I’m in the pub – they’re hosting a livestream of the referendum coverage. I have never seen this place hopping with so many LGBTQ people in my life, and because they are there, it makes me feel safe and wanted. I’m with friends who campaigned for YesEquality just as I did, they hug me and kiss me and we all revel in this atmosphere of pure, unadulterated love. I remember telling a pair of married friends that I hope that one day, I’ll have a wedding just as beautiful as theirs. I remember breaking down crying in front of the livestream and another friend putting her arm around me. I remember being at the bar, tweeting that I was crying, that my heart was fit to burst, and that my love counted. A Yes campaigner who’s been hovering behind me sees me typing this, and tells me that that was beautiful. I cry again. He cries again. We both hug and cry.
For the most part, it’s been the most beautiful day. There’s been so much love in this small space, and a bunch of us move away to watch Eurovision (I may have insisted on that, sorry guys), have drinks, have snacks, and talk shit before going out for a Yes celebration later. We all clamber onto the sofa at one point to take a selfie, and I’ll treasure that picture forever because the love, happiness, and friendship radiates from it. We are so happy. I look at myself in that picture. I am so happy. I am now an equal citizen in the eyes of the state.
For the most part of the day, I have held it together. And I have been able to hold it together because of love, goodwill, and support.
I make it into the party with my friends. But for some reason, it doesn’t feel like a celebration of our victory. It feels like another Saturday night. I have friends here but I don’t feel safe. What’s worse is that a person from my past, a person who has caused me a lot of pain, hurt, and trauma, is there and is very close by. Whereas I could withstand his presence in the pub earlier, for some reason I lose my nerve now. I’m tired and exhausted and I lose my nerve and I leave early. I get a takeaway, go home, answer a kind email from a friend about the result, and attempt to sober up.
And I’m angry. That night was not his night, and never should have been. It was mine. It belonged to me, and the Irish LGBTQ community. He will probably get some kind of sick satisfaction from knowing this, but on the day when I should be the happiest queer in the world, I can’t even properly celebrate my own attainment of civil rights without feeling triggered or upset.
A Yes result means that, in the future, I can stand in front of someone and make a commitment of love to them, and my sexual orientation won’t matter a jot. A Yes result has shown the goodwill and kindness of the Irish people towards its fellow citizens. A Yes result shows that we are moving away from this country’s past, and hopefully it will galvanise us towards more change.
But I am still sickened that I could not enjoy this result to the full.