A little known secret that I harbour is the fact that I’m -English-
Actually, everyone knows it. I have the most English of English accents (no idea where I got it from because none of my family speak like I do and everyone I grew up with had a west country accent -dodged a bullet there my lover!)
Northern Ireland is a small place, it’s home to only 1.4million people and half of those live in the capital city, Belfast. It’s also quite genetically homogeneous, everyone seems to know everyone else and they don’t come across ethnic diversity too often. I work in retail and the number of people who try to guess where I’m from when they clock the “foreign tongue” is bafflingly hilarious; I’ve had South African, Australian, Kiwi, American, Canadian. in fact everywhere except their closest island nation and colonial overlords.
Although part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, is (was?) devolved and separate legislatively from the English parliament at Westminster. Currently we are experiencing a political embargo where neither side of a polarized political elite of nationalists and unionists are talking to each other in a quite frankly childish game of chicken to see who can crack first. Fast forward nearly 18 months and Westminster and senior civil servants now make the decisions in our country whilst the politicians sit and collect their salaries for nothing. They are making as few decisions as possible so as not to overreach and step on the already flustered and failing political party toes in the North.
The main problem to this lack of local government is the fact that Westminster answers to the DUP (unionist) drum beat as they have them by the short and curlies in the Conservative minority government. The DUP are the to the gays as gonorrhea is to the free love movement; a nasty and itchy discharge on an otherwise happy and positive way of life for a minority of people. Now, I use humour to counteract the negativity and unjust things I see every day, but believe me when I say I habour a deep seeded hatred of the way our largest political party consistently and unashamedly paint the LGBT community as abominations, less than human and as a section of our society to be belittled and joked about. It’s no joke when comparative to their heterosexual peers, young Northern Irish LGB&T people are;
• At least three times more likely to attempt suicide
• Two and a half times more likely to self harm
• Five times more likely to be medicated for depression
• Twenty times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than their heterosexual
—The ShOUT Report Carolan and Redmond, 2003 and Still ShOUTing 2017
In 2004 the Civil Partnerships Act was enacted across the whole of the UK and the first same-sex couple to have their ceremony, Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close, did so at Belfast Town Hall on the 19th December 2004 at 10am. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) 2013 legalised full same sex marriage in England and Wales from March 2014, Scotland granted the same in 2014. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland that does not recognise same sex marriage. A recent NI poll found that 70% of people agreed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry each other. In 2015, the majority of Northern Ireland Assembly members voted in favour of same-sex marriage but the DUP blocked it.
We held our Civil Partnership ceremony in 2012. That’s over 6 years ago now and if we lived in the rest of the UK we would have been legally married for 4 years already. At our civil partnership, my godfather had the following discussion with me:
“So what do we call this now. Have you been civilled?”
I don’t think he was trying to cause offense but as far as he was concerned he attended an event where two people got “civilled”. Its ludicrous to think of our relationship as anything other than a marriage and I don’t want our future children to think their mummies relationship is inferior because they both have vaginas. I’m fed up of LGBT partnerships being belittled, I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of my wife and I’m proud to be the very best version of myself that I can be. Let me be married Northern Ireland, let me be me.