Tuesday 27 September 2016

It's time to live and let live in this brave new world of ours - Niamh Horan on Jonathan Clynch and Roisin Ingle

Social change is happening all around us, you can respond through compassion or fear

Published 13/09/2015 | 02:30

Two giant leaps in Ireland yesterday. You may have missed them as you hurried about your business, nursed a hangover or packed your gym gear for training.

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But Ireland as you know it is changing around you.

In RTE, a newsreader emerged as gender fluid. Jonathan Clynch told bosses he will now be known as Jonathan Rachel Clynch. The national broadcaster has given him its full support.

In the Irish Times, another silence has been broken.

Journalist and author Roisin Ingle publicly about her abortion. She joined comedian Tara Flynn who spoke about her own experience last week at the Electric Picnic music festival.

Roisin stated simply: "Sometimes in life you have to step up. In my life this is one of those times."

Being yourself is one of the most difficult things you can do.

But more and more Irish people are making the choice.

Ireland is throwing away the shackles of shame. Its people refusing to be judged, refusing to conform.

Last October, a priest took to the pulpit to tell his parishioners he was gay. He was met with a standing ovation. Fr Gabriel Rosbotham echoed Ms Ingle's sentiment when he told reporters afterwards: "I am who I am."

We have seen thousands march to the Dail - in particular in the past year- demanding reproductive rights for Irish women. Their message is simple: women here deserve to feel happy, safe and in control of their own bodies in their own country.

In May, social change spilled out on to the streets. In a vibrant explosion of colour and emotion, thousands descended on the cobblestones of Dublin Castle to celebrate the introduction of same-sex marriage. Government minsters, politicians, TV presenters and a Tralee Rose all spoke openly about their sexuality in the weeks and months leading up to it.

It echoes the Tolstoian sentiment that true life is lived when tiny changes occur.

It depends on the will and the actions of ordinary individuals and these changes happen from the bottom up. One person at a time. It ripples through families and friends, through visibility and conversation.

As you pick up the newspaper this weekend you might feel awkward over personal testimony about abortion or gender fluidity.

Sometimes people are unsure of how to feel. They sound out the mood in others around them. Their reservations are not driven by hate, but fear. All it takes is a simple shrug. A statement of solidarity to live and let live. A "good on them" before moving on.

Did we ever think we would see the day, particularly in 2015, when a man might be able to dress as a woman while working in our main broadcasting station, because it is a true reflection of who he is on the inside?

Or see an Irish mammy telling her daughter how proud she is that she spoke out about her abortion, as Roisin's mother did on Twitter yesterday morning?

Dr Amit Sood, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and fellow of the American College of Physicians, is one of many scientists who have researched the secret to happiness. He joins experts from Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and around the world, all who have come to the same finding. That a happy brain is a compassionate one.

As we show empathy for the people around us who continue to be true to their selves, you can't help but think that Ireland feels a little lighter this weekend.

Sunday Independent

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