‘Homosexuals Are Revolting’ – Gay & Lesbian Activism in the Republic of Ireland 1970s – 1990s

Patrick James McDonagh


The current historiography on the early gay and lesbian liberation movement in Ireland 1970s-1990s has resulted in a narrative which has focused solely on the battle to decriminalise sexual activity between males. In turn, this has presented a picture of a movement comprised of one individual, David Norris, and one goal, decriminalisation. This narrative is predominantly an urban one, which excludes the activities of provincial activists, and most notably lesbian women. In this paper, I move away from viewing David Norris’ legal battle as the only form of resistance to Ireland’s sexual mores. Instead, I explore the other, often forgotten, forms of resistance carried out by Ireland’s gay and lesbian citizens; such as their attempts to create public spaces for gay and lesbian individuals; the appearance of homosexuals in the media to try dispel the negative stereotypes of homosexuality, and finally, their organisation of public demonstrations to declare pride in their identity and demand their place in Irish society. By doing so, these actions facilitated a public dialogue around homosexuality, which ultimately helped change the negative assumptions surrounding homosexuality and renegotiated Ireland’s sexual mores.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/SIJIS-2239-3978-20751

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