My Own Private GCN

Jonathan O'Sullivan

GCN has played a significant part in my life, and not just because I ended up writing for it, says Jonathan O’Sullivan


You have to to admit GCN is looking pretty damn fine for a magazine that’s 300 issues old. Just like the late Joan Rivers, it’s undergone multiple facelifts and had many parts replaced to stay fresh in this ever-changing society. But from its inception in the late ’80s, right the way through to today, it’s been insightful, sharp and thoroughly entertaining for the LGBT community – again, much like the late Joan Rivers. I feel like GCN’s been around forever, and in my case I guess I’m fortunate enough to say it has. As with most of the guys I date, it’s a shock to discover that the magazine is a full five years younger than me

GCN and I first met on dull summer’s day in June of 2000. I was a fat 16 year-old with gold-rimmed glasses and a bowl haircut and GCN was a portal to a world that I never knew existed in Ireland. I can’t quite remember how the first issue got into my sweaty, awkward hands, but I know it must have involved bundling it out of a bookshop in Cork city and smuggling it into my house to be furtively read behind a locked bedroom door. Sure, I had seen the first series of Queer As Folk on Channel 4, but that was British gay culture. And yes, I had seen Rupert Everett as Julia Roberts’ gay best friend in My Best Friend’s Wedding, but that was American gay culture. Gay Ireland was uncharted territory for this spotty teenager and GCN was to be my map.

A few years later I came out to friends and family, but I had still never knowingly met another gay person. I well and truly felt like the only gay in the North Cork village. (Of course, I know now that I had met tonnes of real-life gays; one of my neighbours, a teacher in school and, who would have thought it, half of the under 21’s Camogie team.) Even after being out of the closet for two solid years, GCN, it’s UK counterpart Gay Times, and a few questionable websites were the only gay connections in my young adult world. It would take another 12 months before I would build the confidence to seek out other gays and become, in the words of a 1920’s barrister, a “practicing homosexual”.

It feels quite strange to reminisce over my coming out. Even the phrase ‘coming out’ seems tacky and outdated. It feels like a hangover from the ’90s that should be left to gather dust on a shelf next to a Will & Grace box set and The Macarena. In hindsight my coming out feels like it was an instantaneous event, like the day I cycled into lamppost and broke my cheekbone. But in reality it was a long, drawn-out process that happened in stages, like the healing of said cheekbone.

Moving to Dublin, still feeling like a debutant-homosexual at the tender age of 21, GCN remained a constant in my life. Whether I was pretend-reading it while nervously waiting for a blind date in the Front Lounge or cringing at the absolute state of my appearance in the ‘Out and About’ photos section (visibly drunk and wearing some very poorly thought-out fashion choices – see the pleather panelled jumper I’m sporting to the left of this page for evidence).

There are also the numerous occasions when I have left The Dragon at 2am, defeated in the hunt for romance, only to be met with a stack of the latest GCN on my way out. I am sometimes amazed at how much a magazine and chilli cheese fries can soothe a bruised ego on a night bus home!

Although I’ve been contributing to GCN for well over a year, I still get a great feeling of gratification when I see my words printed in it. Even if those words are pertaining to a failed love life, dismal career choices and trapped wind, I’m proud nonetheless. Writing for a magazine on a monthly basis is something that I never thought I could do. If only fat bespectacled 16 year-old Jonathan could see me now, eh?

The relevance of gay bars, gay clubs and gay magazines in today’s society has often been argued. ‘Why do we need to have a gay anything when gay culture is so intertwined with mainstream culture?’ always seems to be the over-arching question. But being gay isn’t mainstream and the fact that it’s not the norm is fine by me. It doesn’t need to be. I think having gay pubs, clubs, magazines, bookstores, AA meetings and everything in-between is a wonderful thing in 2014. It’s something that I think we really need to hold on to.

Having these specific outlets makes being gay not just something we happen to be, but something we can proudly identify as. Magazines like GCN, bars like Pantibar, and clubs like The George are fundamental in sustaining a strong sense of LGBT community in Ireland, and I think it’s really important not to lose that sense of community in the whitewash of mainstream culture.

It’s only in writing this column that I’ve properly thought about GCN’s contribution to my gay life in Ireland. Most of the time I’ve taken its constant presence for granted, like a moody teenager would a reliable parent. It genuinely has played a significant part in my life and has helped me form the opinions I have today about politics, society and culture. Honestly, I don’t know whether to send a birthday card or a thank-you card to GCN Towers.

I can’t wait to read issue 600 in 2039. I’ll be a young looking 55, still fretting over career choices and desperately trying to date men in their 20s. Oh, the excitement of it all!

© 2014 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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