My mum always told me, 'your private life is nobody's business.' Well I, in all my teen angst, took that comment as an insult, a backhanded way of telling me not to express myself or my feelings. It was in fact probably the best advice I have ever been given.
o that is how I lived my life for the majority of my teenage years, in private. I didn't kiss and tell, never spoke of dates or relationships and all in all kept pretty much to myself, and I was happy to live this way. That all changed however, in the few years running up to 2015.
We were a country on the cusp of major socio-political change, we were a generation that could change the lives of thousands, maybe even millions to come after us and as we all eagerly anticipated May 22 and the Marriage Referendum, privacy vanished.
Suddenly your sexuality, your relationship, your religious or moral beliefs were thrust to the forefront and became the topic of a nationwide debate. So, firstly let that sink in for a moment. How it felt for teenagers, transgender, bisexual, gay or lesbian young people to turn on the radio and hear parents, teachers, priests, politicians and your peers discuss whether they deemed you worthy of a basic human right: marriage.
We were being judged, weighed, measured and my mother's words made sense. She was trying to protect me, just warning me that no matter who I was, people may judge me.
It was no longer appropriate to be private. The whole nation was going public, but I felt like a coward, a fraud. While the LGBT community and their allies were knocking on doors, forming canvassing groups and posting lengthy Facebook status updates, I still hadn't really even come out. But I didn't want to come out, I just wanted to be out; so that's what I did, I decided I was just out.
I didn't post a heart-felt message on social media, I didn't change my relationship status, I didn't sit down and have a teary-eyed discussion with friends or family, it just sort of happened, slowly but surely, people began to know and began to understand.
I think it was when I was 22 and sitting in the student bar of DCU after a day of lectures during my Master's that I had a kind of 'coming out'. Several of the girls and I were sitting around with our pints of cheap cider and cigarettes when the question arose, 'Do you have a boyfriend?' And I simply answered, 'No, I have a girlfriend.' And that was that.
They nodded, some surprised, some not, but all remarked they were happy that I could state it so comfortably, and so I continued to state it whenever that question arose.
I identify as bisexual, which means I can be attracted to both men and women. It is not a synonym for polyamorous or 'greedy' which is what much stigma and pop culture stereotypes will have you believe, I have in fact had long-term, monogamous and serious relationships with both men and women.
It's something I always knew, and I feel a lot of LGBT people will tell you the same. I always had a feeling I was different, that I wasn't quite 'straight' or 'normal' even.
Sometimes I feel as though I was born with two halves; one was my heteronormative half, long hair, wore make up, liked boys and crappy pop music - 'my stereotypical straight half' - the other half was different, it was teased, it got me called 'dyke', 'lesbian' or 'butch' because I played liked rock 'n' roll and football better than most of the boys (which is probably why they had to resort to name-calling in the first place).
According to surveys done by the ISPCC and various Youth LGBT charity groups, over 58pc of students in school will experience homophobic bullying. Unfortunately, this bullying - the name-calling - it causes you to feel ashamed, embarrassed and like you are weird or different.
I was fortunate enough to escape this kind of bullying, at least to my face. I had a good group of friends, a supportive group, and while I was teased and slagged, I found that most of my shame came from myself. I didn't want to be different, I didn't want to be gay, or bisexual or whatever the hell it was that I was feeling. I just wanted to be a girl, a happy and confident girl, and eventually I would be.
There was no boy who broke my heart, there was no one who got away, and there was no reason that suddenly made me want to be with one particular sex or explore my 'other half'. I just grew up. I found myself, I accepted myself and I gained the confidence to respond to that intimidating question, 'Do you have a boyfriend?' regardless of what the answer may be.
My mother's words still echo in my ear, but they no longer ring true. I found myself, I found someone who cared for me and there was no stopping me. I would go on to pass out flyers, post lengthy status reports about voting deadlines and perform at Marriage Equality fundraisers. I was still private, but I was no longer hiding, and I never will again.