May 25, 2015

We said Yes! But we're not done yet.

It's not often you get to watch events unfold, knowing that your children and grandchildren will one day be learning about it as a turning point in world history.

On May 22nd, the people of Ireland voted 62.07% in favour of allowing couples to marry, regardless of their gender. Watching the tallies come in was thrilling. We got to see our country make history.

But we all know this isn't the end. There are still other issues to be confronted, more battles to be fought. We need gender recognition. We need women to have control over their own bodies. We need to make sure that no-one can be fired from their job for being an LGBTQ person. We need to stop future campaigns from being fought using lies and scaremongering, as the No Campaign did.

This referendum revealed many things about the Irish. Our belief in equality. Our determination to be heard, even if it mean travelling across the world to vote, like Big Damn Heroes. But we also had some of our old prejudices brought to light. I've lost count of the times I've seen someone say...

"I believe in equality, but..."

"They already have enough..."

"They can't provide a loving home..."

"We're being bullied into silence."

"People will vote no because they don't want to be told to vote yes."

I haven't always held my tongue, and now I no longer have to try.

If you believe somebody should have different rights to you, you do not believe in equality. There is no such thing as "enough" rights. People either have equal rights, or they don't. And if they don't, then we should all fight for those rights.

Acting and speaking in a bigoted manner is being a bigot.

But calling someone a bigot is not bigotry. Standing up to a bully is not bullying. Speaking against those who would silence a minority is not silencing them. Standing up for the oppressed is not oppression. It's just that the people who've been able to get away with their prejudice for so long are no longer being allowed to, and they're scared. Scared of what it means. Scared that maybe, it was wrong of them to treat people who are different as though they were less. And what that says about them, as people.

People wiser than me say that all hate and fear comes from a hatred of something within us. This can build over time, and when someone lashes out against what should be an obvious answer (ie: should we all have the same rights?), it could be that they don't want to believe they've been wrong. No-one wants to be the bad guy. So they fight and rail against the very notion that they could be in the wrong.

These people are our neighbours. Our relatives. Our friends. And one of the challenges now is for each of us to acknowledge those in our lives who voted No. Whether due to being misled by the No Campaign, or because they genuinely hold such prejudicial attitudes, we have to come to terms with it, and decide what to do next.

For some, we'll tolerate them, walk away from them. Leave them to their prejudice, and hope they learn in time that they were wrong, or at least not get in the way of the happiness of others.

Others we'll try and reason with. We'll explain why it's wrong to expect an oppressed group to withhold their anger and fear just because it might make others uncomfortable. We'll explain why the Yes victory is a good thing. And, hopefully, they will decide to change.

Some we will sympathise with. The ones taken in by the No Campaign's tactics, who believed the lies and became scared of what could happen. The ones who we hope will see, as time goes by, that this is not the catastrophe the No Campaign would have them believe.

And then there are those who will never change. The ones so entrenched in their prejudice that they'll use every tool they have to shield themselves from the truth. The ones who will still hold up their now-tattered banner and look for other ways to fight back. These are the ones we have to watch for. The ones we've beaten, for now, but will face again. The ones I will happily call bigot.

The referendum has also illustrated why "treat everyone equally" is not enough to solve society's problems.

The No Campaign was full of people saying they believed in equality, but didn't want same-sex marriage. To them, they did want to treat everyone equally, but they ignored the specific reasons why same-sex marriage was an important cause, one that needed to be won.

I believe wholeheartedly in labelling issues. When we give a name to something, we gain power over it. We will not cure the world of pain and suffering by covering it with a blanket of "be good to each other." We will only do it by getting down into each problem, rooting out the source, and fixing it.

It's a long, hard road, and there are no short-cuts. Whether it's gender-recognition, bodily autonomy, feminism, or any other cause, we have to approach each one in full understanding of its own unique challenges. Only by doing that can we hope to keeping making the world a better place.

We won this battle. But there will be more to come. It starts here. And monsters really can be beaten.

May 22, 2015

How #hometovote makes me feel

We all knew this was going to be a close fight. We knew we were going to need everyone we could get on our side, and even then, we knew it would be tough to call.

So when I saw that #hometovote was trending on Twitter, I took a look, and it felt like this:

May 21, 2015

Please Vote Yes

Tomorrow I'll get up early so my wife and I can get to the polling stations to vote on the single most important referendum of our lives. We're both voting yes to changing the Irish constitution so that people will be able to marry, regardless of their gender.

This is history in the making. We could change the country for the better, and become the first nation to ever declare marriage equality through popular vote.

I've watched people I care about suffer terrible pain in the last few weeks. So many are angry and afraid at what could happen tomorrow. So please, if you can vote tomorrow, go out and vote yes.

There is no logical reason to not vote yes. No legitimate argument against equal marriage has been presented, or indeed can be presented.

There has never been a time when people have looked to the past, and the fight for equal rights, and regretted granting them. Never been a time when historians have argued that it was a mistake to grant more freedoms and remove discrimination.

Think about the facts. Think about the lives that could be made better, both now and in generations to come. Think about how history will look at your decision.

Please vote yes.

May 19, 2015

Red Skies Cover Reveal and Release Date!

Last year I stepped into the world of self-publishing with Lady Raven. This year I am proud to say that the second book in the series, Red Skies, is all but finished, and will be released on July 1st!

*Bird image courtesy of, lightning image courtesy of

Driven from her home, labelled an outlaw, and cursed to damnation. Cora Ravenell leads a pirate crew aboard the skyship, White Raven, fighting back against those who framed her for treason and murder.  In the months since her daring escape from the capital, Cora's name has become feared by those who serve the Empire.

But Cora's actions have attracted the attention of others. War rages in the south, where rebels fight for their freedom. Joining this rebellion might be Cora's best chance for revenge, if only she can master her new abilities. Rage fuels her, threatening to consume everything she fights for. Only by learning the secrets of channelling can she hope to control her feelings, and harness her true power.

With Laden Fell determined to track her down, and Princess Idella furthering the Empire's plans, an angry, scared girl must become a leader, and make it known to all that she is Lady Raven.

May 18, 2015

Lady Raven Free Sample

This week I'll be revealing the cover for the second book in the Lady Raven Series, Red Skies. As a taster for anyone who hasn't yet read the first book, I'm sharing the first chapter of Lady Raven here. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might enjoy the series, and if you like what you see, you can catch up on Cora Ravenell's adventure.

Cora Ravenell has already lost her father. Now she stands to lose so much more. With no male heirs, her father's estate is stripped away, and Cora's only chance to remain in noble society is to marry a childhood friend. 

But when her mother is accused of treason, Cora's world is shattered, and she becomes the target of a ruthless hunt. Chased through the darkest corners of the city, Cora discovers that not everything about the Empire is as it seems. In the darkness, Cora will find the truth, and a power she has never known. 

The law calls her a criminal. The church calls her damned.

Her enemies call her Lady Raven.

May 14, 2015

An Open Letter to Irish Voters

On May 22nd, the people of Ireland are being asked to vote on an addition to our constitution:

"Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

In the interests of openness, let me state, clearly, that I am voting yes to this amendment. I am straight, I am married, and I have three wonderful children. I don't believe there is any morally-sound reason for saying that a person should have fewer rights in their life choices than me on the grounds that their sexual or romantic preferences differ from mine.

In an ideal world, that is all this referendum would come down to. However humans are flawed things, and susceptible to the effects of fear and uncertainty. We resist change, particularly when it relates to something we consider "other", or different to us. 

And there are always those who will prey on those instincts to fulfill their own ends.

To say I've been emotive on this subject would be an understatement. The referendum will not affect me. But it will affect friends of mine, and it may affect my daughters in the future. I want them all to have the same rights I do. However I'm conscious that many people in Ireland are still undecided, or are deciding to vote no, or abstain, for various reasons. I'd like to try and set aside my emotional responses today and address, rationally, why I think voting yes is the right choice, in the hopes that people who do not want to vote yes will reconsider, or at least approach me to discuss their choice. 

The No Campaign's focus coming up to this referendum has been quite controversial. They, smartly, shy away from citing religious reasons for a no vote. The Irish people don't have the best relationship with the Catholic Church anymore. What the No Campaign has done, is to bring up rather chilling ideas, but ones that none the less might seem reasonable to many Irish people. The notion that a child deserves a mother and a father. That the purpose of marriage is to bear children, and as a same-sex couple can't have children of their own, allowing them to marry would cheapen or invalidate the marriages of different-sex couples. That marriage and civil partnership, which is presently available to all, regardless of gender, are functionally the same. And the concern that gay marriage will lead to women's bodies being "rented" for surrogacy. 

However, none of these arguments actually hold weight.

For one, same-sex couples are already allowed to adopt. The adoption process is not weighted in favour of married couples, but by the fitness of the individual(s) involved. It has been made very clear that the marriage referendum will have no impact whatsoever on the adoption process in Ireland, so that's that argument put to bed.

For another, ask yourself why the No Campaign, despite this insistence that children raised by a man and a woman are better off than those who are not, hasn't suggested that there's anything wrong with a single parent raising a child on their own? 

Why, if the No Campaign believes that the purpose of marriage is to bear children, do they not argue that the marriages of people who can't, or don't want to, have children be rendered null and void? 

There are approximately 160 differences between civil partnerships and marriage, many relating to matters of inheritance, social support, and constitutional rights. To say that they are the same is clearly false.

And there is no evidence whatsoever that children raised by same-sex parents are in any way disadvantaged compared to those raised by a man and a woman. Aside, of course, from the prejudice of those who view this as unnatural. 

In fact, even the Iona Institute, which champions the idea that only a mother and a father can provide a healthy environment for a child, released a report which admits that enacting any adoption laws in the future that would favour different-sex couples over same-sex couples would be unconstitutional, because it cannot be proven that having opposite-sex parents is necessary for a child's healthy upbringing. 

So with these points out of the way, where do you stand? Do you doubt the facts shared above? 

I'd like to take some time to look at history. This is not the first battle fought in the war for equal rights, and it certainly won't be the last. What occurs to me, though, is the side resisting change frequently uses the same arguments and justifications. We've seen these points made by the No Campaign:

"Gay couples don't need marriage, they can have a civil partnership."

"Two people of the same gender can't provide a suitable family environment for a child."

"Allowing same-sex marriage will lessen the meaning of different-sex marriage."

"We can't let same-sex couples marry because it would redefine what marriage means."

If you'll indulge me, here are some of the No Campaign's points paraphrased to suit other human rights issues:

"Women don't need to vote, they have husbands who can vote."

"Black people don't need to sit at the front of the bus, they can sit at the back."

"Black people don't need to go to school, they can do jobs that don't require an education."

"Two people of different races can't provide a suitable family environment for a child."

"Allowing divorce will lessen the meaning of marriage."

"Women don't need to work when they get married, they have husbands who can work."

"We can't allow a woman to refuse to submit sexually to her husband, because it would redefine marriage."

"An unmarried woman can't provide a suitable family environment for a child, so we'll take the child away and put her to work in a laundry until a man claims her."

"We can't allow Catholics and Protestants to marry because it would redefine marriage."

"The Irish don't need a language of their own, they can use English."

"The Irish don't need to own their own land."

"The Irish don't need their own government."

If you've been settled on voting no, I ask you to think for a moment what it must be like to know that your entire nation is about to decide on something that will have no effect on the majority of them, but will be a clear indicator of how they view you, as a human being. 

If you vote no, regardless of your reason, the message you send is that you believe people deserve less freedom and less choice about how to live their life, based on something that will likely never affect you. 

If you abstain, you're saying that there is something you alone gain from not voting, that is more important than using this chance to improve the lives of 1 in 25 people. Maybe that number seems small, but with a population of over 6 million, that means a yes vote could, in one moment, improve the lives of over 240,000 people. Because even if none of the estimated 240,000 LGBTQ people in Ireland choose to marry, we'll have told them, as a nation, that we see them as equals, and welcome them, accept them, and love them. That's to say nothing of the impact on future generations. 

If any of my children, or grandchildren, or (if I get to live so long) great-grandchildren, come to me and say they're getting married to someone of the same gender, I want to be able to say I was part of that. More, I want to be able to say our country wanted them to be able to do that so much, that we became the first nation in the history of the world to declare same-sex marriage by popular vote.

This is history in the making. What way do you want to look back on the next several days?

May 12, 2015

Arrow needs a Birds of Prey spin-off (spoilers)

Those of you keeping up with CW's Arrow, you won't have to worry too much about spoilers, but if you haven't seen up to episode 22 of season 3, you might want to hold off reading this.

The time is ripe in Arrow for an all-female team. We've had Oliver, Roy, Diggle, Barry, and Ray all fighting the fight, leaving the Arrowverse heavily weighted towards male heroes. Over time, though, more and more women are coming to the fore, and I'd argue not only is having a female-led show a great idea, it's the decision which, right now, makes the most sense from a strong narrative point of view.

Spoilers after the cut...

May 5, 2015

Getting Feminism Wrong? (Spoilers for Age of Ultron)

My wife and I saw Age of Ultron at the weekend, in a rare cinema trip treat. We were, frankly, monstrously pleased with the movie. Action (gorgeous, gorgeous action), snappy dialogue, nice quiet scenes, and a roaring musical score. I couldn't ask for more from a superhero movie.

Now, not everyone feels the same, and as with any blockbuster movie, there are people voicing their varying opinions, and that's cool. Tastes differ. It's impossible to make any book or movie that will please everybody, especially with a property like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

But one thing caught my attention. 

Superheroes and female representation are pretty much THE hot topic right now. Anyone with any love for the MCU is crying out for a Black Widow movie, and we're hyped up about Captain Marvel. So it's probably not suprising to see some backlash against Josh Whedon for some of the creative decisions on Age of Ultron,

Spoilers follow.