Hi there RTE,
I would say that I’m not normally one for open letters, but this is the second in as many months. Congratulations- you’re turning a first into a trend.
I’m afraid, though, that that’s all I can congratulate you on tonight. You see, I’m writing this to express, well, my utter outrage and disgust at the extremely irresponsible and damaging actions of your spokespeople tonight. Specifically? On The God Slot’s Twitter account.
The God Slot- that’s, as you know, a programme on your very own RTE Radio 1- published this tweet regarding their programme for Friday 17th January:
When challenged on this, this was one of their responses:
You deleted the posts several hours after they were made- a bad mistake, by the way, in a social media landscape where accountability is expected and screenshots are barely a click away.
There are several points I need to make on this. If I were you, I’d make sure I was sitting comfortably.
Curing “The Gays”
Let’s start with the idea of a ‘cure’, shall we? Let’s take a moment to ask a question- what is it that needs to be cured? That’s not a trick question, by the way- there’s an obvious answer. We cure illnesses and disorders. Sometimes those are things which we catch from others. Sometimes they are genetic, innate syndromes, inheritable conditions that require treatment. Sometimes they’re mutations in our cells gone wild. However we came about them, we cure- or attempt to cure- the things that are wrong with us.
Being LGBTQ- really, describing our entire community as ‘gay’ is so twenty years ago- is not something that is wrong with us. I don’t say that because many LGBTQ people feel that we were born with our orientations, or because our identities are as consistent throughout our lives as those of straight people. I say that because, unlike the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that we live with, our sexual and romantic orientations are a source of profound joy, connection, intimacy, family and community.
When you ask if gays can be “cured” of our gayness, you don’t just ask if a particular characteristic can be changed- you assert that it is something disordered. And somehow, somehow you manage to do that in utter ignorance that the thing you are describing as disordered is one of the most transcendent experiences we humans have. You are saying that our falling in love- from the moment we meet someone who catches our eye, to the sparkling bliss of a new relationship, to building homes, supporting each other through our lives, all the way to holding each other safe and caring for each other through our final days- that this is a sickness.
Love is not a neutral trait. It is not something we can idly talk about ‘curing’. To ask whether we can be cured of our gayness- or, as you didn’t mention, of our bi-ness and our queerness- is to ask whether we can be cured of profound love, cured of some of our closest and most valued relationships.
A Question of Pointlessness
Let’s leave that for the moment, though, shall we? Let’s pretend for a second that you are not asking about a cure which would destroy families and tear loving relationships and marriages apart. Let’s leave the word ‘cure’ behind and simply ask, in more neutral and less homophobic terms: does therapy to alter a person’s sexual orientation work? Is this something that is still open to questioning?
If you ask the World Health Organisation or the American Psychiatric Association, the verdict is a firm ‘no’- conversion therapy does not work, homo and bisexuality are not disorders, and it is, in fact, unethical to attempt it. You’d get a similar answer from the American Counseling Association, the Pan American Health Organization, the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists- any legitimate, reputable organisation you can find. ‘Therapies’ with the aim of changing people’s sexual orientation are both entirely ineffective and profoundly damaging.
There is no question to be asked on this worth spending an hour on. To do so does nothing but foster the illusion that there is a debate to be had on this subject. The debate is over. It has been over for years.
And remember: this is not simply a clever topic to play with. This debate is about our families, our relationships, our ability to love. Is about ‘curing’ us of our partners, our husbands, our wives. It is about curing children of their mothers or of their fathers.
Let’s move on.
Fascists, Queers, and Remarkable Ignorance
I would have hoped that your staff, being professionals working in a field made up entirely of communication and sharing of perspectives, would be able to respond with dignity and respect to feedback. I would have hoped that they wouldn’t accuse LGBT people responding to them of “fascism masquerading as liberalism”.
I would have expected, RTE, that you would have some people employed to research the topics you’re covering* and the people being covered by them. I would also have expected them to show some competence. I would have expected them to have a basic knowledge of history, for example, and to know that describing LGBT people defending our right to not be ‘cured’ of our orientation as fascists is not only inaccurate, but deeply ignorant of the profound homophobia of fascism, both in its historical and current forms. Fascists kill queers. They kill- and if you go back a few decades, killed in huge numbers- people like me. How dare you use the label owned by people who have murdered countless queer people to describe a queer person defending their right to exist? How dare you?
And at the end of all of this, here is the apology we recieve:
You apologise if we are offended. You do not apologise for your words. You do not apologise for the damage they cause. You apologise for our feelings, not for your actions. And- to add insult to injury- you entirely ignore what you said after your initial tweet.
This is not good enough, RTE.
Edited to add: If you feel like RTE should be held accountable for their actions, you can send them a complaint here: firstname.lastname@example.org
*On the off chance you’re looking for a researcher, by the way, I do have a couple of social science degrees and a bunch of postgrad research experience under my belt. Y’know where to find me.
- Thoughts on Ms Panti & The Saturday Night Show (denisbrowne.wordpress.com)
- Irish Media Giant’s ‘cure the gays’ Twitter crisis. 10 Social Media Fails by RTE (uttersocial.com)
- Gay can be cured! With magic! (thatssogay.co)
- Fluoride Girl’s Creative Manager Links Homosexuality and the Pill (geoffsshorts.blogspot.com)