The following is a guest post written by the .GAY Registry.
Every June, people around the world join together to celebrate LGBTQ Pride and demand equality. Blacknight is proud to support and stand with LGBTQ communities everywhere, every day, and the launch of the .GAY domain extension in 2020 created a new opportunity for everyone to express Pride online.
As a domain extension rooted in diverse communities, .GAY launched with industry-leading policies that prohibit hate and harassment, and they donate 20% of new domain registrations to LGBTQ nonprofits. The extension raised over $148,000 during 2020 for its inaugural LGBTQ beneficiaries, GLAAD and CenterLink.
To properly celebrate LGBTQ communities, it’s essential to listen, learn, collaborate, support, elevate, and defend. That’s why we’re sharing, in roughly chronological order, these historic trailblazers, major milestones, and ongoing community events that are meaningful to Blacknight’s Irish LGBTQ community.
The world’s most infamous dandy?
To start, we’re throwing it back all the way to the Gay Nineties — the 1890s. During this decade, Oscar Wilde’s ascendent career brought him considerable attention for his influential works of literature, not to mention his dandy antics.
A sparkling conversationalist, captivating lecturer, and flamboyant dresser, Oscar became an international celebrity, but when he was publicly outed as homosexual, it started a chain of events that led to his arrest and conviction for “gross indecency with men.”
He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of two year’s hard labour and imprisoned in 1895. Despite his cruelly-inflicted public downfall, the influence of Wilde’s many celebrated works, particularly The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, endures.
The horrible, discriminatory laws against LGBTQ people in Ireland began to fall thanks to the efforts of Senator David Norris, who has a multitude of accomplishments to his name as a political and literary LGBTQ pioneer.
Almost 100 years after the heinous punishment of Oscar Wilde, Norris led a years-long campaign of high-profile legal cases to challenge anti-LGBTQ legislation. His efforts ultimately led to the 1993 repeal of that same anti-homosexuality law used to convict Wilde.
In the midst of these legal battles, Norris also became Ireland’s first openly gay person elected to public office. Senator Norris has served continuously in the Seanad Éireann since 1987.
In addition to his activism and public service, Senator Norris is a scholar and former university lecturer. He furthered Ireland’s storied literary tradition not only by posthumously vindicating Oscar Wilde but also by endearing the works of James Joyce to Ireland’s once-critical literary community.
With Norris’ legal win securing a major victory for LGBTQ equality, people could come together openly to be out, proud, and creative.
In 2004, The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival was founded to commemorate Oscar Wilde’s 150th birthday, and it is now the largest event of its type in the world. The festival supports emerging LGBTQ artists and theatrical works, and its inclusive selections create new opportunities for visibility and affirmation.
A Global Milestone for Marriage Equality
In another example of diverse LGBTQ leaders advocating for their own communities’ liberation, performer Rory O’Neill, better known as drag queen Panti Bliss, became an accidental spokesperson for Ireland’s 2015 national referendum on LGBTQ marriage equality.
Panti fell into her activist role after an appearance on RTÉ, Ireland’s public broadcaster, in which she explicitly called out homophobia in the Irish media and in prominent Catholic institutions. Panti was speaking truth to power, but RTÉ was forced to issue a public apology and a €85,000 payout when the homophobes in question threatened legal action.
This scandalous appeasement of homophobia catapulted the issues to the forefront of the Irish national consciousness, and Panti’s “Noble Call” speech about the debacle went viral.
Panti used her fame to hit the campaign trail in support of the referendum, rallying the voters who helped make Ireland the first nation ever to recognise marriage equality by popular vote! The first same-sex marriage ceremony under the new law was performed on 17 November 2015.
In addition to the referendum’s win for marriage equality, in 2015, trans people were also finally allowed to self-declare their gender on passports, driver’s licenses, new birth certificates, and marriage certificates.
One of our favourite annual traditions, which Blacknight has sponsored in the past, is The Outing. The diverse and jubilant event is the world’s only music, matchmaking, and queer arts festival, with speed dating, drag queens, DJs, and performers!
We are especially excited for its return in February 2022 — joy and connection are more necessary than ever. Best of all, this inclusive festival offers something for everyone. As the organisers note, the festival welcomes “singles, couples, and groups of friends – straight or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and their friends.”
Blacknight supports BeLonG To Youth Services
As a proud supporter of local LGBTQ communities, Blacknight was inspired by the launch of .GAY to donate to an organisation dedicated to the health and safety of Ireland’s LGBTQ youth. BeLonG To Youth Services has been working since 2003 to create a world where young LGBTQ people are equal, safe, and valued in the diversity of their identities and experiences. Until hate ceases to exist, we all need to support organisations like these that help our struggling, young, LGBTQ neighbours.