For Pride month, we asked our members if they would like to share their stories about their lives and what Pride means to them. The response has been amazing and we may continue these after Pride month has ended. If you would like to contribute your story, please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Conleth’s for sharing his story.
By Conleth Kane
I will never forget my first non-uniform day at my secondary school – St Paul’s Junior High School in Lurgan back in 1997. It was an all-boys Catholic School in a working-class town in Lurgan in N. Ireland. I emerged from my bedroom wearing a Spice Girls T Shirt and my parents looked at me with fear all over their faces. They were always terrified on my behalf but I honestly didn’t give a s**t. I adored the Spice Girls. The band was the only display of diversity I had seen and they made it very clear that it was perfectly acceptable to be in a group scenario but be individual. I suppose that’s why I saw 60,000 other gay people at their 2019 reunion shows at Wembley Stadium. I guess they also identified with the very loud and clear message the girls generated.
Like most other LGBTQ+ people, I had a difficult youth. I was verbally, mentally and physically abused on multiple occasions. I didn’t fit in. N. Ireland was an extremely conservative country – let’s not forget that NI only just achieved equal marriage in law last year (and it was legislated via Westminster). The DUP are the largest party in N. Ireland and they have paraded their homophobia around for decades. They have made extremely uncomplimentary comments and slurs about our community in the public eye with no remorse. This has no doubt contributed to the poor mental health of so many of the LGBTQ+ community in N. Ireland to this very day. Of course, there has been positive changes and progression over the years but out of everywhere in the UK and Ireland – I believe N. Ireland still has a long way to go.
I wrote a song called ‘Proud’. In 2017 Pride in London asked me to come along and perform. The day before I sat at my kitchen table and in 10 minutes – this song poured from my heart. I remember wanting to use the platform of Pride in London to address the inequality back home and remind people that N. Ireland was being left behind. I stood up on stage and told the audience that I had written a song to express how I felt about myself. I told them that I may forget the words because I wrote it the day before. I will never forget the reaction for as long as I live. I’ve always been better at communicating my emotions via art and music and the fact that I was able to see my music resonate with an entire audience was truly the proudest moment of my life. I have people who write to me from all over the world regarding ‘Proud’ and it is truly the most heart-warming thing. To know my lyrics and music can help people is the best gift as an artist.
Pride for me will always be a celebration but also a protest. We must never forget that rights we enjoy today are being denied to others in our community across the globe.