Tír na mBeo – a mythological place of everlasting life, one of several distant lands inhabited by the divine Tuatha Dé Danann. It was a realm of eternal delights, sexual pleasure, plentiful food, and wealth. During lockdown, the situation for queer people was anything but. This documentary is dedicated to each LGBTQ+ community member who lived in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Irish queer cultural landscape is vibrant and diverse. It consists of different sexualities, genders, accents, body types, skin colours, ethnicities and distinct ways of seeing. But this diversity is not necessarily visible, and many stories remain untold.
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I began to think of this project in autumn 2021 when I was invited to the GAZE Film Festival as a jury member. Then, during the winter, I got involved in helping a couple of immigrant students with LGBTQ+ backgrounds living outside Ireland with their mental health issues. These conversations cemented how lockdown was insanely hard for many of us.
The pandemic made inequalities shaper; it deeply affected mental health and sexual wellbeing. And I found at the time, little to no documentation or discussion of it. I was inquisitive. I saw people around me suffering from depression; some even developed tendencies toward self-harm, and some left the country. The pandemic magnified every existing inequality in our society; racism, gender inequality, access to sexual health services, poverty, housing crises and immigration uncertainties.
It is essential to discuss these issues; we cannot get through COVID-19, HIV, or any other pandemic without knowledge and without documenting people’s lived experiences. Inequality won’t disappear overnight but looking at it with a broader perspective and acknowledging it exists is a first step in the right direction.
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Tír na mBeo/The Land of the Living is a small window into seeing how some queer folk dealt with lockdown. As LGBTQ+ safe spaces like bars and pubs closed down, the impact of social exclusion increased considerably. People could not meet physically and we had to socially distance; it was frightening and confusing for many. The system also forgot to remind us “follow the physical distance rules but keep the social connections,” resulting in inevitable anxiety and mental health issues.
Tír na mBeo lets us understand that our profoundly personal journeys are actually similar to many other queer folks living throughout this situation. The theme is that ”Different eyes unite in their inexchangeable intellectual act of seeing; no one can take the place of the other. Everyone is the ‘other’ to everyone else. In this same respect, everyone is the same as everyone else.”
The shoot began in February and the participants were interviewed in their living space or favourite place and shared their personal stories about mental health, living with vulnerability, new connections, creative ways to deal with the situation and finding optimism. My queer artist friend Sarah Doheny (She/Her) created beautiful music around the lockdown period and I am proud to be using one of her tracks as background music. I thank all the participants for their brave contributions:
Dil Wickremasinghe (She/They)
Founder of Insight Matters, journalist, podcaster and mum
Han Tiernan (She/Her)
Artist, researcher and writer
Pedro Fernandez (He/Him)
Filmmaker and English language student
Jeffrin Jerome (She/Her)
Bsc. Graduate of Marketing, Innovation and Technology at DCU
Jordi Moya Roset (He/Him/She/Her)
Quality Analyst at Tik Tok
Amal Ehsan (They/Them)
An asylum-seeker from UAE
William Walsh (He/Him)
Musician and spoken word artist
John Gilmore (He/They)
Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, UCD
This article first appeared in issue 372 of GCN which is available to read here.
Tír na mBeo will screen as part of GAZE at Outhouse on Culture Night, Friday, September 23, 2022.
© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
This article was published in the print edition Issue No. 372 (June 10, 2022). Click here to read it now.
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