Writing this feature for The Irish Times was a dream come true for me. I’ve always been interested in the diverging experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, and as somebody who grew up in a rural area myself, I was interested to find out what others made of that experience.
I had the absolute pleasure of speaking to Will Keane, a gay man from Roscommon, Ruth Tynan, a lesbian from Meath, Aoife Martin, a trans woman from Louth, and Day, a non-binary person from Tipperary. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Living in a rural area isn’t easy at the best of times. Lack of public transport, social opportunities or access to third-level education can make some people itch to leave in search of more. But that experience is even more complicated when you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Coming to terms with your identity in a small town or village – and eventually coming out or transitioning – can be enormously challenging. As a result, many LGBT people flee to cities at the first available opportunity, and don’t look back.
But this isn’t the full picture. Plenty of other LGBT people opt to remain living in rural areas, or decide to return later in life. Their experiences are complex and multifaceted; many are happy living in rural areas, and have created support networks for themselves, while others are waiting for their chance to escape to an urban centre.
I relate to both of these experiences. I left Roscommon when I was 18, six years after I first realised I was gay. Two years later I came out. I saw Dublin as an escape, a place where I could finally be myself. But after five years in the city I’d had enough. I wanted to go home. I have now been back in Roscommon for more than a year – and, to my surprise, my sexuality has not been an issue or a talking point, as I once feared it would be.