As Northern Ireland’s MLA’s sit up in the chamber today at Stormont, debating, deciding and voting on whether I, as gay man, should have the right to marry someone of the same-sex I’d like you to think about what it must be like to be LGBT not only in Northern Ireland but in general.
From the moment I leave my house to the moment I return I’m constantly having to worry about how I’m going to be treated.
I go into a shop at the bottom of my street and at first I feel anxious, how many people are in the shop?
Are they all looking at me because I look different, because they suspect I might be gay or could it genuinely be because I’ve just walked into the shop?
It doesn’t matter why they’re looking at me, what matters is as a gay man I feel anxious, apprehensive and even a little bit frightened because of the fear of the unknown, because I have to walk into a corner shop in a unionist part of North Belfast and I don’t know how I’m going to be treated, not because of Unionists or because of the part of North Belfast that I live in, but because the majority of unionist politicians tell me that as a gay man I am not an equal citizen as my heterosexual sister.
The Nolan Show last Wednesday talked about Equal Marriage, viewers were told by people opposing the Equal Marriage motion that their opposition of the motion wasn’t personal, that the “homosexual lifestyle” is wrong, that we’re “abominations”.
As Christian I firmly believe that God created us, I also firmly believe that I was born gay, therefore God made me gay.
As a person, I watched that and I listened to the words these people said, I read the comments coming through on the screen and I looked at the tweets people were tweeting and I became overwhelmed with emotion, I think about all those people struggling with their sexuality, sitting at home, watching this show and listening to the things these people are saying or reading on Twitter that gay people should be killed, thrown into prison and that we shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else.
I think about that person who has no one to turn to, who has no support network, and who could just as easily lift up a knife or take a couple of pills and it could all be over, all because someone can say on live television on one of the biggest shows in the country that gay people are an abomination and that we are going to hell.
Suddenly this “issue” that isn’t personal, is personal.
Have you ever felt that you have been treated differently just because of who you are?
To anyone else watching it happen it’s probably not noticeable, to the person it’s happening to it’s horrific, the feeling that the reason someone is making something a little more difficult for you than they would someone else is because of how you were born, the reason that you got asked for identification going into a club or buying something in a shop wasn’t because you looked younger but because of who you are .
It’s not noticeable for the person next to you, but that feeling of being judged, that feeling of being treated differently doesn’t go away.
Homophobia and Transphobia is still as rife now as it was years ago, the only difference is that we, the LGBT community, have decided that we are just as much a human being as you and we’ve been reporting hate crime, we’ve been highlighting issues and we’ve gained support from others.
Imagine, having to wait until another group of people decide that you deserve be treated the same as them before you are.
What do we need before you ‘grant us the right’ to get married to the person we love? Do we need another Harvey Milk? Do we need another young dead teen who’s committed suicide? Do we need another woman raped because being a lesbian is “only a phase” and she just “hasn’t found the right man yet”? What is is going to take for us to feel safe?
Marriage Equality is only one step closer to equality, there are many more steps to take and we intend of fighting our corner until we have it.
When we have politicians standing up and using words like “lifestyle choice” and “abomination” then it allows other people to do the same, people take lead and think if it’s okay for them to say it then it’s okay for me, and this bias transforms into discrimination and hate.
By voting in favour of this motion you are showing that it’s not acceptable I homophobic, but it can’t stop there, this isn’t just a vote this is a commitment to fighting for the rights of LGBT people may it be tackling homophobic bullying in schools, or over turning the blood ban, we live in a country where something I can give to same someone’s life is illegal for me to give, my blood is illegal blood.
So when you sit in Stormont today and you have a debate about me and it comes down to the vote, think about what you’ve just read and understand that Equal Marriage, isn’t just about two people in love who want to get married and have the delight of ticking the “Married” box instead of the “Civil Partnered” box.
It’s about that gay person who was beat up walking through the city on a Saturday night, it’s about that transgender person who has to leave their job and move their home before they can start their transition, it’s about being treated as a human being and not as a second class citizen.