Back in 1975, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Ireland, Chair of the Irish Gay Rights movement, David Norris, spoke on RTÉ, placing himself at odds with the law by publicly coming out as a gay man and defending gay people. It would take 18 years after this interview with RTÉ for homosexuality to be decriminalized and the state to cease actively opposing the foundation of organizations aimed at helping people come to terms with their sexual orientation.
Fast forward to 2020, and Ireland has experienced the AIDS epidemic, witnessed the Fairview Park murders and has seen same-sex marriage passed into law by popular vote – the first country in the world to do so. While these historical events, for better or worse, have brought the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) into everyday conversation, we must question whether current support resources in Ireland are benefitting all members of the community.
Despite an improvement in the status of LGBT rights in Ireland that has happened over the course of their lifetime, the older generation seems to have been left behind. As stated by LGBT Ireland, “as a group, older LGBT people have been much more invisible in the community. However, this group does exist and it is estimated that up to 8% of persons in Ireland aged-65 years and over may be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
In an interview, Senator David Norris stated that nonprofit organisations such as BeLonG To and SpunOut offer “resources that are principally targeted at young people. This is exactly as it should be as they are the ones facing an urgent crisis in their life.” However, he admits that “more general support would be very useful” in regards to educating and supporting older members of the LGBT community at all levels, including government, community and familial.
Although BeLonG To and SpunOut are specifically aimed at providing guidance for younger people discovering their sexuality and gender identity, steps have been taken to help integrate older people into the LGBT community and the support systems it provides. For example, LGBT Ireland has created the specific role LGBT Champions Coordinator, intended to offer support and information for older members of the LGBT community.
James O’Hagan, the current coordinator with the organisation, elaborated in an interview on the importance of the role: “The LGBT Champions are a network of health and social care professionals working in older people’s care services.[They] have received training on how to make their practice, and practice settings safe, inclusive and enabling environment where an older LGBT person can feel comfortable being who they are.”
Like other minority groups within Ireland, older members of the community face a unique “set of challenges above those of their straight peers, mostly derived from isolation and from living in a society in which they could not be open about their sexuality or gender identity. There is a much higher risk of older LGBT people being lonely and isolated and this can have an enormously negative impact on their mental and physical health and well-being over time,” said O’Hagan. This is precisely why organizations such as LGBT Ireland represent a key opportunity for older LGBT people to connect with a community and avoid isolation.
On Friday 7th February, the conversation around the experience of coming out for older people resurfaced with fervour when talk show host of This Morning, Philip Schofield publicly announced on Instagram that he was a gay man. The announcement shocked some, as he had been married to his wife Stephanie for 27 years with two daughters.
Schofield discussed his decision to come out at the time with co-presenter Holly Willoughby on their show; the interview has gathered over six million views at the time of publication.
“People who are choosing to come out later in life will have grown up in a more repressive and unaccepting society than exists today, this may have reinforced a fear of not being accepted and created a shame around their true gender identity or sexuality which will be deeply embedded,” noted O’Hagan.
According to O’Hagan, “older LGBT people may also have practical considerations to take into account when coming out that will be very different from teenagers, many older LGBT people may have spouses or children, and will experience guilt associated with how their decision to come out will impact these people.”
These factors have combined have resulted in a disparity between younger and older generations of the LGBT community. As stated by O’Hagan, “It is definitely the case that older LGBT people are often forgotten about, or are an invisible group in society.”
Students who have come up through the education system and recognise the gaps in education and resources available have begun to address these issues at a grassroots level. In UCD, the LGBT society has introduced a postgraduate representative to aid outreach with the older community. Society auditor, A.E. Quinn, said that after noticing the lack of engagement with mature students, “the role has worked and created a more diverse age group in the society this year, but we’re not perfect and there’s still more work to be done.”
According to A.E Quinn, the UCD LGBT society emphasises the importance for young people to acknowledge that “there’s definitely more judgement for older people and in some instances, kids are involved. There’s a bigger risk of a breakdown in relationships, but on the other side some people are held to ransom and made come out.”
“For older people, I definitely feel there’s a greater stigma around coming out despite the known narrative of people proclaiming we’re too young to know our sexuality and gender.”- A.E Quinn
Almost thirty years after decriminalisation in Ireland, elderly LGBT people are finally beginning to see more events, tailored campaigns and initiatives aimed at people aged over-55; For example, the ‘Older than Pride’ initiative is organised between Dublin Pride and Age Action Ireland to “celebrate and highlight a forgotten demographic.”
Photo by Fæ
Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!
STAND Student Podcast Episode 6: The Gender Recognition Act review – Why were some people left behind?
Listen to the podcast on the following platforms:
In November last year the Gender Recognition Act 2015 went through a review which left some groups out – meaning certain groups won’t be able to have their preferred gender recognised by law.
We talked to Ollie Bell from Trans Pride Dublin to learn more about where we’re at in terms of true gender recognition for all, and what we can do to finally get there.
Follow us on Instagram @stand.ie for updates and links to future podcast episodes.
For the last few years, award ceremonies have come under a huge amount of scrutiny for a lack of diversity in the talent which they choose to celebrate. Heading into a new decade it felt tempting to think that those behind some of the most prestigious awards in entertainment may have started to heed this calls for inclusion. Unfortunately, as the list of nominations came rolling in over the last month, we soon learnt that this was not going to be the case. Although many stars have dipped their toes into political speeches or protests, the huge shadow cast by the lack of diversity is hard to ignore.
On the 5th of January, the Golden Globes kicked off this year’s awards season, and there was a glimmer of hope for what 2020 could bring as two young people of colour picked up major acting trophies. Awkwafina, at 31, was the first Asian woman to win the award for Lead Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and was the first woman of colour to do so since Angela Bassett in 1993. Ramy Youseff picked up the Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, aged only 28. In the heady days before the BAFTA and Oscar nominations were announced, it seemed as though the tide could be changing for a new generation of actors of colour.
Despite calls from host Ricky Gervais for celebrities to refrain from making their speeches too political, many stars touched on issues ranging from the Australian bushfires to abortion rights in the US. Aussie winners such as Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe (the latter actually absent from the night as he was fighting fires around his own home in New South Wales) made reference to the bushfires and explicitly linked them to global climate change. During her winning speech for her part in Fosse/Verdon, Michelle Williams gave a passionate speech about protecting a woman’s right to choose. She expressed gratitude for living in a time when women could choose when to have children; just as members of Congress in the US are threatening to overturn Roe v Wade. As another nod to environmentalism, the Hollywood Foreign Press made the decision to serve an entirely vegan meal to the guests at the event.
Just as we were all winding down from the news that Joaquin Phoenix was saving the planet by wearing the same suit for the entire award season (something we can all relate to), the BAFTA nominations were announced on the 7th of January. Within hours the hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite was trending all over social media. While the Golden Globes had clearly made some attempt, even simply a token one, to head in the direction of inclusion and diversity; it seemed that the BAFTAs had not learnt from the mistakes of their past. At the 2020 BAFTAs on February 2nd, all the main acting awards will be competed for by white talent, with the only category containing diverse nominations being the EE Rising Star Award. Cynthia Erivo missed out on an acting nomination, while Greta Gerwig was snubbed in the all-male Best Director category as well as in the Best Film category. Joanna Hogg’s acclaimed British film The Souvenir was also completely ignored.
After a week of criticism across social media, as well as from several high profile names in the industry, BAFTA announced that they would undergo a review to their voting system. Director Steve McQueen warned that the BAFTAs could risk becoming obsolete if they continued to fail to recognise diverse talent. In defence of the nominations, BAFTA deputy chairman Krishnendu Majumdar claimed that the lack of female nominees was “an industry-wide problem” which the awards show did not have the power to combat, a statement which was disputed by McQueen who pointed out that even films and actors with critical acclaim were not recognised.
Following the recent backlash against the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards and the creation of the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite hashtag; the Academy vowed to shake up the way its voting works. It announced plans to double the number of women and diverse nominees by 2020, through measures such as limiting the voting to members who have been active in filmmaking for the past 10 years. However, when the highly anticipated Academy Award nominations were revealed on the 13th of January, any last glimmers of hope for diversity were soon dashed. Cynthia Erivo was the sole person of colour in any of the acting categories, earning another Best Actress nomination for her role in Harriet. Despite the South-Korean film Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, becoming the first non-English language film in the Oscars history to win Best Picture, alias the top prize, it would not be inappropriate to keep the #OscarsSoWhite trend going for another year. The small step towards more diversity that Parasite’s success at this year’s Academy Awards represents was immediately bashed by Donald Trump who made some disparaging comments about the film during his rally. After implying that Parasite should not have been considered for an American movie prize because it is not in English, he added “What […] was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade, on top of it they give them the best movie of the year?”
Despite nominations at the Golden Globes and huge critical acclaim, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell was completely ignored. Greta Gerwig picked up 6 nominations for Little Women but was once again locked out of the eternal boys club that is the Best Director category. Not only were the five nominees in this category all men, but none of their films managed to muster up even a Best Supporting Actress nomination, let alone Best Actress; a fact which is telling of the amount of female representation in these films. Natalie Portman paid tribute on the awards night with a Dior cape embroidered in gold with the names of the female directors who were shut out. Portman has previously openly called out the dismissal of female directors—in 2018, she noted the “all-male nominees” while presenting the Best Director at the Golden Globes. After being criticized by Rose McGowan for having worked with only two female directors in her career so far, one of them herself, Portman opened up about the difficulties that female-directed films are facing in the industry. Apart from being “incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed”, their making often represents a great challenge to female directors as difficult working conditions like prejudice and hostility lead them to quit.
It is clear that questions need to be asked not only of the talent which is represented in the nominations but also the stories and narratives that are consistently celebrated by the Academy. Stephen King was widely criticised for his comment that “he would never consider diversity in matters of art”, and although he later amended this to acknowledge the issues faced in terms of getting in the door, it touched a nerve for many. The director Ava DuVernay pointed out that this was part of a greater issue, in that many in the industry felt that quality and diversity were mutually exclusive. April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, added that the Academy could no longer use the excuse of there not being enough diverse talent to nominate. There is a real possibility that these award ceremonies will become obsolete if they fail to reflect the changing landscape of modern filmmaking. There are millions of stories out there about people who aren’t male, and who aren’t white; but before they can be celebrated and nominated for awards, they should be told.
Photo by Walt Disney Television on Flickr
Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!
February 20th marks the World Day of Social Justice 2020, and young people across Ireland are finding themselves facing an uncertain future on all fronts. Fighting against ever-increasing university fees, and laden down with the knowledge that just 20 companies worldwide are responsible for one third of all global emissions, it can be hard to believe that any individual can take action to truly level the playing field.
One person alone might feel as though they can’t make a change, but what happens when 10000 third-level students come together to take one small action each for a better world? This is what STAND, a Suas Educational Development initiative, and the Unions of Students in Ireland (USI) are trying to encourage by partnering on a new platform called 10000students.ie.
The 10000 students website, which provides examples on how to take action for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in every USI affiliated college across Ireland, allows students to pledge to take one action on their campus. It also counts how many actions are being taken across Ireland as a whole, with the idea being that students will see strength in numbers when it comes to taking action collectively.
Speaking from the launch event at GMIT, Mayo, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick had the following to say:
“Pledging to take any action on 10000students.ie is an easy way to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals and to see how simple it can be to make a difference through implementing these changes in their daily lives. Students have always been at the forefront of positive change in Ireland and it is no different when it comes to the SDG’s. Last year, USI was announced as one of the twelve Sustainable Development Goal Champions and we are delighted to partner with STAND to launch this campaign to make it easy for students to make a difference while challenging their friends to do the same.”
Want to see how you can get involved? Visit 10000students.ie today and pledge to take one small action on your campus for a more sustainable planet.