Coming Out Day

Coming Out Day

Coming Out Day is a day celebrated by members of the LGBT community in order to raise awareness of LGBT issues amongst the wider community (see wikipedia for full details on the history of this day)

In 2010, the UCC LGBT Staff Network and the UCC LGBT Society came together to mark the day with a screening of a short film showing the coming out stories of some of our members. The screening took place on Tuesday October the 12th at 5.30pm place in Brookfield Health Sciences Complex Room G04 and we welcomed all members of the UCC community.

We'd also like to thank the UCC Film Society for their invalauble work in putting the film together.

Coming Out Stories - Anonymous

Question 1: Can you introduce yourself please?

My name is irrelevant, as is my profession, which sounds like I am avoiding exposure, but I am exactly the same as you; I have the same fears and the same hopes, but I truly believe that sexuality is fluid, especially for women, and that for a lot of us we are attracted to many elements of a person’s being: physicality, intellectualism, emotional capacity, sense of humour, ambitions, morals, core values, goals, and more. I am a romantic and I believe that the person I choose to bond with for life will embody most, if not all, of these elements, and that person might be of either sex – the gender really does not factor dominantly.

Question 2: At what age did you realise that you were gay or at least not straight.

As a teenager I was attracted to both genders, but like most people, I glossed over it as a ‘normal’ phase one goes through when getting to know oneself, like having a crush on one’s teacher. But it wasn’t something I could shake, if I felt attracted to other females, then that made me a lesbian, right? So when I could not shake off an attraction to women, I had to face up to things…

Question 3: So when did you come out?

I was drinking wine with my mother watching Star Trek at 2am, Seven-of-nine came on screen and I said “Mum, I have something to tell you” as I explained to her that I was more of a fan of Jeri Ryan than I was of the men in the show…Because I believed I was a lesbian and in a category, I then made formal announcements to my close friends, and I wore my rainbow belt with pride.

Question 4: And how have things been since you’ve come out? Have you had any negative reactions?

I came out and then I went back into the closet… and that was the problem, the very notion of there even being a closet, having to be one or the other – gay or straight. I genuinely love people, if I click with someone I will explore it – it’s not about a gender, it’s about a person. I don’t think I have had negative reactions per se, but then I move in a world where I am surrounded by free thinkers, artists and creative types, all of whom are as willing as I am to believe in sexuality being fluid, and labels being stifling.

Question 5: Who was the hardest person to tell?

I suppose if I am honest it is not a facet of my being that I immediately divulge – and I like to think neither do I tell people I have a nice voice, that I am many things and as one gets to know me one becomes more aware of me as a whole… But that is somewhat of a lie. Every time someone new finds out I have dated women and have dated men I feel judged. I feel judged by “straight” people for being “gay” and I feel judged by the LGBT community for being “straight” … It never gets any easier if you’re being honest about it.

Question 6: What advice would you have for someone thinking of coming out?

After a couple of years of asserting myself as a lesbian and being happy with the label and feeling part of a club, I’ve gone through a lot of thinking and a few relationships, with both men and women… The conclusion I have reached is that I am incredibly uncomfortable with labels, and not in a reactionary cop-out way, but really and truly I despise being categorised. Judge me if you will, but I fall for people based on a connection I have with them, not on whether they are male or female. I do not feel more at ease dating one gender over another, I feel more at ease dating some people over others. My advice to you if you are thinking of coming out, is not to feel pressured into being one way or the other – be yourself, explore relationships with all types of people and realise there is a whole world out there to explore; constraints in what you should and should not be make it more complicated than necessary. Your sexuality is not the sum of your parts; it is merely a facet of an overall person… Just live life the way you want and don’t be concerned with outside opinion.

Coming Out Stories - Maurice Ryder

Question 1: Can you Introduce yourself please?

Hi my name is Maurice Ryder. I’m 31, I work in the Computer Centre here in University College Cork. I’ve lived in Cork nearly all my life apart from brief spells as a child in Wexford, South Africa and in Boston and the UK in my 20s. I currently live in Douglas with my boyfriend.

Question 2: At what age did you realise that you were gay or at least not straight.

I think I’ve always had some kind of an inkling but it wasn’t until I hit puberty that I really started to notice boys. I noticed girls as well but that was more to do with a societal expectation. Even at an early stage I was conforming and trying my best to “fit in” to what was expected. Still, I think the first person I told that I had feelings for people of the same sex was my sister Edel when I was about 13 or 14. I had a crush on Wil Wheaton from Star Trek as well as numerous guys in my class. That didn’t stop me from having girlfriends cos, y’know that’s what I was supposed to do. I think through my teens and twenties I was very much convinced that I was at least bisexual.

Question 3: So when did you come out?

As I mentioned, I kind of came out to my sister when I was 13. She was only a year older than me and was completely grand about it. I had a friend in secondary school who thought he was gay when we were around 16 and I kinda came out to him too but we never did anything about it. Just talked. When I hit college, I had a girlfriend so I didn’t come out then either except to a few people. I was with my first guy when I was 19 but I didn’t fully come out until ten years later when I was 29. That was when I met my current boyfriend. He was and is pretty special and even then I could tell that this was something worth pursuing. I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to have a full and honest relationship unless I could be honest and open about who I am.

Question 4: And how have things been since you’ve come out? Have you had any negative reactions?

I think coming out is one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I actually decided to post an announcement to my blog and just emailed everyone the link. I came out as bisexual with a preference for guys but it was still a big milestone. Some people thought it was a joke and that my blog had been hacked. But everybody who read that post has been 100% supportive. I haven’t had one negative reaction from my friends or from colleagues. I’ve since identified as fully gay as well but the whole coming out process has been invaluable.

Question 5: Who was the hardest person to tell?

I actually knew my immediate family would be fine about it. We’ve never been very religious so I knew there wouldn’t be a problem there. I did however kind of chicken out a small bit and I only told my mum over the phone. She wasn’t over the moon or anything but she wasn’t unhappy either. I think she was disappointed because I wouldn’t have the normal wife and two kids kind of life. But the hardest person to tell was my great aunt Mary. She’s like a grandmother to me and is a very religious woman from a traditional co. Galway farming background. So I didn’t tell her until way after I’d come out to the rest of the family. It was actually Seán, my boyfriend, who encouraged me to come out to her as we were going to visit her in Galway and he didn’t want to be the “ambiguous male companion”. He felt like we were pulling the wool over her eyes by not letting on what we were to each other. So I decided to write her a letter. Again, I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction. People have surprised me at every turn at how positive they’ve been and none more so than Aunt Mary. I should have given her more credit I suppose, She told me that if this was the way that God had made me then I must be this way for a reason. And that was that.

Question 6: What advice would you have for someone thinking of coming out?

First off, you have to come out to yourself first. Make sure you are comfortable with who you are. You may lose some friends, at the very least the nature of your friendships with a lot of people will change. But that’s not always a bad thing. And be safe. If you’re still living at home and coming out is going to lead to you being turfed out onto the street, make sure you have a someone to take you in.

I suppose the one thing that you mightn’t always consider is that coming out is a continuous process. Whenever you meet new people there will always be that moment when a question arises about your other half or your interests. It can give you a little nervous flutter as you consider how that person is going to react but I think the best way is just to plough on through and if it comes up it comes up, don’t hide it. Being gay is part of who I am. It’s not the only part of me, but it is an important part nonetheless. I think overall I’m glad I came out and the only regret I have is not doing it sooner.

October 2010

Coming Out Stories - Cathal Kerrigan

Question 1: Can you Introduce yourself please?

A             My name is Cathal Kerrigan.  I was born in Cork City in 1955 and grew up there.  I went to UCC where I did a B.A. I lived in Dublin 1981 - 1992 where I got a librarianship qualification in UCD and worked for AIB as a librarian in their HQ in Ballsbridge.  In 1992 I moved to Amsterdam where I worked in a call centre.  In 1999 I moved back to Ireland – I lived in Galway until 2003 when I moved back home to Cork where I now live and work as a librarian in UCC.

Question 2: At what age did you realise that you were gay or at least not straight.

A             At 12 / 13 I realised that my fantasies were different to those my school friends talked about.  I decided I was homosexual based on what I’d read but just carried on ignoring it.

 

Question 3: So when did you come out?

A             At 15 I became withdrawn because I realised I was not like my school friends.  I became depressed about it over the next 2 years which were pretty miserable.  In the autumn of 1973 I got my GP to refer me to the local psychiatric hospital which I attended as an out-patient for 3 months; they were very good and made clear they did not think I had an ‘illness’.  In the summer of 1974 a Sunday paper did a piece on the founding of IGRM giving a contact address; I made contact and met for the first time another gay person! 

They gave me details of the scene in Cork.  That summer I went into ‘Le Chateau’ bar on Patrick’s Street and connected with other gays in Cork.

In 1975 I decided I should come out to my family.  Unfortunately, my enthusiasm ran away with me and when the whole family – my parents, myself as eldest together with my two sisters and brother - sat down to dinner one evening I literally said: “I have something to tell you – I’m gay”.  Needless to say this caused consternation and tension.  I decided to move out of home and took a bedsit in Sunday’s Well.

In 1980 I was elected President of UCC Students Union.  I was openly gay and attended the Grad Ball with my then lover which caused controversy.  I also was involved in setting up a GaySoc.  That winter I was interviewed on Cork Local Radio about these & other issues and came out on air.

In 1989 I was living in Dublin and involved in GLEN.  There was a ‘Late, Late Show’ special on gay law reform; I was in the audience and asked a question – thus coming out on national TV.

Question 4: And how have things been since you’ve come out? Have you had any negative reactions?

A             I’ve always felt that being in the closet is a waste of time – it takes so much energy that could be used to create positive things in people’s lives.  I’ve been lucky – the main form any negative reactions have taken has been silence – people not mentioning it or changing the subject when I’d raise it.  Once I came out I just could not countenance the idea of ever hiding who I was again.  Over the past 35 years being – totally! – out has been a very positive experience for me.

When I came out to work colleagues in Cork in 1975 they were supportive – a couple of the other young guys did say they felt uneasy dealing with the issue but the rest were fine.

                At university there was lots of support.  But when I challenged things by demanding recognition then some of my student union colleagues proposed a motion of censure on me – but this was defeated.  The most blatant homophobic reaction was from the then President of UCC when we were debating recognition of the GaySoc at Governing Body saying things like "I'm not going to be responsible for spending taxpayers' money and providing space in College for promoting a criminal element among the students".

                The Monday morning after I was on TV in 1989 I got lots of support from the people I worked with in AIB; there was one person who approached me at coffee-break to say: “I don’t approve of homosexuality but I respect your courage in appearing on TV and putting your case”.  My neighbours where I lived in Fairview were also very supportive.

 

Question 5: Who was the hardest person to tell?

A             My family in 1975.  I did it all the wrong way!  I didn’t prepare them in any way.  I was totally stressed out. 

Question 6: What advice would you have for someone thinking of coming out?

A             Do it – but take advantage of all the support available today from LGBT youth groups, parent support groups, etc.  My experience is that people aren’t really ‘in the closet’ in actuality! 

Parents, friends, work colleagues usually have a semi/subconscious knowledge / intuition – when someone comes out often people will say “I suspected”, “I had an inkling” “I guessed” – e.g. Dónal Óg Cusack’s mother’s comment to Marian Finucane about when he came out to her.

I feel the ‘real’ closet is in people’s minds – the biggest coming out is really believing in oneself that being gay is o.k. and accepting one’s self – after that the rest falls into place!

October 2010 

[p.s.  I’ve appended a piece I wrote a few years ago about growing up gay in Cork in case it may be of any use.] 

Background to Coming Out - Cathal Kerrigan

 

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