Yes — we do still need Cork Pride in 2017!

Cork Pride, which celebrates the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities, gets underway this weekend. Orla Egan outlines why the event is still relevant in 2017
Yes — we do still need Cork Pride in 2017!
A scene from last year's Cork Pride. Picture John Allen

IN 1981, Cork Pride celebrations took the form of the distribution of leaflets on Patrick’s Street. These bright pink leaflets sought to highlight the existence of gay people in Cork and to assert that Gay Rights are Human Rights. Cork Pride has developed and changed since then!

In 2017, Cork Pride is a weeklong celebration of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities, with a variety of events, culminating in the Pride parade on Sunday August 6. The Pride flag will wind its way through the streets of Cork with the Cork LGBT community out in all our colours and diversity.

Do we still need Pride? Sure haven’t we got Marriage Equality, Gender Recognition legislation and a gay Taoiseach? We have! But we do not have full equality, respect and safety for the LGBT community.

It is worth remembering that Pride marches were a response to violence and suppression of the LGBT community. The first Pride marches in the USA were organised on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, when the LGBT community fought back against police violence and raids on LGBT bars and venues.

One of the first Pride marches in Dublin followed the murder of gay man Declan Flynn in Fairview Park and the release of his murders on suspended sentences. Pride is about our very right to exist and to do so with respect and safety.

Throughout the world LGBT people are being killed just for being who we are. We have seen this in Orlando with LGBT people and their friends and family members gunned down in the Pulse nightclub. The US Vice-President Mike Pence allegedly supports ‘converstion therapy’ to ‘cure’ LGBT people and change our sexual orientation or gender identity. Elsewhere ‘corrective rape’ is advocated as a ‘cure’ for lesbians. Bisexual people often encounter disrespect and lack of recognition, and are frequently defined by the sex of their partner rather by their own sexual orientation (i.e. seen as lesbian or gay if they are with a same-sex partner, seen as straight if with an opposite sex partner).

Transgender people face prejudice and violence; in 2016 at least 22 transgender people were murdered in the US, with another 15 this year.

This year in Chechnya gay men have been rounded up, held in concentration camps, tortured and killed. Families are being urged to kill any family member who is gay; we have seen photographs of gay men being pushed off buildings by family members. The Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has stated that gay people are not people, they are devils.

Orla Egan who is the author behind Queer Republic of Cork. Picture: Domnick Walsh
Orla Egan who is the author behind Queer Republic of Cork. Picture: Domnick Walsh

In Ireland young LGBT people still face ignorance and bullying in schools. ‘That’s so gay’ is still used liberally amongst young people to refer to anything that is stupid or uncool. Faggot and queer are still used as insults against anyone who does not conform to limited stereotypes of appropriate gender behaviour and presentation. Homophobic bullying impacts on the mental health and well- being of our young people. Too many Irish young LGBT people end up homeless and vulnerable after being rejected by their families after they come out. The recent LGBT Ireland Report found alarmingly high rates of self-harm, suicide ideation and attempted suicide amongst young LGBT people in Ireland, directly related to bullying and negative attitudes to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Very limited services and supports are provided for the Transgender community in Ireland, with long waiting times for the few services that exist.

While there are thriving LGBT communities in cities throughout Ireland, LGBT people living in rural environments can still experience isolation and prejudice.

We still live in a society that assumes and promotes heterosexuality and gender conformity. We see it in love songs, films, books, TV programmes. Sometimes it is the little things that irritate — like when I phone my insurance company and ask to add my partner on my car insurance and am asked what HIS name is!

Coming out isn’t a one-off event — we have to keep coming out and affirming our very existence all the time.

For some LGBT people it is about the ability to be able to do simple things, like go to the toilet in peace, without fear of harassment or of being told you are in the wrong place. It is about our right to exist and to be seen, without fear of harassment, discrimination and violence.

Cork has a long history of LGBT activism; for decades the LGBT community has fought against prejudice and discrimination and has demanded equality and respect. Many gains have been made but we still have a long way to go before we live in a society where we are all equally cherished and respected, whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity.

We still need Pride. We need an opportunity to celebrate who we are, without fear or inhibitions, to turn the streets of Cork ablaze with rainbows, to show young LGBT to be proud of who they are and that they are part of a vibrant and proud community. It is also an opportunity for our allies to show their support for LGBT rights.

Pride is an opportunity for the various parts of the LGBT community to come together in all our diversity — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — and to bring our friends, families and allies with us. So don your rainbow colours and stride, swish or strut through the streets of Cork with Pride.

Be loud, be proud and shine!

Orla Egan is the creator and curator of the Cork LGBT Archive, and the author of Queer Republic of Cork

The 2017 Cork LGBT Pride Festival runs from July 30 to August 6, launching at the Cork Pride Family Fun Day in Fitzgerald’s Park this Sunday, July 30, followed by a week long programme of events which concludes spectacularly with The Cork Pride Parade and Afterparty on Grand Parade on Sunday August 6 August; keep an eye on the Cork Pride Facebook page for further updates.

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