What next for the Rainbow Revolution?

1 Jul 2019

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, meets the Aer Lingus group at Dublin Pride 2019. Image: Julien Behal Photography

Support for LGBTQ Pride doesn’t stop when the party’s over, writes Elaine Burke.

What a weekend we just had. Dublin was awash in a sea of rainbows and a sprinkling of glitter for the largest Pride celebration ever seen in the Irish capital.

The scale of this year’s event can somewhat be attributed to the number of allies taking to the streets alongside the LGBTQ communities that the parade represents. Everyone was welcome to join the party and, now it’s over, it’s only good manners not to leave the hosts with all the tidy-up in the aftermath.

You say you want a revolution

The Rainbow Revolution theme of Dublin Pride marked the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Inn riots. While a joyful celebration for the most part, it was not without its frictions.

Before the official parade set off through the city centre, an alternative Pride organised by Queer Action Ireland was held as a counter to the event that included, for the first time, An Garda Síochána (the Irish police force), along with a strong showing of politicians and a bevy of corporate sponsors.

The support of all of the above plays its role in making Pride the mass event that it was on Saturday, but the objections from the fringe can be easily understood.

Stonewall was a riot against the police who raided the New York City bar 50 years ago – a riot started by Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, trans women of colour who also happened to be sex workers. And the law enforced in Ireland has been criticised for not protecting sex workers.

The Irish Government very recently had to issue an apology for burying Sylva Tukula, a trans woman living in direct provision, without ceremony or even notifying her friends. Tukula was reportedly living in a men-only hostel, highlighting the added struggles trans asylum seekers have in navigating the direct provision system.

In terms of the corporate sponsors, criticism has been put to their handling of LGBTQ issues beyond Pride parties and floats. And while the money flowing in from big tech and other major businesses helped scale the celebration this year, the choice by Intercom to forgo a branded presence at the parade and instead donate directly to BeLonGTo is commendable.

Other ways to show support

Yes, it’s fantastic for LGBTQ staff and their co-workers to be encouraged and supported in their Pride celebrations but, beyond the Merrion Square party, there is work to be done for LGBTQ equality, and the people undertaking it could do with direct support throughout the year.

It’s not just donations that can help these causes. Powerful groups can lend their platform to marginalised groups that intersect with LGBTQ communities, such as sex workers and asylum seekers. Smart, skilled tech workers can volunteer their time and resources to those organisations that need it. And those skilled in science communication and public engagement could sure help with educating the public (and the public service) on the latest medical facts around HIV.

On Friday (5 July), House of STEM will play Irish host to the second International Day of LGBTQ+ People in STEM, LGBTSTEM Day. On Saturday (6 July), Trans Pride Dublin falls on the 27th anniversary of Marsha P Johnson’s death.

Pride in your work

Homosexuality is still punishable by death in at least 10 countries and illegal in countless others. Outside of these extremes, the world – and the workplace – is still not wholly welcoming.

According to research from Stonewall UK, one-third of LGBTQ people do not feel comfortable to be out at work, and one in 10 LGBTQ people of colour had been physically attacked in the workplace. Also in the UK, research found that one in three employers were unlikely to hire a transgender person, and only 3pc of 1,000 businesses polled explicitly welcome transgender people in their equal opportunities policy.

Irish data and analysis on these issues would be welcomed – perhaps some of those who supported Pride can help with that.

While it’s great to see the massive swell in support for LGBTQ communities in Ireland, you can’t just show up for the happy rainbow dance party and shy away from the hard stuff.

Those companies bedecked in rainbows but too coy to include any reference to what the letters LGBTQ stand for need to get to grips with the intersectional call for equality that Pride represents.

Olly Alexander from Years & Years put it best during the band’s Glastonbury set this weekend. “I believe there is no true LGBT equality until the fight against racism is over, against sexism is over, against ableism, bigotry, climate change,” he called out to a cheering crowd.

“If we want to get anywhere without leaving anybody behind, we’re going to have to help each other out.”

So, as you pack away your rainbow paraphernalia, don’t put your allyship in storage with it. Continue to support, empower and listen to LGBTQ people. Hear them out on the full spectrum of what Pride means. Show your colours once more at Trans Pride Day and get ready for LGBTSTEM Day too.

Don’t disappear now the party is over.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic