JUNE is known as Pride month around the world, and last weekend we saw our capital city celebrating – virtually and in individual ways – Ireland’s Pride movement, representing our LGBTQ+ communities.
The rainbow flag – a wonderful symbol of uniting all genders, and none, designed by American artist and activist Gilbert Baker in 1978 – was flown from public and private buildings and individual homes.
It wasn’t just Dublin that celebrated. For all of June, institutions and organisations all across Ireland have been flying their rainbow flags to show solidarity with a community that has been embraced by the wider population.
It was heart-warming to see local sports clubs, schools and private businesses all around Ireland, some in very rural and remote areas, ‘flying the flag’ of love and inclusion. Even An Post got in the ‘groove’, flying the flag on the GPO and printing a special Bród/Pride stamp and a flyer that was sent out to every home last week. An Post even encouraged the public to ‘post’ the flyer in their front windows to show solidarity with our gay community.
It is difficult for some of our younger generations to realise just how far we have come in such a short space of time.
As An Post noted when launching its new stamps, homosexuality was a crime in this country until the mid-90s. During the 1970s an annual picnic was held in Dublin to create awareness of the Gay Rights movement, and in 1974 a group of 10 people marched to the British Embassy to protest the criminalisation of homosexuality. The first Pride week in Ireland was organised by the National Gay Federation (NGF) in 1979 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969, and to highlight the community’s persecution in Ireland.
When five men were released after the murder of Declan Flynn in Fairview Park in 1983, it was seen as a turning point.
It was also the year of the first Gay Pride parade in Dublin, when over 200 people marched to the GPO – the same GPO which now proudly flies the rainbow flag. It took another 10 years for homosexuality to be decriminalised in Ireland (1993) and another five years for the Employment Equality Act (1998).
The Civil Partnership Act was passed in Ireland in 2010 and in 2015 Ireland became the first country to legalise Same Sex Marriage – by a majority of 62%.
The Pride festival has become one of Ireland’s biggest festivals – tens of thousands of Irish people and visitors from all over the world took part in Dublin’s 2019 Pride Parade. While it is on hold for now, there is no doubt the next Pride Parade – after social distancing restrictions are relaxed – will be another colourful, delightful and proud affair.
Though we cannot be too smug just yet. Recent attacks on the community, including the burning of a flag in Waterford, and disgusting graffiti on a wall near a popular gay pub in Dublin – have shown that while we are ‘almost there’, we are still not there yet.
There are still LGBTQ+ men and women everywhere in this country who are apprehensive about ‘coming out’, fearing families, work colleagues or even society in general may reject them.
But we have already shown that, as a modern society, we can make great strides once we put our minds to it. We can call out the intolerant, the ignorant and those who cannot recognise the important of embracing love itself.
Each and every one of those rainbow stripes is different and contrasting – but they all combine to create a glorious display of warmth and vibrancy. It is a great example to us all.