GCN remains an essential space and vehicle for the Irish LGBT community
GCN’s journey over the past 300 issues charts our shared history and what we have achieved together as a community, says Olivia McEvoy
The National LGBT Federation (NXF) is an Irish community organisation striving to advance equality and end the discrimination of LGBT people in Ireland and internationally. While the NXF aims to achieve this social change through a variety of means – advocacy, symposia and events that celebrate our vibrant and diverse community, including The GALAS – GCN (Gay Community News) has been the flagship of our organisation for 26 out of our proud 35-year history. Indeed, GCN has been at the heart of the entire LGBT community since the first eight-page issue was published on February 10, 1988.
For so many of those pre-Internet years, GCN was the single source of information for the LGBT community. The listings pages alone enabled community and support groups to form, populate and survive. GCN helped to foster and facilitate a ‘connection’ that enabled engagement and a sense of belonging. Moreover, in an era of limited to no lesbian and gay visibility in Irish media and culture, GCN provided visual and cultural representation and a respite from heteronormativity, the magnitude of which can never be underestimated.
Of course, GCN has also chronicled the story of the Irish LGBT community. In doing all of the above, GCN has played a pivotal role in inspiring a confidence and enabling us to develop and, crucially, celebrate a diverse LGBT community in Ireland.
The LGBT community has evolved and grown and GCN’s journey, from Issue 1 in 1988 to Issue 300 in 2014, has certainly mirrored that growth. However there is sometimes an erroneous notion that with such growth in a digital age that the needs of our community have changed entirely. In fact, in response to what the community needs, GCN is still impacting in the same areas as throughout its history, albeit in a glossier printed format and through new digital platforms.
GCN remains a central information hub for the Irish LGBT community and the first port of call for LGBT people returning home from abroad and new communities arriving for the first time. GCN is of course political in nature in that it raises awareness of our quest for equal rights on a multitude of legislative issues such as civil marriage equality, gender recognition and employment, most notably Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act that allows religious ethos to trump equality in the workplace. Moreover, it allows us to stand in solidarity with our international LGBT colleagues and friends by drawing attention to their plights.
GCN also continues to promote visibility, educate us and, again crucially, celebrate the non-homogenous nature of our community by showcasing the vast array of community organisations and individuals as well as the astounding work that is going on within our community. Indeed it continues to inspire courage in those who have not yet come out or who still feel isolated but who draw strength from seeing others living open and honest lives. In short, GCN is still an essential space and vehicle for the LGBT community.
The enormity of the achievement in providing 300 issues of an LGBT publication of such quality, free of charge, should never be underestimated. Despite serious financial challenges over much of its 26 year history, the NXF and GCN staff – past and present – have worked assiduously to ensure that GCN remains accessible and freely available. On behalf of the current NXF Board, I would like to pay tribute to GCN’s founders – Tonie Walsh and the late Catherine Glendon – all past NXF Board members and GCN staff, the current GCN staff and most notably the man at the helm doing a sterling job for the last ten years, Brian Finnegan.
The NXF Board and GCN staff are acutely aware of and indeed are already working within the fast changing publishing climate. While we know that the publishing world is shifting quickly into digital platforms, we also know that the printed copy of GCN is cherished by so many readers, not least those outside urban centres who do not yet enjoy high-speed broadband services. The onus is on the NXF to ensure a sustainable future for GCN. To that end, we are currently overseeing a comprehensive three-year development plan that will critically assess and bid to further safeguard the future of GCN.
We are sincerely grateful to Pobal who have been unstinting in their support of GCN over the past eight years through the provision of government funding for some of the staff. Still, this represents but some of the outgoings for the organisation, and your support of the initiatives undertaken by GCN staff to plug the gap when advertising revenue plummeted in the recession, including Mother, Crush and the GCN Forever campaign, have essentially helped save your community magazine.
When we look back at the journey of GCN, it charts our shared history and what we have achieved together. It should also remind us of the importance of documenting our current story. Despite such enormous progress both legislatively and culturally since the publication of the first issue in 1988, there is still a long journey towards an Irish culture where diversity is celebrated and where people can be their true selves. Moreover, there is still a need for connection and a sense of belonging. Ultimately, we are connected by human story and shared experience. GCN documents, showcases and celebrates that story and experience.
As we publish our 300th issue this month, I hope you will join the NXF in a deep sense of pride at both the journey we have made together so far and the central role GCN has played in it.
Olivia McEvoy is the Chair of the National LGBT Federation (NXF)