‘Being gay is not a big deal; feeling you can talk about it is’

Nigel Dugdale


Nigel Dugdale

Comfortable being himself: Nigel Dugdale struggled initially with being a gay man in Limerick, but  that began to change after he returned to the city following a spell in London. Picture:  Michael Cowhey
Limerickman Nigel Dugdale was inspired to write this article following Minister Leo Varadkar’s interview

Limerickman Nigel Dugdale was inspired to write this article following Minister Leo Varadkar’s interview

TWO things happened this week that prompted me to write this article. On Sunday morning the nation listened to our health minister Leo Varadkar give a very personal and obviously difficult interview to Miriam O’Callaghan. Then, on Monday night, RTE broadcast a documentary featuring Donal óg Cusack as he raised questions about homosexuality and those who continue to struggle with acceptance.

I am gay. I came out when I was 21 years of age. I distinctly remember standing in the courtyard of the old Docs nightclub in the city centre and opening up about my sexuality to a close friend.

He was nothing but kind in his response, and yet I made it an issue for years after. I was studying in Dublin at the time and following that moment in Doc’s it was a long time before I made another trip back home to Limerick.

You see, I didn’t want to be different.

I knew I was. I was able to acknowledge my sexuality but hated that I had to. I didn’t want my friends and family to see me as anything other than I was – a young, outgoing and confident man with my life ahead of me. I made my coming-out process more difficult by hiding from those who knew me best.

Life moved on and I developed new friendships in Dublin and then during my six years living in London.

My social life predominantly revolved around what we term the ‘gay scene’. It was a scene in which I felt comfortable. It was an easy space in which to exist without ever worrying about who you were. In hindsight, despite my openness, I was never comfortable in myself.

Four years ago I returned home to Limerick, a city with a much smaller ‘scene’ than I had become accustomed to. I started to rekindle friendships with the close ‘straight’ friends I had somewhat alienated myself from in the years previous.

For the first time in my life the fact that I was gay ceased to be such a personal struggle. I realised I had grown up.

In the past four years this ‘growing up’ in some way led me revert to a situation where I was less willing to talk about who I am. Being gay is not a big deal. Not feeling you can talk about it is.

Listening to Leo Varadkar and Donal óg Cusack this week, I was inspired to finally write a piece about my sexuality. I would previously have been more inclined to consider putting a personal piece like this on my own blog. However, I believe that my small story, delivered to a wider audience in the Limerick Leader, has potentially more impact. I am no longer embarrassed by my ‘difference’. I use that word carefully.

This is a very important year in Irish life. Later this year we will be asked to vote on an issue that is certain to cause heated, personal and sometimes nasty debate.

What we will be asked to vote on is if two individuals – whatever their gender, race or creed – can cement their love as equals in society.

Surely that can’t be a bad thing?