Rory O’Neill to talk ageing in the LGBTQ+ community for Bealtaine Festival  

National treasure, activist and publican Rory 'Panti' O'Neill will chair an online discussion titled Intersectional Identities: How it feels to be an older member of the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland. 

Portrait of Rory O'Neill by Conor Horgan for Bealtaine festival
Image: Conor Horgan

Renowned drag performer, activist and publican Rory O’Neill is chairing an online discussion on May 20th titled Intersectional Identities: How it feels to be an older member of the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland as part of the wonderful Bealtaine Festival.

Bealtaine Festival is an Age & Opportunity initiative presented throughout the month of May. Rory O’Neill will be joined by an accomplished and impressive panel to discuss ageing in the LGBTQ+ community.  For the second year in a row, due to Covid-19 restrictions all of the various performances, creative workshops, discussions, music and more will take place online.

This vital discussion will feature panellists Dáithí Clayton, LGBTQ+ advocate, Will Kennedy, lifelong LGBTQ+ activist and Ailbhe Smyth, long-time campaigner and former academic.

“The LGBTQIA+ community can tend to be very youth-focussed,” said Rory. “For the first time we have a lot of people growing older who are living out and proud lives, so we want to get the conversation started about issues that haven’t had much public discussion in the past, even within the community itself.”

Panellist Dáithí Clayton, 66, is Irish by descent and grew up in the United States. He left due to the discriminatory nature of the Trump administration and now resides in Youghal, County Cork. He is also living with early-onset dementia.

“I came out of the closet proudly in 1974,” said Dáithí. “I’m gender variant and I use the gender identifier of ‘epicene.’ We know ageism exists and we know Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted older people. I want to advocate for older people from a queer point of view, particularly for an LGBTQIA+ inclusive dementia network, and I want to make certain that my end of life is every bit as queer as the rest of my life has been.”

Panellist Will Kennedy, 63, is one of the founders of ACT Up Cork, a group that aims to fight the stigmas surrounding HIV and battle for better prevention and treatment.

“In 2007 I was diagnosed with HIV,” said Will. “I said to myself, you have a choice. You can go back and hide in a new kind of closet again, or you can do something about it and raise much-needed awareness. I hope that this upcoming discussion will shine a light on different issues being faced by older members of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as the issue of older people hiding their sexual identities again as they enter care home settings.”

Another panellist joining Rory O’Neill for this special Bealtaine event will be the inimitable queer icon Ailbhe Smyth, 72. Ailbhe is an Irish writer, academic and long-time feminist and LGBTQIA+ activist. She has been at the centre of many campaigns, including the 1995 campaign to legalise divorce, the 2015 marriage equality referendum and the 2018 vote to repeal the constitutional ban on abortion.

People are encouraged to register for the discussion online here. Details of other events taking place are available on the Bealtaine Festival website. 

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