Last Night the self-described “national fucking treasure” of Ireland, Panti Bliss, aka Rory O’Neill, gave a funny, articulate and moving speech about the state of gay rights in Ireland and the nature of homophobia the world over. Given the past few months, she should consider changing her self-appellation to “international fucking treasure.”
Describing what she does as “glamour rooted in despair,” Panti Bliss briefly summarized her long history of “accidental activism” and the reaction to her now famous address from the Abbey Theatre. Among the many insightful comments she made was that not all people opposed to gay rights are of the virulent, mouth frothing type; many are the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin type who claim to want what’s best for gays and lesbians. She said that what they are afraid of is gays and lesbians being free and equal.
“Being afraid of gay people’s freedom is the same as being afraid of gay people,” she summed up.
Panti Bliss recently caused quite a stir in Ireland after she called out some prominent homophobes on Irish national television, RTE. In what she describes as an Orwellian twist, the homophobes threatened to sue RTE for being called homophobes and the RTE caved and paid out over $100,000 to them. The public quickly sided with Panti Bliss and, after an impassioned speech from the stage of the Abbey Theatre, this momentum grew. All of this is taking place in the context of a build-up to an Irish national referendum on same-sex marriage scheduled to take place next year.
An audience member pointed out that Quebec too recently saw an example of this tactic of denying the oppressed the right to use the words to describe their oppression when Bernard Drainville rejected the use of the word “racist” in the hearings on the Parti Quebecois’ Charter of [Racist and Xenophobic] Values, saying it was rude to call someone a racist.
Panti Bliss appeared under the sponsorship of Concordia University’s School for Canadian Irish Studies.