COUNCILLOR Conor Sheehan has voiced concerns about trans people being targeted by a “nasty undercurrent” in Irish society. The Labour Party representative says the incidents make him more conscious of his own safety when out in Limerick as a gay man.
Speaking to the Limerick Post, Cllr Sheehan said that things were going in a good direction around the time of Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015, but he believes there’s been an awful lot of “backsliding” in recent years.
As a young gay man, the City North representative, Limerick’s only openly gay councillor, said he would be conscious of how he dresses and carries himself when out in the city at night.
“There’s a really nasty undercurrent out there now that’s targeting trans people in particular, and I don’t like it. I don’t like it because you have these people claiming to be all for women’s rights, unless it involves bodily autonomy – like a woman who has to have an abortion – and it sticks in my craw,” Cllr Sheehan commented.
“I see certain right wing, even borderline far right, political actors and they are seizing upon people’s fears. It’s scary, whether it be immigration, identity, or sexuality.
“If you look at a lot of the stuff that goes around about trans people now, it’s very similar to what people said about LGBT people, gay and lesbian people, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and we are going to look back at that in 20 years time and be like ‘what the …?'”
Cllr Sheehan went onto point out how last year was one of the most dangerous years on record in Europe for attacks on LGBT people. Attacks which are also a concern in Ireland at present.
“Primetime did a programme a couple of months ago about a guy who had seven lumps of God knows what beaten out of him.
“I wouldn’t walk around Limerick City at night holding my partner’s hand, if I had a partner. I wouldn’t do it. I would be very conscious of it.
“I’d also be conscious at times as well of how I would dress and carry myself. I wouldn’t be the most glittery person in the world and sometimes I am trying to figure out is that actually genuinely me or is that because I’d be apprehensive.
“My big fear at the moment is that we’re going backwards. We went so far forwards and now we’re beginning to fall back because an awful amount of this stuff came in from America. It’s almost like a hangover from Donald Trump.”
The trans community, Cllr Sheehan adds, are a vulnerable group of people in Limerick.
“All I can think of is the Gender Identity Bill, which passed through the Oireachtas in 2015. We introduced self ID into this country and there was no hoo-hah at the time. People didn’t even realise it was happening, but suddenly there’s all this stuff being whipped up. It has come in from England via America, I might add, and it’s just awful because you are using a vulnerable group of people.
“In particular I look at trans people. There’s stats around self harm and suicide, and you are using a vulnerable group of people as a stick. I just think we are going to turnaround in 15/20 years time and go ‘why did we do that?’ It is something I feel very strongly about,” he concluded.