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Going Beyond Identity Crisis
Gender and sexual identity is being understood in an increasingly complex way. So what have the pioneers of this brave new world got to say for themselves?
Gráinne Aylward, 25 Jul 2012
Over the past 25 years, the laws that govern how Irish people live their personal lives have come under increasing scrutiny. The first notable victory in what has been a hard-fought campaign for sexual and gender equality came in 1988, when David Norris went to the European courts to challenge Ireland’s legislation on homosexuality as discriminatory – and tasted victory. It wasn’t until 1993 that the ‘buggery’ laws criminalising male homosexuality were finally repealed, but that first victory was a ground-breaking one.
There have been other significant steps along the way, but the battle reached a new stage in 2011, with legal recognition for civil partnerships between members of the same sex in Ireland. There is still a long way to go, however, before equality is achieved. The scars of the 18th century penal laws remain – in flimsy employment protection for the LGBT community, in the abandonment of the rights of children in Civil Partnership legislation, in the failure to recognise gay marriage, and in the widespread lack of relationship and sexuality education (RSE) in schools.
While not as historic as David Norris’s seminal court victory, in 2010 Lydia Foy broke new ground when the High Court ruled that the laws preventing her birth cert being changed to reflect her gender were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. That ruling has empowered a group of people who had until then been seen as deviants and malcontents here – as indeed is the case in many parts of the world.
The most famous transgender person on the planet right now is probably Chaz Bono, author and son of pop superstar Cher. Chaz was born in 1969, the year of the Stonewall Riots, a momentous event that was credited as the beginning of the Gay Civil Rights movement. Named Chastity Sun Bono, and physically a female, Chaz originally came out as lesbian – and wrote about it in a book The End Of Innocence: A Memoir, published in 2003. But that, it seems, was just a step on a longer journey to self-fulfillment.