Young man speaks about the loneliness of growing up gay in rural Ireland

As part of the GCNnewvoices series, we platform the opinions and thoughts of LGBTQ+ young writers from across the country.

An illustration of a classroom, one student at the back painted in rainbow colours
Image: Illustration by Clare Foley

GCNnewvoices in partnership with BeLonG To will platform the opinions and thoughts of LGBTQ+ young writers from across the country, speaking about issues that matter to them. Joseph Burke speaks about growing up gay in rural Ireland and trying to find your tribe.

It can be lonely, being gay in rural Ireland.

According to a recent LGBT Ireland report, “The impression also emerged that it is more difficult to be happy and LGBTI in rural Ireland”.

When I was still in primary school before I knew I was gay, I had to put up with homophobic bullying. For someone who was still in the closet and only figuring out my sexual orientation, this experience made me hate myself. I even asked my mother, “Why does it always have to be me that has to stand out?” All I wanted was to be like everyone else for a change.

Being in such a small rural town, there was little awareness at the time and very little support for LGBTQ+ youth.

In my life, I had a family member who influenced me by embracing himself and coming out as gay. In my eyes, he was a legend because he was the only one I could relate to. But then I noticed that a lot of my friends were either members of the LGBTQ+ community or allies. Those support networks can be not only life changing, but can also give us purpose in life.

In college I was part of the LGBT society where we were divided into groups speaking about topics related to the community and gave ‘lived experience speeches’. It brought together people with similar views and acted as a support, which was very important for discovering who we were and having pride in ourselves – especially in an area with little other support.

My experiences in having pride and embracing the LGBTQ+ community was very positive, but unfortunately very little of these experiences happened where I’m from in rural Ireland. Unfortunately there aren’t the opportunities for LGBTQ+ events in my area. My experiences happened in cities like Galway, Dublin and at college where I attended Pride marches, LGBTQ+ support groups, drag shows, gay bars etc. All of these things helped me to embrace my identity. At the same time, however, my local community is quite supportive, it just might take some effort to establish regular LGBTQ+ supports.

Since I came out and started embracing myself, I then started feeling isolated and lonely when looking for a boyfriend. There seems to be a culture of hook-ups in the gay community which would work for some people, however it doesn’t for me. It has a really bad impact on my mental health. The main option to meet LGBTQ+ partners is online and there isn’t a whole lot of people available, so if we did want to try and meet a partner other than online we have to go to the likes of Dublin.

Fortunately, the experiences for youth in rural communities are improving and my experience mostly acknowledges this. There is a quite a lot of significant work to be done still, with attitudes toward the Transgender community and other minority groups within the community needing to progress. Stigma is an issue that will require a lot of focus too.

It is lonely living in rural Ireland. It feels like there are only a few of us LGBTQ+ folk at the moment. But as they say – good things come to those who wait.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.

During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.

GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.