We’re Here, We’re Queer and We’re Voting Yes

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog. Over the past couple of weeks, I have kept telling myself I should write a post … but my ability to generate interesting content has been decimated by anxiety. On Friday the 25th of May – after thirty-five years of exiling those who need abortions to other countries, or forcing them to resort to unsafe methods if they do not have the means to travel – Ireland will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take responsibility for our own people and ensure that they can receive the medical care they need in this country.

If we vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment to our Constitution (which equates the life of a foetus to the life of a pregnant person), change can finally be enacted.

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When Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage back in 2015 – with many conservative commentators questioning the worth of the LGBT+ community at every opportunity and insinuating that we were harmful to children – I found myself overwhelmed by anxiety as polling day grew nearer. 62% of those who voted in that referendum backed the proposal to legalise same-sex marriage, which did much to heal the pain.

However, the scars of that time continue to linger, and since the month of May began (bringing with it a significant increase in nastiness from campaigners who are opposed to the right to choose), those old feelings of anxiety and distress have gripped me once again. My creativity, my powers of concentration, and my ability to write intelligently and competently have all been impaired. My brain is sluggish. I am just about able to focus on my professional writing and deliver the content that needs to be delivered: to kick my ass into gear when I know that I absolutely must. I’m fully aware that regardless of how anxious I might be feeling, deadlines must be met. I can’t afford to fall apart. This is why I’ve neglected my blog lately. When May the 25th has passed, I hope that my passion for recreational writing will return.

Until then, I remain in a state of limbo, as do many other people up and down the length of this country who hope that their hard work, determination, candour and willingness to be vulnerable (see the incredible In Her Shoes page on Facebook for evidence of that) will see the Eighth Amendment repealed at long last.

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In the most recent issue of GCN (Gay Community News) – Ireland’s national LGBT+ magazine – I wrote an article called We’re Here, We’re Queer and We’re Voting Yes. I am deeply grateful to everyone who agreed to speak with me about why they are voting Yes (or why they support the Repeal campaign, if they don’t have the right to vote in referenda in this country). According to a recent survey carried out by GCN, 91% of Ireland’s LGBT+ community intends to vote Yes.

With the permission of GCN, I am sharing the article here on my own blog, in the hope that it will help raise awareness of why it is so important for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed. Access to abortion is not just an issue that affects heterosexual cisgender women: a fact that is made abundantly clear by the following contributors’ stories. You can read GCN’s entire Repeal issue online here or pick up a physical copy in one of their stockists across Ireland.

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We’re Here, We’re Queer and We’re Voting Yes

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With a referendum on the repeal of the 8th Amendment looming this May 25th – and the futures of people with a womb hanging in the balance – Aisling Cronin spoke to some LGBT+ people to hear why a Yes vote is important to them.

Screenshot 2018-05-19 01.18.26Aisling Dolan: 29, from Offaly, now living in Dublin

When our community marched in 1983 to protest the murder of Declan Flynn and the subsequent lack of justice, we were joined by women opposing the 8th Amendment. These women stood with us in solidarity. They showed us a level of respect and dignity denied to us by wider society.

I trust pregnant people to make the best decision for them. I believe that every individual has the right to decide what happens to their bodies. As a cisgender woman, the 8th Amendment affects my life. Doctors and nurses still check whether I’m pregnant before prescribing treatments, despite the fact that I have been in a relationship with a woman for the past eight years. If my fiancée and I have children in the future, my sexuality will not exempt me from the 8th Amendment. The 8th Amendment hangs over our entire community. I hope we do the right thing on polling day.

Jon Hanna: 42, Dublin

In 1829 the British parliament passed the Offences Against the Person (Ireland) Act. This included bans on consensual sex between men and on abortion, with a penalty of death by hanging for both. While the penalties were later reduced, these bans remained part of Irish law even after 26 counties had become independent. “Free” Irish citizens still did not have freedom when it came to their own bodies.

The architects of the 8th Amendment inserted our repressive culture of shame into our constitution, as a bulwark against an erosion of that culture after the Supreme Court found that contraception was legal for married couples (but only married couples).

As was the intention, it decelerated the move towards freedom we have had since. Article 40.3.3 remains a tumour in a constitution that should be guaranteeing the liberty and safety of the Irish people: forcing those who can be pregnant into exile, bodily harm or even death. Decency demands that we repeal the 8th. Liberty demands that we repeal the 8th. Justice demands that we repeal the 8th.

Screenshot 2018-05-19 01.21.07Rowan Cathan Daly: 35, Gorey, Wexford

Repeal of the 8th Amendment is absolutely an LGBT issue. I am a bisexual person and a sexual assault survivor. I also had a miscarriage while in a long term relationship. It was so early on in the pregnancy, I wasn’t aware I was pregnant until I miscarried. I remember being relieved to a degree, as well as saddened. I was in my early 20s and I could not have afforded to travel for medical assistance.

I’m now in my mid 30s and have a chronic illness called Fibromyalgia. I would struggle to access medical care abroad.

My final point to highlight that repealing the 8th Amendment is an LGBT issue is this. After struggling with mental health problems all my life, I have figured out my truth. I was born in the wrong body. I am at the very beginning of my journey as a transgender man. Unless my body significantly changes through hormone therapy or surgery, I will still need to access medical care for my reproductive organs. And some transgender men choose not to get surgery.

Whatever way your life looks, you should have the choice. The 8th Amendment blocks that choice for many people with a womb in Ireland: women, transgender men, non binary folks and disabled folks. Their bodies, their choice. My name is Rowan Cathan Daly and I’m a transgender bisexual disabled person for choice.

Keeli Neenan: 28, from Cork, now living in Dublin

Advocating for social justice and equality is really the grassroots of what binds our community together. Growing up in pre-marriage referendum Ireland, both socially and legally, I was not viewed the same way as my heterosexual peers. That has a massive impact on a young person. It is a damaging thing not to feel respected by one’s own state. As a woman, I still face this. Under the 8th Amendment, I am not offered the right to bodily autonomy. I am still viewed as a second class citizen.

We have been failed for long enough: forced to procure illegal pills, to travel, and then shamed for seeking medical care elsewhere, for being sexual beings. We are blamed for making the ‘wrong choices’ or ‘not being careful enough’. To say that is unacceptable is an understatement. I believe in carving out a future for my children that allows them the right to freedom of expression, freedom of identity and freedom of autonomy: one where their wombs are not dictated to by the Irish constitution. Until the 8th is removed, I cannot promise that future.

Screenshot 2018-05-19 01.22.05Ester K: 32, from Hungary, now living in Dublin

Being pregnant has always been one of my worst fears, well before I knew anything about genders or dysphoria. Getting my first period was tough and I hated my body for it. While I’ve made peace with that, I simply cannot be pregnant. I know already what the right choice is for me, but it might not be the right choice for others. I can’t vote in this country and I’m just scared scared scared, like my anatomy is a time bomb. Please vote Yes for all people who have a womb.

Anonymous: 17, Westmeath

At a desperate time, when I needed it the most, I had a choice … but if the pills had failed to arrive, I don’t know what I would have done. Please vote Yes for anyone like me who is too young to vote, or people living here who come from other countries and can’t vote. We need a choice too.

Chris Clancy Wilson: 42, Naas, Kildare

Before the marriage equality referendum, I felt unwanted as a lesbian in Ireland. I had no choice. “You’re gay, you don’t deserve anything.” That was it. I’m voting Yes in the upcoming referendum because now that I have a choice, who am I to deny anyone else a choice? Now that I am equal, shouldn’t we all feel equal?

Sarah Hannah Maguire: 38, Midleton, Cork

I’m voting Yes because as a bisexual woman in a long term relationship with a man, I have all the same issues with the 8th that straight women do. I have always been and will always be LGBT+.

Anonymous: 23, Wicklow

Being autistic, I worry about the abortion of disabled foetuses. I don’t think that’s solved, however, by preventing people whose lives are at risk, or who have been raped, or who can’t raise a child, from having healthy and safe access to abortion. Ideally, education and improved services will make the country a better place for disabled people. Then people will feel safe and comfortable making the choice to have children if they are disabled. I am voting Repeal out of loyalty to women/people with uteruses.

Sharon Nolan: 26, Galway

Maternity care and reproductive rights are required by more than heterosexual cisgender women, and our fight for reproductive justice must reflect that. The 8th Amendment has the capacity to affect anyone with a uterus in this country, which includes cisgender women of all sexualities, trans men, and AFAB (assigned female at birth) non binary people. Queer and transgender voices have always been at the forefront of activism for abortion access and freedom of maternity care, as this issue affects our communities too. Our LGBTQ+ community have been fighting for their rights and their bodily integrity for generations, with reproductive justice being integral to that.

Lorna Costelloe: 22, East Cork

The 8th Amendment doesn’t just affect straight cisgender women. I’m voting Yes for every person in Ireland, LGBT+ or not, who cannot make decisions about their own body while pregnant.

Aisling Cronin: 27, Dublin

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I was honoured to hear the deeply heartfelt, personal perspectives of the contributors in this article. All I have to add is this: it’s not my place to stand in judgement over anyone. It’s not my place to determine whether their reasons for requesting a termination are ‘good enough’. I’ve never been pregnant. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality, for example – surrounded by people smiling and asking when the baby is due, knowing all the while that it has no chance of surviving once born – and it simply isn’t up to me or anyone else to tell people what they should do.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Willow says:

    This is a great post and very insightful! Love the individual testimonies. I’m in the U.S. where we are having similar battles with the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate. It’s unfortunate, but it’s nice to know we’re not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Willow. I was honoured by the fact that so many people were willing to share their perspectives on this. ❤ The issue of abortion access is such a difficult and emotive one, and as you say, it is proving to be a fraught debate in the U.S. and many other areas of the world … but the fact is that it has been going in Ireland for many years. Instead of making it a safely regulated procedure, this country forces people to travel or to order abortion pills online and take them alone, with no medical support. 😕 I hope that we do the right thing this Friday and vote to enable safe, effective legislation to be brought in.

      Liked by 1 person

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