While waiting to go into their PhD viva, Dr El Reid-Buckley received an email saying they had been shortlisted as a candidate for the GALAS Person of the Year award. They said the news, “Really helped calm my nerves before going into the biggest exam of my life!”
El studied sociology at the University of Limerick, where their research explored gender and sexual identities, the politics of space, and language and perception. In addition to their contributions to Irish queer studies, El was nominated because of their monumental work in creating trans-inclusive queer spaces in Limerick, including Alternative Limerick Pride and a queer history tour.
El has been described as a trailblazer and activist with “a spirit of radical inclusion” who is doing amazing work to dismantle heteronormative standards, but they don’t call themself an activist. Instead, El said, “I think I’d prefer to call myself an organiser, because that’s what I predominantly do - whether that’s coordinating events, sending emails, making sure queer and trans folks have appropriate working conditions and getting their invoices paid on time!”
As a self-described professional bisexual, writer, sociologist, and zine maker, El often reminds people that “you don’t need to be an expert or an authority figure to do something. You can just do it if you have a good idea. It’s always a case of messing around and finding out what works.”
Limerick community members nominated El for being a “tireless, forthright, and inspiring leader at the grassroots community level” who is “generous, kind, and utterly indefatigable in their commitment to equality”.
Young queers have called El “fathermother” as a term of endearment, and while El doesn’t necessarily identify as a role model, they admitted that not having access to representations of queerness or transness until they were older gives them the drive to be the person they needed when they were younger. They’ve even written a book, Mesh Net, where they share the joy of coming into queer community after growing up in a Catholic household.
One of El’s most significant projects to date is Alternative Limerick Pride.
Being visibly queer and trans is increasingly difficult, El’s goals for Limerick Alt Pride were to “create safety and joy”. They shared, “I wanted to create safer spaces for people to be themselves, to discuss, to meet one another, to dance, to love. These things can also happen at the occupation or demo, of course, but I think we can often not let ourselves enjoy things when we are engaged in political work. I’m really committed at the moment to leaning into playfulness.
“To paraphrase my wonderful friend and super ally, Jack Brolly, I think people should just make art and throw parties with their friends, and everything will be alright.” And that’s exactly what they did! Alt Limerick Pride included a workshop on queer dreaming, a long-table with queer elders, and a raucous night of queer clubbing.
When it comes to organising events, El operates from the perspective of knowing what they want to do, and not taking on too much at once. They added that nothing they do is a solo project - “I always work collaboratively with people, because that’s what I find the most fulfilling… everything that’s good is better with others!”
The current project bringing El the most joy is DYKE NITE, which is cofounded and coorganised with Neev Kennedy and Aoife O’Toole. When asked what’s next, El said, “I’m currently working on developing a participatory arts project, Looking for the Tunnel Under the Lake, on queering and transing the folklore of Lough Gur, and also doing lots of queer scheming with my wonderful friends. I may not be rested, but I’m having fun!”
Lastly, El wants everyone to come visit Limerick! They said, “I think Limerick is so underrated as a space, particularly as a space of queer and trans joy. I’m biassed; but I fully feel that no one is doing it like us!”