‘I think it’s time NI caught up with the rest of Britain and Ireland’

Conleth Kane.
Conleth Kane.

Wow. The past few days have been a whirlwind. I had no idea my Facebook status would generate such buzz, love, and have me on the front of the country’s biggest selling newspaper within days. I have been getting messages from all over, celebrity support on Twitter and much more. I’m overwhelmed. It has proven that, no matter where you are from, your voice can always be heard, and mine was. Here is my story...

Despite not being from the Republic of Ireland, when they voted ‘YES’ to Equal Marriage last weekend, I was incredibly emotional, and there was a huge wave of celebration across England, Scotland and Wales that our neighbour had joined us. The sun was out in London, people were cheering, people wrapped in Irish flags in support of the decision. It made me very proud to live in London. Having lived here for almost 13 years, it really does feel like home, but ‘home’ will always be Northern Ireland despite the fact it is the only place in the UK, and now Ireland, that sees me as a second class citizen. I was inundated with calls, texts and some very comic marriage proposals on Saturday, but deep down I felt sad. I felt sad because if I ever did meet someone, and wanted to get married in my hometown like everyone else, that option is simply not available to me. Also, if I ever did decide to get married in the future and move back to N. Ireland in later life, my marriage is not recognised there. The weekend surfaced a lot of demons for me and I decided to come forward and speak up. There is a dark cloud lingering above Northern Ireland right now, challenging equal rights and I want to tell you all why equal rights are simply vital. It stems much deeper than simply wanting equal marriage.

Childhood is apparently meant to be the best time of your life. For me it wasn’t. I spent my teenage years living in fear. I was severely bullied, mentally, physically and verbally. I became very depressed. The pressures of our education are tough as it is, but I had the extra pressure of being afraid to walk down a certain corridor at a certain time (in case I got spat at, pushed, or tripped up), being scared of home-time because it meant getting the school bus where I knew I’d be tortured, threatened and chastised. I was taken out of Lismore and put into St Paul’s where teachers really looked out for me, and school life became slightly easier, but it was on the streets where I was the most unsafe. One Sunday I was jumped by a group of older kids in front of my little sister (she was 11 at the time), who had to watch as I was beaten to a pulp; kicked repeatedly in the head and stomach, and having ‘Fagot’ and ‘Queer’ screamed in my ear. She had to run home and my family had to come and get me as I was unable to walk and blood was all over me. This bullying went on for quite some time and it led to thoughts of suicide and I developed a horrendous eating disorder which saw me balloon in size. What I will say though, is that I 100% believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today without enduring these horrific experiences. I love my life and have a lot to be thankful for, and my family are very proud of me. But I don’t want to be a victim anymore. What I want is that the kids of today and our future to be able to go through school and not have to experience what I did because it’s OK to be gay; because they have next door neighbours that are gay and are married. Which brings me onto my next point. Marriage. Firstly, I would like to clarify - I respect Christianity. I do not know one gay man or woman who has a desire to get married in a church or a chapel. In all my years I have never come across this. What we, as a community, want is to have exactly the same rights as the heterosexual community, ie. human rights. There are differences in Civil Partnerships and Marriages and, if and when I decide to spend the rest of my life with someone, my partner and I are eligible for everything a marriage has to offer, the same protection, pension rights etc. Why should my partner and I settle for second best? So before I get criticised for wanting ‘Equal Marriage’ and for our Northern Ireland to follow the rest of Britain and Ireland, please know that me marrying a man will NOT affect a straight couple’s marriage. It’s as simple as that. When Equal Marriage does proceed in Northern Ireland, and I do decide to get married, and want to do it in Lurgan, I can guarantee all of you it won’t be in a religious building. Certain Christians and members of certain political parties are getting very annoyed about the protection of marriage and what it means to them. Please know that I have been living in a country that legalised Same Sex Marriage two years ago and I have never seen or been to a gay wedding in a chapel or church.

Frankly, the gay community in Northern Ireland is tired of being bullied from early school days by the thugs in the playground through to adulthood by the bullies at Stormont. We are tired of taking lectures from a political party who want to protect the likes of Jim Wells (who thinks it’s more likely that I would abuse a child over a straight person), and Iris Robinson (who once wanted to open a clinic to cure gay people for mental health issues, when she was cheating on Peter with a 19 year old). So don’t talk to me about the values of marriage. I rest my case. Those days are gone. 
I’m prepared to stand and stop the kids of the future viewing homosexuality as something that is ‘wrong’ or ‘disgusting’ because, believe you me, if I could have waved a magic wand in my teenage years that would have made me straight, I would have done it, as life would have been so much easier.

Times are moving Northern Ireland. Time to catch up with the Republic, Wales, Scotland and England. Let’s make a difference.

There is nothing more beautiful than life itself, and every kid has the right to enjoy it and never should feel like they want to end it - all because society views them as ‘different’.