Growing up LGBTQ+ in Ireland after the marriage referendum

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

An illustration of two birds flying over roses and ribbons
Image Source: Illustration by Neave Alouf

GCNnewvoices in partnership with BeLonG To will platform the the opinions and thoughts of LGBTQ+ young writers from across the country, speaking about issues that matter to them. Anthony Costello speaks about growing up as an LGBTQ+ person after the equal marriage referendum.

Same-sex marriage has been a reality since I was 13 years old, and has in many ways changed the expectations of my own life path and others of my generation. I was not aware of what queer life entailed or what the life experiences of others entailed but at the time I was discovering my own identity, it seemed that whole country was suddenly concerned about it.

Debating whether same-sex couples were valid enough to be equal in law was both exhilarating and disorientating. It felt I had just been introduced to gay life and now it was totally changed. Now by law I was entitled to marry whomever I may please. But while it gave me reassurance to know that that Irish people wholeheartedly accepted queerness in this symbolic gesture, the idea of marriage never really appealed to me as represented the heteronormative ways of the past that stifled peoples freedoms.

After the marriage referendum, did my family expect me to get married and have children now that there was no excuse for me not to have a white-picket-fence life?

The fight for same-sex marriage was a long and hard road fought valiantly by those who came before my generation, and a huge step forward in human rights.  For me, same-sex marriage now also feels like another looming expectation for queer people to fulfil. Gay life can already be hard enough without having the pressure of trying to fit into society’s expectation of marriage and kids.

Same-sex marriage symbolises to me that I am valid and respected by my country’s institutions, and nobody can that away from me. But the freedom of queer life to me is more gratifying and exciting than any law. Queer life isn’t easy but it can be a liberating experience to have such nuanced view on our world as perpetual outsiders.

We are independent of the straight experience and not held to carry out the same monotonous cycle of life, but we seem now to have shifted our collective identity to this new way of life. To me, getting married wouldn’t affirm my identity as a queer man – it would undermine it. I don’t want follow the same old tired path. Do we give in and assimilate to straight culture or do we forge our own version of marriage to suit our own traditions and life experience?

I feel more comfortable knowing that I won’t have a big gaudy Irish wedding with a big booze-up. I would like to think that we could reject this archaic ceremony used as a means to merge assets, not a true affirmation of love, and create our own unique partnership that better represents us. 

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