Ursula Halligan wrote an article revealing she’s a lesbian, inspired by next week’s same-sex marriage referendum.
In it, she revealed the torment she suffered growing up in a Catholic country, knowing she was attracted to women, and even quotes a diary entry she wrote as a schoolgirl in 1977.
These past few months must have been the darkest and gloomiest I have ever experienced in my entire life. There have been times when I have even thought about death, of escaping from this world, of sleeping untouched by no-one forever. I have been so depressed, so sad and so confused. There seems to be no one I can turn to, not even God.
She added: “Because of my upbringing, I was revolted at the thought that I was in love with a member of my own sex. This contradiction within me nearly drove me crazy. I hated myself. I felt useless and worthless and very small and stupid. I had one option, and only one option. I would be ‘normal’, and that meant locking myself in the closet and throwing away the key.”
As a result of the turmoil Halligan felt, she said she pretended to be attracted to men, and even made homophobic remarks, to help hide her sexuality. Ireland in the 1970s was, she wrote, a place where homophobia was “rampant and uninhibited”, where, “Homosexuals were faggots, queers, poofs, freaks, deviants, unclean, unnatural, mentally ill, second class and defective humans. They were society’s defects. Biological errors. They were other people.” And so, she concluded, “I couldn’t possibly be one of them.”
Halligan admitted in The Irish Times that being in the closet has robbed her of her life.
“I have been in a prison since the age of 17,” she wrote. “A prison where I lived a half-life, repressing an essential part of my humanity, the expression of my deepest self; my instinct to love.” Halligan wrote that she missed out on many of the joys she saw her friends experiencing: the first kiss, engagements and weddings.
But next Friday’s same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland inspired her to come out publicly.
“At the age of 54, in a (hopefully) different Ireland, I wish I had broken out of my prison cell a long time ago,” she wrote. “I feel a sense of loss and sadness for precious time spent wasted in fear and isolation. In the privacy of my head, I had become a roaring, self-loathing homophobe, resigned to going to my grave with my shameful secret. And I might well have done that if the referendum hadn’t come along.”
Halligan added: “The game-changer was the marriage equality referendum. And I knew if I was going to tell the truth, I had to tell the whole truth and reveal my backing for a Yes vote.” She also revealed that as a result her own employers, informed by election laws concerning the balance broadcasters must show, have removed her from covering the historic vote.
“The rules say they must, and when I told them my situation, they reorganised their coverage in half a day.”
But more important than anything, Halligan concluded, is the vote itself:
As a person of faith and a Catholic, I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do. I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive and that this includes people who are gay.
If Ireland votes Yes, it will be about much more than marriage. It will end institutional homophobia. It will say to gay people that they belong, that it’s safe to surface and live fully human, loving lives.
If it’s true that 10 per cent of any population are gay, then there could be 400,000 gay people out there; many of them still living in emotional prisons. Any of them could be your son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or best friend. Set them free. Allow them live full lives.