Valerie Mulcahy: I was frightened by what I was - A YES vote can remove true fear
I came out to the media and to the people of Ireland who don’t know me in a documentary film earlier this year by speaking briefly about myself, which turned out to be one of the best actions I have taken in my life.
Now I would like to open up in a bit more detail.
When I was younger, I did not want to be gay. I wasted much of my early twenties thinking my way through life instead of actually living my life and accepting my feelings. Inevitably, as more time went by, I couldn’t keep trying to convince myself that I wasn't feeling what I was feeling. I had to be honest to myself and in turn, my family and friends accepted who I was.
I was very frightened because I was afraid of what every LGBT person in the world is afraid of - being judged for something we didn't chose and cannot change.
I am a happy adult now because while I was lost I stumbled across a person who would become both my partner and my best friend. Through her actions, she taught me to embrace who I am rather than wish I was someone else, or be of another sexual orientation.
I have had the privilege of living my life without fear since I met my partner. My decision to partake in the documentary was an easy one. It didn't require bravery. I had the security of knowing I was accepted by my friends and family, and sadly for too many Irish people right now, that seems like a luxury.
Following the broadcast of the documentary I experienced an overwhelming wave of positivity, love, support, praise and compassion that extended beyond my social circles and reflected an acceptance by the general public and our society. It has given me the courage to use my voice for those that, for now, have none.
I witnessed first-hand the impact that five minutes of sharing some of my thoughts and life experiences had on people, young and old.
I received many emails, letters, messages and phone calls of love and gratitude. Most significantly, a supportive card from a former parish priest of mine, which I am so thankful to have received. I am only beginning to fully appreciate now only now how much equality and respect matters to all people everywhere.
I understand too well that secrets are dangerous because they cut us off from each other. They make us lonely, frightened and confused. From my own personal experience, I am acutely aware that children and adolescents who feel like they have to hide their sexuality are damaging their mental health and wellbeing.
I believe that by voting YES for equal treatment of all Ireland’s citizens we can change the lives of our children and adolescents by removing their true fear. Voting YES will ensure a life of truth will be less equal, and ultimately, will restrict them from being who they hoped they would be and doing what they hoped they could do.
I often wonder how much harder my life would have been if it was not for the courage and passion of the LGBT community and their supporters, to decriminalise homosexuality when I was 10 years old. I owe much of my happiness to them and their gift to my future.
This referendum is OUR gift to the future. We need to choose wisely and with love.