LGBTQphobia in Ireland: We need to step up the fight for equality and liberation

By Ollie Bell

On the eve of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Interphobia, a 14 year-old gay student was attacked in Navan by a group of students who filmed the attack and later posted it on social media. The victim was sent to hospital and suffered severe facial injuries. 

While the Gardaí did arrest five boys who were connected to the attack, this was only after the incident gained national attention. It was alleged that the attack was reported the same day it happened but the Gardaí initially said they had “more important matters to attend to”. According to one of the victim’s family members, he had been harassed for being gay since first year and bullying was an ongoing issue. 

A daily reality of fear

This attack is just a glimpse of the daily harassment LGBTQ+ people face in Ireland. 2022 was reported to be the most violent year for LGBTQ+ in Europe in over a decade. While Ireland has seen progress with both the Marriage Equality referendum and the Gender Recognition Act passing in 2015, it’s clear that the fight for LGBTQ+ equality and liberation hasn’t ended. 

There was a 29% increase in the number of hate crimes and hate-related incidents reported in Ireland in 2022, compared to the previous year. 2022 was also the second year in a row in which the LGBTQ+ community was the second most targeted group in Ireland, the first being racial minorities. 

When it comes to LGBTQ+ students’ day-to-day lives, 76% report feeling unsafe in schools, according to BeLonGTo’s ‘2022 School Climate Survey’. 69% of LGBTQ+ students heard homophobic remarks from other students and 53% have heard transphobic remarks. 

Far-right hate

This comes at a time when the far right has been on the rise with much of their rhetoric targeting LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education in schools and the trans community particularly. They have been playing into parents’ fears and misinformation surrounding what is being proposed for the new RSE (Relationship Sexuality Education) curriculum. The media has had a hand in stroking this fire. For example, The Irish Independent has published articles with misleading headlines such as “Do not consent to propaganda disguised as sex education” and “Pornography to be studied in class under Junior Cert revamp”. 

The rise of transphobic rhetoric being spewed by the far right and mainstream media is not only having a detrimental effect on the LGBTQ+ community, it is also being used to attack librarians and school teachers. There have been multiple incidents where far-right groups have verbally harassed library staff for stocking LGBTQ+ positive literature. 

One such incident happened at Swords Library where far-right activists were actually escorted into the library by Gardaí where they proceeded to target library staff with homophobic abuse. Fingal Council subsequently passed a motion put forward by Socialist Party councillor John Burtchaell condemning this incident and its handling by Gardaí. 

Legislation not enough

When it comes to hate crimes and hate speech directed towards the LGBTQ+ community, it is positive that this is receiving more recognition, but of course legislation alone won’t end anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes. Only 8% of the trans community have high trust of the Gardaí compared to 43% of the general population, meaning trans people in particular will be less likely to report transphobic hate crimes. 

Whether it’s letting far-right agitators set fire to refugees’ tents, escorting them into libraries to abuse staff or ignoring over 10,000 domestic violence calls during Covid-19, the Gardaí have shown time and time again that their concerns do not lie with protecting the most vulnerable in our society. They are far more concerned about protecting the interests and private property of the powerful and wealthy elite. Hate Crime laws may be helpful to have slightly more accurate statistics on LGBTQ+phobic violence, but it’s obvious that the vast majority would still go unreported. 

Make Pride a month of protest 

This is why we need to fight for more than just legislative change but for fundamental social change for the safety and liberation of LGBTQ+ people. We’re seeing a global backlash against the community with the rise of TERFism and the far right. The attack of a young gay student in Navan can’t be looked at in isolation, but rather as a result of the lack of LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education, as well as the proliferation of backward ideas and macho figures like Andrew Tate radicalising young boys to be hateful. 

This Pride season can’t be like previous years, it can’t be a day where corporations and government parties pay lip service to the LGBTQ+ community while turning their backs on us once June is over. This Pride season needs to be a radical protest again; where we fight to end all forms of LGBTQ+phobic violence, demand informed, consent-based, GP-led trans healthcare, and push back against the rise of the far right. 

Trans & Intersex Pride Dublin is calling for everyone to march on Saturday, 8 July and make this year’s march the biggest yet! Our liberation is not fought for by lobbying politicians for the bare minimum but by building a global socialist movement for trans and queer liberation, one that frees humanity of this oppressive capitalist system.

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