The Queen of Ireland is an uplifting documentary about Ireland’s superstar drag queen Panti Bliss as she rises from ‘giant cartoon woman’ to a high-profile activist in the LGBT+ community. It is the story of the ongoing evolution of Ireland into a truly equal society, as seen through the eyes of one of its most vivid, morally courageous and downright entertaining citizens, Rory O’Neill, who was the accidental face of the Yes campaign in the 2015 same sex marriage referendum in Ireland.
The 300 people in the audience gave the film and Rory a standing ovation and stayed on for a conversation with guest speakers Rory O’Neill, Julia Ankenbrand representing the British Museum and Claude Cahn from OHCHR, moderated by Caroline Petit (UNRIC).
Stating that “the film is about something courageous – someone who can say the unsayable”, Julia added that there was a need for LGBT+ voices in the Museum. “I am really happy that this event could happen at an institution like the British Museum. Museums are about creating conversations, not just objects and dust. The film is courageous, touching and human”. Julia underlined that the Museum has continued to highlight the LGBT+ community and its history by creating an LGBT+ history trail ‘Love, Identity, Desire’, and in 2017 raised the rainbow flag for London Pride.
The conversation ended with the star of the film, Rory O’Neill, who told us how he maintained his energy and what the referendum meant for the LGBT+ community in Ireland. “ I get a lot of energy from young, brave people everywhere who make a physical statement when they could face a backlash in their own countries. . There has been a huge change in attitudes achieved by a community that was despised 40 years ago. The most powerful statement that could advance gay rights was to come out. Society and attitudes change based on knowing people, having a conversation. It’s easy to hold prejudices against people you don’t know. . The referendum has given gay people confidence and has been transformative for the LGBT+ community in Ireland.”
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