Everyone’s life is hard and everyone has problems but I live in a country where the rights of gays – to marry, to adopt – are actively opposed by our politicians, the very people that are supposed to fight for my needs and rights. So life has always been a little bit harder than it needed to be.
Yet it has still been awesome because most people in Northern Ireland are supportive of gays and our right to have a normal life. My countrymen are wonderful and they make me proud to call myself Northern Irish. I will fight for their rights just as much as they have fought for mine.
The reason I’m writing this is because of a Belfast Telegraph report which says that the Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) banned a painting of two women kissing from an exhibition in case it deterred families and schools from visiting.
It’s so easy to get upset over random acts of bigotry. And it’s really easy to forget all the good that exists out there. My people are the most wonderful in the world. They are good and kind. They just want to live in peace. And in various ways, they’ve let me know they don’t agree with the bigots.
Like when they flooded me with messages of support because I was upset that our Health Minister, Edwin Poots, had challenged a court’s decision to allow gay people to adopt children. I couldn’t keep up with the number of tweets I received. From Orangemen in Sandy Row to evangelical Christians, they all encouraged me to keep my chin up and told me they had my back. Whatever my sexuality was, they didn’t care.
Then there was the time one of my closest friends became a Christian. I was afraid it would change everything until he text me: “This doesn’t change anything. You’re still my friend.”
Then came the “coming out” period. I was 20 and terrified but Mum told me she loved me no matter what – why would I ever think she would love me any less? This was followed by hugs and kisses from brothers and sisters. Not one person was upset.
It’s exceedingly rare that I come across anyone who has a problem with my sexuality. During one interview, a Methodist minister remarked – out of the blue – that he “didn’t think there was anything wrong with my lifestyle” and winked (he’d obviously guessed).
People have been universally lovely. The only place I’ve ever experienced homophobia is Dublin! I’m so accustomed to people being nice about it that I don’t try to hide it anymore. I just take it for granted that people don’t care.
So I’m not going to get upset about incidents like this anymore. Every time something like this happens, I’m going to read this post and remind myself that I have an army of supporters – and they’re far bigger in number than the bigots.