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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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In Your Words: Experiencing homophobia in Ireland

Sine a request for your stories last week, we have been inundated with correspondence. Here is just a selection of your experiences.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive/Press Association Images

LAST SUNDAY EVENING, TheJournal.ie posted the personal experiences of seven high-profile gay and lesbian men and women.

They told stories of homophobia and hatred. But also tales of acceptance and love.

The interviews and writings certainly hit home for many of our readers and we were overwhelmed with the responses to our request for your stories.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to reproduce every submission, but have picked a selection to represent the various experiences people told us about.

Some have also been shortened.

We have arranged the extracts in separate posts.

Here, we look at the historic and current experiences of men and women across the island. There were some theme running through many of the stories, such as those who have not been subject to violent discrimination describing themselves as ‘lucky’ and the power of subtle homophobia.

The majority also stressed that their daily struggles with homophobia would be eased if the State recognised their individual choices in law by allowing for same-sex marriage.

Sam

“My main experience of homophobic assault was after I came out. Around four years ago, I was in Rick’s Burger at the end of George’s Street. I was with a friend and we were chatting to a guy with his girlfriend. Somehow the topic of being gay came up. At this point, I had no fear of people knowing I was gay. The guy was interested to know what it was all about. He seemed intriguted.

After around ten minutes, without any form of provocation, a guy – a friend of the other man – came over and punched me in the side of the head. He said, “Stop spreading your gay shit around.” I was stunned. Actually everyone in the café was stunned. I didn’t react. I was in shock. His friend apologised and said he didn’t mean this to happen. They left shortly afterwards.”

Keith

I never experienced it physically. Although when young and insecure, I was painfully aware of how name calling and physical abuse would be used on others who had behaviours based on stereotypes. When closeted, my family and friends spoke negatively of and made fun of homosexuals. This really hurt and delayed my coming out. When I did come out, I was informed by many that I couldn’t be gay because I didn’t act like ‘them’!

I grew up in a working class area and somehow a relationship developed with my best mate and later love of my life. He was a very talented footballer and very masculine, like myself. We both worked as apprentices in the building trade. He couldn’t handle the negative stereotypes and society judging him and looking down upon him for being gay. Eventually, he had enough of all that and hung himself. His 12-year-old brother found his body.

Pat O’Donnell

As a gay man in his 40s, this is the homophobia I have faced in my life. In no particular order:

  • Name calling and physical attack in a Catholic-run school while the principal ignored my complaints and told me to act more like a man;
  • Having a friend punched in the face and his nose broken when set upon by thugs shouting ‘fucking faggot’ outside a local chipper;
  • Having my nephew being told in school by a priest that homosexuality was wrong and he should pray for me;
  • Having my sexuality as a topic of discussion in the workplace;
  • Having people assume I like shipping and fashion as I am gay;
  • Being dropped from my local GAA team when I came out;
  • Being told gay people are not suitable for sport;
  • Being told I do not appear ‘very gay’;
  • Not being allowed to see a sick partner after an accident in a Catholic-run hospital as I was not next of kin (the family had to approve first);
  • Being told that my career prospects would be damaged by being out as gay;
  • People linking homosexuality with paedophilia in my presence;
  • Having media articles discussing how to make me a lesser citizen of Ireland;
  • Being told I am lucky to live in a society that allows homosexuality;
  • Being put at the ‘gay’ table at weddings;
  • Being asked how I know for certain I am gay if I have not been with a woman;
  • Not being able to donate blood despite having full health checks;
  • Being asked to stop coaching kids in GAA after I came out;
  • Having females say, ‘I want a gay best friend’ or ‘I feel safe with you’;
  • Being stopped going into a normal bar by bouncers saying, ‘You guys should go to your own places’;
  • Being asked always if I really booked a double room;
  • Being asked if I thought about getting a cure.

Maria

imageImage: Maria and her partner Denise outside the Gaiety in 2012.

“The worst experience for me is that we have pretty much stopped going out in my home town as a couple. Why?

The evening always starts wonderfully. A few pints; friendly, chatty conversations with other locals and so on. But as the night continues (and people have more to drink), it will inevitably end in one or several of the following ways:

  • But are you really lesbians?
  • Bet you have never had a real man?
  • Let me buy you some shots!
  • Come outside with me (on your own)
  • Someone starts touching me or my girlfriend inappropriately
  • Ah ye fucking dykes/faggots/whores when you turn a young male down.

I am not making this stuff up, many a great night has ended with frustration, anger, sadness that it has to turn out this way, conversation nearly always eventually turns to our sexuality, our relationship and some people get very personal, very rude and ask very intimate questions that certainly I was never asked as a ‘straight’ person. They feel they can take liberties, maybe touch us up, cop a feel and be able to shrug it off.

Thankfully, of course, it is certainly not all bad and I do think Ireland is changing, as a parent, as a neighbour, as an employee I can honestly say I have never experienced any negative experiences to my face, I know some people talk behind our backs but sure you get that in small towns anyway.

My seven-year-old was playing with his Lego last week and the queen was getting married to the blue ninja. In attendance at this Lego wedding were the black and red ninja who were, according to my ‘lil man, ‘a gay couple and in love’. I love that kids can be so accepting, so why can’t the rest of us follow their example.

Anonymous

My experience could probably be described as more than just homophobia. From the years 2000 to 2002, aged 18 to 20, I attended ‘pray away the gay’ counselling in Dublin.

Looking back, I was quite distressed at the time and voluntarily sought it out. I was suffering from a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, guilt and shame around my sexual orientation. I felt damned. I was desperate not to be gay. This avenue offered me a way out.

I approached a local Catholic priest who suggested I go and see a therapist. I refused to go see someone who would just tell me to accept my sexuality. Eventually, through the priest, I got in touch with a Christian counsellor linked to an evangelical Protestant church in the locality.

There, very vulnerable and still at a young age, I was exposed to dangerous and twisted ideas that were imported straight from the ‘ex-gay’ or reparative therapy movement in the US – which is still support by much of the fundamentalist Christian right over there. It’s hard to believe this was in the Dublin area, in the early years of this century. During the Celtic Tiger.

Needless to say, I didn’t manage (thankfully!) to change my sexual orientation. Today, I’m a happy out and proud gay man, though still somewhat scarred by that experience, which was deeply rooted in homophobia and ignorance. I hope this stuff is not still going on in Ireland.

Anonymous

“My story, I feel, will be from a different vantage point to most others who will contribute to this article. I observe and absorb the mistreatment of the LGBT community from the relatively safe purgatory of the closet. I have not yet been able to rise from the ashes like the soaring phoenix. Instead, I am lying in wait for that opportune moment when I can finally shed the shackles of my own oppressive silence.

Although I am not ‘out’, that is not to say I have not endured my share of homophobia. From the beginning of puberty and the commencement of sexual awareness, I have known that I was, am and shall always be gay. However, many of my peers seemed to catch on to this fact simultaneously. They had decided my sexuality before I was fully able to come to terms with it myself. From that point on, I felt my sexual orientation was under a magnifying glass.

Most had decided I was gay, yet I had been deprived of my coming out moment and the sense of liberty that accompanies it. Instead, I was forced to suffer through witch-hunt style trials, whereby a portion of my ‘friends’ would restrain me while others, in a rather invasive manoeuvre, searched my mobile in order to see where I was hiding my gay porn. It was as if they craved a certain smugness that would come in validating their accusations…”

Anonymous

When looking for a house at the start of the academic year to share with my boyfriend, we were turned away from a viewing by the landlord. He said, “I’m sorry it’s a one bedroom, it’s only for couples to share.” My boyfriend and I awkwardly shifted in our places whilst trying to explain that we were a couple. The landlord said, “No, I’m sorry I won’t show it to you” and turned around to walk back to his car.

Anonymous

“I’m 34 now. I was the victim of homophobic bullying from about the age of 8 or 9 until 18.

School was hell on earth for me. Every single day for probably 10 years I was mocked, verbally abused and, in some cases, physically abused. I walked away in 1998, thankful that my six-year hell on earth was over.

At the age of 12 or so I considered suicide because I absolutely hated school.

My parents made me tell them what was going on. They approached the teacher (I suggested my religion teacher). He said the bullying would finish itself naturally. It didn’t. I covered it up myself for another five years.

In some ways, I have never recovered. I became introverted, had almost no friends and shut myself away. I still have very few close friends. I have never had a relationship.

I haven’t experienced any personal homophobia in about 13 years. Once a person I had gone to school with pulled me aside and told me gay people were not welcome in that pub.”

Gerry

For myself, Rory’s standing at a pedestrian crossing echoed my own experiences. I have found myself at crossroads in my birthplace of Clontarf, having faggot screamed at me from a passing car on two occasions.

When I first came out at 18, I would regularly find myself on the upper deck of the 130 bus, earphones in, trying to dim out the verbal taunts and shouts of ‘faggot’ from groups of male peers sitting behind. It was a scary time for me and although Dublin has changed a lot, there are always the reminders that who I am is still not accepted by all people.

Last month, now aged 32, I was walking down the road not too far from that set of traffic lights where I heard ‘fucking faggot’ shouted a decade before. Then a carton of eggs were flung in my direction. While the term faggot wasn’t screamed I can only imagine that something about me, walking huddled in the rain, must have provoked the passengers in the passing car to have reacted to my presence with such vehemence.

Leanne Harte

I’ve been a victim of homophobia on several occasions. Thankfully, none of these have been violent or particularly aggressive, but they’ve been upsetting all the same.

I’ll give you a few examples of my own experiences:

  • A man once called myself and my girlfriend faggots in Cineworld in the daytime while we stood looking at which film to see, holding hands. He looked like a nice guy in his early 30s and I was so shocked that I had to double take. It felt horrible.
  • On several separate occasions, I’ve been asked if I’ve tried being with men when I tell men I’m gay if they chat me up. It is actually the most ignorant, irritating thing to be asked.
  • One time when out at a generally straight club, I was kissing a girl and a group of both guys and girls started taking photos of us. They were our own age, and yet, seemed to find the idea of two girls kissing utterly hilarious. We had to ask them to delete the photos. It was really shocking and disgusting.

Last summer, I was in Berlin with my girlfriend and we cuddled in public on the street. I looked over to see a woman who looked to be in her 50s looking at us. I noticed that instead of looking disapprovingly at us, she was smiling warmly, as though she found the public display of affection to be a positive and nice thing. It struck me that this was the first time in my life that this had happened to me in a non-gay-friendly setting, and also that this must be what it’s like to be straight.

Katie

One of my friends didn’t talk to me for well over a month when I came out to her. I didn’t make any attempt to reconcile the friendship. Then one day she approached me and apologised. She had thought it through and she was OK with it as long as I was happy. She no longer has a problem with me being who I am.

I think my friend is a great example of someone who actually put thought into their ‘homophobic’ actions and tried to view the incident from the opposite end of the spectrum. She learned and grew as a person. The experience was beneficial to her morally, in my opinion. We are best friends and she values me for who I am rather than who I love.

Grace

“The first time I kissed an ex-girlfriend of mine we were in the city centre. Within the five seconds or so that the kiss lasted, we had attracted about five men, cat calling and watching us. Shouting over obscenities. That behaviour mirrors every single circumstance of me kissing a girl in  public. While what gay women experience as homophobia in this instance may not be violent, it can still be as dangerous.

The festishisation of lesbian and non-straight women is detrimentally dangerous and definitely a form of homophobia. I know so many men that oppose gay marriage yet lesbian porn is their porn of choice. For people to see gay women as objects in this way is a great dehumanising aspect which is always present in oppression.”

Tomás

I grew up in Catholic Ireland where sex – not to mention homosexuality – was never discussed so I went to study for the priesthood for seven years in search of a safe haven where I could hide myself as I really had no clue whatsoever as to what was ‘wrong’ with me. It sounds so naive now but back then, gay people were figures of ridicule who we thought dressed as women and were mentally disturbed/damaged so the priesthood seemed a great option.

Shortly after ordination, I was based in the UK and met a man I fell totally in love with and realised I was gay. I had a secret relationship with him over four years, feeling terribly guilty. I was lucky enough that at the point of almost reaching total breakdown, I met a wonderful lady counsellor. Over time, she helped me realise who I am and to accept it and to also accept that I had nothing fundamentally ‘wrong’ with me to hate myself for.

I left the priesthood (a scandal in those days, especially to my now deceased parents) and trained as a social worker before returning to Dublin. I now have a good cadre of friends of all persuasions and a quality of life I enjoy. I do not hide my sexuality but also I most certainly do not shout it from the rooftops or discuss my past life as a priest. I try to live an ordinary life and, dare I say it, blend in with other people.

Yet, like Panti, I too know the loneliness and despair of being called faggot by clients, random yobs on the street and I certainly have never dared to show public affection to a partner. I have been spat on outside the George Pub. I think about my clothes every morning before work if they seem too bright or too gay. And I have cried in despair listening to reasonable people having reasonable debates on the media as to what us homosexuals should be allowed to do.

Anon

This is a very small selection of what I and many, many more gay people have to put up with in life. I can only imagine you will be inundated with stories far worse than mine but each are only the tip of the iceberg…

1. I once worked in a HR department for a multinational consulting company. I was not out to the company and once within the HR team meeting, one of the team members raised the issue of healthcare insurance. The company paid for staff members’ health insurance as well as their husbands and wives. It had been requested by a member staff to extend this to employees who were not married but lived with partners. The HR director said that it was fine and to extend the offering to people who asked but not to advertise it. Then the HR business partner raised the question as to whether it could be extended to gay partners and the team all laughed. It was said not to say a word or the gay army would be up in arms, quoting “we would have a pride march on our building”.

2. Being told my mother to “never babysit my nieces, nephew or friends’ kids as it would raise questions or accusations”. She genuinely asked this in a caring way for my own sake.

3. While on a city break , myself and my partner were walking from the local pub to our hotel and a car drove past us and the occupants shouted ” fuck off out of here you faggots”.

4. At 23 years of age and still coming to terms with my own sexuality, I worked in a government office and a senior case officer began to tell me about a social welfare case where a couple claimed to be gay. The senior officer was supposed to be going on a house visit and told me that he couldn’t stomach gay people  and that he “better keep my arse to the wall” and “they make me sick”.

5. Being from a small country town, having  graffiti sprayed on a wall in that town wall, naming me as gay.

6. Shortly after the people of my home town discovering I was gay, what was once a close friend asked me if I had ever interfered with her son and that she did not want me to see him anymore. There was no basis for the accusations bar a lack of education.

7. In college, being shouted at in a gym changing room not to come in until this other guy had changed.

8. In my current job, I sit beside someone who constantly refers to certain people she meets through our job as “queens”, “the campest guy ever”, “he is such a little bitch, he needs to get himself a man who had balls because he just has a vagina”.

9. Being asked by the same manager if she can come to a gay bar with me at the weekend because she has never been to a “seedy” gay club before. For some reason she thinks gay clubs are seedy.

1o. Daily conversations, especially with people who don’t realise or know that I am gay. Comments, slagging, jibes. Constantly being made to feel like shit and to deny who I am.

Anonymous

I have been attacked in Berlin, chased in Gran Canaria, followed home in a car in Dublin, got a bottle in the face outside a gay club in Galway and got four stitches. Only last week, outside Pantibar, a friend and I were abused and threatened.

Philip

I grew up on the north side of Dublin. I went to an all-boys CBS where homophobia was everywhere. I grew up praying each night I would wake up straight. Waking up each morning with the hope that my prayers were answered and then checking if I was still gay. My prayers were never answered (I am so happy today they weren’t)….

I grew up hiding most of my teenage years. I came out at 21 and my family accepted me 100 per cent. I, however, took many, many more years.

After I came out – and even today – I get told that I don’t look or act gay. At first I liked to hear this. I heard this from gay and straight people. I liked it because of how I grew up and the views I picked up about gay people from society. I was – and still am – a little homophobic. This only made it even more difficult to accept myself.

I am in a relationship with an amazing man (I would love the right to marry him). I like to hold his hands or kiss him when the moment feels right. Doing this on the streets of Dublin always raises eyebrows or people just stare and make comments or laugh…I don’t do this to get a reaction or make a statement. I’m a private person in general…

I am currently waiting on my boyfriend in Dublin airport. Where I have also ‘checked myself’ and second-guessed kissing and hugging him. I am going to give him the biggest hug and kiss now. But there will always be a small part of me feeling what can only be described as being embarrassed. I hate myself for still feeling this about a man who means everything to me.”

Anon

In 2010, I was walking down Parnell Street with my partner, holding his hand. It was about 8pm in the winter so it was dark. Two men, who were very tall and muscular, pushed past me, spat in my face and said something in Russian. I didn’t really know what was happening and I immediately replied, “What the hell was that for?” In my young, foolish way, I spat back at him.

This time, they both stopped and turned to me, calling me a faggot, telling me I didn’t deserve to live. The one who spat at me initially kicked me in the chest and knocked me down. My partner picked me up and we rant to the other side of Parnell Square while the two men abused us. We were lucky they didn’t follow us.

Anonymous

“In school as a teenager the word faggot was more commonly used than any other insult. It was also the ultimate insult.

If you were a faggot you were an outcast, no one wanted to be seen talking to a gay person in school in case people started to suspect you were gay.

I always knew I liked guys and girls. I was comfortable with that until I started secondary school. I had a crush on a guy in my class. He was really nice, funny and athletic. He was a real catch. We ended up becoming really close and eventually spent the night together.

It was amazing. I felt as though I was exploring such an important part of my personality and it made me feel balanced for the fist time. Until one day it came out in school that he was gay.

I will forever be ashamed of the fact that when he was outed, in the interest of self preservation, I cut all ties with him. I know that he needed me during that time and through the rest of school but I was too scared of the witch hunt to be friends with him.

Subsequently, he no longer was taken seriously by any of the students and any time the teacher would ask him a question in class, some students would repeat what he said back in a lisped voice.

When he stood up for himself in yard he would swiftly receive a punch in the face from whichever scumbag felt like hitting him. I was also bullied for different reasons which led me to being afraid to open up about my sexuality. I can never forgive myself because I know if I had the courage to be there for him we could have gone through it together.”

Davina

Growing up and coming out as a lesbian in Ireland was one of the hardest things I have ever done and probably will ever do. When I say ‘will do’, it’s because it is a continuous thing coming out, constantly having to tell new people you meet that you’re gay, having to answer the “have you a fella?” question with “no, but I have a girlfriend”.

It does get easier coming out though, you learn who you can say it to and who you can’t.

Most of my family have always been 100 per cent supportive. Although growing up, my father would sometimes make comments about gay men. I remember watching a Christina Aguilera music video for her song ‘Beautiful’ when I was a young teenager and two men kissed, nothing vulgar or perverted, just a simple kiss between two people who were obviously supposed to be in love. My father straight away turned the TV off and told me it was disgusting. That has stayed with me, I will never forget how sickened he looked by it. When I was coming out to him that’s all I could think of. Since coming out to him though he has completely changed his attitude and even loves one of my gay friends as if he were his own son. It was because of sheer ignorance and knowledge of gay people that he thought he was supposed to hate them.

Rob

“I’ve never experienced homophobia among my friends or family, which I’m quite fortunate for, but I have had random encounters whilst holding hands in public places such as:

  • A bottle of Buckfast thrown from a moving car;
  • A milkshake thrown from a moving car;
  • Someone shouting “shower of faggots” from, yes, a moving car;
  • A man walked in front of us and told us we “better not be staring at his ass now”.

There was also an occasion where a drunk guy hugged and serenaded me with “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys just because I was gay but that felt more puzzling than particularly homophobic…”

David

Just one example of homophobia amongst many I have experienced was when I was fourteen. It was my first day back to school in Second  Year and we had PE.

We had swimming for that module. That morning I had found myself attracted to a guy for the first time in the swimming pool, so naturally my mind was abuzz with questions concerning my identity.

After the class, all the boys were changing out of their swimwear and one of them had worn his underwear having forgotten trunks. The rest of the lads slagged him, which he went along with, making a show of himself.

I was changing, wanting to get out of there in time for the next class. I had been shoved into, tripped up, had things thrown at me and had comments like “gay” and “fag” spat at me up until this point in school.

He then came up from behind me, pushed me and held me against the wall, grinding into me, feeling my genitals, saying things along the lines of “you like that, huh faggot?”, goaded on by all of the rest of them as they laughed and pointed – like something out of a bad teen high-school flick.

He took off his underwear and proceeded to shove his naked rear into my face as he was drying himself with a towel right up against me, all the while much to the continuous hilarity of the other boys.

During all of this I had frozen, having no idea what was going on, with traumatic memories being triggered by what was transpiring.

Bear in mind that not even I had realised that I was gay up until that morning – I barely knew what being gay was, having been brought up in a hugely Evangelical household, and had been taught that it was unnatural – all action had been taken simply under the *assumption* that I was gay. No one did anything to try and stop it. I don’t remember much after that, I just slunk out.”

Colin

Here is an account of my memorable events in the last 10 years:

1. I am told frequently that I am straight acting and looking. It is meant as a compliment but kind of implies that looking “gay” is bad.

2. As recently as yesterday, I was called a faggot by a  group of young lads while walking in my front gate.

3. I have also had a few comments from work colleagues. One woman said to me that she would drown her son if he was gay.

4. I was being affectionate to my boyfriend while we were in traffic and a group of lads in the car next to us were shouting slurs at us.

5. I was heading home after a night out in Cork city and a group of young girls threw a bag of chips at one of my gay friends and were calling us all the traditional names.

6. I was dancing with my partner at  his cousins wedding and had negative comments passed by other wedding guests.

My immediate reaction is to ignore what is being said and to get out of the situation as fast as possible. I generally don’t take it to heart. I put up with it.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones as I have never been physically attacked, I have a fantastic partner, my family and friends are supportive and I have never felt that my employers discriminates against me.”

Derrick

Living with a group of friends, there was an incident between myself and another girl, a disagreement of sorts. Which happens when cohabiting in rented accommodation. I thought this was done and over with until a few days later after coming home from work that evening.

I remember thinking it was strange as I’m usually the last one home that there was no one else home yet. I had a shower and while I was upstairs I heard a knock on the front door. When I came down I could see two guys through the glass, one I recognised as the brother of the girl I had the disagreement with.

I explained as I opened the door that she was not here but he said it’s you (me) I actually came to see and with that he jammed his foot in the door and pushed his way in. As he punched me in the face the other guy held my arms behind my back to prevent me from trying to protect myself.

He mumbled many offensive things along with the fact I was never to upset his little sister again “faggot”, “puff”,” bet your enjoying this in a way aren’t you?”

“If I have to ever come back here to deal with you again I’ll kill you!”

They left me in a heap on the floor as he kicked me and walked away his last words were “dirty queer”.

To say this had a profound effect on me would be an understatement. I couldn’t sleep, I avoided my home as much as possible and shortly after that I had to move out as I was terrified to upset that guys “little sister”.

As time goes by though you try and forget or block out this awful thing that happened to you.

To be gay bashed in your own home. But there was lots of times I would look in the mirror and wonder what was it about me that made that made me such an easy target, not even so much the beating, but the ring of the words in my mind that would give me bad dreams. I found myself trying to make myself appear “less gay”. Conscious of how I dressed, walked or even how I spoke.

Anonymous

“I am a 30-year-old woman. I am straight, yet I too have been the victim of homophobia. It’s something I’ve put to the back of my mind for many years, however when I saw the video of Panti in the Abbey Theatre, a few memories rushed back.

I wouldn’t dare to say my experience was as harrowing or disturbing as Rory’s or many of the other victims of homophobia that have come to light, however it is an honest recount of what happened to me.

When I was 17 years old, my brother who was 18 at the time, bravely came out to his friends and family. Word quickly spread through our small town, and whilst I personally couldn’t see the big deal (he was still the same person to me!), he became the victim of idle gossip.

My brother was living away from home at the time, happy in college and living his life, and so I found myself “answerable” to people on his behalf. If anyone asked if it was true my brother was gay, I said yes.

I couldn’t honestly see a problem with it, yet dealt with people, of all ages.

I was out with friends one night in my hometown and ended up at the chipper (as is customary in small town Ireland). I was talking to a group of people that I kind of knew. I could see a couple of lads whispering but didn’t pass much heed. All of a sudden, one of the lads spat at me, and said my brother was a paedophile, his friend backed him up. They both got in my face and ranted about how disgusting my brother was. No one backed me up. I answered back but nothing I said could drown out the abhorrent claims they made about my lovely, kind, caring, wonderful big brother, and of myself being ‘guilty’ by association.”

Nigel Fitzpatrick

I’m sure you have received quite a few emails, but I would like to offer my experiences. I’m a 22-year-old gay man and I’ve experienced plenty of homophobia through my childhood and even now to an extent.

I don’t agree with bullying and I have a younger sister going through it as she is somewhat different and it pains me to think she might be going through what I was when I was little. I was always a little different and I knew very early on in primary school that I was different and I had an idea that I was gay in second class.

I was bullied on a daily basis, normally by the same group of kids, but not always. If certain kids found me weird, the other kids were soon told that if they hung with me, they would catch what I had. This hampered my self confidence a lot growing up. I was called a lot of gay slurs, gay, faggot you name it.

I remember one day going for a walk and just breaking down crying in the middle of field, thinking ‘why me?’ I remember our priest telling us when I was in third class that being gay was an illness and that if you were gay you were going to burn in hell. Harsh words but they were said to me in 1999 and I remember just leaving the classroom and crying and wishing I didn’t exist.

I was relieved when I was sent to a different secondary school than all my friends as I believed it would be a fresh start. However it was much worse and it wasn’t because of the students. By second year I had really accepted who I was and although I was bullied by some kids, I tried not to let it bother me.

However, we had two choice subjects, metalwork or home economics. Although I did like to cook, I was talented with metal work. However, the teacher was very homophobic. Either he found out on his own or he was told that I was gay but once I picked his subject I was his target. He called me slurs, put me down on a daily basis, he even threw things at me. All of this was reported to the principal but teachers stick together.

It wasn’t until I was physically cut by an object that had been thrown that the principal paid attention to it and even then it was my fault for being a disruption, the disruption being I kept my head down, did my work and didn’t talk to anyone for fear I’d unleash the teacher’s wrath.

Eventually, my mother and dad forced the principal to allow me to transfer subjects. I just avoid the teacher from then on.

When I got my first boyfriend, I was quite open with him in public, believing that if straight couples could hold hands, then I could with my boyfriend too even though it wasn’t the done thing and I got a lot of name calling for it.

But the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever experienced in my life with regards to homophobia is that my relationship with my boyfriend was brought up in a town meeting that my dad was part of.

The town feared that I shouldn’t be open and that I was not only promoting the wrong type of lifestyle but also that I was scarring young children by flaunting my gay ways as if influencing them to become gay or hurt their growth and that their town tourism would suffer as no one would want to come to a town with a gay. (We were a very small tight nit country community).

Now although I suffered homophobia and I do constantly check myself, I’ve tried my best to always be myself. I was the first to bring a boy to my debs (despite people saying I couldn’t). I was the first out of six children to bring a partner home, and to Christmas, and the first to move out with my boyfriend and now the first to become engaged to him. My family is very supportive and for the most part have always been (my mum had a bit of a problem adjusting when I was young, but eventually put her views aside and we’ve grown closer).

I find that the big stuff, the slaps or the outright insults are easier to get over, because they are homophobic, no one can dispute their harshness, the insulting manner of them. What I find more difficult is the little things. The feeling that I’m less of man because someone slaps me on the bum jokingly, or when I pass a group of men and I get a whistle or a fag shouted at me.

The fact that I was told I couldn’t compliment a work buddy on his hair because it freaks him out for a gay guy to say that to him.

They aren’t outwardly insulting and you find yourself reasoning with the insult, trying to definitely define it as an insult should someone dispute why you are upset or offended and it’s kind of like your trying to reason with yourself, telling yourself no this wasn’t a slap in the face, he should think like that, maybe it is weird, was I being too gay around him, did he think I was coming onto him, things like that.

I’ve experienced plenty of homophobia, many incidents that I haven’t mentioned from outside and within the gay community, but I’ve always done things my own way, deciding for myself what I want to think or where I want to take my life. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

In Your Words: Being a gay teacher in Ireland

In Your Words: Being a gay teenager in Ireland

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