WHAT DOES HOMOPHOBIA mean? Who is homophobic?
Those two questions have pervaded media debate since Rory O’Neill (aka drag artist Panti) appeared on RTÉ’s Saturday Night Show on 11 January.
A subsequent payout of €85,000 to six people who began a legal process, citing defamation, and Panti’s Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre continued to shine a spotlight on how Irish people deal with homophobia.
The focus of the debate has moved in a number of different directions, including the etymology of the word homophobia and what opinion is ‘acceptable’ to hold without being called out as homophobic.
There has little been said about (or, indeed, by) those who are subject to homophobia, homophobic bullying or other forms of discrimination. Those who have had real experiences of the act – not the word.
In response, TheJournal.ie spoke to a number of high-profile men and women this week who recalled some of their stories about being gay in Ireland in 2014.
(Image: Ian West/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
Darren Kennedy, 33, is a television presenter, fashion journalist and stylist, currently working in Ireland, the UK and the US. He is also an ambassador for the charity BeLonG To, a support group for young LGBT people in Ireland. Here is his story, as told in conversation with Sinéad O’Carroll.
“I went to an all-boys Christian Brother’s secondary school in north Dublin. Some of the kids were lovely but not all of them. That’s where I first experienced being bullied. For me, it happened at the age, from 13 to 16, when I was coming to terms with what I might be myself (as every teenager does). I began thinking that identified as gay or at least ‘not normal’ – not the normal I was brought up around.
“It began with name calling. Gay or fag or queer or ass bandit. I remember inside absolutely dying. I just wanted to crawl underneath the nearest rock. It was at a time that I didn’t even know what I was myself. I was having all these internal struggles and then someone who I didn’t know – that didn’t know me at all – identifies that in me.
Whether they were just saying it because that’s a thing bullies said or because they had actually picked up on it in me, it was very unpleasant either way.
“I was always brought up to be non-violent. If people called me names and said things, I’d always try to treat it as ‘water off a duck’s back’. And then, I guess I was very lucky in that I had a very supportive home life. I was always extremely happy with my family and at home.
It really was a safe haven for me. I would never let on anything was wrong outside because I didn’t want to taint what was really good or bring hassles into the house.
“Not that my parents wouldn’t have been able to deal with it. I guess I felt it would have shown weakness. Which was wrong. It also would have exposed me, I thought. Because, really, if I wasn’t gay, why would you be worried about someone calling you gay?
“I remember when I was 14. There was a group of guys that were in my school who lived around the corner from the house we moved into. They were very close, they’d all been to the same primary school together and were friends for years. I was a little younger than them and to a certain extent the new kid on the block, literally. I remember, one day, thinking that things were going really well – that I was clicking with these new friends. I had never really felt like I fitted in with a group of lads. I wasn’t into football or the things that everyday, teenage blokes were into then.
I remember they knocked in for me. A group of lads – maybe seven or eight of them. I thought, ‘This is great’. And we headed out of my house and around the corner. We got about 100 metres away from my house and then they all took out eggs, turned on me as a gang and started egging me. They egged me and called me every name under the sun. I just couldn’t believe it. It was a really horrible feeling.
I remember not knowing what to do. I just went back to my house and went straight up to my bedroom. It was awful. Again, I was really conscious I didn’t want to spoil what I had at home. I also didn’t want to draw a spotlight on what I was going through in terms of my sexuality. Obviously, I wasn’t ready to come out at that point. But it would have been better if I talked to someone, definitely.
“I’ve always loved animals and I wanted to be a vet at that point growing up. Anyway, we’ve always had dogs and I used to take my dog ‘Rascal’ on long walks. Near where we lived, there were lots of woodlands, bushes and trees. I remember one terrible day, when I was 14 or 15, I was literally sitting in a bush, hiding myself away from the whole world, things had gotten so bad. Just sitting there, with my little dog. And I was contemplating a way out. Because the bullying was getting so bad. It had got me. Thankfully, from somewhere, I don’t know where, I somehow got the strength to go on, and I didn’t.
That is my absolute darkest teenage memory. The thing is… why I’m getting upset talking about it now, is that I’d hate to think that there is even one young person out there today having those thoughts. Because of being bullied.
It really upsets me that there are people – young and old – probably right now, who are contemplating taking their own life because they don’t feel accepted or they don’t feel they fit in or they feel worthless or disrespected.
“Thankfully, I got through it. As horrific as it was (and is to think back to it now), that whole experience has marked me. But I’ve taken power from it. I’ve come through it and I’ve been able to grow from it and I’ve become stronger from it.
Sometimes, very rarely, in my life now I do still get moments of walking into a group – men in an environment I’m not familiar with – where I get this extreme unease and discomfort and I’m transported back to those days. But that is literally only flashes and I know I am my own person now and I’m proud of who I am, no matter what anybody or any group thinks or says.
You can say anything you want to me now – and I don’t mean that to come across as bravado. It’s not. But there are times when I’m walking down the street – maybe with Aidan, my partner – and someone screams faggots. And you go, ‘I’m old enough and mature enough to be able to see that for what it is now’. I just think, ‘You know, for God’s sake, grow up’. And they will grow up, but it’s still that thing – it’s engrained in society that it’s okay to shout abuse at someone who is gay or might be gay. It’s not. And we need to eradicate it. We need to stand up to that every chance we get.
On the other hand, I do think we’ve come on in leaps and bounds from where we were. There is a positive side to all this. The vast majority of people in this country now have absolutely moved on and see things for what they are. And are more concerned about people living their lives and being happy and fulfilled.
So, I guess if I could look back from where I am now to my teenage self back then, the advice I would pass on is, “Chin up, fella, there’s so much more to come. You’ll have a fantastic group of friends, your family will always love you and you’re going to meet a partner who’ll love you for everything that makes you, you.”
Life is a wonderful adventure, once you find your feet, and an adventure that everyone deserves to absolutely relish. I’m certainly loving my life right now but I’m always aware of what I’m come through and anything I can do to help someone else in that situation I will always speak up for them and speak out on their behalf.
You can find Darren on Twitter – @darrenken - here.
Radio presenter Dil Wickremasinghe says that homophobia has always been a part of her life. Here’s her story, in her own words, and her own style:
“I have experienced various levels of homophobia ranging from the very extreme to the very subtle. They have all left their mark on me and no matter how long I am ‘out and proud’ when it happens it still hurts. I am sharing my experience to shed light on homophobia, show how it’s still a reality for most LGBT people and that we need to work together to stop it.
- I was 17 when my parents called me an “abomination, unnatural and a failure” and kicked me out of the family home.
- When I was 19, I started working in Sri Lankan radio and knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life but a year later I was fired when my employer found out I was a lesbian.
- At the age of 21, I realised the only way I could live an authentic life was to immigrate as homosexuality is yet to be de-criminalised in Sri Lanka.
- When I was living in Bahrain I bought a brand new car and was appalled when I found someone had scratched the words “lesbian” on it.
- I still get asked, “You are in Ireland 14 years? Bet you found yourself an Irish fella?” I always ask myself is it safe to say “even better I found an Irish cailín!”
- To avoid embarrassment before I walk into any ladies I always have to check myself to see if I look “too masculine” today.
- When I’m walking down the street and my fiancée reaches for my hand why do I always look over my shoulder?
- When I reach for my fiancée’s hand why does she sometime pull away and say ‘not on this street’?
- When paying a utility bill that is in my partner’s name why does the representative always assume that my partner is a man?
- When walking through city centre and a kid shouts accusingly ‘Are you a lesbian?’ why do I shake inside & walk away quickly?
- Why is it that five out of 10 times we arrive to a hotel or B&B we are still offered a twin room when we booked a double room?
- Why am I still asked, ‘So who is the man in the relationship?’ and I have to reply, ‘Nobody is the man – that’s the whole point!’
- If we are in a straight pub or club and my partner lovingly puts her arms around me – why do I always ask myself ‘are we safe?’
- Why was it that up to five years ago, there was a small part of me that actually believed I shouldn’t have children or be a parent?
- I don’t have kids yet but why do I already worry how they are going to be treated on account of having two mummys?
- On my way home alone in a taxi at 2am, if the driver asks ‘Do you have a fella?’, why do I sometimes say ‘yes’ just to be safe?
- At age of 40, why am I wondering when I’m old will I have to go back into the “closet” when entering a nursing home or hospice?
- Why do I worry that when full civil marriage is available and we celebrate our special day, most of my family will not attend?
- Why do I worry already that during my preparations for our special day – on top of the usual nerves – I’ll be on the lookout for homophobia?
- Why is it that at weddings when we all start slow dancing I’m self-conscious about dancing with my fiancée?
- At the end of my previous 11-year relationship, why did I feel that my grief and loss wasn’t as valid as a married heterosexual relationship?
- Why is it when I went to the GP for safe same-sex advice I was told “we don’t specialise in that area”?
- When I am in a taxi after a night out in a gay bar, why do I feel I have to lie to the driver about where I spent my evening?
- Why is it that when I shop for any foreign holiday I have to check if the city is “gay friendly”?
- Why was the first time I walked into a gay space and met another lesbian I nearly passed out with anxiety?
- I have been working in Insight Matters, a mental health support service for the last three years and ask myself every day why do LGBT people struggle with accepting their sexuality and often need mental health support when coming out?
- Why are LGBT people seven times more likely to experience mental health problems, including self-harm and suicidal ideation?
- After working as a broadcaster for six years with Newstalk 106-108 and presenting my weekly radio show Global Village why is it that whenever I talk about LGBT issues we receive vile and hurtful homophobic texts that are too offensive to share and sometimes need to be reported to an Garda Síochána?
Yes, I am affected by homophobia in Ireland today.
You can find Dil on Twitter – @dilw – here. You can also hear her on Newstalk’s Global Village between 7 and 9pm on Saturdays. She is also a training director with Insight Matters.
Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, is a father of two and campaigns for equality and human rights for all groups.
“Over the past few weeks and days, I found myself having to think about how I both recall and talk about experiences that I’ve had. I had to stop myself the other day because I tell a story about my experience of school and I turn it into an acceptable story.
I did my Leaving Cert in 1983. It is fair to say that homosexuality was completely invisible. The word didn’t exist. The term queer wasn’t used.
There were no points of reference for who I was. No understanding that I was gay. The abuse that I went through certainly corrupted my view of who I was as well.
The other boys knew I was different. I was bullied for being different. It was definitely homophobic bullying.
One of my best friends was a twin. They used to slag us off that we were a couple.
One Valentine’s Day, they put cards on both our desks, purporting to come from each other. It was really mean stuff.
There was name calling, being spat on and jostling – even in class. Sometimes it got physical as well. As I remember it, I did’t have the words to understand or describe it.
I would walk home, sobbing. Trying to think of ways to not have to go back. Wanting to die.
There was no way to explain it. I couldn’t go home and tell my mother that I was being picked on. It didn’t have meaning. There was no conversation. Not only was I being bullied – homophobic bullying – there was nothing to help me understand and deal with it.
Until recently, I would get to the end of that story and I would say – they were all correct. They were all right about me being gay. And my friend being gay. (It turns out, he was gay as well, and I found that out very much later).
That annoys me. They knew and I didn’t. I’m 48 this year and up until a month ago, I would make that story – if I was telling it – funny, witty or wry at the end to make it more acceptable.
One of the impacts of prejudice is that it means constantly need to check yourself. You are required to limit yourself so you don’t offed other people because of their prejudice. That is the really awful part of this…that one goes through limiting honest expression. Based on nothing other than prejudice.
That is a constant reality for LGBT people. It’s a constant reality for lots of people.
Over the years that I’ve been working in the public eye, I’ve had different experiences. Various newspapers wrote about myself and Paul becoming parents.
I recall after that receiving a letter. I can still picture the brown envelope it came in with its scrawled handwriting. It contained the choice gem, ‘Pity the child raised by two queers.’
Another man wrote an email to me after I published a column about marriage equality. He said he had been talking about it at work on a construction site and everyone agreed that it was perverted and deviant and they were disgusted.
There was lots of that stuff over the years.
Some of it more personal. I remember back in 2002, during a local radio programme and comments would come in, alluding to my sexuality. One was, ‘He’d know all about Sin’. And another, referring to the abuse I suffered, “Colm O’Gorman knew what he was doing when he climbed into bed with that priest.”
I would be much more hopeful now.
We have two kids [both now teenagers]. I have to say, talking to them and meeting their friends, it’s a long way from their experiences. Some of their peers are openly out and having relationships. And there’s nothing sensational or remarkable about it.
I am grateful that we are getting to a point that teenagers are more interested in who someone is dating, rather than their gender. It is not the common experience, yet, but it’s what we’re getting to .
As a family, we’ve never met any explicit discrimination. Paul and I are together 15 years and the kids came to live with us permanently in 2003. We’ve never had anybody say anthing unloving or disrespectful. We’ve been treated as we should be.
It is very important that we challenge discrimination but not sensationalise it. It exists on a scale. From the entrenched, institutional discrimination (in law) to individual acts such as homophobic bullying and disrespect of violations of employment law.
The reality is violence exists but now in a society that is much more aware and supportive and which is increasingly challenging the prejudice and discrimination.
You can read more from Colm O’Gorman on Twitter – @colmogorman – here.
Image: Kate Kaweka
Hazel Cullen, 28 from Wicklow, is a founding member of the Pink Ladies Hockey Club which hopes to send a team to all gay sports events which schedule their sport. Here is her story, in her own words:
“When I was 21 I was punched in the face by a guy who had spent the previous 20 minutes following my girlfriend and I down the road, asking us to perform sex acts on each other and calling us things like ‘filthy dykes’ and ‘dirty lesbo sluts’.
Upsetting and dramatic as it was, that’s not the kind of homophobia that LGBT people in Ireland generally face on a daily basis. It is, thankfully, fairly unusual, and I feel more and more comfortable holding my girlfriend’s hand in public as time goes by.
I don’t think Irish people have ever been more understanding and accepting of gay people, and I take comfort in knowing that I’d have a hard time finding someone who didn’t think the guy who hit me was a scumbag.
A few years ago I was standing outside a Dublin nightclub chatting to a guy. He must have gotten the wrong impression and went in for a kiss. I backed away and politely declined (I emphasis the word ‘politely’ because I think it’s important. I’m not offended by guys hitting on me, I’m flattered, and I think it’s important that we all respect each other in these scenarios…). I told him I was gay and he was quite taken aback. “No way, you can’t be a lesbian….how do you know?…have you ever even been with a guy?…”. This kind of questioning isn’t rare but it’s tiresome so I went to leave, whereupon my new friend grabbed me by the arm, looked me in the eye and said, with nothing short of vitriolic disdain, “You’ll never have a family, you know”.
This incident had a much more profound effect on me.
I felt sick in my stomach and for some reason I was more frightened of this guy than I had been of the guy who assaulted me. I think it’s because when a person uses violence against another person – particularly a woman, I might add – then society rallies to the defence of the victim. What my new friend had done, essentially, was say to me “You’re on your own”.
That’s more frightening than any black eye or swollen lip.
Now, I know he’s wrong. I have loving parents and two amazing brothers. I have an incredible girlfriend and one day I will have incredible children and I will be a loving parent myself. The family I come from is fairly standard, but the family I create for myself is one, it seems, that I’ll have to fight for. The family I see in my future is not recognised in law in Ireland.
People ask, if I know my relationships are valid and worthy and real then why does it matter that the government calls them by the same name as other people’s relationships? The absolute stranger outside a Dublin nightclub telling me I’ll never have a family; that’s why.
This man didn’t know me in any way and has no idea as to whether or not I’d be able to raise a family. The fact is that for him it is a given that I will never have one, purely based on my sexual orientation. In the eyes of the law, he’s kind of right.”
Derrick Carberry, Deirdre McQuillan and Brendan Courtney at the opening night of the Dublin Fashion Festival last year. (Image: Sasko Lavroz/Photocall Ireland)
Television presenter and stylist Brendan Courtney is immediately and obviously passionate about the subject of homophobia and homophobic bullying. Here he is, in conversation, with Sinéad O’Carroll.
“I have experienced homophobia at every level – from the most extreme to the very subtle, say in the workplace or restaurants.
First off, I had very fabulous parents. When I was younger I had a blonde page boy haircut. The worst thing when I was little was when people would ask my sister if I was a boy or girl. Just because I was a little bit girly or that, I don’ know, I ran around screaming a bit like a girl. It really upset me. That was kids being kids. I was different and from then on, I knew that. So, I bottled it all up.
School was a nightmare. I was called a queer and a puff constantly.
I had an epiphany when I was about 19. If someone had a problem with me, they were a dickhead. As in, they didn’t understand what I understood.
I knew [being gay] wasn’t a choice. As every Irish gay person does, I oppressed it before eventually realising I couldn’t live a lie.
When I changed school in 5th year, I reinvented myself through clothes – but that didn’t make it a construct. I hung out with some kids over the summer and then I was really popular. It worked because my second school was nice and people took you at face value.
College was all different then as people were growing up. At 19, I told my parents that I was gay, and my dad said, ‘About what?’
So I trundled into my adulthood thinking everyone was OK with this.
Then I started to notice it. Actually, it was my first [TV] job, the commissioner came back and described me as ‘very left’. Meaning I was ‘too gay’. I decided then and there – in my head – that I was leaving the country. But, I did get that job. They did take a chance.
But it gave me the inkling that I would be judged because of my sexuality throughout my career. Some of that comes with the territory of being on TV, of course.
And then three years ago, I was attacked on George’s Street. You can google it and it will be there. It’s the most talked about episode of my life even though I’ve been successful in my career.
That night, someone punched in the mouth and gave me a black eye.
[Reports at the time described the incident as a 'gay bashing' and detailed how the attacker shouted 'queer' into Courtney's face.]
I rang Rory [O'Neill] after. I said, ‘I don’t want to be the whining gay. I don’t want to look like I’m pathetic.’ But he asked me what was I going to do, stay at home while everyone else went to the IFTAs?
I tried to cover [the black eye] with makeup. I honestly didn’t go looking for attention but it was on the cover of five newspapers the next day. And I received a lot of support for highlighting what happened.
That’s the most extreme.
But, then, I was walking down the street on Wednesday and two young fellas screamed ‘faggot’ into my face. That doesn’t bother me.
And, as I said, there was the realisation that my career can be dictated by my sexuality.
Producers have said to me, “Can you not be so Irish and not so gay?” Realistically, appearance and voice and all that matters so you can’t take it too personally.
You have to be able to say, ‘Is this homophobia?’ That sometimes is impossible to call out.
“Being gay is a big part of who I am. It is not all of me.
Homophobia does exist. I experience it all the time. A lot of it can be at work but it is so sublte and clever, you can’t call it.
So Rory is right when he says that we check ourselves. Now straight people need to start checking themselves. Much like our parents generation would check themselves for racism.
Heterosexuals need to ask, “Am I being homophobic now? Or why I am making this decision?”
To be honest, I’m kind of sick of it. I’m sick of idiots judging me. I would not be as patient as Rory. He’s a better spokesperon. Because I’ve had enough of.
I don’t care if someone calls me a name but I do care that I don’t have the same rights as that person. That’s the reason we’re banging on about this. I just want the same rights as you. That’s all it is.
I saw someone smirking at what I was wearing once and and I asked him straight out what he was smirking at.
I felt really empowered. You don’t have to do that if you have equal rights. That man who was smirking will father children and, maybe, pass on his negative thoughts.
And the State backs up his homophobic thoughts in law.
When we have equal rights, he can scurry off and have his own opinions.
That’s why we’re militant about it. I really think most rationally minded, nice people, say whatever. Whatever if they’re gay and they’re getting married.
“Honestly, I’ve had situations where I walk into a room of people, and I know that they are thinking, ‘There’s the gay fella’.
Not the Irish guy, or the tall guy or the person from the telly. The gay fella.
Another instance, I had just done a gig in Limerick about eight years back. A rugby team was there. After the gig, about 10 terrifyingly big men came over and told me I was the man from the telly. And then one of them said, “You’re not really gay are ya?”
You can follow Brendan on Twitter – @brendancourtney – here.
Broadcaster Riyadh Khalaf also recognised himself in Panti’s speech when she spoke about checking oneself. Here is his story….
I’m 23 years old now but my first experience of homophobia happened before I even knew the meaning of the word gay. I was nine years old and playing in the schoolyard when an older boy shouted ‘Queer’ and pointed at me in front of my entire class. I remember it vividly. Although I was unaware of the meaning, I could feel the overwhelming power of his hatred mixed with my fear and humiliation.
The abuse continued all the way through secondary school albeit more subtle. I would regularly hear comments being made about me as people passed by my locker between classes. They would slag the way I walked, talked, my clothes, hair and I occasionally felt sharp slap across the back of my head which would satisfy them for a time. Thankfully the level of homophobia decreased somewhat around my Junior Cert year and has remained at a similar level since then.
My boyfriend will often attempt to hold my hand in public and I can only bare to hold on for a minute at a time for fear of verbal or physical abuse. I can see piercing eyes all around me, which turn my personal moment into a public statement or something to be commented on. I have been called ‘faggot’ by young lads on the street, been stereotyped in all walks of life from work to family get-togethers. One simply has to smile and laugh along as not to cause a ‘scene’ by protesting against a lighthearted discussion about you.
Much like Panti’s famous speech, I check myself when I feel in vulnerable circumstances; walking down a dodgy street, in a shop or at a bar and force myself to remain unchanged, to not put on the façade that I had to endure throughout school, to NOT butch it up for the benefit of others.
Dublin is getting better with each year that passes. I know the bullies from my youth have helped carve me into the confident young man I am today, albeit with some insecurities. My job, partner and family are just some of the things that make my sexuality a non-defining part of who I am and I love that. Young LGBT people need support from schools and teachers they trust. Their straight classmates need education about the disastrous effects of bullying.
You can find Riyadh on Twitter – @riyadhK – here.
Conor Behan, 26, is a writer and DJ. He was brought up in Carlow and, now, lives in Dublin. He relives his experiences of homophobia on the streets.
“This sounds kind of glib but I’m always really grateful that I’ve never been attacked in any way. Because I work as a DJ, I’m used to walking home late at night and I’m always wary. Taking aside how you look or how you act, just being careful. For example, at the crossroads if there’s a gang of people who are kind of drunk, I might not walk past them on my own.
I’ve never experienced any physical intimidation ever. I’ve found it really upsetting that through these media debates, all these people recalling times that they were called faggots and had the shit kicked out of them. They said it in such a way that they knew it was bad but they also weren’t that surprised by it.
I’m amazed that there are so many people who have had this experience of being harrassed.
One of the ones I remember would have been in the summer and I had these shorts from H&M which are probably a little bit too short but I was thinking, ‘I’ll wear what I want’. It’s weird, I wouldn’t be the most flamboyant person but I’m hardly a wallflower either.
I remember it was over near O’Connell Street and it was the day of a big football match. And I’m always really aware of that – and this sounds bad – but you get used to what a bunch of blokes might say to you. Which is a bad thing for me to say when I’m worried about being stereotyped. I remember a bunch of them walked past me and saw what I was wearing. They basically cat-called me like I was a girl. They were almost wolf-whistling as if I was ‘hot’ but it was in a mocking way. And that’s always been my experience of it.
It’s not an outward gay slur. It’s someone saying, ‘Alright, gorgeous’ or whistling so as to say – you look like a woman and that’s a bad thing or that’s not appropriate for a man to do or look like. That’s what they are telling me. It’s weird, because in one way they are making fun of you but they’re not saying, ‘You’re a fag’.
You’re supposed to laugh then. But it’s not funny. It’s their way of putting me down.
Those men never have to worry about that. They don’t want to wear these clothes. They’re never going to have the experience that I’m having because of it. I remember being shook – angry – I could have been wearing a thong and a shopping basket on my head and they still didn’t have any right to say anything to me.
I live beside a few pubs in the city centre and I came out my gate and this guy outside one pub looked at me, made kissing noises and said, ‘Alright, gorgeous’. But it wasn’t in a coming onto me way. It was a ‘ah, look at you’. It’s a reminder that you’re too feminine or not acting like a man.
It’s weird that we’re all used to checking ourselves. If we’re in a big group, there’s almost an unwritten rule of when we need to quieten down and you can feel the energy go flat.
The last month has been so important because it’s actually us acknowledging that society is much more complex than ‘it’s the law’ or ‘it’s not the law’.
When I think about my experiences, it’s the small stuff that has a bite to it. In a way, I’d prefer someone to say an outright slur so I can: ‘This is like you being racist towards a black person’.
You are aware in all the instances where this stuff can happen. Like someone rolling down the window of their car and shouting something at you.
Things are good but they could be a lot better.
I am always trying to be realistic. I’ve had a degree of bad experiences but it should be just OK all the time.
I hate saying that I’ve been lucky because it’s not lucky to no be treated badly. But I have been lucky in comparison to others.
Read more from Conor – @platinumjones – on Twitter here.
Do you have a story to tell? We’d like to hear from you. Submissions for an article about YOUR experiences will be published next weekend. If you’d like to be included, please send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org before noon, Friday 21 February.