Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Suicide, the DUP and Me

Today I head that a friend, fellow LGBT+ activist and member of another political party has been suspended from a suicide prevention charity because of comments he posted linking suicide with the DUP. Just under a year ago a member of my close extended family committed suicide. Looking back at the draft I attempted to write at the time a number were trying to address that subject in a relevant way but they never really hit the mark or passed my standards for pressing publish. This time I hope this is different*.

I first considered taking my life in the 80s when I was 15/16 it was a grey day down by the docks as I contemplated jumping in the cold waters off the pier. It was during the period that the DUP were still attempting to safe Ulster from Sodomy. It was a phrase I had heard often, it was a phrase that even at that time I knew was directed at me although at the time I was attempted to fight who I was. 

I didn't jump as you can tell as I am here writing this but that was far from the last time I half felt depressed because of my sexuality.

I went to tertiary education in Kingston starting at the Polytechnic but graduating with a University degree in total I spent 10 years learning to be and to love me, but at the same time still fighting being me. I had grown in confidence, I had grown into an adult me, I was more in control of who I was and more able to defend what I stood for. Something that happened very early on in an Economics tutorial being able to defend a position that was opposite to that of the tutor.

It was in the five years I was back in Northern Ireland that I first really came out. However, this was also a time when I became anxious once again over who I was. My parents reaction was good, as was that of those I worked with and played bowls with. However, before too long I was over in Scotland and away from Northern Ireland for another 8 years. 

However, let me tell you what still knocks me most, makes me most depressed and on occasion leads me to fight suicidal thoughts. It is the times politicians or church people run me down for being gay. The language they use, the assumptions they make about how I live and the way they keep doing it. Now I am mostly able to stand my own when facing these debates. Like a good student I am well prepared with all the background reading I would need and more. I know the facts, I know the etymology of the verses that clergy will quote at me, sometimes better than they do.

However, there are times that continually doing so, or just having a tough time standing up for myself does lead to depression. I reckon it I weren't stronger I would not still be here. If I didn't have the support of many good friends both of faith and without I would be just another statistic. There are certainly some members of the DUP who may prefer that I was a statistic rather than a thorn in their side a constant reminder in their inbox for them to ignore. 

The thing is that the DUP in my experience tend to ignore when anyone raises LGBT+ issues with them. So I am please that they are meeting with the Equal Marriage campaigners here. However, while their representatives may block me out the same cannot be done for them or their supporters. I need to stay abreast of the news and current events and often we here the hateful comments about LGBT+ people on our TVs, Radios or Newspapers. It is something I wish I could avoid but at the same time know I have to respond to, stand up to and be heard. This is not just for me but for those who are the shy me that I was in my teens, the insecure me, the scared me and the suicidal me.

So while the DUP are ignoring reports that do show that LGBT+ people are more likely to have self-harm and suicidal intentions, someone who points out that they don't take action is suspended for doing so. I certainly feel more suicidal when I'm being called abnormal, an abomination or have a deviant lifestyle. This mostly comes as a direct result from Northern Irish politicians and Northern Irish Christians, when people accept me strangely I don't feel like that.

So is there a direct link between the institution homophobia for the DUP and self-harm and suicide?

Considering the party not only have never voted for any positive LGBT+ legislation but have petitioned of concerned every bill that has come before the NI Assembly. Their elected representatives are amongst the most vocal in belittling LGBT+ people with words whether in political chambers or debates on media. 

In my personal opinion there certainly is a constant straw attempting to break the camel's back. It has not yet got all the way through but on occasion it has been close. Whether from the DUP, religious leaders or ordinary members of the church I was born into all have at times come close to me committing suicide.

*Even after writing that at the start there are still parts of this I have not included in the above despite the length.

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