply ill and in need of help, and what is more, everybody around them knows it, except of course those suffering from the same disorder. What all sufferers of phobias should know is that help is out there. They should not be embarrassed to ask for it. – Yours, etc,

DECLAN KELLY,

Whitechurch Road,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – I would like to suggest that Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) direct her friends who feel their jobs have been threatened by their daring to express reservations about marriage equality to the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011. Their positions are protected therein.

Unfortunately, the positions of gay or lesbian teachers are not protected under these Acts, by virtue of Section 37, against the reform of which Ms. O’Brien’s Iona Institute consistently argues. – Yours, etc,

BERNIE LINNANE

McBRIDE,

Dromahair,

Co Leitrim.