Monday 19 March 2018

Donal Lynch: Gay people join suburban mainstream

Gay people have moved away from being defined by their sexuality

MILESTONE: Terry Gill and partner Aengus MacGrianna
MILESTONE: Terry Gill and partner Aengus MacGrianna
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

The first time two gay men appeared together on the cover of an Irish magazine was in 2001. The billboard, which sprung up in Dundrum village, caused some students to crash their bikes as they cycled into UCD. It depicted two GAA players in national colours – Dublin and Meath as I remember – in a passionate embrace and was the cover shot for the ill-fated GI magazine. It was confrontational, controversial and a brilliant marketing ploy for the magazine which unfortunately closed a few years later.

Fast-forward another decade. This week's RTE Guide cover – featuring newscaster Aengus MacGrianna and his partner Terry Gill – was about as controversial as a knitting pattern but for that very reason it was also something of a milestone. The sheer normality, the suburban sleepiness of the image, showed that gay people have moved away from being defined by sexuality and have now become part of the social wallpaper. Aengus and Terry didn't kiss, they didn't push taboos and their sexuality was a sort of background part of the piece. Who would have guessed that the cover of the TV bible of middle Ireland would represent the final frontier of tolerance?

It took a long time for gay people to get this far away from sex being their defining characteristic. For most of history, being gay has not been some incidental part of your identity, but something you did, a bit of unholy recreation that branded you as deviant.

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