A guest blog by Kevin Kimber about Panti Bliss’s noble call.
I have been, and sometimes I still am.
I was made aware of the brouhaha surrounding Ireland’s famous drag queen, Panti Bliss, by a friend of mine and am amazed that the story hadn’t reached further than it already has.
Panti, or Rory O’Neill when not in drag, was on RTE’s The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor discussing homophobia in Ireland. Some journalists and members of anti gay marriage group, the Iona Institute were named as being homophobic.
When those mentioned in the discussion heard about it, they threatened legal action and RTE settled out of court with €85,000 in payouts. The segment of the interview was removed by RTE, but you can read a transcript here:
While this is somewhat news worthy in itself, the kerfuffle gave impetus to something much greater, and beautiful.
The Risen People, then playing at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, featured a Noble Call at the end of each performance from an invited guest, and Panti was invited to speak at the final performance. A Noble Call is the lovely Irish tradition of asking a guest (usually at a party) to respond to thoughts of the day with a few words.
I would encourage you to watch Panti’s Noble Call.
It’s long, but if you can avoid those meaningless “which-character-are-you-from-this-shite-television-show-facebook-quizzes”, you’ll then have the time to watch this much more meaningful summation of events.
Panti tells the story of having once stood at a pedestrian crossing and been on the receiving end of homophobic abuse. A sadly unremarkable event most of us have experienced. This pedestrian crossing becomes an analogy or device to show how direct, indirect or ignorant homophobia can impact on feelings of oppression in society. It highlights that homophobia (like racism or any other kind of discrimination), has the power to turn the tables and create an environment where the oppressed become the oppressors. How many countless times have I manipulated my behaviour to not appear too gay? How many times did I modify another’s words, and my own, in certain company to keep a situation from becoming “uncomfortable”? How many times have I changed my gait to what I think appears “straight” when walking home alone at night with a gang of lads coming toward me? In so doing, I’m not only denying the fact that I exist, but am I also not being just a tiny bit homophobic?
We have all been at that pedestrian crossing.
Some of us have recognized we were there, stopped caring and crossed the road.
Others have yet to realise that while standing there, they manipulate their behaviour to either not attract attention or to pretend to the world they are something they are not. The ignorance of the latter is the saddest; while modifying your behaviour or suppressing yourself out of fear of persecution is less than ideal (but in many parts of the world a necessity for survival), not being conscious you even do it, is a bit like showing up late at the wrong wedding and not finding out until it’s over.
I find it fascinating, frustrating, sad and logically unsurprising that so many of us are intrinsically self-hating and are more concerned with a stranger’s perception of who we are and not more concerned about understanding ourselves as fully and as honestly as we possibly can.
You can never truly know yourself or understand your place in this world by using any other person’s point of view but your own.
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