Out and Proud in Dublin Town

Back in June all the Amazon employees and their friends and families were invited to walk in the annual Dublin Pride parade.  Free food, drinks, t-shirts and sunglasses were offered along with face-painting and an after-party at a pub called Howl At The Moon.

Okay, we said.  Why not.

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The pre-match function was held in the atrium of one of the Amazon buildings and believe me, it’s not easy to get into these places.  Amazon are big on confidentiality and there is security.  They have buildings in Dublin so secret that even the employees aren’t allowed to know where they are.  Well, I suppose the ones who work in those specific offices are, but if they told you they’d have to kill you.

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The pink elephant table centrepiece. All good parties have them.

When we told the children that we were going to be in the parade there was a mixed response.  Daniel wanted to know if it would be hours of standing around like the St Patrick’s Day one was.  No, we said, it would be hours of walking slowly instead.  With free stuff.  Suck it up.  Noah was amenable as always.  Cassia was thrilled because she’d loved the St Patrick’s Day parade and since then had harboured a secret dream of being able to participate one day.  Amy, to our surprise, was relieved.  She had wished to join the march – I have no idea how she knew about it – but didn’t think she’d be allowed.

‘What?’ we said. ‘There’s no allowed about it.  Daddy gets a free drinks voucher for Howl At The Moon for every person who participates.  It’s compulsory‘.

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The Amazon atrium. The curved roofs are these weird sort of covered-wagon shaped booths for sitting in. There are also pool, foosball and table tennis tables. Our theory is that they monitor them by CCTV to find out which employees aren’t working hard enough.

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You’ve met the eye-candy in the white shorts before. That’s Isaac from the Intercontinental.  You probably want a better look so click away.

Amy, feeling the full weight of the responsibility of being a teenager and needing causes to be strident about – even when nobody’s disagreeing anyway – swung into action at breakfast that morning when Daniel was moaning about having to do all that walking.  I came in in time to hear her saying ‘…and they’ve been beaten…and mutilated…’

I don’t know what the heck she’s been reading but Daniel seemed unimpressed.

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On her other cheek, remembering St Patrick’s Day, her single previous parade experience, she requested an Irish flag. ‘Good woman’, the face painter told her. ‘Fair play to you!’  Irish Pride indeed.

So we put on the shirts, lined up for the most talented face paint artists I’ve ever seen, played with the lip-shaped party blowers, and ate a lot.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that child has never been photographed with a normal expression.

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On the party bus. Noah had to wait until his eighth birthday to lose his first tooth; he’s kindly giving you a great view of the gap here.  Noah doesn’t do face paint, in case you were wondering.

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A rare and elusive sight in photographs: me.

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You can see how excited he is.

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And we’re off.

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Noah, Josh, me, Daniel and Cassia’s balloons are visible in this one.

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Any of these photos that are well-focused, well-lit or trendily tilted are courtesy of the professional photographer, not me.

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Amy, Josh, Noah, Cassia and a thousand new friends.

 

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Cassia didn’t start out with any balloons; people just donated them along the way. It made her much easier to keep track of.  Every few metres (at least for the first half hour or so) she’d skip with excitement and say to herself ‘I’m in a parade!  I can’t believe I’m in a parade!

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Yes, Amazon owns a frog-coloured Kombi.  It says ‘Packages come in all shapes and sizes’. Ironic really because although they have a ridiculous number of enormous buildings in Dublin none of them are warehouses so nobody much ever orders anything of any shape or size because of the hefty delivery fee payable in pounds sterling.

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Cassia, Daniel and the O’Connell Monument.

Amy and Daniel understood what we were marching for.  We explained to Noah and Cassia that when you stand with people who are less powerful and get bullied it makes them stronger and more powerful, and that it’s always our duty to do this.  They didn’t care, frankly; they would have marched for anything involving face paint and balloons.

They may care later on though.  I’ve known four-year-olds who are clearly somewhere along the LGBTQ spectrum but you can’t always tell and who knows which children will reach adolescence and realise that they are, or may be, out of the heterosexual box in some way?  Young people in this situation are at higher risk than average of suffering from depression and of eventually taking their own lives.  It’s worth the sore feet once a year to make sure that if any of these children are mine they’ll at least grow up sure of the fact that whichever way they’re wired they’ll still be perfect in our eyes.

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Rainbow flags under one of the Easter Rising commemorative murals. Independence comes in many forms. The Pride Parade theme was ‘Rebel Rebel’ in honour of the 1916 Centenary.

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The iconic GPO, centre of the 1916 Rising.

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The beautiful Harp Bridge (officially the Samuel Beckett Bridge) over the Liffey. It’s a real working instrument; for special occasions they unhook something and it’s calibrated to play music as the wind passes through. Is that awesome or what?

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Supporting the Gay Pride Parade in Dublin City Centre. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th June 2016.

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LGBTQ refugees. Some people really have the odds stacked against them, don’t they?

Dolores Quinlan and Valerie O'Dwyer both from Cellbridge supporting the Gay Pride Parade in Dublin City Centre. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th June 2016.

I mostly just went along for fun, because Dublin is relatively progressive and Ireland has marriage equality – it was the first country in the world to achieve this by popular vote and is seen as one of the most liberal countries in the world in terms of attitude –  so it’s not like they really needed me.  I didn’t expect to be as touched as I was by the feeling of celebration, by the feeling of gratitude.  It hadn’t occurred to me that we would be the show and that everybody else was our audience.  In fact there were so many people parading that I’m surprised there was anyone left in County Dublin to be the audience.  There were, though, tens of thousands of them and they were all cheering for us.

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And it was profound.  We would walk past groups of people and they’d start waving and cheering.  Many were families and children but there were plenty of gay couples and I’d be thinking, what are you cheering for me for?  I should be applauding you.  I’m just walking down O’Connell Street in my Amazon t-shirt; you’ve probably spent a lifetime facing prejudice and bigotry for being who you were born to be.

The ones that actually brought a tear to my eye were the older couples.  We passed several pairs of men of, let’s say, relatively advanced age who were not dressed flamboyantly or wearing Carmen Miranda fruit-baskets on their heads but who were standing together watching the parade with dignity.  Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993 so they would have spent many years presumably hiding their true selves, having to love in secret, unable to live life in all its fullness.

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No wonder the Pride movement is drenched in colour.  The atmosphere of the day from start to finish was exuberant; it was bright and rainbow as far as you could see in every direction.  It was singing, cheering, music, dancing, flags and banners and balloons all celebrating life in glorious colour.  It’s a great metaphor for the new freedoms that so many people can now enjoy.

It’s still not perfect, of course.  But it’s better here than in many countries.  Irish citizens are free to self-declare their gender on passports, driving licences, updated birth certificates and marriage licences.  Same-sex couples can legally jointly adopt children and step-children.  It’s surprising to me because one of the basic tenets of orthodox Catholicism is that the only chaste sex is that which is open to the transmission of life (hence the belief that contraception is wrong as it causes sex to become ‘a grave sin’ even within marriage) which clearly disqualifies same-sex couples.  Given the hard line they have taken on so many other things  – you couldn’t get a divorce in Ireland until 1996, and you couldn’t buy condoms without a prescription until 1992 –  I wouldn’t have expected Ireland to be one of the most progressive countries in the world regarding LBGTQ issues. I have no idea how it’s happened but it’s a great thing.  It’s something to be proud of.

I felt humbled to be walking past people who have only recently become entitled to basic rights that I’ve taken for granted my whole life and to hear them cheering for us.  It wasn’t just about the free t-shirt in the end.  It was about saying, I am so happy for you all.  I am glad that there are tens of thousands of people here who think that you are worth dressing up and marching for.  I am proud to be part of such a huge demonstration of solidarity and love.  I am proud to be bringing up children here.  Well done Ireland.

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