At 60 and gay, I can dream - Letter to the Editor
Sir - I am 60 this year, a gay man who never formally "come out". My loving parents have sadly departed, never knowing the truth. I managed this more for their sake than mine. Religious rural Ireland would have made it difficult for them in their beliefs and in their community. I couldn't wait to escape from that community in the 1970s.
I was aware of my sexuality since I was about eight. I ultimately escaped to the city, a 22-year-old going on 15 emotionally, and even younger in a street-wise sense. I visited parks and public toilets, not for sex, but for the comfort of intimacy and identification. The comfort that everyone else could openly display and have acknowledged.
I was brought up with and had a healthy moral compass, and most of my encounters were based on trying to accommodate this. But I was damaged by a society which actively pilloried me, and those I met were similarly hurt. Damaged people leaning on damaged people, who frequently went on to damage each other. I was used and abused, but sure wasn't it my own fault for being "one of them" - constantly harassed and subjected to demeaning questioning by members of the gardai? They were "just doing their job", but some were very over-zealous.
So, I felt that I had to move among the creatures of the night and that led to secrecy, abuse, robbery and muggings. Feeling that I had to deny my true self led to denial of my true potential and real capabilities. I struggled through. Sometimes well, sometimes not, but always paying my taxes and being an exceptional volunteer for many causes.
It's probably not an exaggeration to say that I helped save many lives in the process. I've had some good companions on the journey. And my secret remains, even to my family.
Others of my generation chose to marry, many even having children. I know of many who led far more tortured lives than I. I hold the dominant "caring" Church of the time mostly responsible for my isolation.
Historically, I sensed their insidious double standards and their abuse of society, but dared not speak that truth. They had it sewn up. Even as I write, I note their current rampant, insidious hypocrisy masquerading as compassion. I am not looking for apologies, but in an era of retribution, many would think them appropriate.
This referendum lets me entertain the idea of marriage for the first time in my 60 years, something most guys could envisage since they were born. I can only imagine the exhilaration when the referendum is passed. No doubt damaged from my experiences and still insecure, I will be actively looking, even at my age, for a partner. I do so with the ultimate intention of asking him to marry me.
A tear escapes at the thought. My loss has been intense and all the more vivid considering the possibility of such change now. I would have made a fantastic father. That opportunity is too late for me now. But to grow old in a "Darby and Darby" relationship of equality is hopefully not.
When it is passed, I know I will cry, probably in private and alone, but my tears will be those of relief, acknowledgement, acceptance and hope.
Finally, I may even experience a sense of inclusion in that rural townland I couldn't wait to escape from. My hopes, dreams and aspirations have been placed on to your ballot paper. Please treat them with the utmost care as they are fragile. After some 50 years, I dare to dream.
(Name and address with Editor)