The summer before last, one of my dearest friends told me that he was gay. The eldest male in a big, very Irish, very Catholic family, he never did fit the stereotypical farm boy archetype. This news was not exactly a surprise as; no man can plan a tea, cater a reception, or craft a flower arrangement like he can. (Not to indulge the stereotype- he is also handy with the tools and house construction)
Where we grew up the majority of people remain on the land that their ancestors settled, needless to say not much has changed in their ways since then. However it was Ireland that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, and where abortion remains illegal. Ready for change and a fresh start he spent a year abroad in Ireland completing his MA, and change is what he got.
Ireland has become the first nation to support same sex marriage by popular vote, with a clear supporting majority in most areas. As a gay man who spent time living there, I thought there no better candidate to gain some perspective on the matter. Obviously, he feels great about the outcome of the vote but remains taken back by how,
“it did not seem to be a religious issue for a country that still has a remarkable tie of Catholicism to their identity – but in that regard it is a lot like Quebec who when Canada finally legalized it was much more liberal and accepting then other more Protestant areas.”
The Irish are known to be relaxed and quite liberal in comparison with the UK, and so he does not think it was such a leap.”If they could put a referendum in the north, I think it would also win, but the politicians are the ones who don’t want it to happen”.
His Catholic upbringing has not jaded him in terms of religion, he still identifies as a Christian but with stronger ties to the United Church due to their inclusiveness regarding sexual orientation.
His hopes for the future? “I think its a great incentive for other European nations to do it and hopefully it will get NI to get it together, maybe the Americans too, who knows. Now if only some of the churches would be so democratic!”
His time across the pond gave him some first hand experience with some of the unfortunate repercussions that previous law has created and those affected, “masculinity is still quite highly valued, as is family, so there are a lot of very closeted and “bi” guys,” either just married, or with young families who are seeking out affairs with male partners.
“I felt the most pity for them – many having experimented while at school and then succumbing to familial and social pressures to have a family.”
With a traveler’s soul, he is back in Canada for the time being but who knows for how long. May his road lead him back to Ireland and to love.