No big deal

So Ireland’s Minister for Health came out on the radio this morning.

The government didn’t collapse. The country didn’t sink into the Atlantic and the people didn’t take to the streets with pitchforks. Leo Varadkar is gay, end of story.

While I occasionally comment on the sexual orientation of people in the public eye, I don’t dwell on it. But in this case, I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that even a few years ago, this would spell the end of an Irish Government Minister’s career.

But it’s 2015 and, hopefully, things have moved on. Many people will see this as interesting, some will see it as a positive move and some others will inevitably see it as “intrinsically disordered“. The latter are hopefully an ever-decreasing minority, though.

I think Minister Varadkar’s move signals that there are gay people in all walks of life in Ireland, that it’s possible to survive – and thrive – in the challenging arena of Irish politics and that he’s not in any way apologetic for who he is.

His approach to this was refreshing and positive:

“I am a gay man, it’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know but isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio.

“It’s not something that defines me,” he said. “I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose”.

Given last year’s furore over Panti Bliss and RTE’s pathetic response to the right wing, I hope this can signal a more positive step towards a more equal society.

Onwards, to this year’s marriage equality referendum.

  1. Hopefully Leo Varadkar’s positive step forward will help to provide a balanced context for the referendum later this year.

    The only worry would be a low voter turn-out which might give more clout to any concerted effort to return a “no” vote.

    Obviously the point of a referendum (Nice and Lisbon excepting!) is to guide the country based on the majority choice. As an out gay man in Ireland, my own experience tells me that most people don’t see any reason why to deny any couple the right to marry, so I would hope to see that personal experience reflected in a positive result to this referendum.

    My greatest wish? That sexual orientation simply melts away as an ‘issue’ – because it isn’t one.

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    1. I really hope so! My own experience, both in the UK and in Ireland, is that it’s not an issue…for most people.

      Unfortunately, most religions are, to varying degrees, hostile to gay people. Their representatives also seem to have a disproportionate voice in the media. And they seem to focus much more on sexuality than all the other lessons in their guiding “holy books”.

      I hope turnout in Ireland is high and the referendum is passed.

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