At a local, national and international level, June has been quite the Pride Month. In a year in which, in Ireland and other countries, many of the feted centrepieces of international celebrations, the Pride Parades, were once again largely conducted on-screen, it was a month that saw highs and lows.
Pride is a month of celebration, when the international LGBTIQ+ community literally and metaphorically ‘paint’ the world with a rainbow of colour! It’s also, however, a month of activism, and sadly this year there was much to protest.
National and International attacks on the LGBTIQ+ community were disturbing. Most particularly, Hungary’s banning the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change was unforgiveable. The level of international objection has made it clear that this sort of exclusionary political decision-making won’t be tolerated. That’s why, as a member of the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup and a strong ally of the LGBTIQ+ community, I was vocal in my condemnation of Hungary’s actions and called it out as a violation of basic, fundamental human rights.
This year’s Pride also looked set to be sullied by homophobia and transphobia on the home front, with vandalism in Waterford and Dublin involving graffiti in Dublin and Rainbow Pride flags being taken from flagpoles in Waterford.
The EU has been declared an LGBTI Freedom Zone and these incidents highlight the need to stand firm and be outspoken on issues and discrimination that are a daily part of life for many members of the the LGBTIQ+ community.
As a Waterford woman I was appalled when the Rainbow Pride flags were torn from flagpoles near council buildings in Waterford on not one, but two nights. Waterford Mayor Damien Geoghegan was quick to voice his condemnation and to insist, as I agree, that Waterford is a welcoming, inclusive city that will not tolerate discrimination.
More insult was to follow, when overnight, posters appeared around Waterford under the banner of ‘straight pride,’ advertising the benefits of ‘straight’ marriage. Waterford reacted quickly in response to a call-out from Déise Pride asking the people of their city to support them in flying rainbow flags. In a further response that saw over 40 artists coming on board, Waterford-based Dublin artist Donal Talbot called for a counter-campaign of joy: Grá Abu, an Artist’s Protest. Over the space of just 24 hours, local support kicked off through a postering campaign that saw positive messages being spread throughout the city.
Over the same 24 hours, Mount Misery, a large rock face overlooking the Waterford Quays, was painted with a rainbow and given a new nickname: Pride Rock.
Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman made the next gesture of positive solidarity, when he arrived in the Déise with the gift of two new rainbow flags, which were raised ahead of the Minister’s announcement the following day of a €700,000 fund for LGBTI+ services. The Community Services Fund will improve access to services across Ireland for LGBTI+ people, and ensure LGBTI+ people are supported in realising their rights and freedoms. Good news indeed!
Following on from the uplifting flag-re-raising ceremony in Waterford, over the following days dates were being set for a post-Pride travelling exhibition of the Grá Abu poster-campaign, with galleries and spaces already lined up to show the work of Donal Talbot and the many other artists whose images brought such an uplift to Waterford. With dates already confirmed in Waterford, Dublin and Wexford, it looks set to travel even further afield.
Carrying on with the roller coaster theme of Pride this month, further controversy erupted when UEFA refused a request from the city mayor to illuminate the Munich football stadium in a rainbow of light ahead of a match against Hungary. While UEFA’s stance was deeply disappointing, the outbreak of international condemnation of the decision was some comfort and yet again showed that intolerance, homophobia and transphobia are becoming more and more unacceptable amongst progressive members of society, the world over.