LGBTQ Rights in Ireland

Equality: from prison to Prime Minister

by Stranger’s Guide

JUNE 2017: Leo Varadkar was elected the first openly gay Prime Minister Taoiseach of Ireland.

JULY 2015: The Gender Recognition Act passed, allowing Irish citizens to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, allowing their gender identity to be officially recognized by the state.

MAY 2015: The Irish people voted on a referendum on marriage equality, passing the measure by 62%. Ireland is the only country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages by popular vote.

Photo credit: William Murphy

1993: Passage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) bill decriminalized homosexual acts. Eamon Gilmore, of the Irish Labour Party, said: “The sexual activities of consenting adults in the privacy of their home are a matter for the people concerned and should not be the business of the Dáil, the Garda or anybody else, including the peeping Toms of the self- appointed moral police from whom we hear a great deal nowadays.”

1982: Declan Flynn, a gay man, was murdered. His five attackers were all given suspended sentences. Following that verdict, activists organized Ireland’s first Gay Pride Week in 1983 to call attention to violence against LGBTQ people.

1895: Oscar Wilde brought a libel suit against Lord Queensbury, the father of his young lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, who accused him publicly of being a “posing sodomite.” Wilde believed the fame and artistic respect he enjoyed would help him as he pursued his case. Queensbury’s lawyers got the libel charge dismissed, but Wilde was subsequently arrested, tried and convicted for “committing gross indecency.”

1861: The Offences Against the Person Act, inherited at the establishment of the Irish Free State made “buggery” a crime punishable by life in prison. Homosexuality remained a crime for the next 132 years.


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Indian Spoken Word

“I look nothing like my mother,” says Indian poet Nupur Saraswat in her spoken word video Twisted And Mine. “My hair, twisting like a pig’s tail at every end, my hips take too much space on the train, my breasts take too much space on my body. . . . It wasn’t long before I realized my body offended people . . . The girls around me were getting used to being sent home from school for wearing their skirts too short; I got used to being sent home for letting my big, black, curly hair down. The teachers would try to explain that my hair was inappropriate for an educational institution.”

Spoken word is fast becoming the vehicle of choice with which Indian youth express themselves. Frustrated with their political leaders and for years feeling disenfranchised, they use spoken-word poetry to talk about everything from relationships and sexuality to depression and suicide. No subject is off limits.

Shantanu Anand, who founded the Airplane Poetry Movement to help popularize spoken word in India, says it gives young people “a way to share that opinion which is not just a Facebook status or an essay.” Shruthi Mohan, who runs Open Sky, an open mic platform in cities across the country, says it has made “ranting and venting as a form as expression” acceptable.