Oktoberfest Dublin, since its first year in 2008, has become an institution in the Irish event calendar. After successful first years the event tumbled through the recession and an organisational crisis, but has been back on track since 2013, which is when I came on board. I’m not claiming to be solely responsible, but the two are not entirely unrelated. So, two years ago we started to add theme nights during the more quiet days as a marketing initiative. I guess I had the most fun two years ago, shopping for outfits for all staff and spending 700€ on costumes for Wacky Wednesday. In addition to that we hosted Pink Tuesday, which was our LGBT night on two nights during the 18-day event. An Irish member of our team is gay and is quite familiar with the scene in Dublin, so he dropped the name Panti, who is Irelands most famous drag queen and gay rights activist. Until today we never managed to get her to visit us for Pink Tuesday at George’s Dock, where Oktoberfest Dublin takes place parallel to the original event in Munich. However, I once stumbled across a TED talk by the so called Panti Bliss, which is Roy O’Neill’s stage name, who is behind the famous drag queen.
In her 20 minute talk she addresses the difficulties she encounters as as a gay person in public and told the audience about an example that really stuck with me and made me reflect on my own attitude towards homosexuality in our society. She claimed that when she walks down the street holding her partner’s hand, it would automatically be a statement and people would recognise them as gay – even without a negative attitude, it means robbing them of this intimate privilege straight couples take for granted. And I had to admit that that was true for myself. I realised that when I see two guys holding hands in public, I am sometimes confused without even having consciously thought about it. Then I normally think to myself “oh, of course, they must be a gay couple” and that’s usually it. This is precisely what Panti was talking about. This is just one of the very valid points she touched on, but it inspired me to think differently about our Oktoberfest’s Pink Tuesdays.
This post is a plea for more LGBTQ theme nights at events. If you’re an event organiser think about how you can celebrate gay pride as an ancillary event or as a bar night or fashion show or whatever comes to mind. The point is to help our society become truly accepting of homosexuality and to share the privilege of holding hands in public as an intimate subconscious sign of affection towards your partner with everyone. Creating spaces for gay people where everyone can celebrate without having to worry about being attacked or singled out for their sexual orientation will get everyone used to the image of any manifestation of gay love.