Bullied But Unbowed


stephen2Stephen Buckley

Homophophic bullies.

Don’t get even.

Vote yes.

Stephen Buckley, from Maynooth, Co Kildare now living in Washington DC., writes:

I have been struggling with the decision to share this post for a few days.

The debate about the marriage equality referendum over the past several months has felt weirdly distant to me. I thought it was because I have been living away from Ireland, but over the last few days, I have slowly and painfully started to realise that it has been because I didn’t want to engage with the feelings and memories that have been resurfacing about my own experience of growing up gay in Ireland.

I have never wanted to publicly explain my experience of being gay in Ireland, but I feel that it is important for me to share my story as the national conversation about who I can marry intensifies.

As a young child, I didn’t feel so different from everyone else. I felt like me, and being me was fine. Being me was fine with my family and it was fine with the kids that I played with near my house. But as I got older, I started to feel like I was standing out more and more from the kids in my class.

By the time I got to secondary school, I felt that I was standing out like a sore thumb, mostly because I was regularly called derogatory names for a gay person in the corridors of school by people I knew and even by people that I didn’t know.

Getting called hurtful names by people who didn’t even know my actual name was a terrifying experience as it felt like there was just no place to hide. Even more terrifying for me was that I didn’t even come out until I was 20, so it felt like people were acknowledging and exposing the fact that I was gay without my permission.

The effects from the level of bullying I endured were that I tried to hide myself and I became distrustful of people’s genuine affection for me as I was so scared of being discriminated against.

The reason why I have gone into detail about my experience of growing up as a gay person is to communicate to anyone who is on the fence about how they will vote, of how painful it can be to be gay, and how important a national vote is on what a gay couple are entitled to, both in legal and in emotional terms, to Irish gay people.

I also strongly feel that the impact of a yes vote would reach far beyond improving the lives and sense of worth of gay people in Ireland. Having spoken about my experiences of being bullied to straight friends and family, I have realised that being a victim of bullying is sadly a reality for many people from all walks of life. A yes vote would affirm the Irish people’s commitment to tolerance and understanding.

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34 thoughts on “Bullied But Unbowed

  1. aoh

    Fair play to him. He tells his story well and hopefully some fence-sitters will read it and decide. It’s not all about marraige, it’s acceptance of lifestyles.

  2. ahyeah

    I think he’s dead right. I’ve started thinking that the marriage element is almost secondary. This is a chance for Ireland and Irish people to formally and collectively state that we absolutely reject and abhor homophobia. And to say to young gay people who might be afraid to come out, ‘yes, there are some d1cks around, but most of us are cool and tolerant and loving’. That’s why I’m voting ‘yes’ anyway – and I’m a straight man.

    1. maisy

      That’s a brilliant way of putting it…it’s actually exactly how I feel about the whole thing. It’s Ireland saying yes, we all are equal!

  3. ionabike

    This referendum is most definitely about more than the constitutional change proposed. And no I don’t mean it’s about destroying the “family” and turning kids gay.

    A yes vote would be a big sign that we are demonstrably and democratically moving on from the days of the state serving the interests of the church. A gigantic shift towards secularism as a Republic should be.

    I’d imagine, for the gay community along with many others, it would signal that their home land is somewhere that is finally growing up in its attitudes to acceptance and equality.

    Optimism will abound! Please vote yes!!

  4. ceo

    Jaysus, that t-shirt is awful gay ;-)

    Fair play to you Stephen. Yes, this referendum, echoing our ex-Pres will be a big deal for gay kids, hopefully normalizing homosexuality and ergo reducing bullying and the resulting stress. Back in Stephen’s day though, certainly in mine (mid 90s) the whole “different” tag about gay people in society drove a lot of the homophobic bullying. I never recall myself bullying anyone, but as I did lie somewhere in the middle of the social pecking order in school, I know I took some slags but I probably gave some too. I sure hope I was never a prick to people like Stephen but honestly, I can’t remember and I can’t say with certainty that I wasn’t.

    If there’s any solace for you Stephen…I’ll bet 90% of the lads that gave you shit will likely be voting yes and are probably long since contrite about the hurt they caused.

    1. ahyeah


      Not proud to admit that, when in school, I wouldn’t have thought anything about calling someone a poof. Wasn’t an ounce of homophobic sentiment behind it – just thoughtless stupidity. Sounds stupid but it never occurred to me that it might be causing someone hurt. And I think too that this was a product of Irish society. I don’t believe we’re racist, sexist or homophobic – but a bit naive at times. And the fact tha5 the state doesn’t currently afford equality to gays is de facto state approval to treat gays as ‘different’. This is why the referendum is so, so, so important.

      1. Squiggleyjoop

        I once called somebody a ‘queerbo’ in school. I assume I was trying to cause offence but I definitely came off worse.

  5. Rob

    So if this referendum isn’t really about marriage as the commenters above said, what is it about?

    1. jo

      For me it’s about same sex marriage and nothing else.
      I’m so sick of this sort of rubbish. Ger over yourself

      1. ionabike

        Apparently whats ” for you” should be of concern to the rest of us. Ger over yourself

  6. Sinabhfuil

    He’s right. A change in the law would change how Ireland looks at itself. We’d see our country as inclusive, generous, unprejudiced. Make grá the law!
    Love the T, by the way.

  7. Frilly Keane

    C’mere Stephen
    I’tink you got off lightly
    How the ûpp did you not get a clatter
    A kick up da’hole
    Or a Geraghty’man style batin’
    With that dress sense a’yours
    Seriously like
    How you’re not black n’blue
    Is a mystery t’me tbh

    Aren’t all ye gays supposed to know fashion and matching and style n’stuff

  8. Kieran NYC

    So that’s where my granny’s tablecloth went!

    Only messin’. Great letter. So happy I can fly home to vote.

  9. More_Bermuda_than_Berlin

    It’s social issues such as gay marriage that offer some hope that Ireland is finally growing up.

    When abortion is eventually legalised, we might even be ready to leave nod-and-wink politics behind.

  10. Soundings

    Jebus, a ginger gay with a pocket t-shirt – you never stood a chance, did you :-)

    Small recompense for the bullying and struggle, but the marriage equality referendum is a bank-shot certainty (as long as the hares don’t get complacent and get out of bed to vote).

  11. Inopro

    Theres no doubt about it he tells it how it is. This is as important to the country now as it is to individuals seeking to be treated equally under the constitution. Vote yes folks, love’ll save the day! And why not extend the misery of marriage to us all!

  12. Just sayin'

    Lot of sympathy with his story and there was plenty of gay-bashing at my school even against kids such as me who aren’t gay.

    However, it only takes a little sophistication to separate the issue of homophobia from changing our constitution to allow gay marriage. Voting yes isn’t a “signal”, it actually amends our constitution to redefine marriage.
    I keep thinking of Life of Brian and Stan/Loretta’s right to have babies.

  13. yesyes

    Unfortunately a yes vote won’t change the twitching curtain, bully boy mentality of the Irish . Look at our politicians and national broadcaster, all firmly flying the flag of mediocrity, hair extensions and bouffant hairstyles. What was once a nation of saints and scholars is now a nation of chancers in lycra and polyester.

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