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'My dad struggled at first when I came out,' reveals Rose of Tralee

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Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh winning her crown.

Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh winning her crown.

Enda Kenny with Rose of Tralee at the National Ploughing Championships 2014

Enda Kenny with Rose of Tralee at the National Ploughing Championships 2014

Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh with young students in the slum of Ulthadanga, Kolkata where the Hope Foundation has a school, creche and community support centre

Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh with young students in the slum of Ulthadanga, Kolkata where the Hope Foundation has a school, creche and community support centre

Phildelphia Rose Maria Walsh, Perth Rose Sinead Lehane, Kentucky Rose Claire Curran, Cork Rose Anna Geary and Boston and New England Rose Michelle Prior enjoying Birds Amusement Park at the Rose of Tralee International Festival in Kerry.

Phildelphia Rose Maria Walsh, Perth Rose Sinead Lehane, Kentucky Rose Claire Curran, Cork Rose Anna Geary and Boston and New England Rose Michelle Prior enjoying Birds Amusement Park at the Rose of Tralee International Festival in Kerry.

Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh, wearing a signed Mayo jersey with MC Keith Duffy, representing Irish Autism, during half-time as part of the GAA Inclusion Day.

Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh, wearing a signed Mayo jersey with MC Keith Duffy, representing Irish Autism, during half-time as part of the GAA Inclusion Day.

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Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh winning her crown.

The Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has opened up about telling her parents that she is gay.

"Luckily for me I knew my parents would love me no matter what. They always reinforced that, and when you have grown up in that environment, you worry less about opening up to them," said Maria, who has a younger brother who is gay also.

Maria (27) said that she came out to her parents after meeting a girl two-and-a-half years ago. A couple of months later she told them. She was her first girlfriend.

Hugged

Her dad hugged her for 10 minutes.

"I think he was trying to squeeze the gay out of me! No, he was just like: 'I just don't understand.'

"And I just said, 'dad I just met this amazing person'. When have you ever seen me this happy?' And he goes, 'no, I get that, but I still just don't understand' So I told him to ask me whatever he wanted, to help him understand.

"Also, it is a shock to have one gay child, never mind two, and it would be such a dishonour to my family and to myself if I told them, 'oh, I am gay and that's it. I am not talking about it anymore'."

Maria, who was born in Boston, but grew up in Shrule, Co Mayo, said her dad was asking her questions like "do you have to worry about it at work" and "can you have children?"

"And I was like, 'you can dad, and I work with a number of gay people and it's fine'.

"So he was like, 'I see'. And then with all the Rose of Tralee and it coming out and all the positive feedback, he got more used to it. Don't get me wrong though, he didn't wake up the next day and have a rainbow flag flying, but he is taking it one step at a time," she said.

Regarding her mother's reaction, Maria said that she was fine.

The reigning rose, who is now single, lives in Philadelphia where she works as a studio manager for a clothing and lifestyle brand.

She is a pioneer, having decided to take the pledge while still at school.

"I don't need it (alcohol). I'd chat for Ireland; I'm the first on the dance floor," she told VIP magazine.

She said her mother, aunt and uncle are all pioneers so it was never a foreign concept for her.

fdillon@herald.ie


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