I FIRST NOTICED the change on Saturday.
Standing at the bus stop in a checked shirt, skinny jeans, a pair of VANs and a Yes Equality badge to match, I copped a group of teenagers taking a double glance.
This in itself was nothing new.
Growing up as a tomboy, and as such not fitting in with the stereotypical ‘girlie’ crowd, has always resulted in unwanted attention.
This time however, something was different. Their glances (which were probably pretty innocuous in any event) didn’t elicit the usual ‘Do I look obviously gay?’ internal concerns.
To quote Panti Bliss, I didn’t ‘check myself.’ I wasn’t worried that a remark would be passed in regards to my sexual orientation. To be frank, I didn’t care.
Well, in that moment, looking ‘gay’ no longer felt like a negative thing. It no longer felt dangerous.
After all, in the weeks gone by, LGBT people like me had been spoken about on every media outlet – talk that on the whole had been hugely positive. To add to this, early tallies were indicating that the Yes campaign would emerge victorious with a landslide victory in the Marriage Equality referendum.
And so I found myself thinking. Let them look. Let them think I’m gay. I am. I’m proud to be.
You see, for the first time since I came out at nineteen, I felt accepted by my country.
This referendum has engendered a swell of positivity towards the LGBT community
My love was about to be legitimised and enshrined in my country’s constitution. I, and my lesbian, gay and bisexual peers were on the cusp of no longer being perceived as ‘different’ where it mattered.
While many within the LGBT community have often expressed irritation in regards to the necessity of a referendum when it came to deciding on our right to marry, I believe that this referendum has engendered a swell of positivity towards the LGBT community that the automatic implementation of legislation would have not.
Throughout the process of debate and discourse that a referendum inevitably brings, the Yes Equality campaign brought the ambitions and desires of LGBT people into the sitting rooms of millions of straight people and their families.
This resulted in LGBT visibility on a scale never before seen on our island.
In regards to the polling day itself, it was pretty overwhelming to hear elderly neighbours talk feverishly about equality and ‘marriage for all’ on foot of casting their vote.
To see women pushing prams with what I assumed to be their husbands, speaking in hushed and enthusiastic tones about a ‘Yes’ vote.
The notion of such scenes 13 years ago would have seemed almost dreamlike.
Back then, being gay meant that people looked at you with suspicion and derision – particularly if you were 14 years old and a student at an all-girls school.
What’s even more mind blowing is the fact that the handful of girls who throughout my teenage years ridiculed me for being gay, most likely made up the throngs of young people who voted Yes on the 22nd.
This does not to me feel hypocritical. What it does feel like however is recognition – recognition for the hurt that I and my LGBT peers experienced whilst growing up.
It is also a sign of the enormous progress that this country and our people have made in regards to acceptance and fairness.
Bullies won’t cease to exist – but they will have less ammunition
While I’m aware that homophobic bullying will not end tomorrow, nor in six months time, I do believe that the passing of the Marriage Equality referendum has rendered bullies with less ammunition.
After all, how can they mock someone who’s love is recognised by the state and as such, is viewed to be on the same par as theirs and their parents?
The support that the LGBT community has received in this referendum from thousands upon thousands of straight people also reveals how homophobia will now no longer be tolerated by most.
There was a time when making a ‘witty’ (insulting) remark publicly about two lesbians or two gay men was viewed as fair game.
While there undoubtedly will be people (perhaps on the comments sections of articles such as these) who continue to ridicule individuals for their sexual orientation, it is now no longer seen as the ‘done’ thing to do.
In fact, it is now so frowned upon that the majority of people who feel the need to make derogatory comments about LGBT people do so only under the guise of anonymous Twitter accounts.
I have to confidence to no longer hide
A number of months ago, I wrote about my reluctance to kiss a date on foot of leaving a gay bar.
Make no mistake about it, vigilance, no matter who you are, is always advisable when out and about late at night.
However I can honestly say that the overwhelming support that my country has shown in regards to same sex marriage in recent weeks, and again formally on May 22nd, has now given me the confidence to no longer hide.
What this means in practical terms is that when I do meet Missus Right, I will hold her hand with my head held high as we walk around our city’s streets.
Furthermore, if a straight man approaches her in a bar and offers to buy her a drink, I will happily inform him, should we take that next step, that she is my wife.
Christine Allen is in her third year of Information Technology at DCU – a part-time course funded for those that are unemployed. In between trying to get to grips with JAVA programming and looking for work, she loves nothing better than sitting down at the laptop with a cup of tea, and writing. She has been published in DIVA Magazine, on TheJournal.ie and Gaelick.com. One day she would like to be known as the lesbian version of Carrie Bradshaw. Follow Christine on Twitter @AllenChristine2.