Working with the Irish LBGT group makes me feel closer to my community. We can be very quiet, the Irish. Private. We seem to have an ability to just grind our teeth and get on with it individually while at the same time caring for each other in an unspoken way. Caring but distant. When I'm with the LBGT group, I see and feel a quiet strength that often goes unnoticed within our own community. Over the years we've been battling as a nation for our right to our own free individualism. Against governments and churches. To be able to celebrate our 'Irishness' and be proud of it. But few spoke about the battle within the battle. About the thousands of people who were trying to fit into a doctrine that didn’t acknowledge their existence. Who were wanting to be a part of the exciting movement in Ireland, but couldn’t ‘wholly’ express themselves because that exciting movement didn’t include them…
The more time I spend with the Irish LBGT, the greater respect I have for them. Especially our older generation. What they went through to pave the way for the younger generation to be able and encouraged to be open and free. How they still tirelessly come up with ideas and ways to speak about the gay community in Ireland and as Irish Emigrants. The hurt you feel them feeling when they talk about the unnecessary high rates of suicides among the gay community back home. The pride they feel when they see how far they have come, and the disappointment at how far there is still to go.
And, for me personally, the women. Women who had to battle our chauvinistic little country while hiding their truth. Women who ran away to London to find freedom in the 60’s and 70’s and yet will still not reveal their true identities for fear that ‘the family finds out’.
When I see things like the young woman back home they tried to keep on life-support - when in fact she was clinically dead - because of a foetus, I feel embarrassed. And when I look back at our history, the laundries, the marital rape, our roles as baby machines, how we were (are) treated by the church, the fear that was put into people. I can only imagine what it must have been like to also have been a lesbian during a time when even to be a straight Irish women was hard enough… hard enough that even after 50 or 60 years of living abroad, you will still work under an pseudonym.
Until the gay community has equal rights, women’s rights cannot be got. Because it includes all of us. We are all women. Despite who we love.
And it makes me grateful. Grateful that my life doesn’t have to be like that.
If I could ask for one thing, it would be that more young Irish LBGT would take part in our project. Why? Because, like anything in life, there is a legacy to be left. A strength that needs to be passed down to another generation. I’m not saying the youngsters don’t have it. But what I see is a group of people who want to share their experiences with people who are important to them. And for them to know that their struggle wasn’t all in vain. That we’re not all out, just getting pissed and partying like it was handed to us on a plate. We meet once a month. Just once a month. And we’ve done historical things, like organising the first ever Irish LGBT launch at the Irish Embassy in London. We were the first official LBGT group to march in the Paddies Day Parade in London last year, while in New York there was shenanigans going on regarding weather or not the Irish LGBT should be allowed have a banner in the parade or not (in the end it was a no). We talk politics, watch movies, share ideas, and most importantly our time and friendships. We are passionate about the Irish LGBT community in London having a voice and about creating a way for that to happen. We are still new and evolving. Still discovering our voice. Still excited by a packet of Kimberley Mikados!