“When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to Fly by those nets.” 
James Joyce

Dear homophobes, we're here all year

Dear homophobes, we're here all year

Pride Week in Belfast is unique and interesting in a few ways.

Firstly, it notoriously falls outside of what is usually called Pride Month everywhere else - June through July - for reasons that can maybe be put down to the fact “we’ve got enough parades going on around then, ffs”.

Secondly, it is one of the only periods of celebration in the country when you’re far more likely to hear Britney Spears album cuts blaring from a city centre bar than a boring acoustic cover of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.

And thirdly, and perhaps less uniquely to this city, Pride Week in Belfast is when those opposed to LGBT rights decide to more intensely acknowledge our existence just long enough to further dehumanise us and reaffirm their opposition to our basic human rights, not least in the comments of businesses’ rainbow flag profile pictures or in the Twitter replies of supportive organisations.

To put these anecdotes in context, we’re barely halfway through the week and we’ve already had someone call mass Christian protest against Primark for the store’s support of UK based LGBT charity Stonewall.

Then came a letter penned by notoriously grubby TUV MLA Jim Allister opposing Translink’s support of the Belfast Pride Festival, citing it as “divisive” and “overtly political”.

Jim Allister trying his best to outdo his namesake Jim Wells in getting attention from their very obvious fear and contempt of the LGBT community here in the North, following his comments on the Alternative Queer Ulster event organised in conjunction with the Green Party.

While this is Pride Week, a time when a lot of us are empowered to be more confident in our sexuality, something that those who deny us our right to live and exist freely don’t understand is that we’re here all the time.

When the Stonewall shopfront in Primark goes down, there will still be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people working in Primark.

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When Translink’s home page returns to the standard colour scheme and homophobes feel safe once again to use their services, there will still be members of the community driving their buses and charging them extortionately for a single train ticket.

As workplaces strive to become more inclusive and LGBT people feel increasingly confident to be open about who they are with their coworkers and friends, attempts to intimidate and silence us institutionally become even more futile.

This is not to at all say that homophobia does not exist year round or that Wells, Allister, and co. only despise us for one calendar week. They simply shout louder when walking down rainbow lined streets forces them to recognise the physical manifestation of their sad and weakening minority.

To those threatening to revoke their custom from Primark, Translink et. al, I say this- you want to boycott an organisation or business during Pride Week for overlaying a rainbow on their logo?

Boycott them all year round, put your money where your morals are, because I can guarantee you that at least one person in your favourite local cafe, your wife’s favourite generic chain retail store, or your national postal service will be one of us, and we don’t go away when the flags come down.

Happy Pride!

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