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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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I hope the next generation will know no such thing as 'gay marriage' – but just 'marriage'

I want to live my life openly and freely and not to let me sexuality define me. I am not straight, I am not gay – I am a man.

Troy Spillane

AS THE COUNTRY gears up to vote in the upcoming marriage referendum it is clear to see that for me, as a bisexual man, this is just as much about the understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community as it is about the act of marriage.

Born in 1986 in Cork I had a fairly normal childhood (I use the term normal lightly by the way) – mother, father, sister, healthy, happy, did well at school, had many friends; nothing unusual to report.

As would be expected of a prepubescent boy, I began developing feelings for girls around the age of 12 – however, at this time also I noticed I had feelings for boys, too.

Immediately I knew this was wrong and I felt dirty and ashamed. Why did I feel like this? Because my surrounding society told me – the only time I ever heard the word ‘gay’ was when it was being hurled at somebody as an insult or derogatory remark. I did not know any gay people, my religion (Roman Catholicism) had clear teachings on the act of homosexuality (it was actually still a criminal act in Ireland when I was born) and as I got older I was getting verbally attacked almost daily in school and by the kids on my street over my “camp” tendencies that I was desperately trying to conceal.

Scared to talk to those closest to me

I was scared to talk about it with my family and friends and suffered with personal torment and confusion for years. I had no outlet; there was no internet per say where you could search for and join support groups anonymously and no education really about being gay. I began wishing and praying that my feelings would go away so that I could be normal – I just wanted to fit in. Suicidal thoughts began to creep in and by the age of 15 I decided I had to do something about it before I hurt myself, so I started talking about it with family and friends.

Luckily every single person that I told, from my closest friend to my father, had the exact same opinions – “so what?” and “who cares?” – your sexuality is irrelevant as long as you are happy. It was this attitude and support structure that made me feel empowered and confident and, by the time, I was 17 I was fully out to all my nearest and dearest.

I don’t want my sexuality to define me

At that point I decided to live my life openly and freely and not to let my sexuality define me. I am not straight, I am not gay – I am a man. Since then I have had relationships with both women and men, always being open about my life without having to make my sexuality my most defining point. Unfortunately, though, the bullying has not stopped – and throughout my adulthood I still get insulted and put down, by other adults no less. At one point a colleague in a previous job said to me that I “should be hanged” for my lifestyle. Luckily for me I am mature enough to let these comments slide right off me and put it down to simple misunderstanding and lack of intelligence. No one is born hating others, they learn to hate.

In the end, I believe I was lucky in the sense that I had a strong support structure around me but unfortunately others are not so lucky. Ireland has progressed rapidly in recent years when it comes to LGBT rights but there is still so much to be done. This marriage referendum is not just about marriage, it’s about acceptance. People are now talking about the rights of the LGBT community like they never have before and, overall, it seems that Ireland is ready to accept this change.

Embracing who we are

I hope that the next generation and the generation after that will grow up in an Ireland where there is no such thing as gay men and women, just men and women; no such thing as gay marriage, just marriage; and above all I hope that when a child or teenager begins to have homosexual feelings like I did, that they will not be afraid to talk about it and that they will embrace it.

As former president Mary McAleese said recently, the vote next month is “about Ireland’s children, gay children” and that the passing of the referendum would dismantle the “architecture of homophobia”. This I look forward to see happening as a proud member of the LGBT community in Ireland.

Troy lives in Cork and works in Property Management. 

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Troy Spillane

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