David Healy is pretty much like any student you might expect to meet in UCD. He comes across as an articulate and cheerful young man. If he passed you on campus he wouldn’t stand out as different or out of the ordinary in any way. There is however one thing that separates David from the majority of UCD students, one thing that does make him different. David is gay and it’s because of that fact and that fact alone that he, under present Irish law, will not be able to marry the person he loves.
“I’ve done as much as any straight person my age has done. I play sport; I’ve represented Ireland in sport… I’m pretty normal… Okay, I like men, that’s just part of me. I struggled with it for many years, I tried not to, but at the end of the day that’s who I am. I wasn’t going to be happy until I accepted that”, says Healy.
Healy doesn’t agree with many of the arguments of the opponents of same-sex marriage, that the institution is intrinsically linked with either procreation or the raising of children.
“I think when someone enters into a marriage, I don’t think it’s because they want to procreate. I think it’s more that they love that person, that they want to spend the rest of their life with that person… the definition of marriage really, is a loving relationship between two consenting adults, regardless of your sexual orientation or your gender.”
“I see marriage a long way down the road for myself, but I think it’s the idea that you don’t have the same rights as other people in the state, as any other average person in the state… I would like to get married someday, if the right person is there, but at the minute the driving force is to have that equal image, that equal kind of respect from people… I think it’s important, that respect, as much as the marriage.” He continues, “I mean you are taking away peoples rights… you are deciding for people you probably don’t know, who they should get to marry and who they should get to love in other words.”
Speaking about the fact that many members of the LGBT community are made feel like second-class citizens because of current Irish law, Healy stated, “We are treated differently because of something we don’t have a choice over… you don’t choose your sexuality… I don’t see why you should be made suffer in this respect, legally anyway.”
Healy believes that a lot of people who oppose same-sex marriage do so because of homophobia. He feels however, that they have used other issues to disguise this fact.
“There is a certain level of homophobia behind it… they are using children as a kind of cover-up for it, when the fact is, marriage equality is better for children than civil partnership is at the minute.”
Healy continued, “I don’t think that the likes of David Quinn and that are really in it for the rights of children. They change their argument with the times to fit their own agenda… I don’t think it’s about the rights of children or the rights of religious people. I think it’s more blatant homophobia personally, but I think they have changed their angle over the years… so that they aren’t accused of homophobia.”
Healy, like many members of the LGBT community who come from a rural background, notes the differing attitudes between their Home Counties and Dublin.
“For me, from Mayo, there’s a colossal divide from what you would have in Dublin to what you would have there… if you went down the streets of Ballina in Mayo holding hands with another lad, you’d probably not make it to the other end of the street… there is that big divide.”
He points out however that this is partly a cultural phenomenon, but that the debate around same-sex marriage is opening doors for positive conversations, not only about marriage, but also about LGBT rights and homosexuality in general.
“ At the moment people still don’t publicly show affection. I think it’s more an Irish thing anyway that there isn’t that open debate on sexuality or anything to do with sex…I think that does hold us back when it comes to the likes of marriage equality…I think Irish people, certainly outside of Dublin at least… don’t actually feel comfortable talking about [homosexuality]. I think they’re kind of afraid of being seen as unsupportive or against it in some cases.”
“Marriage equality and this debate about it opens up a great platform for actually talking about it now, to actually have an excuse to talk about it and to actually think about it quite a bit. So if it helps in that respect… it will be a positive.”
Healy spoke openly about his experience coming out to his parents, how they reacted, and what kind of questions they asked him. These included the usual questions ‘is it a phase?’ etc. He also notes, however, that some of their perceptions of what it means to be gay are revealing of how many people in Ireland think.
“It’s interesting that you actually see all of these ideas that they have… like you’ll never have a family… or you’ll never have a home. They’ve got this kind of idea that it has to be the mother and father and the children.”
He also spoke of a friend, who on coming out to his mother was asked, by her, if he was attracted to children. “These are the more shocking kind of ideas people have at the moment”, commented Healy.
“You can imagine that if people do have that idea about a minority in society, you’d be very fearful that they’d be given rights to raise children. Or that they’d be given the right to marry someone, because what would they do with marriage… There’s this idea that gay people are promiscuous, that they can’t hold down a long term steady relationship, that they would abuse children, that they wouldn’t naturally be good fathers or mothers… These are the kind of basic ideas that people have in the back of their minds. They don’t necessarily voice them… [but] you can imagine why they would be against marriage equality or adoption rights if that’s the image or that’s the idea out there. ”
Healy voiced his hope that UCD will have the largest group at the march on August 12th. He was also keen to point out that this isn’t just an LGBT issue, but that they need straight people to get out and march on Sunday too. “They are important, I think a lot of them don’t know that they’re so important, but they are”, commented Healy.
In perhaps one of the more poignant statements made by any of the interviewees this week, Healy said, “I think the fact that we are not given the same rights as any other normal human being around the country, I think it isn’t fair… We can look at countries in the Middle East where they’re attacking their own citizens, but at the end of the day there are people in our own country, they were born Irish, they work all their lives here, they’ve paid their taxes and so on… They do give to society, but they are treated differently in the laws… [Ireland] has come a long way, but it has a long way to go yet.”
– James Grannell