Thanks to Loukia Moussolides, who encouraged me to get in touch with Shaz Oye -- AIDS activist, lesbian activist, anti-racist activist and Executive Director of the Dublin AIDS Alliance. Since the time of this interview in 1999, Shaz has left DAA and has gone on to a successful career in music - hailed as, "One of the best voices to emerge recently onto the Irish Scene." Visit Shaz Oye's web site!: www.shazoye.com.
SO: Im Shaz Oye. Im black. Im a dyke. Im out. Im a lesbian activist, and an AIDS activist. Im currently employed as the Executive Director of Dublin AIDS Alliance, which is one of the larger non-governmental AIDS organizations in Ireland. But Ive been involved in activism, both gay and lesbian activism and AIDS activism, for the last 10 years. Im a Capricorn. Thats who I am.
MT: And how long has Dublin AIDS Alliance been around?
SO: Dublin AIDS Alliance has been around since 1987. It is a registered charity limited company, and it has taken many different forms over the last number of years. We grew out of an organization called Gay Health Action. It was formed by gay activists and AIDS activists back in the mid-eighties.
MT: Have you been involved since the beginning?
SO: My involvement started in the AIDS Alliance back in 1990. I was sort of floating, looking for something to be involved in. I wasnt actively involved in campaign issues of any description. I didnt really fit anywhere in particular. I had a number of part time jobs, and I was looking for somewhere that I felt that I fitted in, sort of searching for something inside myself. And I came upon collectors collecting for Dublin AIDS Alliance on Irish AIDS day 1990. So I grabbed a bucket, did a bit of collecting on the street, and a couple of days later I came into the office, and Ive been here ever since.
I was attracted to the organization because I identified with something about it. I mean, it wasnt really tangible for me, I couldnt really put my finger on it, but I just felt when I walked into this building for the first time, nearly 10 years ago, I felt at home. Possibly because of where I was at at the time. I remember I walked in the front door and there were two gay men on the reception, two sort of clones, you know, that old clone look with the mustaches and the short hair. And they were just so welcoming. I told them, "Im here, I want to work," and they didnt question that, they werent judgmental about that, they werent suspicious of the fact that I walked in the door and I wanted to volunteer my services. They showed me around the building, introduced me to the administrator at the time who was called John Bergen. He gave me my first break working as a volunteer.
One of the things about this organization was that it was a safe place 10 years ago for me. I was black, I was coming out. I was out to myself but I needed to come out publicly, and I was in the process of doing that. So, here I was, a black dyke, in Dublin, in a sort of homogenous society. And entering this area, this AIDS area, gave me a bit of space. I felt at home, and I felt accepted.
And currently living and working as a black dyke in Dublin, its impossible for me not to be involved in activism of some description, just to survive on a day-to-day basis.
MT: Thats an amazing point. Do you find that now that youre the Director, now that youre sort of at the top, are you experiencing obstacles, because you are a woman, because you are a lesbian, because you are black, that you wouldnt have as a regular volunteer?
SO: Well, glass ceilings are always an issue for women. And feminists who are constantly challenging an oppressive system, and a system that supports exclusion, have identified that time and time again: glass ceilings exist and are very difficult to break through. This is particularly prevalent in occupations that are male-dominated.
When I started in this organization it was male-dominated because AIDS was an issue that was very much at the heart of what was happening in the gay male community. Its interesting though at the time that a lot of lesbians became involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS and even though they had fallen out with their gay brothers, they saw their friends, family members, and colleagues starting to get sick, starting to die, so they took on the issue and they were very much at the forefront of the battle. I do believe, reflecting back on that, that their contribution in this field has really not been acknowledged or recognized. And that in fact there is a hidden history there. Im thinking back to a couple of years ago -- I heard a number of British AIDS activists when they had decided that for lesbians there was no longer a significant threat from HIV and that we didnt need to be that concerned about safe sex. And that was the message that was coming out from the AIDS service providers. Along with that message there were British AIDS activists complaining about the involvement of lesbians in AIDS activism and using words like "penis envy" and all this sort of nonsense, I suppose to goad lesbians into disengaging from the good fight. Lesbians have had to listen to that, despite having contributed enormously to AIDS activism. They havent gotten their due; they havent been properly acknowledged.
Im sure there are many different reasons for that, but I personally feel that even within our gay community, or queer community -- I mean, we claim in Ireland now to have a queer community with queer diversity -- I feel that there are huge issues that need to be addressed around gender, sexism, misogyny, racism, because our own community is a microcosm of the wider community. So those issues get in the way of people giving credit where its due. And indeed even in our own community, in Ireland, I feel that sometimes Im invited to functions because Im the Executive Director of Dublin AIDS Alliance. Since this is one of the biggest AIDS organizations in the country, it would nearly be impossible to have some sort of a community function or political function or health seminar or whatever and not invite the organization, so obviously the Director is invited. Thats fair enough. But when those functions I go to are community events and queer events, it occurs to me that Im invited as the Director of the organization, but Im not being invited on the basis of my contribution to the diversity of the community, which is another element of me. So I feel that, and Im not looking for any particular recognition, but I do feel that people see me, but they dont for example, see that Im the first black dyke that was appointed to a senior management position in a non-governmental organization. I think that is very telling because what that says to me is that gender issues and racism and these sorts of issues are very much alive within our community. And they influence how we see things and how we perceive things. As a community, weve got a lot of work to do within ourselves.
MT: And Ive found that youre not supposed to bring that up, like racism within the gay community, because were supposed to be unified as a group. So youre not allowed to sort of challenge your own community and critique it.
SO: And where do you challenge it as well? Whether its an organization or a community, if it doesnt provide the mechanisms by which you can challenge the beliefs and the norms that are held, or are supposedly held by the community, what does that say about the community? I think its telling because I often hear people looking for stories for Gay Community News for example. Theyre looking to see like what sort of stories we can put in the GCN, and what queers have done this and whos gone to the Gay Games, and thats great. And I see these stories and theyre all about men. Obviously a small amount of stuff appears on women and their achievements. But you know LEA had their big poster campaign, the Lesbian Education and Awareness publicity campaign. And the poster wasnt really in your face, it was a very, you know, easy going sort of image. But that poster campaign was the first of its kind in this country, and I think its the first of its kind in the EU. That should have been on the front cover of Gay Community News when the issue came out. But it appeared as a little, you know, quarter of a page, half a page. So there you are.
MT: Before we move on I just wanna wrap up the discussion about any obstacles youve faced...
SO: Well, yes, I live in a society that I find oppressive. I mean, when people look at me, I believe that they presume that I am a lesbian because of the way I look. Now, maybe thats a bit, I dont know, judgmental on my part, but thats my feeling from people that they assume that. Whether they assume Im a lesbian or not, they can see my color, and color is very much, its a big issue in Ireland today. And by virtue of that, there is a certain level of discrimination.
But in my professional life, I challenge it by virtue of who I am and what I do. I dont let it dictate, or I dont allow it to become an obstacle, if you like, to my moving forward, and to my progressing.
MT: Have there been any particular circumstances where people have, you know, based on the fact that you are black or because youre a lesbian, have you gotten into any sticky situations that stand out in your mind as being representative of the mindset in general in Ireland?
SO: I havent come up with as many in this position, because as you mentioned, I am the boss. I mean, at the end of the day, Im the chief executive of what is one of the biggest AIDS service providers in the country. There arent that many AIDS service organizations in the country, and there arent that many chief executives of AIDS service organizations in the country. So unless it were to be come from among my peers, its just not gonna happen in the organization or generally in the field. But I do feel that I think its worth saying that a lot of the people that work in the field are fairly self aware and fairly knowledgeable because theyve had to look at and address a lot of the issues and prejudices that they themselves hold. Certainly anybody coming into this building is required to undergo an issue-based training to look at their issues, and I know thats the same for many other organizations. So professionally, it hasnt been a big issue. And thats partly because of the field that were in. Its a young field, I mean, HIV and AIDS has only been with us, what, for 15 years in this country, and yeah, thats a lot to do with that.
But outside of this field and this area, yeah, I come up with, on a daily basis, peoples attitudes, peoples racism, peoples homophobia. I mean, thats a daily occurrence, and youve just got to deal with it and move on.
MT: One thing I wanted to ask you about is sort of how AIDS has changed within Ireland since youve been involved, because I would imagine, well, based on my limited experience in the States, the HIV positive population has really changed. I guess one part of the question is how AIDS has changed, and other part would be how AIDS activism has changed?
SO: The whole, yeah, the whole area has changed. In the first instance, over the last 10, 15 years, its professionalized. So we no longer have organizations that are entirely volunteer based, where people come in and volunteer or contribute their time freely to the organization. And the passion that goes with volunteer based organizations and the vision and the energy and the creativity, unfortunately, a lot of that has dissipated. Because now organizations are funded, not all of them well, but there are funded organizations. The AIDS Alliance is funded by local health authorities so we employ full-time staff of professionals. They are all very dedicated people, they are professionals, and they do their jobs very efficiently and extremely well. But I suppose the old dynamism that used to exist in organizations like this, to my mind, has dissipated.
With respect to the issue itself, that has changed in that we now have a situation where we have new drugs and treatments on the market. When I started to work here in 1990, 1991, within a few years of working here, a lot of men I knew who had been ill with AIDS were dead. AIDS was the disease at the time that was associated with death. I mean, you knew, if you caught HIV, you developed AIDS, and you died. That was it. You maybe had 10, 15 years, if you were lucky. Now within a very short period of time, 10 years, that has changed entirely. Theres no doubt that people are still dying of AIDS-related conditions and AIDS-related illnesses. But with the new drug treatments, they have the capacity to turn things around for people. So I know people, and they will tell you themselves, who were at deaths door 3 years ago, and now they are fit, healthy, back in the work force, you know, really living their life to the fullest. Complete turnabout. And that is fantastic. But the new treatments do have a roughly 50% failure rate. So whats happening for the people who are doing well on the new treatments, their lives are literally turning around. For people for whom the treatments are not working, they are continuing to deteriorate. And thats not good. And theyre also developing resistances and cross-resistances and all sorts of things. And thats not good either. But thats really what is happening with treatment. So medical treatments in this country, because we have a welfare-based system, free healthcare, medical treatments in this country for people who are HIV-positive are excellent.
Unfortunately, the society and the culture we live in, isnt keeping a pace if youd like with the medical advances. When I started 10 years ago, there was a lot of stigma and discrimination, and there was a lot of just bad attitude about HIV and it being you know, I cant remember what terms people used to use, the "killer plague," and just all sorts of horrendous and dreadful associations with HIV and AIDS. And I have to say now, 10 years later, things havent changed significantly. They have changed, attitudes have changed, most people know something about HIV, most people know the relationship between HIV and AIDS, most people have some of the lingo and the language around that, and there are positive representations in television programs like "East Enders" of people living with HIV. So thats all very positive. But there is nevertheless, a big gap between people having the information and that affecting behavioral change and attitudinal change, and thats the gap that we need to address now going into the new millennium I suppose.
MT: Is there anything in particular about Ireland that is making it hard to make people change their attitudes?
SO: I think it is related to Ireland. I think it has to do with traditional attitudes and ideas that we learn and we grow up with in this country around, you know, our attitudes to sex and sexuality, to ourselves and to our bodies, the concepts of innocence and guilt that we associate with sex and sexuality. Without a doubt, all of these attitudes, you know, are part and parcel of growing up, for me anyway, in Irish society. Now, thats changing hugely. I mean, Ireland has literally undergone quantum leaps in the last ten years in terms of moving forward with its attitudes, but certainly, all of those things affect peoples attitudes generally. And HIV is in there with all the taboos around sex and sexuality.
MT: And do you think HIV-positive women as a population are being served adequately in Ireland?
SO: I dont think so. I dont think it ever has gotten up to speed. For example, the issues that affect women with HIV can be different from the issues that affect men. Specifically, Im talking about heterosexual women as opposed to lesbian women who may have contracted HIV, whose numbers I think would be very small. But, in the main, when women contracted HIV, its mainly women who identify as being heterosexual. Women are carers -- families revolve around the women, in this society anyway. So if the woman is ill, it impacts on everybody else. She tends to put herself last, put everyone else first. And that can further serve to deteriorate her own health. If any of her children are positive, she may have to take them to one clinic for treatment, she may have to go to a different clinic for treatment, so there are additional transport costs that she has to incur just getting there for treatment. The same with schools -- she has issues around confidentiality, trying to remain anonymous.
Women have not had difficulty getting on clinical trials, but nevertheless male and female physiology is different, so I mean, certainly its important that drugs are tested equally and equitably and adequately on both males and females. So I think there are other issues that impact on women. The thing is that if a woman is HIV positive, there are a lot of issues, just even gender-based issues, that a woman has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. And HIV compounds all that for women.
Now, I think that we are at a situation here right now in Dublin AIDS Alliance where we are trying to get HIV back on the political agenda, right? Because it has slipped off the political agenda in this country. But when we get back to that stage of having it back on the agenda, I think then we need to address the need for services by women for women who are HIV positive. We need peer-led initiatives for women with HIV. Because often they are best placed to serve their own needs, thats sort of what I think about that.
MT: Im also wondering how you feel racism has changed within Ireland. I interviewed a woman whose daughter is black, and she was saying that when her daughter was growing up, the racism was different. It was like she was treated very exotically. But now, shes getting stopped on the street, its assumed that shes an asylum seeker, the racism is taking a different form. So I wanted to ask you what are your thoughts on that: has it changed at all, and if so, what are the changes?
SO: I think the nature of racism has changed. The entity in itself has always been there in this country. I believe that Ireland has always been a very racist society and I think thats evident in our treatment of Travellers, which has been absolutely appalling. Weve had what I would call an apartheid system in operation forever with respect to our own white ethnic minority Irish Travellers. So that has always been there. As I was growing up, I mean, I always had other kids saying, "N--, go home," and, "Climb back up your banana tree." Id get this on and off. But when I was growing up, if anybody said anything like that to me, Id beat the crap out of them, so that was the end to that! So, while I experienced racism, yes, very in-your-face racism from other kids, it was infrequent. I grew up in a very working-class environment, and you sort of fought your way up or through, you went out fists flying, and you stood up for yourself and you had to save face. So that was how I dealt with racism head-on growing up at that time, and as a result, I didnt experience as much of it, as I suppose I might have if I had been any other type of person other than what I am.
Now, I have noticed a difference in the behavior of other people towards me of late. Its one thing if youre a kid and you know, other kids are being very racist or very abusive about whatever. But I suppose 10 years ago for example, when I started working in this area, I always knew that racism was there. I suppose I was working and socializing in suddenly a different culture. And whatever racism was under the surface, peoples behavior towards me, it was fine, it was average, it was reasonable. And the racism might have been very subtle. It didnt really give me any cause for concern because it wasnt posing a direct threat or obstacle to what I did in my day to day life. Now, Ive noticed that people are much more aggressive on the street, and they feel that they have a right to address me directly, or they have a right to challenge me for being here. And having grown up in a white dominant culture, and always been different, and always been made to feel conscious of that, I have developed a sense around non-verbal behavior. So I often know from peoples looks whats behind them, whether the look is aggressive, or whether its curiosity or whatever it is. And I do feel often that people look at me, sometimes its inquisitively, and they take in the clothes. And depending how Im dressed, that will sometimes influence where that look goes. But if Im dressed down, I think they do look at me and wonder what Im doing there. Or if Im in a shop, how I can afford to buy a pair of runners. I mean, my lover really, she picks up on it a lot more than me if shes with me. Shes really conscious because she feels defensive of me and shes really conscious of looks that we get off people if Im looking at stuff, aggressive looks, or whatever.
So it has changed in terms of presenting behavior, if you like. And its not very good, and I mean, not very good is a bit of an understatement. It doesnt bode well for the future because were entering now what the UK dealt with maybe 20, 25 years ago, and whats been done and dusted but is still going on in the States. So I think its disgraceful that were reinventing the wheel on this when we could learn so much from other countries and other cultures. But whats happening is we have people coming into this country seeking asylum and rightly so, they should be entitled to do so, were a very wealthy country. And economic immigrants are coming in. And why, if they have skills to bring here, why shouldnt they be allowed to work, to better their conditions for themselves? How many hundreds of thousands of Irish people did that over the years? So people are coming in looking for whatever reason a better life for themselves. And we have state authorities who have really no policies as to how to deal with these people. So they take these people, they feel they have obligations, under their conventions and covenants theyve signed, to house people and to feed people or whatever. And they house them in the most deprived and underprivileged areas of the city. Now, it would make a lot more sense to take asylum seekers and house them in more progressive and wealthier and more affluent areas where their presence is not going to compound the situation for residents that are already there. But, no, instead theyre taken to deprived and underprivileged areas where people are already under enormous pressure and living in poverty.
And I mean, the whole thing is just a time bomb ready to happen. What are developing are ghettoes within ghettoes. I mean, I can see it happening here, the sort of race riots that the English experienced in Brixton and wherever else back in the 80s. I mean, its just a matter of time before sufficient numbers of both asylum seekers and people seeking status of whatever kind start to fight back. Now, the numbers arent sufficient at present, I think, and theyre not organizing in that sort of way, but I think its only a matter of time, if something isnt done. And I think thats very sad, you know.
But I mean, I had an experience myself there a couple of years ago... I mean, I think racism is institutionalized. And it annoys me when I watch talk shows and I hear politicians and policy makers and people in the media talking about racism and the "isolated instances" of it here and "isolated instances" of it there. And the reality is, its institutionalized in this country, as is homophobia. And I remember a couple of years ago, I think it was back in 97, I was asked to go on a show called the Pat Kenny show. Its a popular talk show watched by large numbers of people throughout the country. And the show was about sexuality. The producers wanted parents of gays or lesbians, they wanted a gay man, a lesbian woman, and somebody from one of the switchboard or support services. The idea was to raise awareness of gays and lesbians and their parents and the issues they come across and to show sort of a human and a very friendly face to this issue, which they were fairly supportive of.
So I was contacted by the researcher and she said she would be interested in me going on the show because apparently they were having difficulty getting a lesbian, which is understandable. Like a couple of years ago, nobody wanted to have their face splashed across national television as "The Lesbian." And I said, "Sure, no problem, tell me when and where." So I gave the researcher my details and she said, "Whats your name?" and I said, "Sharon Oye" and she said, "Great, where do you live?" and you know, your age, etc. And about 15 minutes later she phoned me back and she said, "Im a bit embarrassed about this, but you said your name was Oye, and could you spell that?" And I said yes and she said, "Where would that be from?" And I said that this was my fathers family name and he was Nigerian. And she said, "Are you black by any chance?" and I said yes and she said, "You know, I thought that was the case." She said to me, "Im really embarrassed about this, I just dont know how to say this to you, but the producer feels that it would be better if we had a white lesbian on the show because she feels that the public wouldnt identify with a black lesbian."
I was quite taken aback at first and then I thought about it. There were a number of things going on. The first thing was the race issue that was coming up, and this was happening on a show where the content of the show was to deal with sexual orientation, but they were bringing my race into it as an issue. And the second thing I was conscious of was the fact that I thought that it was important that there was a lesbian on the show, and you know, what were my options? Should I create a stink about this and use the opportunity or what should I do? So on the spot, I decided it would be best that a lesbian did go on the show and I could deal with the race thing later. So I referred them to a friend of mine, Anita, who went on the show, and did an absolutely fantastic job, with my blessing, she was absolutely super and the right person for the job. She was great; she went on the show and was a big hit and a big success. But, you know, it was a very telling experience. Its one I think Ill always carry with me because there it was, the national broadcaster wanted a white lesbian instead of a black lesbian. And initially, their whole thing was even just to get a lesbian, do you know what I mean? But, I suppose, thats just an example of the type of occurrence thats not uncommon.
MT: Do you ever get the sense that people assume that youre not Irish?
SO: Oh absolutely, all the time. Ive grown up with that, I have to say. People will say to me, and theyve always said it to me -- you know, you get taxi drivers or people in the street, Irish people can initially be very friendly -- theyll say things to you, like:
"Where are you from?"
"Oh yeah, but where are you from?"
"Yeah, but Im from Dublin."
"But WHERE in Dublin?"
"Well, from the North Wall."
"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. From the North Wall, yeah. And Dublin?"
"Yeah, from Dublin."
"Really, yeah. And your mothers Irish, is she?"
"She is, yeah."
"Yeah. But your father, he cant be Irish."
"No, no, hes not Irish."
"And where is he from?"
" Hes from Nigeria.".
"Oh right, right. So thats where youre from!"
Now this is an ongoing conversation I have with people all of the time, 52 weeks a year, for as long as Ive been able to walk! Where are you from, where are you from? And I think that its telling in that it does suggest that people dont associate blackness with Irishness. And indeed, Ive even spoken to other Nigerians, not a lot of them, but other Nigerians that feel that by virtue of the fact that my father is Nigerian, and that I am black, that I really belong there. So I think that there is at some level, be it unspoken, an understanding or a belief that you know, Irishness and blackness are not associated. And I am black Irish you know.
Okay, initially the numbers were very small for the number of Irish people who are black. But there were nevertheless a lot of students over in the 50s and the 60s when my own father was over studying medicine in the 60s. He went back to serve, to do his service in the Biafran War. And I often wonder what happened to those other war babies? Because I didnt see any of them when I was growing up, you know, and I wonder if they all ended up in institutions. And if they did, where are they now? And I suspect that theres another hidden history around what happened to all of those people, you know? Because we havent heard an awful lot about them in our history or our acknowledgment of the diversity that does exist within our culture.
MT: Im asking all the women that Im interviewing about their first names, just because I think, since we always get our fathers, or I guess in some cases women get their husbands last names, that women have a particular relationship to their first names. So I was wondering if you were named for anyone in particular and then how you got from Sharon to Shaz.
SO: Well my name is Sharon Olufunmilayo Derina Olufunke Oye. Olufunmilayo and Olufunke mean "God has give me joy" and "God has given me a crown," so they do have a meaning. And theyre about bringing and imbuing good fortune and good luck and all of that. Sharon, I dont know, my mother obviously came up with that when she was in the hospital on New Years Eve, cursing me, no doubt. I never liked it and thats how it has changed now and I call myself Shaz. I feel that you need to reinvent yourself every few years and claim an identity for yourself as opposed to one that was given to you anyway. Im much happier with Shaz but in a few years Ill probably change that again.
MT: Do you have any particular heroines or role models? They could be women in history, women that are active today, anyone that sort of keeps you going or has inspired you at certain points in your life to work for change.
SO: Its an interesting question actually because upon reflection, growing up, and in my professional life, I havent looked to other women for inspiration. I think thats partly due to the fact that when I was a child my female role models were all quite passive, and I didnt identify. When I was beating the crap out of kids on the street obviously I wasnt going to identify with passive female role models at home. So Ive always gone my own way. Ive always walked my own path and broken the molds so to speak. Ive been looking back and thinking, you know, that here I am, I think I was, to my knowledge, the first out black dyke to be appointed to a senior management position in any company that I know of in this country. And Im the first black dyke certainly to be appointed as a chief executive in any non-governmental organization in this country, and certainly in any of the AIDS organizations in this country. So Ive always been sort of a mold breaker and sort of looked into myself.
But that said, I have realized that, while historically there wouldnt have been people that Id have looked to for inspiration, there are a couple of women today that do inspire me. And one is my lover, Patricia, shes an actor and she operates in what is very much a heterosexist environment. People perceive that the acting profession is very queer and very gay, but its not. Its very straight. Predominantly, I think, it is run by heterosexual men or gay men, so straight women have a lot more opportunity and chance to progress and to get parts and to get called for auditions. But she perseveres, and I really admire Patricia and get inspiration from her because she perseveres audition after audition. And every time shes in a new production she has to come out, you know, and I think thats sort of difficult because at least doing what Im doing, Im out. Even by virtue of the way I look, I want people to look at me and know that Im a dyke. So there wont be an issue, there wont be a question of it; they know it and they can take it or leave it. Whereas Patricia is sort of a lipstick lesbian, so she has to come out continually whenever shes in a new production.
And the other woman who inspires me is my friend Caroline Matthews. She works in the LEA project, which is Lesbian Education and Awareness. And Caroline inspires me because constantly she is there fighting the good fight. Do you know what I mean? Shes like one of the sisters; shes doing it for herself. And because she works in a lesbian project, a lesbian education project, she can never switch off that aspect of herself. Not that she would want to, but because its her work, its her paid employment, its her profession, and shes also dedicated to it. It means its very difficult for her to close the door on the professional persona and go into her private persona because the two are nearly symbiotic. And even if she doesnt regard them as being such, other people perceive them as being such. So shes constantly on the go around lesbian issues and lesbian human rights. It really strikes me, for example, if we go to a seminar or a conference, and if I just am not feeling up to challenging people and I just cant be bothered by their attitudes or their prejudices, I can just sit there. And when I introduce myself, I can say: "Shaz Oye, Dublin AIDS Alliance, Public Health Provider, thats what we do." I leave it at that. Whereas as soon as Caroline opens her mouth and says, "Caroline Matthews, LEA, thats Lesbian Education and Awareness," people assume that she is a lesbian. She is automatically outed wherever she goes. And thats on her CV as well, so no matter what jobs she goes for, she can never, you know, even if she just feels like switching off as a human rights activist, which would never happen, she cant. So I really am inspired by Caroline.
And I have the greatest respect for women who can make it in a mans world. Women like Mary Robinson. Women who can make their way through the glass ceiling and can make it through a mans world without compromising their integrity. Because I know, being Director of this organization and in a senior management position myself, that I have seen, I have heard women actually, women in senior management positions, talk about how sex and gender are no longer issues that we need to be concerned about. And, you know, those days are gone, and sure, havent they made it, and sure, if other women are good, cant they make it, too. The reality is, you can make it if youre willing to compromise your personal integrity. But if youre true to yourself, its more difficult. So I have the greatest of respect for women who are true to themselves.
Visit Shaz Oye's web site!: www.shazoye.com
Dublin AIDS Alliance
The Eriu Centre, 53 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1. Tel 01 8733799 Fax 01 8733174 E Mail aids_alliance_Dublin@hotmail.com
ARASI (Assn. of Refugees & Asylum Seekers in Ireland)
Cairde - non-governmental agency providing support to people infected or affected by HIV/ AIDS
Irish women and AIDS
Gay & Lesbian / HIV and AIDS Resources in Dublin
Lesbian Education and Awareness project
Racism in ireland
Also see the queer links portion of the links page
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