Coming from the tiny village of Rooskey in the famed ’No’ county of Roscommon, it was scary being an outsider. I remember the marriage referendum being made into a class discussion in school and the embarrassment I felt hearing the stifled laughs at the mention of the word ‘gay’. I remember how I felt at a public speaking competition when a friend of mine spoke against marriage equality. I wasn’t brave enough to speak in favour. I came out to my close friends at 16 but the exhausting and terrifying process of coming out again and again was too much. I wasn’t ready to be out to the world.
I packed that emotional baggage and decided to wait until I was in college. Once there, things didn’t change as easily as I thought they would. I went to Freshers Week only to do laps of the society stalls, eyeing up the rainbow explosion of Q Soc – Trinity’s LGBT+ society. I didn’t sign up that first day.
I went again to the fair two days later but I still couldn’t muster up the bravery to join. I knew two people from my year in school went to Trinity too and I was afraid they’d see me and tell my former schoolmates. I finally went to the Q Soc’s Board Gaymes event. It took a lot to step through that door. The event was almost too much for me. People were being unabashedly queer and completely themselves. I was still flinching at the word ‘gay’ while they were trying on makeup, dancing to Britney and talking about queer pop-culture that sailed over my head. It wasn’t the watershed moment I’d hoped for but knew it was my own fear that held me back.
When we grow up we subconsciously learn that gay is bad and I feel LGBT+ people can carry that more than anyone. Coming out was my biggest challenge of going to college. I had to work out what being queer means, why it scares me and how to destroy those walls I implicitly built my whole life.
Thankfully I tried again. I went to Q Soc’s coffee hour where the atmosphere was a bit tamer. I could handle this. Although I was late joining, I was welcomed in. I talked to people. I made friends. And soon, a community. Looking back now I can hardly recognise myself. I joined the Q Soc committee. I was behind the desk at that rainbow clad stall at Freshers Week, smiling at every single nervous first year walking by trying to muster up the courage to approach us.
I think all LGBT+ people know that double-life feeling before coming out. You could be out to some but not to others, transitioning to your true gender or living queer life in college before returning to the closet for summer. The feeling of being your true self only some of the time can feel all too familiar.
For me, it was like two different planets – my life in Roscommon and my life in Dublin. In neither place, I felt fully myself. Two parts of me separated by fear, I moved back and forth between them. But as my 21st birthday approached everything changed. I set the two on a collision course, my queer life and my Roscommon life: I was having my party in the village I grew up in.
Friends from Q Soc, Roscommon and my boyfriend – all together in Rooskey.
My nerves were in shreds but my family welcomed them all. My two planets had collided and I felt home. My Q Soc experience had given me the courage to be completely myself. There was no longer that feeling of separation. My rural background and my queer life had met and they didn’t collide. They melded together into what and who I am today.
It felt like a full-circle moment. The place where I feared to be gay went on to allow me to be my truest self. The double life is over. Rooskey is a part of me, just as being gay is, and I was finally able to reconcile both.
This story was originally published in GCN’s August 2019 Issue 356.
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