I was born in Mayo in 1945. After I was born, my older brother got seriously ill with TB. I got it into my head very young that my mother didn’t want me. So I grew up very well behaved in order to get into her good books. I never quite did, but that was okay.
I went to boarding school, which I hated. I became very religious, thinking God and Jesus were the only ones that loved me. Then I decided that I would join a monastery, so I went into the Cistercian monastery in Roscrea. I was suffering from depression there, and I left after four years.
Gold is a great place to break out of loneliness or isolation, which can haunt older LGBT people for various reasons.
I was vaguely conscious that I was attracted to men, but that was a temptation. You see, it was illegal and immoral, and I felt I had to be a good person, so I fought against this every inch of the way.
Then I met a woman, and I genuinely fell in love with her. We married, but it went downhill, so eventually, I told her I was bisexual. She couldn’t really deal with that and I became even more depressed. I had to give up teaching because of the depression. Finally, I became suicidal and went into hospital.
When I was in the hospital I decided I had a right to life, to be myself, so I left the marriage. My two sons are quite happy with me. My wife feels hurt and betrayed. I don’t beat myself up but I am responsible, and I do acknowledge that.
I do think that there’s a lot of support needed for wives and husbands – any partners whose spouses have come out. They’re left high and dry.
I discovered Outhouse and worked part-time there, where I made a lot of friends, and where I help facilitate a group called Gold, for older people. It’s a very informal, friendly group. Last week a man who couldn’t attend anymore, after coming for a few months, complimented us on our friendliness and our welcoming, non-judgmental attitude.
Some people in the group have come out late in life, others are suffering the loss of, or break-up with, partners. Still others just like the chat and informal friendliness of the members.
Gold is a great place to break out of any loneliness or isolation, which can haunt older LGBT people for various reasons. I look forward to the meeting every week. I would love to see a few more people availing of the group.
I feel as though the older people who were out from the beginning went through a lot of hardship and bullying. Some have also lost partners and friends in the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s, so a lot of mourning happened. As well as that, we grew up in a very repressive age, when Catholic values were ingrained into us, and some people who were brave enough to withstand it went through a battle. I really admire those at the front – they were very courageous.
There are older LGBT people out there who are experiencing isolation, often in rural areas. I suspect a good few of them made their own social circles and they might not be out of the closet. I think there are others who would welcome a bit of help – just in living a happier life within themselves. Nobody knows how to open the closet door from the outside.
Since I came out, I’ve been very happy. I’m still religious but in a lot more of a liberal way. My kids are grown up, and I have my pension. I go off on long holidays. I have a boyfriend in Argentina. It’s a fairly open relationship – he’s a lovely fellow, and things are very open and honest.
Interview by Chris O’Donnell
The Gold peer support group for gay and bisexual men aged over 55 meets for coffee and cake at Outhouse Café every Wednesday at 5 pm,