As a country, we tell ourselves many untrue stories. One of them is that Ireland is a world leader in LGBTQ+ issues. It is a myth of our own creation.
Every year, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) rates all European countries in terms of LGBTQ+ human rights and political protection. This year Ireland finished in 16th place, down one place compared to last year.
Malta, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, France, Montenegro, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany are all ahead of us – and that’s just the European countries.
Among the EU countries, Ireland took 12th place out of 27. This is not world class, but mid-table in the domestic league.
While progress in Ireland falters, other countries are pushing ahead. This year, Denmark has moved up seven spots to second place on improvements to anti-discrimination and hate crime laws.
In the past 12 months, Iceland has recognized transparency, Germany introduced a ban on intersex genital mutilation and France banned conversion therapy.
There have also been positive legislative changes in Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Meanwhile, the ILGA report for Ireland indicates Pride flags are being burned in Waterford.
It wasn’t all bad news, however. Some progress has been made in relation to family rights in the last year, such as: B. Adoption leave for gay/bi fathers and parental recognition for lesbian/bi mothers.
So what to do? The Rainbow Europe report (ILGA’s annual benchmarking tool) contains three recommendations.
First, adopt hate crime and hate speech laws and policies that explicitly cover all bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression and sex characteristics.
Second, ban so-called conversion therapy based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Third, Adopt a mandatory fully LGBTQ+ inclusive education curriculum in all schools, regardless of ethos, particularly but not limited to Relationship and Sex Education (RSE).
The report also highlights several other things that need to be done, including ending restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood; gardaí prosecution of incidents of hate; legal gender recognition for non-binary people and for young trans people; safeguards for the physical integrity of intersex people; and better protection for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.
In addition to the outstanding issues identified by ILGA, I believe we need to strive for greater redistribution and liberation.
In the opening passage of her 2021 book The trans problem, writes Shon Faye: “The liberation of trans people would improve the lives of everyone in our society. I say “liberation” because I believe that the more modest goals of “trans rights” or “trans equality” are not enough.
“Trans people should not strive to be unequal in a world that remains both capitalist and patriarchal, and which exploits and humiliates its residents. Rather, we should strive for justice – for us and for all.”
This is a broader agenda and a different perspective on the task at hand. Take homelessness for example. We know from research in other countries that LGBTQ+ people face a significant risk of homelessness and are overrepresented in this category. If we can end homelessness it would be good for LGBTQ+ people and also good for society as a whole. There are large gaps in services in healthcare.
Sexual health services are patchy and underfunded, and transgender health care is almost impossible to access.
The best way to solve these problems is to fight for a free and universal healthcare system that meets the needs of everyone in Ireland, including LGBTQ+ people.
A similar approach can be applied to income and employment. Too many LGBTQ+ people live in poverty, have precarious jobs, or face discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
The solution is universal basic income, expanded workers’ rights, better working conditions and ultimately a more equitable distribution of wealth in society.
Safer streets for LGBTQ+ people means safer streets for everyone. Etc.
I believe it is time for a collective renewal of the gay agenda. It is time that we take a serious and critical look at the progress that has been made. Marriage equality alone was not enough and will never be enough.
It is time to look beyond our borders and seriously examine and engage with the advances that are being made in other countries.
It is also time that we look beyond ourselves and create a queer agenda for the 21st century that lifts everyone up.
Achieving this will not be an easy task, but it must be our agenda for the coming decades. Together we can make Ireland one of the best places in the world for LGBTQ+.
This can be more than one story. This can be our reality.
Pádraig Rice is a postgraduate law student at UCC and former coordinator of the Gay Project
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/we-think-ireland-is-a-world-leader-on-lgbtq-issues-but-reality-paints-a-different-picture-41940542.html We believe that Ireland is a world leader on LGBTQ+ issues, but the reality paints a different picture