First Time Traveller |

16 mins

First Time Traveller

I knew so many people who had done it before, who had the best summer ever. But when realised they were all straight, was nervous as hell.

It took me a long time to become confident in my queerness. It took years of growth to go from a quiet closeted gay boy to an out and proud gay man. All of that growth happened in my home city, Dublin. I’ve built up a network of friends here, some queer and some straight, who understand my queerness. Suddenly, was going to be without that. began to question my confidence as a queer person, something I’ve been so sure of for years.I knew how to be gay in Dublin. didn’t know how to be gay in Vancouver.

While had the natural fear of living away from my beloved Mammy for the first time, had the added concern about how would be accepted as a queer person. What if my boss had a problem with it? What if didn’t make any queer friends? It made me question if was as confident as a queer individual as claimed to be. But one little thing really helped me feel comfortable from the get-go.

I noticed that every shop, café, restaurant, bar and other establishment in Vancouver had little rainbow-coloured stickers on their store-front, shaped like a police badge, declaring that it was a safe space for LGBT+ people. These stickers gave me assurance that acceptance isn’t only encouraged in Vancouver, it’s mandatory. knew that any homophobia from colleagues or customers would not be tolerated, and felt more secure. Exploring the city, realised that queer people are not only accepted but celebrated.

I was eager to visit Davie Street, Vancouver’s LGBT+ district, known for its rainbow crosswalk and quirky gay bars, restaurants and shops. Being away made me realise how much yearned to be surrounded by other queer people. Similarly, many Irish people knew heading to Vancouver for the summer were eager to meet other Irish people. guess it brings people comfort to be surrounded by people like them, with shared experiences. It wasn’t meeting other queer people that made me feel comfortable and happy in Vancouver, it was the fact that diversity was just the norm and wasn’t really up for debate.

In fact, the only homophobia experienced in Vancouver came from Irish folk. One night in an Irish bar, was called a faggot. On another night, was groped by a ‘straight’ Irish guy who thought was some sort of novelty for him to experiment with. found that Canadian people, in general, embraced my queerness without question. To them, it seemed mundane, which felt refreshing.

It made me wonder, what if Dublin made the same effort to promote and enforce acceptance of LGBT+ people by introducing rainbow police badge stickers and rainbow crosswalks? Would we achieve this level of integration between the queer community and general Irish society? Perhaps it’s these little daily reminders that reinforce and naturalise the ideology that disrespect towards LGBT+ people simply isn’t acceptable.

Towards the end of my time there, attended Vancouver Pride, which only reinforced the idea that queerness there isn’t so, well, queer. There were so many children and even dogs rocking their rainbow accessories and it was magical. used to be scared to leave Dublin where knew queerness was, for the most part, tolerated. Now want a Dublin where we’re not only accepted, we’re embraced.

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