Teanga Dhúchais | Pocketmags.com

6 mins

Teanga Dhúchais

As a queer writer trying to find his voice, Ethan Moser became aware of another barrier facing Irish LGBTQ+ creatives who want to communicate in their native tongue -the lack of representation and opportunity for queer lives lived as Gaeilge.

Queer Ireland Gaeilge – Writers – Representation

Growing up, it was nearly impossible to locate queer characters in easily accessible media, be it in books or on screen. I remember sneaking into the sitting room late at night to browse niche networks for even the smallest glimpse of someone like me. This experience is fairly universal amongst LGBTQ+ individuals, and is often the impetus for many queer artists to ensure that the next generation of queer youth don’t need to feel so goddamn lonely all the time.

The quantity of LGBTQ+ representation in media, however, means little if the quality is poor. As a kid, the few gay characters I did see were either hypersexualised or altogether sexless. They were plagued with sickness, destined to die to further the plot of the straight protagonist. They were caricatures of queerness, walking stereotypes that only gave people permission to laugh at me for who I was.

For writers like me - cis, white, gay men - the market has allowed a space for our voices over the past few years, especially after the mainstream success of novels and films like Call Me By Your Name and Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Love, Simon).

To casual viewers this can make it seem, at times, that the fight for quality queer representation is over. However, trans voices remain marginalised, black queer voices remain marginalised, bisexual and non-binary characters are seemingly erased from successful queer narratives that have been ‘allowed’ into the mainstream by the powers that be.

I thought that I understood the full scope of issues facing the LGBTQ+ community when it came to publishing queer content until I started taking Irish Language courses at university in the US in 2017. Even as an American I was aware of the reputation that Gaeilge had garnered as a ‘dead language,’ but after a few short weeks I had fallen in love with it.

Through my two years of studying Irish at university, however, I often found it difficult, impossible even, to fully describe my experience as a gay man as Gaeilge. My professor did her best to provide me with resources to locate new Irish language LGBTQ+ terminology, though I had to do much of this research on my own.

In my writing courses I started sprinkling Gaeilge into my stories and shortly realised that my struggles to find my voice as a gay writer were only compounded when I tried to write in Irish. For me this was mostly an issue of not having access to terminology that I had deemed necessary, terminology that, as far as I could see, was not available at the time. Understanding, however, that Gaeilge had its own history in Ireland, I was curious to investigate how other LGBTQ+ Irish language writers managed to find their voice.

I talked to Antoin Beag Ó Colla, a gay screenwriter hailing from the rural Donegal Gaeltacht, and Cian Griffin, known more popularly as Gaylgeoirí on Instagram, to ask about their experience writing LGBTQ+ content as Gaeilge.

Both Ó Colla and Griffin expressed being drawn to careers as writers as a direct reaction to the lack of LGBTQ+ representation they saw growing up.

“Over time I just got frustrated with never seeing people like me on TV, even on TG4,” Ó Colla reported.

“RTÉ don’t ever have Irish language characters on their shows - and Irish is everywhere - and even on TG4, they have camp stereotypes but never fully realised gay characters with wants, needs, desires, or sex drives,” he added.

Griffin echoed Ó Colla’s frustration: “I grew up an avid reader, and the lack of representation is what brought my pen to paper.

“I didn’t realise as a teenager that it was in fact a lack of LGBTQ+ representation, but that’s where I’ve naturally gravitated over time,” added the Wicklow native.

The pair expressed their motivations as a call to action. “There’s now a huge amount of opportunities for queer stories as Gaeilge,” Ó Colla said. “In Ireland there’s definitely a way they view gay characters, a way they view Irish language characters, so I feel that options are limited. However, my mission in life is to fuck that shit up.”

“It is my duty as a writer to give life to these stories and to immortalise them so nobody that has struggled unnecessarily at the hands of another will be forgotten,” Griffin added with similar gusto.

There has been a trend over the last few years for more LGBTQ+ inclusion in Irish-speaking spaces through the work of organisations like REIC, Aerach.Aiteach.Gaelach., and An Queercal Comhrá. Additionally, both Ó Colla and Griffin have reported recent and upcoming opportunities with major networks like RTÉ, TG4, and the BBC.

However, despite these advances for LGBTQ+ gaeilgoirí, Ó Colla reported that “there’s still a battle for Irish language queer writers.”

“The Irish language audience are by and large, older, conservative, vote against abortion and gay marriage. “Commissioners really see Gaeltacht life in a very particular way and want to reinforce a particular image. They’re very skittish about the LGBTQ+ way of life and are about ten years behind major trends on other channels.”

It is a sad truth that the Irish language world, and indeed even English-speaking Irish audiences, are not always willing to listen to LGBTQ+ voices in media, and often, even those who do listen, struggle to understand. However, writers like Ó Colla and Griffin recognise that there are people out there, trans and queers youth living in the Gaeltacht, who need these stories to be told.

“There is such scope for queer storytelling and there is such a hunger out there for it that I know how important it is to tell these stories,” said Griffin.

“If a straight white man is bothered by my work because I am gay, then that will motivate me to write more and more because the fact that that mindset is still out there is the reason I write,” he added.

LGBTQ+ Irish language writers battle more than just conservative audiences and commissioners, however. Unlike other non-English writers, those who write as Gaeilge write to an admittedly small audience. Only about 1.2 million people speak Irish worldwide, with only 170,000 of those being native speakers in Ireland. While Irish language programming remains a lucrative business venture in Ireland through organisations like TG4, the traditional attitude of many Irish-language speakers makes opportunities for LGBTQ+ gaeilgoirí writers difficult to come by.

It is an uphill battle for these artists, but one that can be overcome if we take Ó Colla and Griffin as examples.

There is an old Irish proverb that says “Go n-éirí an bóthar leat” which translates to “May the road rise to meet you.” For queer artists, however, the road that all other artists walk has been blocked to us, and as such we have had to pave our own yellow-brick road to success.

We have had to traverse a wilderness of oppression and marginalisation to get to where we are today, a path laid out for us by generations before us, and we are better artists for the struggle.

It is true what they say, an té a bhíónn siúlach bíonn scéalach; he who travels has stories to tell. And we are determined to tell them. Come hell or high water, our voices will be heard.

This article appears in 367

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
Go to Page View
From The Team
Stefano, Dave, Katie, Marlon, Peter and Lisa.
The National LGBT Federation (NXF) partnered with Dublin Pride
Coming Out with Pride
With no colourful Pride Parade making its way through the centre of Dublin, members of the LGBTQ+ community who had wanted to use the moment to ‘come out’ or to celebrate recently doing so, sadly didn’t have the chance
100 K IN MAY
Throughout the month of May GCN partnered with Life Style Sports on the #GCN100KinMay campaign. Ian Smith got the lowdown from some of the awesome Life Style Sports staff who took up the challenge.
National Lottery celebrating LGBTQ+ organisations during Pride
Since 1987, National Lottery players have raised over €6 billion euro for worthy causes, helping people and organisations to further help others. The National Lottery Good Causes Awards celebrates all the incredible work done by individuals and groups across Ireland to give back to their communities and to be there for those in need. Katie Donohoe spoke to three LGBTQ+ organisations that made it all the ways to the finals
The Power of Being Yourself in the Workplace
Roberto Sy from Accenture speaks to Ian Smith about his coming out journey, moving to Ireland and being part of a workplace LGBTQ+ network
Living with Pride
A major photographic exhibition featuring the work of Christopher Robson is launched by the National Library of Ireland.
A face-painted battler unbeaten. A stark, masked figure in an apocalyptic industrial setting. An explosion of colour in an oilstained garage. Veda is all of these things at once in a brave and startling series of images captured by the unstoppable, visionary, Babs Daly. The icon of the Irish drag world chats to Peter Dunne about collaborations, HIV activism and finding freedom in the middle of a pandemic
Rebecca Kelly spoke with Ronan Crinion, the founder and managing director of MoveHome about their recent expansion and what COVID-19 means for the property market
We Need To Talk
“Ableism is still rife within the Irish queer community, and it’s about time we talked about it,” says Alannah Murray
You've heard of LGBTQ+ - Well I am the Plus
It’s hard to come out. The institutionalised shame and guilt we feel around our true identities often stops us from showing them to the world. But coming out becomes harder when you don’t have a word for who you are and how you feel. Louise Blake shares her own journey of discovery
Leveling the Playing Field
As the International Gay Rugby organisation celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a host of new initiatives and events, Alice Linehan hears about the 134 queer clubs existing worldwide and discovers why so many have found a second home within the inclusive community
For Mother Mary and her Petulant, Devilish Daughters
The history of Ireland, both it’s colonial and postcolonial stories of nationhood, revolved around one’s propensity for incarceration, argues Keeva Boyle-Darby, the ability of those in power, be it British colonial rule or more recently the Catholic Church and their governmental ‘cahooters’ to ostracise the ‘other’
A World to Discover
LGBTQ+ history is as diverse as it is rich, and much of it remains uncovered. Pride Month sees some of those stories brought to light, and, as Brian Dillon discovered, few may be as thought-provoking as that of Irish LGBTQ+ diaspora. Photos by Leon Farrell
The Art of Reflection
Throughout the centuries, artists have responded to their culture, their times, capturing feelings, the mood of the nation. The queer community know only too well the power of slogans and images during the years we couldn’t be out, the years when the odds were stacked against us
Child of Drag
Just in time for Pride, enjoy this jawdropping photo spread featuring a lineup of drag children celebrating the queer community
Teanga Dhúchais
As a queer writer trying to find his voice, Ethan Moser became aware of another barrier facing Irish LGBTQ+ creatives who want to communicate in their native tongue -the lack of representation and opportunity for queer lives lived as Gaeilge
Long Live the Queens
What started (and continued) as a fundraiser for the LGBTQ+ community soon rivalled Pride as the biggest Irish queer event of the year. Hannah Tiernan remembers the iconic, euphoric, Alternative Miss Ireland
Outside the Capitals
After finding himself upon moving away from home, Ross Hunter discovered queer spaces he thought were low on the ground upon returning to small(er) town life
For Our Pleasure
While dancing has been relegated to bedrooms, back gardens and balconies for the last 18 months, it hasn’t dulled Jessie Ware’s desire to get the party started. The artist speaks to Conor Behan about music, life and lockdown
Yes, Sexual Racism is a Thing
“They say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but having been exposed to the Dublin gay dating scene for over eight years, I could change it to ‘Beauty is in the eye of the people of a majoritarian ethnic group’,”
Health without the care?
With fear of judgement leading to many feeling they can’t be open with healthcare providers, Ian Smith looks at the reality for many older LGBTQ+ people who are accessing services in Ireland today
Sexual (Re)Awakening
During lockdown, there have been massive reckonings, revolutions and reawakenings around sex and sexual health in Ireland. Artists, activists, organisations, students and sex workers speak with Oisin Kenny about adapting to a pandemic and what this means going forward
Full Equality
LGBTQ+ Traveller, author and activist, Oein DeBhairduin, shares with Ed Redmond why Pride needs to remain a protest until all members of the community are valued equally
Sex & Intimacy During Lockdown
Sex is an important, indispensable activity for the realisation and formation of a sexual identity, giving expression to someone’s erotic and emotional feelings and behaviours. David Boyd speaks about how Covid-19 altered many aspects of our lives including our sexual ones
Growing Up Gay in the North
It’s hard to explain what it’s like growing up in Northern Ireland, to someone who never has, describes
A State of Silence
21 years later, Direct Provision remains Ireland’s only process for the accommodation of asylum applicants, most of whom spend several months, if not years in the system. With promised changes on the way, Aoife Burke looks at the system’s inherent failings and holds those promises up to the light
An Irish Solution to an Irish Problem
When the Irish public think about AIDS, much of their understanding of the pandemic comes from British and American media. Angels in America, Dallas Buyers Club and this year’s phenomenal It’s A Sin are all important stories, but they’re not Irish stories. Ezra Moloney looked at the history of AIDS activism, and learned a lot in the process
By Any Other Name
History is more than just a school subject, it’s a remembrance of communities coming together to make their voices heard, and the history of Pride is no different. Catherine E Hug was fortunate to sit down with Kieran Rose, a key political activist for LGBTQ+ rights in Ireland, and hear about his involvement from equality legislation and the establishment of GLEN in the ‘80s, to meeting the President in the ‘90s, to the Marriage Referendum and the celebration of Pride today.
Twin Towns
On the 12th of October 2020, Cork County Council severed the twinning between Fermoy, and the Polish town Nowa Dęba, which had pledged to “defend against aggressive, deceptive and harmful LGBT ideology”. Haritha Olaganathan speaks to activists working to make progressive change on the ground in Poland
Manic Energy
Ella Bowler catches up with alt-pop singer Rebecca Locke and alt-indie band Mothmom to talk about fostering creativity in a city that doesn’t always facilitate the arts
Why Do We Still Need Pride?
Managing Editor Lisa Connell addresses the question that comes up like clockwork every year from those who don’t realise the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article Next Article
Page 80