“He’s just a stereotype” is what the Specials sang many years ago. I remember the night the Specials first played in Dublin. I remember getting the bus home from town and some rude boys were travelling out to the Stardust to the gig. I was envious but it was a case of too much too young as my parents decided that me as a 13 year old would not be going. Instead I had to content myself with my rude boy badges on my black (and then red) harrington. This was my uniform, my statement to the world. I like the Specials, I like punk rock, it doesn’t matter what you make of it.
Interesting that 21 years on I was to attend a parade of people making a similar statement. It all started when my union conference passed a motion a couple of years ago to participate in Dublins Gay Pride Parade. There was much discussion over this and thankfully the motion passed practically unanimously. Our union would parade in solidarity with members whose sexual preference was for people of the same sex. I had never attended a pride parade (my reason being that I didn’t feel any wish to express my sexuality in public) and didn’t attend with my union colleagues that year, nor the next. However something changed at our conference this year. Firstly I got elected onto the Unions Executive Committee so there is a certain responsibility that goes with that. Secondly it was mentioned that the motion previously passed in regard to parade was in danger of being ignored this year. Turnout from PSEU was very disappointing, in much the same way as people can be hesitant to come out in public, many people are hesitant to be seen to be union activists, especially a public service union. So with that in mind I made it my duty to ensure we would be represented. Many people feel unions are irrelevant in todays society, I would never subscribe to that view but can totally see the reasoning behind it. So much work has been done in this country to better the conditions of the working man and woman and with most improvements in working conditions there is a strong union propping them up. Unions are relevant when people require decent working conditions, when they are looking for pay rises, when dealing with work expectations and leave arrangements. If these hard earned gains are already in place then where’s the relevance? Of course it is there to ensure these conditions aren’t eroded beyond repair. Anyway union talk can come another day (and will). I’m here to talk about pride.
The day of the parade came and we had banded together a dozen assorted folk to go along. As I boarded the bus (going in the opposite direction to that Specials gig 21 years ago) I suddenly became self conscious. “What if people see me on the March….oops parade”? I was thinking, “Would they think I was gay?” And suddenly it seemed to matter. I was amazed at this internal reaction. Of course I reasoned it out with myself but I couldn’t prevent that initial feeleing. I have spent all my adolescent and adult life saying it’s ok to be what you want and do what you feel. Your actions and how you treat others are what count and yet something very simple like walking down O Connell Street in full public view with a bunch of amazing people dressed in some of the most outrageous and colourful costumes you ever will see felt a little uncomfortable. And this is where society comes in, this is where organisations like PSEU and other trade unions can lead the way. it is ok to be gay, it is ok not to be gay. It really doesn’t matter and until society fully accepts this there will continue to be a need to have Pride day.