#Marref Soapbox: Séamas’s story – ‘Can we talk?’

Séamas de Faoite writes in favour of the Marriage Referendum and relates his own experience to illustrate the ongoing anguish faced by young gay people in their decision in how and when and to whom they can ‘come out’. 

‘Can we talk?’ – it was the refrain of one of my preferred comedians, the ever polemic Joan Rivers, before her untimely death in 2014. She used it as an opener to her more controversial sketches; almost asking the audience’s permission to push the boundaries on humour and what was acceptable in the public arena.

You may not have always agreed with some of her statements, but you have to admire Ms. Rivers’ canny device – asking the audience for their permission to be as brash and as bold as she wanted to be. ‘Can we talk?’ put the audience in control, it made them comfortable and they always said yes, eager to hear what she had to say; the controversial commentary that was usually left unsaid in an effort to seem polite.

As a tool, the question holds more strength than we might give it credit for. It will come as no surprise to many that I am supporting a Yes vote in the Republic’s upcoming referendum on the issue, but when it comes to the debate around the referendum, I have to pause, and ask you, the reader: can we talk?

Can we talk about the No campaign and what their leading figures and personalities have said so far on tv, radio and in print media or the malicious rumours and lies that have been spread by mysterious groups that have sprung up; offering flyers and pamphlets containing their unproven, unstudied and completely inadequately researched theories about legalising same-sex marriage?

Can we talk about the horrible posters that have appeared, telling us that gay people are incapable of being loving parents or that a child brought up without a mother isn’t as worthy as a child that has been and the consequential attacks on infertile couples or those who choose not to have children because the No campaign have continued to tell us that marriage in their eyes is solely about procreation?

Can we talk about how all of this negativity will impact on the growing mental-health crisis amongst our young people and how, if we’re not careful, we’ll allow the message to get through to LGBT+ young people that they are less of a human than their straight brothers and sisters; worth less in the eyes of the law and deemed not worthy of equal treatment?

Can we talk about how the messages now being used by the No campaign are the same ones that have driven young people to self-doubt, depression, self-harm or even suicide, for decades?

I know I’m asking a lot – this has already been a long and protracted campaign. By the time the first votes are cast on May 22nd most people will be tired of hearing the same talking points that have dominated, but there’s still more we have to discuss before then, because without having these conversations, we risk putting another new generation of young people through the same anguish that many, including myself, have come through before coming out.

I’m gay, and I’m asking you – ‘can we talk?’

It’s not something I’ve ever shared with many people – there are a few close friends and family members who know, and that’s been it. Many people will see that as being closeted, but I disagree; I’ve just never felt an overpowering reason to out myself, that is, until now.

In the future I think that’s the way things will be, and should be- but until there isn’t a need to come out, there’s a few things about this campaign I’d like to talk about.

I’ve taken the decision to be more open about who I am because I am deeply concerned about the effects this referendum is having on young gay people in Ireland. I am fearful that the rhetoric from the No campaign will do untold damage to the precious minds and personalities of confused and frightened young people.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a loving and supportive family, who have done their best to be there, despite my own stubbornness and determination not to talk about boyfriends or romantic interests.

Understandably it has been hard for them in some way – expectations change and my parents in particular have had to come to terms with the reality of my life- one which is not 100% protected under the law, or accepted by everyone.

I have also been blessed with a group of caring and encouraging friends, that I have come out to, who have never once made an issue of my sexuality, although they’re not the biggest fans of gay bars. Whilst both have undoubtedly made the process of accepting who I am easier, they haven’t stopped the demons from getting in – doubt, denial, self-loathing and despair.

I vaguely remember as a child hearing an extended family member making derogatory comments about gay people and their “lifestyle”. Whether I realised it or not, this would be the first instance I’d recall of experiencing hate – I didn’t properly process it, I was only a child, but it stuck with me, it informed my own early opinions on sexuality. Not a great start.

It is because of my own experience and struggle, despite my supportive upbringing that I worry so much about the consequences this referendum will have on young people who are growing up in families that may not be as open to difference as my own.

I fear that if we allow the No side, and all of their fear, to prevail on May 22nd that we will wake up to even more tragic news – more young LGBT+ people taking their lives because the electorate has chosen to err on the side of an argument that makes us out to be less human than straight people.

I know what the crushing burden of depression feels like, particularly depression caused by fear and confusion about my sexuality. That black dog has stalked me since my early teens, but thanks to good friends and family and my own sheer stubbornness I’ve managed to pull myself back from the brink on several occasions.

Worryingly though, I know not everyone will have the same fortunate circumstances or personality.

Since the campaign has begun I have spoken to, or read about, countless other young people who have faced the insecurity of discovering their sexuality and the impact the world around them had on that process.

They are only the people who have been brave enough to come out. It must be truly soul destroying for the young people who haven’t yet made that leap to observe the debate occurring during this campaign.

We’ve been told that gay couples can’t be trusted with children because they’ll abuse them, that we are unnatural, that our relationships are not worth the same legal guarantees as straight couples and that we are trying to force our own morality onto Catholic Ireland.

The No campaign has changed the parameters of their assault on my commonality as a human being so often that it has now become difficult to assess exactly what their grounds for discrimination are. First it was that Marriage is strictly between a man and a woman (the supposedly observant Catholics in the No campaign have forgotten God from this equation).

Recently, in a fit of collective amnesia we’ve had voices from the No campaign remind us that the Republic has Civil Partnerships, so why should gay people need marriage? They’ve conveniently forgotten that they opposed the introduction of Civil Partnerships.

Now, a week out from polling day and they want to turn the debate into one about surrogacy and the rights of the child – both issues which are irrelevant to this debate having been previously settled in a referendum and the recent Child and Family Bill.

These issues are so removed from what will be on the ballot paper that the Independent chairman of the Referendum Commission has felt the need to make their irrelevance known.

This is just the surface of the efforts to secure a No vote next week. Go online and it’s very easy to find the more insidious efforts of some to associate gay men with paedophilia, child abuse and sexual assault.
I am very glad that Twitter was not a thing when I was 14- confused and frightened. I simply cannot imagine how young closeted people must feel upon seeing these baseless and dangerous accusations on social media.

In a week’s time people across the Republic will be going to the polls. I do not want to wake up on May 24th, the day after the count, to an Ireland where young gay people have been told they are not valued as 100% a person in the eyes of our constitution- that the meaningful relationships they might have will count for nothing in the cornerstone of our legal and political system.

That outcome will only lead to more self-doubt, self-harm and worst of all; an overwhelming feeling from many that they might take their own life. We have a once in a generation chance to change that narrative completely.

I asked you at the beginning of this piece if we could talk. After this is published I’ll have to have a conversation with some close friends and family members whom I haven’t yet told. I’ll begin by asking them ‘can we talk?’

Unfortunately I know that there may be some people in my life who will not take it well, but I still have hope that by talking to them we can overcome their misconceptions. I am still the same person.

We’ve a week to ask as many people as possible the same thing- ‘can we talk?’. Be brave, pluck up the courage- ask your Grannies, Grandads, Mammies, Daddies, Aunts, Uncles, Brothers or Sisters. Remind them that this is about the lives of people we know and trust.
Tell them how close this referendum may actually come to not passing- divorce only passed narrowly after weeks of leading in the polls. Make it perfectly clear to them why we cannot accept the No campaign’s premise that only straight people can share in the commonality of being human; of being equal.
Ask them to vote Yes.

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  • Zeno

    Enda Kenny says this could be a lot closer that expected.

  • Abucs

    You are saying we should vote yes because you fear if we don’t homosexuals will kill themselves?

    Even if this was remotely true, leaving aside the obvious emotional blackmailing you are attempting on the electorate, do you not accept that unfairly casting the people who disagree with you as being full of fear and hate and thinking of homosexuals as sub-human would have anything to do with creating such a climate you claim?

    Slugger is fast becoming only a dedicated space for biased Progressive causes to be regularly and repeatedly trotted out for consumption week after week with little attempt at balance.

    In that case you can keep it all to yourselves because that’s who you will end up talking to. bye.

  • mickfealty

    Progressives, nationalists, republicans and men are generally the ones quickest to step forward. Despite having a fair few unionist commenters, when I asked for Unionists I only got a deeply sceptical one (who was contemplating voting SF)…

    I will of course keep on stubbornly asking…

    As for Seamas’s argument I think it’s perfectly valid to argue that the health and wellbeing of individuals depends on how society treats them. If you know or are related to anyone who is homosexual then you will know just what a difficult and traumatic experience the whole ‘coming out’ thing is.

    It’s just too easy to dismiss any reference to it in this context as a ‘blackmailing’ ploy and avoid even engaging in that argument…

  • mickfealty

    I’ve always thought it would be. There’s a lot of good conservative types stepping forward to publicly declare for Yes, but it’s not clear just how well those messages are translating across the countryside.

    My own view is that it will be swung on conservative rather than liberal arguments, because that’s where the majority of [hetrosexual] citizens are: http://goo.gl/QLLeyp.

  • Granni Trixie

    This is not blackmail. There is a clear link between homophobia and mental health so ofcourse a clear yes outcome will help gay people feel they are accepted and respected like anybody.

    As regards Slugger: would be a funny old political website if progressive causes were not up for debate. biased? Well, as there is free access the output is down to who chooses to participate. As is clearly seen from time to time Slugger intervenes to encourage wider participation eg women,unionists etc but being proactive only gets you so far – in the end writers are self selecting and the chips fall where they may,

  • Clanky

    While I hope there is a yes vote, I am horrified that there is a referendum. Which other groups basic human rights get voted on by others?

    Same sex marriage should be legalised because it’s the right thing to do, not because people say it’s OK to do it.

  • Brian O’Neill

    He is an SDLP chap who ran in east Belfast for them in 2011 here is his Twitter account https://twitter.com/seamas_defaoite

  • Abucs

    I accept what you say Mick about who is stepping forward and I suggest a more thorough search is done to find balance.

    To Progressives in general :

    As far as ’emotional blackmail’ I stand by the comment. I notice there is no attempt to discuss the unfair casting of the “no camp” as the ones hating, full of fear and supposedly thinking homosexuals are sub-human. There is no reflection on whether this unfair slur actually might create an environment where homosexuals would feel unwanted. Why not?

    The slur is a downright lie. An offensive lie. This is a huge problem with Progressive morality. Anyone who disagrees is cast as being full of hate and given a new invented mental illness that lies somewhere between hating a set of people and fearing them which makes absolutely no logical sense and doesn’t reflect any world that I live in.

    If you really, really, really thought that a vote for traditional marriage would cause homosexuals to commit suicide and if you really, really, really actually cared about that then the best way to prevent it is to stop lying. Stop saying that your opponents are full of fear and hate and think homosexuals are sub-human.

    Actually be truthful. Shock, horror, people voting “no” are gay, have gay friends, teach gay students, have gay relatives and want the best for homosexuals as they do for all their loved ones.

    If you acknowledged the moral thinking of the “no” side and actually admitted the obvious, that their opinions are not coming from a place of hate then you would be going a huge way in circumventing any situation where a homosexual might take his life after a no vote.

    If you do not stress the obvious then that is on you. It is totally on you.

  • Carl Mark

    So all the people who say that their mental wellbeing was affected by the attitudes of those who (like you) believe that gay people are making a lifestyle choice and are breaking gods laws are telling lies!
    Your ability to ignore the facts is staggering,

  • Carl Mark

    But the problem is that many opponents of gay marriage are full of hate and fear.
    The wild claims that it will harm society, the moral outrage where the word abomination is used, the false claims that homosexuals are more likely to be child abusers than heterosexuals, unscientific waffle about cures (implying that being gay is a desease) and comparing it to incest, murder and beasttility at every oppurinty.
    These are all signs of hatred and fear, oh did I mention the bullying!

  • Kevin Breslin

    There are a few people who will vote no for the sadist factor.

  • notimetoshine

    There has to be a referendum, that’s how you change the constitution.

  • Abucs

    By mis-representing my positions you only give example to my argument. I thank you for that.

  • Carl Mark

    care to show were I misrepresented your position, I think my post was a very accurate summery of your claims.

  • Abucs

    I don’t really want to play this game with you again Carl because you struggle to follow the most simple things and you usually write complete nonsense. (Do I have to say this every time?)

    What was being discussed was the unfair denigration of the morality of the ‘No campaign’ and how that actually would go a long way to creating any claimed climate where homosexuals might feel despondent enough to take their life after a possible ‘No’ vote. It points out the emotional blackmail in this unfair denigration and then it made a comment about the political bias of Slugger.

    That is a summary of my claims.

    Your one line reply was not anything close to a ‘very accurate summery’ (sic).

    You ignored the context of what was said, ignored the points raised by me completely, and then your one sentence actually talked about attitudes of ‘some people’ which you linked to me who believe something about ‘God’s laws’ and ‘lifestyle choices’. You will find none of that in my post Carl, that is a clear mis-representation.

    If I never mentioned any thoughts about homosexuals in my post at all, let alone any personal thoughts, let alone anything to do with God’s laws and lifestyle choices how on God’s incredibly big earth can your one liner be a ‘very accurate summery’ (sic) of my claims. How on earth Carl?
    If you can’t see that, what’s the point in talking English with you?

    But I understand that is your way of not following what actually was said. You are a great example of Progressive morality. People who want to get personal, miss entirely the point of what is said, mis-represent others so to be worthy objects of your hate and then wonder why people shake their heads and tell you that you don’t make sense.
    Go away Carl I have wasted enough time with you.

  • Carl Mark

    Firstly on “Gods Law and Lifestyle choices” I am merely going on what you have posted on previous threads (unless you have of course changed you mind on this, then of course I am delighted ) now to the main issue,
    The linkage between the attitude of sections of society to Gay people (abomination, sick, perversion, etc. ) and the mental wellbeing of members of the gay community is well documented.
    for you to suggest that something that has being happening for generations is somehow the fault of those seeking equal right now is ridiculous.
    you seem to be a little fuzzy on the whole cause and effect thing,
    The suicide rate among young gay people in higher than any comparable group and the reason given is the vast majority was the homophobic treatment (I am quite sure there are no homophobes in the Yes campaign) by society.
    Now for you to somehow claim that this will be the fault of the Yes campaigners if they lose the referendum is very strange.
    The no campaign is a coalition of anti gay rights groups and individuals.
    As I have pointed out many of these groups are not only homophobic but routinely use language such as Abomination,
    Sodomites, perversion, sick, life style choice (one of yours I believe) against the laws of God/Nature (another one of yours) for you to claim that this has no detrimental effect on the self image and mental health of young Gay people and does not lead to depression and the high suicide rate ignores all the evidence.

  • Abucs

    You make so many false allegations (basically lies), have gone so far off the topic addressed and mis-categorised what I have said that there is, as usual, no point in talking with you.

    From your ‘lifestyle choices’ and ‘God’s laws’ lines to your bizarre allegations of me blaming ‘those now seeking rights’ for past generations of deaths/suffering you are so far off into Fantasy Land I am just going to leave you there.

    Please send a postcard if you get the chance.

  • Carl Mark

    this I believe is one of your posts,

    Abucs ThatGirl 2 months ago

    The problem that I would like addressed is the discrimination against Christians :
    For example, Christian adoption agencies are being banned because they will not
    place children with gay people;
    Psychiatrists are being blocked from the profession unless they view the homosexual lifestyle as normal;
    Christian parents are being prevented from adopting children as they arelegally deemed undeserving of parenthood simply because they do no affirm the gay lifestyle;
    Christian schools must teach homosexuality as equal with heterosexuality or else they will be prosecuted”
    I think that has nailed the “gay lifestyle” one and since you obviously believe (from reading your post) that homosexuality is unchristian (dare I say it, against gods law) I think we nailed that one as well.
    as to the rest, I admit it was bizarre, it was after all a attempt to make sense of your strange theory!

  • Nicholas Whyte

    We have had marriage equality in Belgium since 2003, and the world has failed to end. My son, who is 15, cannot remember a time when his teachers and his friends’ parents and our neighbours were not free to marry whoever they loved. I think of the loving families I know – Eileen and Jo, Michelle and Elke, Patricia and Evie, Nikki and Kim, Julie and Marie, Patrick and Ramy, Charles and Hervé, Luke and Chris, and all of their children; and I wonder why people are frightened of love? (And why those who claim that they have concerns about the children don’t seem as worried about protecting children from bad heterosexual parenting as they are about protecting them from good same-sex parenting.)

    Less than twenty years ago, divorce was still illegal in Ireland. (The referendum passed in November 1995 but it took another year to implement.) Until the state recognised the reality of how many of its people lived, those families were told by the constitution that their family life was flawed and fake. Ireland has the same choice now, whether to acknowledge the aspirations of thousands of its own citizens to get no more than the rest already have, or to tell them that their love is worth less than other people’s. It seems a pretty clear choice to me.

  • Turgon

    Well it is not marriage equality is it. I am no expert but there seem some advantages as compared to the UK system (and I believe the proposed RoI system). I believe “Statutory cohabitation” is open to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

    Adult consenting biologically related sexual relationships are not illegal but is there a mechanism for registering benefits like marriage in these relationships?

    Furthermore, polygamy previously legal and legislated for seems to have been banned: is that correct? All the examples you quote above are two person relationships.

    Also and by far the most important in numerical terms: can non sexual / romantic relationships be registered and obtain the same benefits as marriage?

    Belgium may be better than the UK or RoI but it does not look as if there is marriage equality yet. Indeed in some ways (polygamous groups) it seems to be going backwards. It appears Belgium too says that some people’s love is worth less than other people’s.

  • Granni Trixie

    I find it v interesting that at some point in the general debate about same sex marriage there has been little or no talk about “what is a good marriage”. For me a good marriage involves being faithful,warming ones partners spirit and encouraging their development and being thoughtful and kindly rather than nasty (note to self:quit the nagging).

    I make this point because I observe that some who are against same sex marriage have infact been unfaithful to their spouse! Yet they often come across as seeing themselves as superior to couples living together. It’s as if signing up to marriage in a ceremony,even if they stray, trumps people with a loving relationship but who are not married.

  • Abucs

    The sad thing is Carl that in your mind you really do think you’ve nailed it. Remind me never to employ you as a carpenter.

    You rush in to reply to my original post by ignoring my points and starting to hurl personal allegations at me. None of your allegations have any merit, not in what I have written here nor in your back-down argument that they were a ‘very accurate summery’ (sic) of my real position.

    You accusing me of using the terms ‘lifestyle choice’ and ‘God’s laws’ are pure fantasy. They appear nowhere in your ‘cut and paste’ evidence which apparently helps you nail it. Your cut and paste text isn’t even talking about what homosexuality is but gives real world legal implications of how the state is starting to force it’s citizens to act towards the issue of homosexuality.

    But in your mind ‘lifestyle choice’ and ‘God’s laws’ are my terms. No Carl, they are your terms and they are very much not giving a ‘very accurate summery’ (sic) of anything except the madness inside your own head.

    Ironically my original post was how Progressives ignore what is being said and rush to take offense as part of their Progressive mentality. It is truly nuts and you have, yet again given a perfect example of it.

    But you can’t admit it. You just can’t. These terms that you use are mine because in your head you want them to be mine. These positions that you describe are mine because in your head you want them to be mine.

    Just like in the original article the people Seamus describes as being in the ‘No’ campaign are haters because in his head he wants them to be haters. Hopefully when he has that little talk with his nan, she will clip him round the ear-hole and tell him to wake up to himself and stop projecting hate onto others because otherwise he’ll end up lying on a psychiatrist’s couch someday trying to undo his Progressive morality madness. I just hope the couch won’t be nailed together by you Carl.

    As I said at the start of this thread, if Slugger is going to descend into Progressive madness, you can have it to yourselves. Bye.

  • Carl Mark

    so I produce a post in your own words using the very words you deny using and you claim I haven’t proved you used them!
    this level of denial goes right through your post.
    By the way how many time is it that you have said goodbye on his thread is it 4 or 5.

  • LordSummerisle

    This is all rather dull. There I said it.

  • Reader

    Wasn’t there a bit of a scandal when someone defaced one of his posters with “de Faoite will be defeated” or something? Naturally, the bigoted huns were blamed until it turned out to be a relative having a laugh.