Ireland’s most famous drag queen, Panti Bliss, was the fabulous face of her country’s marriage equality campaign in 2015. Jess Jones caught up with her about marriage in Australia, LGBTI rights, and her upcoming show RIOT.
Drag queen Panti Bliss has no intention of getting married, but she was a strong advocate for same-sex marriage in Australia after helping lead the fight for equality in her own country.
She recalls feeling depressed watching the Australian marriage equality debate unfold, because much of the rhetoric was identical to that in Ireland two years prior.
“Almost word for word.”
Panti says one difference she noticed between the Australian and Irish campaigns was that the religious right, including the Australian Christian Lobby, were far more vocal here.
“We wouldn’t, for example, have had a full-on Margaret Court,” she quips.
“Irish people don’t like very obvious displays of piety. Evangelicals have never worked here, because Irish people find it a bit embarrassing.”
After a very trying campaign period, of course, the eventual outcome could hardly have been better.
“I watched the results on ABC Live, and—fantastic! It was amazing,” Panti says.
She congratulates everyone who helped make the Yes win happen, especially MP Penny Wong and fellow countryman Tiernan Brady.
Like many people, Panti doesn’t think Australia or Ireland should have had a vote in the first place.
“We shouldn’t be getting to vote on the rights of minorities,” she says.
So what can Australia expect under marriage equality, based on what Ireland has seen over the last two years?
“Well, as I look out the window here in Dublin, there are no children, everything is on fire, the sky has fallen down,” Panti jokes.
“Nothing is going to change—none of the stuff that people try to warn you about. Everyday life is exactly the same.
“Children still learn the same things in school, nothing has changed.
“The only thing that changed is that the gay community feels much more secure and safe in their position in society.”
Though she describes herself as “not the marrying kind”, Panti welcomed marriage equality for Ireland and says same-sex relationships have become far more normalised.
“You see gay couples holding hands in the street in a way that you did not before the referendum,” she says.
“Irish queers feel super confident in our place in Irish society now, in a way we never did before. And that is because—like you now—we know exactly to a percentage point what the rest of the country thinks about us, and it turns out that most of them are absolutely fine with us.”
Panti is coming to Australia in January and February as part of the all-star Irish cabaret show RIOT.
The show is a dazzling mashup of dance, drag, circus, and comedy, combining a few “gut-punchingly serious moments” with live music, over-the-top revelry, and glitter.
“It’s about revolution and changing the world,” says Panti.
“It’s a really fun show, because all the performers are really spectacular in their own field. It’s a big, noisy night out that’ll leave you thinking about things afterwards.
“It’s a big show, and I’m so thrilled we’re bringing it to Australia. People have loved it so much.”
We can’t wait.