I feel compelled by my conscience to share something of my own story, in relation to the Marriage Referendum later this week. It seems that those who are gay or bisexual, who are opposed to the amendment to Article 41 are been airbrushed from this “debate”. Airbrushed is a polite term for what has at times felt like crushed, intimidated, silenced.
Who am I to feel qualified in any way to speak out?
Well, I am an Irish citizen with a vote that alone is reason enough. The segment of my life most relevant to it however is summed up in brief here. I am a man who grew up without any relationship with or knowledge of my biological father , I have never met my half siblings on his side or their children. One of my siblings on my mother’s side whom I had the honour of growing up with, is in a cohabiting same sex relationship. Then there is me – well I am in a nutshell a gay man. However, what’s took me to the page here most of all, is the accusations levied at me these last couple of months that I am homophobic. Indeed many campaigners for same sex marriage appear to endorse a view that anyone in fact who is opposed to the redefinition of marriage is homophobic or against equality.
Before I knew what was meant by the word I was taunted daily for being it. GAY. What was gay to a four year old child in the 1980’s? All I knew was it was “wrong” – no – rather I was wrong. My very self. Indeed I was so flawed, something was so profoundly wrong in/about me that others could even see it. Only the very nice people were kind enough to smile and pretend they didn’t see “it”.
Over twenty years later I can’t bring myself to write some of the things said to me as a child and teenager. The least upsetting were hardly easy. “Are you a boy or a girl?”, “What’s it like been a queer?”, “Backs to the walls lads.” Just a few of the greetings that awaited me as I’d walk between classes. Refusals to sit beside me were common, punches to my stomach were “thankfully” the only violence I experienced in school. Lunch times were agony at times. Many feared worse I know.
A part of me will always be the boy who sat in a car alone, surrounded by a baying mob really. A large group of teenagers interrogating , jeering and verbally abusing me. Most of these have “Yes for Equality” stamped to their Facebook/Twitter profiles this week. The irony! The memory of that particular evening is so deep, the fear was horrendous; yet I had long learned to show no reaction. I wished so many years away, hoping that I’d wake up and it’d all be over. I was four years old when it began, the daily homophobic bullying continued up until I was eighteen.
Revisiting those years of pure hell has made me realize that it was really trauma. I was trying to find my way in the world amidst the daily abuse. The sad part is that at the time I saw it as part and parcel of life. Normal! I remember a girl called Karina came to join our school in fourth or fifth year. Looking aghast after just her first day she took me aside to say it was an outrage the way I was treated for no reason other than just being. It was Karina who probably opened the door to me realizing how crazy it was. But after so many years clearly some damage was already done.
I had developed bulimia at a very early age a condition I hid for years, which continued until I was 24. My ways of coping were anything but ideal then. There was later some substance abuse and an over reliance on alcohol at times too, especially after finding out about my Dad not been my biological father. It is not about blame here, I can understand the decisions that were made. A positive intention normally is the root of all decisions regarding children. That said a positive outcome is not guaranteed where rights or feelings of adults in the long run out weigh that of the child. I can’t imagine what someone who is donor conceived or born through surrogacy feels later in life or even as a kid, but I know for me the sense of confusion, abandonment and knowing that as well as I was loved and brought up, the knowing that my biological father had no role in my life, has left a real mark.
Article 41 is THE FAMILY so therefore does concern what I have just mentioned there, re children, biological link etc I do believe that Mothers and Fathers matter. That a child was egged a few days ago for standing beside a poster saying this, shows how strange this campaign has become. Quite aside from the fact that a Surrogacy Agency is campaigning for a Yes vote on Friday, it goes without saying that given that marriage in the constitution confers the right to beget children, that this referendum concerns surrogacy, adoption etc. I oppose SSM in the way it is to be enacted in to our constitution because it will lead to children been intentionally and by design denied the right to a Mother and Father. By circumstance is quite different than by design.
If this was about what we thought about gay people or about equality it would be very different. It is about what we think of Marriage and the Family. I say this because it is Article 41 we are been asked to amend, not Article 40 which deals with Equality.
As a gay man I would personally be in favour of putting Civil Partnership into the Constitution rather than redefining marriage. Civil Partnership is about saying “I do” and about love and commitment. The idea that it is lesser to me is wrong, it is DIFFERENT. I am different. Marriage which has been between a man and a woman with the openness to procreate for thousands of years, is unique. Tinkering with it seems to go against the very nature of the Article itself which says the State must protect it against attack. To fundamentally change something is surely an attack.