Gaylgeoirí: The relationship between my language and my sexuality

The creator of the popular social media account shares how the Irish language helped him become unapologetically himself.

A young man wearing makeup poses in front of Irish language text

Gaylgeoirí started out a few years ago on Raidió Rí-Rá when I was in college. We had an Irish-language LGBTQ+ radio show every Sunday night, from 8-10pm. It was just a bit of craic to be honest; we spilled the tea on Drag Race, we discussed queer pop culture, and we fangirled over whoever we were obsessed with that week. I don’t even think anyone was listening to us, but we had so much fun with it, and it was a way for me to brush up on my Irish at the same time.

After university however, the friend I did the radio show with moved to Canada to teach Irish in a university over there, and we finished with the show. But although it had come to an end, I wasn’t ready to leave the community I had built on social media yet (or at all). At the time, we only had about 500 followers, but it was a very loyal and very supportive group. I understood the importance and power it had, even though I was literally just creating memes at the time.

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“Sure, Jan.”

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Gaylgeoirí had become a self-discovery tool for me as I made my way through college. I was able to explore my identity and sexuality there, even though I wasn’t out to anyone in my ‘English’ life. Neither my parents nor anyone from back home could speak or understand Irish. That meant that I could be open and proud publicly through Irish, even though I wasn’t out yet in English.

I knew nobody from my personal life would ever see Gaylgeoirí, so it was a safe space for me for quite some time to just be myself unapologetically.

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Cailín clúdaigh // Cover girl #SlayAtHome2020

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Over the years, it was a way for me to forget about my normal life, when I was struggling with who I was – even if that didn’t seem obvious to onlookers. But when more and more people began to follow the account, I started to become a lot more sure of myself and what I was doing on the platform. I began to write creatively, I got involved in journalism, and even tried drag once or twice (it’s way harder than it looks)!

I learned a lot about myself, and I became a lot more confident. People seemed to really respond to what I was doing too, and I began to receive messages from others to collaborate on projects because they really believed in the work I was doing. Gaylgeoirí grew slowly at first. It took over three years to reach 1,000 followers. However, once we did, we grew to almost 7,500 in less than a year later, so I began to create content for people who weren’t that confident in their level of Irish, but wanted to learn more!

Even though the account started as an Irish meme account where I occasionally shared some fun vocab for learners, it’s a blogging platform for me now. The personal life I once separated from it is interwoven into everything I do there now. I now use it to create modern, funny, LGBTQ+ content through Irish (I always translate or use subtitles, don’t worry!) and I am constantly sent messages of support from people across the globe who say that Gaylgeoirí is a way for them to brush up on their cúpla focal without even realising they are! But one of the most important things for me is to be a role model for my young followers, and do my best to promote activism

Trixie Mattel often says she is an introvert dressed in drag as an extrovert, and Gaylgeoirí was my extrovert drag in a sense. When people started to support me however, and really celebrate what I was doing, I had a lot more confidence to share Gaylgeoirí with my people from my ‘English life’ – my personal life. Although I am quite reserved in person, this platform has allowed me to be loud and proud, and to “push the gay agenda and shove my leftist crap in your face” – as some middle-aged father that was very threatened by my legs in a pairs of stilettos once told me.

I was proud of myself and the community I had created. Moreover, I wasn’t afraid to share this side of my life with people anymore. I’m not saying that I needed validation from people, but knowing that something I had almost been conditioned to be ashamed of growing up was actually something to be celebrated was a relief!

I know that I came out as a gay man because of the support, love and confidence this community had given me. I understand that I would have had this ‘chosen family’ if I had been rejected by my own. Obviously my family don’t care at all because they’re not terrible people, but it was still nice to have the Irish community there as a safety net when I took my leap of faith. 

I’m still on a journey of self-discovery (wow, that sounds like I have serious notions and that I sleep in a bed made of kale), but I really am! I have so many goals for the year ahead though. I’m about to release a podcast that investigates just how ‘progressive’ modern Ireland really is with a range of speakers I cannot wait to chat to! I have some amazing guests lined up; a POC with fluent Irish, a trans man and human rights activist, an Irish traveller, a Chinese-born girl adopted into an Irish family and a drag queen, and I cannot wait to release it. Don’t let the name fool you though, it will be in English!

As well as that, I am writing a fictional novel in English called “Out” (available for free online here). The timeline of the novel is set against the backdrop of the events leading up to Ireland’s marriage equality referendum, and follows the lives of three queer characters as they deal with this, as well as their own personal struggles.

I even have a drag queen protagonist (moulded after the inspiring Panti Bliss). I was definitely inspired by Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Lisa Magee’s Derry Girls, and I think Ireland and the world are finally ready for a story like this. It’s Irish, it’s true to life, and it tells the story of one of the most historic votes in Irish history. It’s time Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community get the recognition and reputation they deserve!

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5 years ago today, it was revealed that Ireland voted in favor of same-sex marriage. 5 months ago, I began writing “Out”, a coming of age novel following the lives of three queer characters during Ireland’s campaign to legalize same sex marriage. After the release of @normalpeoplebbc on @bbcthree, there has been an increased interest in Irish literature, and it’s time someone told the story of Ireland’s journey to #MarriageEquality. “Out” offers a very Irish perspective on a monumental hour in global history, and although it tackles quite serious topics, it is also brimming with Irish humor, *accurate* gay cultural references, and a very raw portrayal of student life in Ireland (hup @universitycollegedublin). Available to read for free on @wattpad if you search my (human) name. So why not give the prologue a quick read? It introduces us to Sissy, a drag queen and protagonists of the novel, inspired by @pantibliss. #OutWattpad #TáGrá #TáGá #LGBT #Pride #Bród #MarRefMemories

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