Ahead of this Friday’s Gay Marriage Referendum in Ireland (May 22), Derry singer-songwriter SOAK gives NME an intensely personal account of how discrimination towards the LGBT community has threatened to destroy the lives of friends and loved ones on both sides of the border, explaining that homophobia is a problem the nation urgently needs to address. Friday, she says, is only the beginning…
When I was 14 I wrote a song called ‘Sea Creatures’ about a friend who was quite ill physically, and was getting bullied on account of her sexuality. You expect bullying at school when it comes to sexuality to some degree: kids will be kids, they don’t know better. You don’t expect to hear similarly crazy, damaging attitudes and opinions, however, in government. Last month, Northern Irish health minister Jim Wells was made to step down from his post after claiming in a debate that a child brought up by homosexual parents is “far more likely to be abused and neglected.” There are no facts to back up what he said – it was just ridiculous bullshit. And unfortunately, he’s just the tip of a completely depressing iceberg when it comes to Ireland and attitudes towards gay rights.
This Friday sees people south of the border vote in the Gay Marriage Referendum, to decide whether gay marriage should legal. I hope people use their vote. Every vote does matter, and every vote will matter. It’s important people go out and vote yes to equal rights, because it will make a difference. But the whole thing – that fact that it is a vote – is just ridiculous.
Ireland is an extremely religious place, but religion and Ireland hasn’t been the best friendship for people who live there – especially the LGBT community. It’s a hard enough situation already for gay young people. I came out at a young age and it was never an issue for me. I was really lucky that both of my parents are very accepting and supportive. But I have friends who have been kicked out of their homes and faced general non-acceptance. It happens all the time. Imagine how it must feel for a young person who’s already going through a tough time, then on top of that to be told “oh, your government is going to potentially bring in laws that protect and encourage the people that discriminate against you.” It’s crazy.
It’s like the Conscience Clause being proposed in Northern Ireland. I honestly couldn’t believe that it’s a real life thing being suggested by grown people. As far as my understanding of it goes, it’s basically an excuse for shop keepers and so on to refuse customers that they think are gay on religious grounds. That’s discrimination, and so behind the times it’s moving backwards. Both north and south of the border, the way church and state are tangled up is continuing to cause problems.
I don’t know if I personally believe in marriage, whether I will or won’t get married one day. I’m 19 – it’s not something I can really decide right now. But I think everyone has the right to decide, and I definitely want it as an option by the time I come around to that. It’s a matter of human rights. So if you’re able to have a say in this Friday’s vote, I’d say make sure you do. And make sure it’s the right one.