An American in Dublin: Exploring Gay Life Over the Rainbow

12.3.2013

By Jeffrey Hartinger

Relaxed and well-read Irish gays are far removed from their American counterparts, finds one writer visiting the Emerald Isle.

Over the past few years, Ireland, particularly Dublin, has been increasingly gay-friendly, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with a gang of homophobic Irish dudes on a Saturday night. Adam said that it was fine and that we wouldn’t have a problem. From my research on anti-LGBT attitudes in Ireland prior to my travels, it appeared that most incidents are typically non-violent. And, quite honestly, I’m a 24-year-old man; if I want to hold someone’s hand, I should be able to without fear or angst.

We made our way through the herds of people — many searching for a cab at the curb — and we decided to walk to his place when we were unsuccessful in hailing one. No one said anything, nor did they seem to care that two guys were walking hand-in-hand. The only person that approached us on our 15-minute walk was some British tourist looking to score some cocaine.

“No offense, but I would have thought Ireland would be the last place on Earth where they measure the alcohol in mixed drinks,” I ribbed, reflecting upon my experience in the bars earlier.

“Ay, you know, if they didn’t, none of us would ever show up for work,” he responded with a smile. His accent was irresistibleBefore I left the next morning, Adam and I talked about gay culture in Ireland and the growing acceptance of LGBT people. Similar to the United States, he informed me that “almost all people are age are cool with it.” After returning to the states, I found a 2013 study that showed 73% of Irish people agreed that “same sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution.”

Additionally, Adam shared a few personal stories with me after only knowing me a few hours. But, that wasn’t unique of just Adam. One of my favorite things about Ireland was that it seemed that a majority of those I interacted with seemed to wear their hearts (and their stories) on their sleeves — gay and straight.

The political and religious turmoil over the past few decades seems to have had a major impact on the development of the young Irish women and men I spoke with, as almost all were non-religious or atheists. Some of them called themselves “Catholic” in air quotes, with an added laugh or smirk.

Further, Irish people seemed to be open about discussing politics and religion, but unlike many Americans I come across, they appeared more informed about what exactly was going on in Ireland and abroad. Their passion was evident, and they also seemed very interested in my perspective as an American. They were also interested in my perspective as a gay American.

Some stories were sad, like the one Irish guy who was dating a closeted English rugby player.

“What’s weird is that his team members set us up. A lot of the professional athletes are cool with it, but they are afraid of the backlash of their homophobic fans,” he said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”

When I asked why his lover wouldn’t come out, he said that he did not want to be seen as a “trailblazer.”

Some stories were happy, like the one of Adam, who came out easily to his parents in rural Ireland. He was living the gay, urban dream in the city of Dublin. Many people his age, sadly, have fled Ireland to seek job opportunities in other countries, such as the United States, Australia, and various parts of Europe.

While he was in the shower, I couldn’t help but glance around his room. A few cover letters were stacked neatly on his wooden desk. He was a good writer, and it appeared from what I read he did in-depth research on the job he was applying for. He was handsome. He was smart. He was motivated.

“Maybe I’ll see you around,” I said when I got to the sidewalk, making a right towards the seafood restaurant he recommended down the street. “I’m here for a week.”

Of course, I knew that I would never see him again.

With that, I realized that the Irish aren’t the only storytellers in the world. If you get a chance to incorporate them into a chapter of your life, or even a sentence, I highly recommend it.

JEFFREY HARTINGER is a writer and lives in New York City. Visit his website or follow him @BuffaloGuyInNYC.

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