The Changing Nature of the Discourse on Trans Rights in Ireland
I’m fortunate to be living in a time where Ireland is slowly emerging from the darkness of a state ruled by bigotry and secrets. The marriage equality and abortion referenda are testament to our positive progress within my lifetime – homosexuality was only decriminalised the year before I was born. However, with these changes came a lot of vitriol and nasty “debate”, with those on the opposing side given equal airtime to air their views, something which was distressing for the LGBT* community and people who needed abortions respectively. Therefore, it was a welcome relief that the gender recognition act was passed without trans people’s lives being debated on national TV, for Ireland to decide whether they deserved to live as they wanted. The gender recognition act of 2015 allows people to self-identify their gender and change it legally without requiring them to undergo surgery first. This was introduced with little to no fuss and is something I was unaware of until very recently – as I’m sure goes for the majority of the country also.
Ireland and its feminists have demonstrated in recent times that we will not stand for the TERF, anti-trans movement that has reared its head in the UK, notably at the London Pride parade last year. The repeal movement was inclusive in its language, being sure to include trans people in its campaign, and stress that it was not just people who identify as ‘women’ who could have a crisis pregnancy. The TERF protests that hit London’s pride parade were nowhere to be seen and it was clear that they were not welcome. There is undoubtedly a lack of awareness and acceptance of trans issues in wider Irish society, however, thankfully the majority of those who call themselves feminists are welcoming of people of all genders and none.
The positive feeling around trans rights in Ireland was sullied, however, with a recent broadcast of the Irish current affairs programme, “Primetime”. This has a huge audience, and is where the most contentious current affairs issues are discussed, whether it’s a health service scandal, Brexit, or one of the aforementioned referenda. On the 22rd of January this year, Primetime held a special on transgender people, discussing the “exponential rise” of young people and children identifying as trans. While visibility for this community could be seen as positive in some respects, that would only be the case had the discussion been positive and inclusive of people who have lived experience of being trans. Primetime’s discussion, on the other hand, seemed little more than a cheap attempt at stirring up some fabricated outrage, especially given their inclusion of Graham Linehan on the show, which led to protests outside the national broadcaster, RTÉ. Linehan is the co-creator of Father Ted, The IT crowd, and other TV shows, and was an outspoken supporter of the repeal movement, a personality who I and many other people involved respected. Unfortunately, it has since come to light that Glinner is anti-trans, vehemently so, an individual who deadnames trans people online, inhibits trans charities from receiving essential funding (although thankfully they have now received it), and blocks anyone who dares to question him on twitter. He is not any kind of expert on trans issues, and is simply known in this regard for his blatant discrimination against trans people, so why was he invited on as a panellist on Primetime? For me, this was the final straw, indicating that these so called “current affairs” shows, while professing to be “balanced”, are nothing more than tabloids wrapped up in a suit. Trans people are not a circus act to be paraded around on national television for the entertainment of the citizens of Ireland sitting at home by their fire, safe in the knowledge that they were born into a body that they can feel themselves in. We need to make sure that moving forward, Ireland becomes a safe, welcoming place for everyone, regardless of their gender identity, and that we don’t let ourselves be swept up in debate for the sake of entertainment.