Friday, 9 November 2012

David Cameron's remark 24 hours on in Northern Ireland

Growing up in Northern Ireland I was rather blessed by my name. My surname is neither Protestant nor Catholic. Indeed look at historic records for the middle of the 19th Century and in Londonderry/Derry there are an even split of both with the surname.

My given names especially my, controversial to some members on the staunch loyalist side of the family, middle name meant that I could be known by either to fit in with side depending who I was with and where I was.

As some of you know I also have both a British and Irish passport.

Therefore bizarrely I have never felt threatened by my community identity passed on where I went to church, nor where my family was from. Indeed I called Northern Ireland's second city by whatever name was more appropriate to the people I was with as another tool of camouflage.

In the last 24 hours when I have ventured out I have done what I always do and pick up snippets of conversations around me as I sit and drink coffee, or go shopping. In that time here in relatively affluent and educated Bangor in Northern Ireland I have people interchanging gay and paedophile more than I have heard in political debate here even from the DUP in recent years. In fact I don't think I heard the common person on the street mention that linkage since my return here over 2 years ago.

All that changed yesterday.

There are snippets of conversation that I pick up on. Of course me being me there are certain key words that spark my ears to hone in. There has been a lot of those snippets in the last 24 hours and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

The thing is of course I don't have a wife to hide behind. My name has appeared in the letters pages defending LGBT rights. Anyone who Googles my name will of course find out just who I am, and probably even quicker than Phillip Schofield's 3 minutes can ascertain my sexual orientation. Here is the worse case of conversation that I overheard earlier today in a local supermarket.

Person A: So David Cameron doesn't want a gay witch hunt.
Person B: Why not? All those gays are at it, no young boy is safe

Now David Cameron warned yesterday against starting a witch hunt. But it appears that in certain people he has started one. One nationally known homophobe tweeted last night in relation to this:

It's time for the majority of gays who are not attracted to children to put their house in order by turning in beasts. 

This after he made what appeared to be unfounded allegations against certain men. He then later added a PS that is also applied to white, heteros as well.

The thing is of course that one individual on a widely watched national television programme in response to a question about paedophiles directly linked it to a certain section of society. Even if one case may well be related to that there are other ongoing investigations that are not, but are also subject to a witch hunt.It may well be that the case he was questioned about fitted the caution he was calling for, but the use of words in the minds of some has reinforced a prejudice that many have worked hard to eradicate. In the space of six short words on a sofa in a studio in London David Cameron managed to rekindle that thought in some, so much so that they feel able to articulate it out loud.

In certain areas of the country homophobia and misunderstanding of the LGBT community is higher than others, none probably more so than here in Northern Ireland. What I have witnessed in the last 24 hours gives me cause for concern.

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