10 mins


For many Irish people throughout the generations, leaving Ireland was inevitable. From the mid-19th century to now, emigration is a distinctively Irish trait. It is something many Irish people have in common, but for queer people, leaving Ireland for pastures new can be a vastly different experience. In advance of Pride, Brian Dillon checks in with queer groups making communities for those who have made new homes overseas.

Like their straight counterparts, many Irish queer people leave the Emerald Isle for places like the UK, Canada, Australia, and the US. People’s reasons for leaving Ireland vary, from job opportunities to hotter climates, to the desire to explore somewhere new. Historically, there has been an added reason for queer people to leave Ireland and start a new life elsewhere.

While Ireland has (mostly) freed itself from the oppressive thumb of the Catholic Church, many queer folk often find thriving LGBTQ+ scenes in other places around the world. However, that doesn’t take away from the difficulties they face when they leave their home country.

Leaving home can oftentimes be a lonely experience. On top of that, queer people are all too familiar with feelings of isolation. But groups specifically dedicated to the queer Irish diaspora are emerging in places these folk tend to flock to.

From New York to London, Sydney to Vancouver, there is a clear hunger for LGBTQ+ expats to connect. Two factors that often contribute to feeling isolated: being queer and having moved away from home, are now being used to bring people together.

Three of those groups are Vancouver Queer Irish, Sydney Queer Irish, and the London Irish LGBT Network. These cities have thriving Irish communities and are hotspots for queer people of all ages looking for opportunities abroad.

Vancouver Queer Irish was founded in 2021 amid the Covid-19 pandemic when many people, including queer communities and expats, were feeling the effects of lockdowns. One of its founders, Dave Roe, and its current president, Conor Galvin, explained how the group came to be, how it has become so loved by many, and why its existence is important.

Dave, who has been living in Vancouver for 11 years, revealed, “Back in 2021 the Irish Consulate reached out to the Irish community as a whole.

“There was a bit of a call for support from the Consulate for anyone who had organised any sort of LGBTQ+ organisation within the Irish community. Sydney Queer Irish had reached out to the Irish Consulate here asking if there were any organisations based in Vancouver. They had their World Pride coming up. They were looking for people to attend in person.”

Dave and his best friend Karen Brady were among the Irish queers living in Vancouver who showed interest in setting up an organisation for their community. “We realised that we were privileged and lucky enough to have that group of friends,” he revealed. “When this opportunity arose, we were like, those drunken nights of us talking about setting something up, let's make it happen. Myself and Karen were a couple of the founding people of Vancouver Queer Irish. We reached out to Sydney Queer Irish directly and spoke to Loretta and Brian there. They were such a huge help with getting us set up.”

Dave and co finally got to meet up in person in June 2021, coinciding with Dublin Pride. “About 40 or 50 people showed up to that, which was so amazing to see.”

Not long after Vancouver Queer Irish was established, Conor became involved and soon joined the board, eventually becoming president. Conor had few queer friends back in Dublin but in Vancouver, he started socialising with more queer people.

“Hanging out with queer people as a queer person is incredible. When I first heard about VQI, I went to that first meetup at Sunset Beach,” they explained. “You see people move over from Ireland and they come down to a meetup and there are 60 or 70 queer people who all want to chat to each other. It's incredible.”

Touching on the importance of groups like VQI, Conor said, “We like to think we're moving on in some ways but it kind of feels like if you're watching the news that we're moving backwards, especially for trans and gender diverse people. Having that space where you can feel safe and not worry about somebody judging you for what you're wearing or how you sound, it's incredibly important.

“Moving away from home, especially if you're moving away from home on your own, that's a terrifying thing to do.”

Dave reflected on the journey of VQI so far, revealing that the first in-person meetup is the one that still stands out to him. “Over the years, we've gone from little Thirsty Thursday events to marching in Pride and camping trips.”

Every year, VQI uses its St Patrick’s Day event as a fundraiser for their participation in the Vancouver Pride Parade, which takes place in August. “We've done it in a number of the queer establishments on Davie Street. It's cool because you don't just get the Vancouver Queer Irish people but the queer community in general coming to support. Like ‘Oh, a queer Paddy's Day Party? That sounds like a blast!’,” Dave said.

Conor added, “VQI has also got involved in Rainbow Refugees, which helps bring queer, trans, or people living with HIV over to Vancouver from countries where they're at risk of persecution. So there's a smaller subgroup of VQI members that are doing that. We always do a fundraiser to kick off Pride with some local drag performers. Last year, 100 of us marched in the parade in Vancouver.”

You see people move over from Ireland and they come down to a meetup and there are 60 or 70 people who want to chat to each other. It's incredible...

Many Irish folks, especially in the last few years, have seen their pals depart to Sydney. The Australian city has much appeal, such as better weather! The queer scene there is also a thriving one, with the city having recently hosted World Pride. Sydney Queer Irish, the organisation that inspired their Vancouver counterparts, exists to “support those who identify as LGBTQ+ within and connected to the Irish and Irish Australian communities in Sydney and NSW”.

“SQI holds monthly gatherings for members and also volunteers at various events, including the Darkness Into Light Walk, raising money and support for charities in the fight against suicide and self-harm, and volunteering with Sydney St Patrick's Family Day,” said SQI co-chairs Brian Parkinson and Loretta Cosgrove.

“Since 2015, SQI has proudly entered the annual Mardi Gras parade with floats designed and created by the committee and built by its marchers, fostering new relationships and encouraging participation and inclusion.”

Speaking of the importance of the group, they added, “Moving to any new city is difficult but Sydney is about as far away from home as it’s possible for most Irish people to get. It’s very easy to feel lonely and isolated without a support network. SQI provides a great opportunity for new arrivals, and veteran Sydneysiders, to meet some people who they will naturally have something in common with.

“Our members are very diverse; coming from all walks of life, professions, and identities. Some join SQI and get stuck right in, helping to organise and manage the group’s activities. Others dip in and out of our social meetups throughout the year. Many of our members have made lifelong friends through the group and count it as an invaluable part of their Sydney life.”

With Australia being in the southern hemisphere, Pride for SQI looks different from Pride for groups in the north. “Most cities have a Pride festival at some point during our summer months, which means Pride in June can be much quieter than in the northern hemisphere. Sydney is no exception and really celebrates the LGBTQ+ community during the annual Mardi Gras festival in February. This year SQI’s float was titled Wilde Stars,” Brian and Loretta explained.

The group’s inspiration came from an Oscar Wilde quote as well as the passing of Sinéad O’Connor. “The float was led by our seven Heavenly Bodies; our queer deities inspired by the cosmos. Behind these godly entities are 60 shining beacons of light (our marchers) making the whole float look like a bright comet with a shining tail,” they added.

“We have grown from small-scale social meetups to running pretty big events and, of course, we continue to outdo ourselves with our Mardi Gras float. Sydney hosted World Pride last year, and we made sure Ireland was very well represented. We took over an entire street in the historic Rocks district of Sydney for our Full Irish event, showcasing the best of Irish talents and were lucky to include visiting activists Veda and Robbie, and Aoife from Singalong Social, along with Irish music, dancing, performers and sausages… All Irish expats know the value of proper Irish sausages.

“Next year will mark 10 years of Marriage Equality in Ireland, so SQI is planning to mark it with an Irish wedding like no other,” they teased. “We can’t wait to share our plans with everyone, so make sure to buy a hat.”

As well as Vancouver and Sydney, huge numbers of Irish queers head to London to discover what the English capital has to offer them. For them, there is the London Irish LGBT Network, which was established in 2013. The chair of the organisation, County Meath native Vanessa Monaghan, has been living in London for over 10 years and explained how and why she became involved in the network.

For Vanessa, it was the HomeToVote campaign during the lead up to the Marriage Equality Referendum in Ireland in 2015 that sparked her interest. Before that, she hadn’t been involved in LGBTQ+ groups. After attending an event, she soon started managing the organisation’s website and social media.

“In 2020 during the pandemic, the group was kind of at a crossroads,” Vanessa said. “We had to change how we were doing things. I took over as interim chair and then was elected chair.”

“In a city like London, not everyone can get to events. In London, you could be travelling for two hours to get from one end of London to the other. By using online resources properly, it meant we could provide a secure space to people who may not be able to get to the group, whether it's through disabilities or through work or family commitments. Trying to get to events in London is really difficult. Not all the tubes have wheelchair access, for example. There were all these things we never thought about before. We started more and more online events. They went really well.”

Speaking about her involvement in the Irish queer community in London, Vanessa reflected on stories she had been told from gay men who moved to the city in the ‘70s and ‘80s during the AIDS crisis. She was asked if she would help produce a podcast in which she spoke to these men.

“When Ireland didn't provide any health care to our own citizens, gay men had to come to London for healthcare,” Vanessa said. “Then people felt like they could never go home again. Or people were leaving here to go home and say goodbye to their parents because they knew they would never be back because they had AIDS.”

For Vanessa, making sure older members of the community are involved is one of her priorities. She revealed, “There was an organisation called Opening Doors here in London. They were a fantastic organisation that ran events for people who were over 55. They closed, so it's important to let our older members know that our group exists.

“You can come along and be you at your own pace,” she added. To celebrate Pride this year, the London LGBT Network has a number of events in the works, including a queer walking tour hosted by Irish cabaret artist and architect Mark Cox. “He loves architecture and history and the queerness of Soho. He brings it all together into these fantastic talks,” Vanessa said.

These groups, located in vastly different cities in different corners of the globe, represent the same thing; bringing people together. As the world presents everchanging challenges for the global queer community, such as the concerning rise of the far-right threatening legislation, connection, support, and representation are more important than ever.

Vancouver Queer Irish, Sydney Queer Irish, and the London Irish LGBT Network provide a home away from home for queer Irish expats in their respective cities, proving that even though blood relatives may be far away, we are still one big queer family.

This article appears in 384

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
Go to Page View
Welcome, dear reader, to the Pride edition of GCN for 2024!
Leading the charge
Earlier this year, Stefano Pappalardo was appointed the new Manager of GCN. Having been with the organisation since 2017, he traces back through his journey so far and explains why he remains committed to serving the LGBTQ+ community.
The Next Chapter
The NXF and GCN are proud to announce Alice Linehan as the magazine’s new Editor.
Before you know it, Pride month is upon us and we find ourselves in a sea of rainbow flags, events, celebrations, protests and awareness initiatives.
The annual Pride Political Debate returns again this year!
As Dublin Pride gets ready to take over the Irish capital for its 2024 festival this June, find out what you can expect from the historic celebration.
We at Intersex Ireland were overjoyed in April of this year by the United Nations’ declaration at the 55th session of the Human Rights Council to combat discrimination, violence, and harmful practices against intersex persons.
RESILIENCE AND PRIDE: Our Stories, Our Strength
In 2024, Pride will mark the second anniversary of Queer Asian Pride Ireland (QAPI) since its formal announcement in 2022.
Forty & Fabulous
This year, Gay Project is commemorating a remarkable milestone: its 40th anniversary since its grassroots beginnings. This milestone is a time to reflect on the organisation’s journey, celebrate its achievements, and introduce two individuals poised to lead the charge into a new era of empowerment.
Dear Strangers...
While growing up in a small town can cause challenges when it comes to finding the confidence to live out and proud, Beth Healy shares how one stranger’s random act of kindness helped her accept her sexuality.
Digging up the past
Together with their podcast partner Oran Keaveny, Iarf hlaith O’Connell is rethinking his relationship with Irish queer history as their identity has evolved. While previously they felt represented by iconic lesbian figures, are the trans-masc heroes they discover as equally affirming?
Sites of Dreaming
Shia Conlon is an Irish writer and artist based in Helsinki whose work has been centred around marginalised voices and growing up in the landscape of workingclass Catholic Ireland. His current research is focused on non-linear time and how to use the power of archives, language and memory as tools for queer representation.
Modern Love?
A fascinating and exciting upcoming play looking at modern romance in the queer community is about to hit Dublin’s Project Arts Centre. Elliott Salmon sat down with its writer and star to get the lowdown on its inspiration.
Queer as bans
Beatrice Fanucci describes how for many queer people who don’t see themselves represented in mainstream media, fanfiction is a way to reclaim their rightful places in the story and write their queerness into their favourite characters.
Read with Pride this year
At Children’s Books Ireland we champion diverse and inclusive books that best reflect the world, with characters of all genders and sexualities, families of all kinds.
As we gear up for Dublin Pride, performers across Ireland are putting their finishing touches on their sets. This year, the theme is ‘Shine’, so Sarah McKenna Barry caught up with a number of artists to determine what makes a Pride performance pop.
A Prom for all
Prom – or ‘the debs’ as it’s more commonly referred to in Ireland – means different things to different people. For some, it’s a chance to be crowned king or queen, for others, it’s a chance to get dressed up, and for most, it’s a last chance to party with school friends. But for many queer people, it wasn’t that simple, which makes the Bealtaine Festival’s queer prom all the more special. Han Tiernan gets the lowdown on one of the festival’s highpoints.
Involved in a polyamorous relationship herself, Nicole Lee clears up common misconceptions and breaks down the different types of relationships that fall under the poly umbrella. She invites readers to combat stigma and any feelings of shame
Proud and Prepared: A Community Collaboration
To ensure everyone has a healthy and safe Pride, LGBTQ+ organisations including Gay Health Network, , Gay Men's Health Service, Belong To, LINC and Dublin Pride have launched the Proud and Prepared initiative.
An Queercal Comhrá is a group of LGBTQ+ Irish speakers who meet on the third Thursday of every month. The group is now gearing up for their annual Bród celebrationAn Bál Aiteach. Ciara Ní É shares the joy in celebrating queerness and the Irish language.
Soft Touch
Dónal Talbot is a photographer and artist based in Dublin, Ireland. His work is predominantly based in portraiture and uses its intimate qualities as a tool to showcase and empower the LGBTQ+ community through representation in art.
In an in-depth report, Daniel Anthony unveils the complexities of homophobia, pre-colonial attitudes towards same-sex relationships and drivers of homophobia in contemporary African societies
Stars Rising
Earlier this year, the ‘Being the Artist I Am…’ competition was launched in celebration of the life of Northern Irish trans artist, Jordan Howe, who passed away 10 years ago. Young trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people from all over the country entered, with James Hudson speaking to the winner and two shortlistees about their art and how creativity impacts their lives
Happy Pride from GCN!
To all the wonderful members of our rainbow family: you are loved and deserve to be celebrated.
Ireland’s national LGBTQ+ youth charity Belong To has been named the Grand Marshall of this year’s Dublin Pride Parade. Ahead of the march on June 29, Chris Rooke spoke to five young activists who will be at the forefront about the importance of community and how they hope to impact the future. All photos by Babs Daly.
IGRM: A Movement in Name and Deed
As the IGRM (Irish Gay Rights Movement) marks its 50th anniversary this year, Tonie Walsh looks back on the people that made it happen, alongside momentous and tumultuous times in the battle for equality.
In 1974, a small group of people gathered in Dublin to protest the criminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. Nowadays, Amazon, Google, and Facebook claim to be allies, while LGBTQ+ people deal with unaccepting families, environments, and barriers to accessing healthcare. Brídín Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce discusses how Pride has become less radical while there has never been more at stake
In 2022, Rainbow Refugees NI led the Belfast Pride Parade with the powerful message ‘Refugees Welcome’, proudly challenging a rising homophobic and racist anti-immigration rhetoric across Ireland and England. In conversation with Oisín Kenny, researcher and learning officer Chougher Maria Doughramajian speaks of the joy in hearing her first language in queer spaces
Queen Mother
A flurry of rose petals cascade over a bald head as the beat drops for the first chorus of Whitney Houston’s ‘So Emotional’. This is was the moment that changed the course of RuPaul’s Drag Race and made a global star of Sasha Velour. In advance of her performance at the Mother Pride Block Party, the iconic queen spoke to Ethan Moser about what to expect
Royal Welcome
Known for her eclectic style that blends hip-hop, electronica and punk rock influences, American rapper and DJ Princess Superstar has been a fixture of the international music scene for roughly three decades. Alice Linehan spoke to the artist ahead of her takeover of the Mother Pride Block Party stage on June 29, it promises a set that crowds won’t soon forget
Grey Area
Galway raised and now based between Cork and Berlin, Maclaine Black is a photographer, filmmaker and visual artist. Their work focuses mostly on portraiture and events in the techno scene; shot almost exclusively in black and white.
Welcome to your LGBTQ+ Centre
Photo by Anna Mello Allow us to reintroduce ourselves, Outhouse LGBTQ+ Centre is coming out again this Pride!
For many Irish people throughout the generations, leaving Ireland was inevitable. From the mid-19th century to now, emigration is a distinctively Irish trait. It is something many Irish people have in common, but for queer people, leaving Ireland for pastures new can be a vastly different experience. In advance of Pride, Brian Dillon checks in with queer groups making communities for those who have made new homes overseas.
The past year has seen sharpening conflict and contradictions over trans healthcare in Ireland, with the government dropping any commitment to improve the healthcare situation, alongside growing protest and mobilisation over the issue. Fiadh Tubridy shares an urgent call to arms.
The Irish Queer Archive at the National Library is Ireland’s most extensive collection of LGBTQ+ materials. As if the community needed reminding, Shaun Lavelle, the Library’s Communications and Marketing Executive, describes just why this essential archive matters. All images courtesy of the Christopher Robson Collection, the National Library of Ireland.
As GAZE finalises its packed 2024 programme, festival director Greg Thorpe considers queer cinema in Dublin, discusses being at the helm of three festivals, and teases what lucky audiences can expect this year.
Access All Areas
As companies dust off their rainbow logos and products for another round of Rainbow Capitalism, it’s time to reflect on the true meaning of Pride. Pride started as a protest and while corporations want to pretend they’ve been supportive the whole time, they haven’t. Ollie Bell writes about how Pride is becoming more about making a profit to the detriment of isolating genuine radical activists, especially queer disabled activists.
“In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.” This familiar chant, which can be heard at the national marches for Palestine in Dublin, is a demonstration of solidarity.
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article Next Article
Page 100