#BBCtrending: Panti Bliss homophobia speech goes viral

  • 6 February 2014
Media captionAn extract of the speech by Panti Bliss

An impassioned speech by an Irish drag queen about what constitutes homophobia has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube, promoting thousands of comments - it's even been discussed in Ireland's houses of parliament.

Panti Bliss was already an icon of Ireland's gay scene, but her profile has just rocketed. In a speech at the weekend, Panti spoke of the "oppression" she feels as a gay person living in Ireland - including her own sense of internalised oppression. "I knew we were witnessing something great - you could feel it in the room," says Conor Horgan who filmed her speech at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and is making a documentary about Panti. "It was very, very powerful," he says. "This is a big moment for Ireland."

There have been thousands of tweets on the hashtags #TeamPanti and #Pantigate - most of them supportive, and the video has been translated into French and Russian. Stephen Fry, Lily Savage, and Graham Norton are among the high profile figures to endorse the speech. Madonna even reportedly sent a message. In a tweet, Fintan O'Toole, a journalist with the Irish Times called it, "the most eloquent Irish speech since Daniel O'Connell [renowned 18th-19th Century political activist] was in his prime". Lise Hand, a journalist with the Irish Independent, predicted the speech will be debated in schools in years to come. "It was a speech about shame. And God knows that's something of a speciality among the Irish," she wrote.

The response has not been positive across the board. One YouTube comment said: "Men have no business dressing up as women, they need to be men!" And a Fianna Fail senator, Jim Walsh - who has referred to homosexuals as "fairies" in the past - on Wednesday criticised what he called "dangerous, vicious elements within the gay ideological movement".

Rory O'Neill - as Panti is known when not in drag - sparked controversy three weeks ago when he gave a TV interview to RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster. He accused two journalists and a Catholic lobby group of homophobia. They complained and RTE settled the case, paying 85,000 euros (£70,000) in compensation for defamation. The pay-out was the subject of discussion in Ireland's parliament, the Dail on Thursday. Ireland is due to hold a referendum on gay marriage next year.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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