I’ve been angry for about a month. It is anger I’ve tried hard to contain, even convert it into energy. But it remains, despite this wonderful victory. Despite my own village saying yes, despite seeing the tears of joy at the Count Centre in Tralee, I’m still angry.
I would have liked to vent some of that anger on Twitter, but social media was part of the campaign. We had to be somewhat circumspect. Instead I had to squash that anger into a little ball, push it down into my stomach and knock on strangers’ doors. I had to smile and say sir or ma’am and apologise for disturbing them, but would they ever consider letting some people get married.
And if they said no, no matter how they said no, no matter the look of appalled horror on their faces or in their voices, I had to smile, thank them for their time and apologise for wasting that precious time. Then I had to knock on the next door, smile, apologise, ask and then smile again when their eyes glazed over with utter boredom. I had to smile and knock and walk away when these strangers offered abuse. I had to smile and smile because the homophobes these days are terribly thin skinned, lawyered up and endlessly cynical.
But my anger isn’t just reserved for the anti-equality side. My side, my supposed side, were as provoking. In my part of the world, politicians were conspicuous by their absence, both TDs and councillors. We got reports that they canvassed in Dublin and in Carlow- Kilkenny. The tiny few of us, in our tiny team, who are political, won’t forget that.
I’m angry that our team was so small. Yes, we achieved 55%, in our Kerry North/West Limerick constituency, but with more people knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, having conversations, we could’ve got 60%, maybe even 65%. None of us could go to West Limerick, and the tallies showed that failure. I could only do one day in my own village. We carried it by 40 votes. A second day might have doubled that.
On the day of the vote, I’d have settled for mid 40s, with the hope that the cities would carry us over the line. Despite the positive responses I was getting on the doors of Listowel, I didn’t believe for a second Kerry would say yes and I was terrified that the cities might not vote in large enough numbers to make up the difference. I was scared every day, and that made me angry.
I was so angry at the lies, treated as truth, that I had to stop watching the debates. Again and again, I had to explain to people that we don’t have surrogacy laws to change. That gay people are successfully raising children and will continue to do so, whatever the result. I had to explain the adoption process. I had to explain why Civil Partnership isn’t a Marriage. And I had to smile.
I’m angry that my wife, who is bisexual, had to spend weeks in the rain, begging equality for gays and lesbians, while having her own sexuality virtually erased. I can see why the campaign went for gay and lesbian rather than LGBT, but fuck me, it angered me to watch her pretend be okay with that.
There is nothing useful I can do with this anger. I cried when every box in Listowel went yes. There is ego in that I know, but fuck it, it helped. I cried when Lixnaw went yes, but not for pride, but because then and only then, I knew there was no way this referendum was going to be lost.
I have a bad habit of holding onto grudges and while this anger will eventually dissipate, the grudge will remain. That the LGBT community in general, my friends in particular, but especially Paula, had to politely smile as they were lied about and insulted, or simply sidelined, is something I will never let go of. I expected nothing but the spite dished out by the homophobes, but I had not expected the media to facilitate them or for so many politicians to sit on the fence, doing nothing to counter them. There can be no forgiveness for those who chose to look away.