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.
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.
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‘.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.