03 Aug 2012
Below is the speech I gave at Pride last month as Grand Marshal. I rarely write my speeches out in full and this was no exception - I generally prefer to speak slightly more loosely from bullet points, knowing where I'm going but with room to manouver! But I was asked after Pride for the text of the speech so I went back and fleshed it out as close as I could remember to how I had delivered it. Though I always think these things read so oddly because of course it was written to be spoken not read, and when reading it I sometimes think it's hard to separate the silly asides from the real meat! The emphasis is somewhat lost.
Oh and apologies to whoever owns this pic that I'm using and not crediting, but I can't remember where I came across it now. I'm a forgetful old bird. It's a cute pic though.
When the Pride committee first called me and asked me
to be Grand Marshall of this year's parade, I first made
sure they had the right number. I am a little posh and at
first I was afraid they might have confused me with David
Norris. But after they assured me there was no mistake, I
was delighted to accept.
I was delighted to accept because it's an honour to get
to lead the parade through the city - especially after
all the previous impressive Grand Marshalls. And in
particular this year as the parade made it's way to what
will hopefully become it's new home here at Merrion
Square. But mostly I was also delighted to accept because
I love Pride.
And that is not always a fashionable opinion. You will
often hear people complaining about Pride. Some people,
even in our community, go so far as to suggest the parade
damages our cause, and wonder do we even still need
And I say "YES!" we still need Pride. For many of us,
especially those of us that live ihere in the city, it can
be very easy to live in a comfortable gay bubble. We
hang out with our gay friends, and with our "cool" straight
friends, we shop in shops that want our gay euros, and eat
in restaurants that welcome us and our gay euros.
But it doesn't take much to scratch that comfortable gay
bubble: a car window rolled down at 2am on Georges
Street and someone shouts "faggot!". And you don't have
to venture far into the internet to find ignorance and hate
directed at us. Indeed you don't have to go far from this
very spot, just a few yards to the Seanad chamber, to
occasionally hear us described with distain by eminent
Of course, when people say that the parade damages our
cause, or doesn't represent them, what they really mean is
that they don't like the "freaks" on the parade. They don't
like the drag queens and the transgenders or the dykes on
bikes or the boys in speedos.
Well, fine! Have your own parade then and see how much
fun it is! Because I have no interest in being part of a
community that would seek to divide us into acceptable
gays and unacceptable gays. Because there is no such
thing as unacceptable gays - there are only exceptional
They want us to march quietly and politely in suits
asking "please" for equality while not frightening the
horses. And indeed calm, reasoned discussion has it's
place, but sometimes the most persuasive and effective
argument for equality isn't obsequiousness - it's living!
Living an open, joyous and unashamed life.
And nothing is more joyous and unashamed than a Pride
parade. And do not underestimate the power of visibility,
nor dismiss the power of fun.
It's easy to hate an abstract. It's easy to dismiss people
you only hear about on the telly. Easy to discriminate
against these people the Pope describes as "disordered".
But it's had to hate your neighbour - that takes real effort.
And it's hard to dismiss the people you saw having such
fun on O'Connell St today when you came out of Cleary's.
Just look at the faces of the old ladies on the footpath
today as we came by, swept up in our joy!
Because we have a weapon much more powerful than the
hate and ignorance sometimes wielded against us. We
have gay joy!
And our joy trumps hate - every time.
Our delight trumps insult - every time.
Our righteousness trumps injury - every time!
But the parade also serves another purpose. It doesn't
just remind the wider community that we are here, that we
exist, and that we exist in great numbers - it reminds us!
We remind ourselves of our numbers, of our vibrancy, our
diversity, our community, and our power. It reinvigorates
us for another year.
And anyway, complaining about a gay parade seems to
me to be a futile exercise, because all parades are gay! A
heterosexual parade is just an organised walk!
Another lovely thing about the parade is that it welcomes
new members to our community. I love to see the delight
of young gay people on their first parade. Their surprise
at the amount of other gay people. (I was reminded of
my own first Pride when I walked into the Front Lounge
last night. I had no idea there were so many lesbians in
Before I finish, I'd like to say a few words to the young
people here today.
First of all... I love what you're wearing. You look great!
But I also want to say that I love you. And I envy you!
You are so confident! So sure of who you are at such a
young age. So sure of all the possibilities of life. And that's
When I was your age I wasn't anywhere near so confident.
I grew up before there were LGBT on every television
programme, before Graham Norton, before Will & Grace.
I grew up before the internet. And I was desperate to
see myself reflected, anywhere! Simply finding other gay
people was a task worthy of Jessica Fletcher! My parents
had a book about the human animal and in it was a
section on sex and sexuality and I remember reading and
re-reading the small section on homosexuality because
here was real proof that these mythical gay people existed
and weren't just the invented objects of school yard scorn.
Because I was so desperate to see myself reflected
anywhere, I devoured anything I could find about gay
people and the gay community I would one day be part of.
I learned about the Stonewall riots, and read biographies
of Judy Garland and gained a sense of where I'd come
from. Not out of some lofty desire to educate myself, but
out of a loneliness.
Thankfully, it's not like that for young people like you
anymore. You have the world at your fingertips. And that's
a wonderful thing. However, like most things in life, even
the good things come with a downside.
The downside is that you don't know your history. And
your history is important. You can't know where you are
going till you know where you came from.
So if today inspires you to do one thing, make it this.
Learn your history. Know yourself.
Google "Stonewall". Google the name "Declan Flynn", the
young man whose brutal murder in Fairview Park in 1982
(and the offensively inadequate response of this state to
his murder) sparked the anger that led to the first Dublin
And finally let me just say to everyone here - thank you!
Thank you for being so magnificently gay, and thank you
for a wonderful day. Happy Pride!
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