I wrote this piece about being bi+ and living in rural Ireland for the Cork Pride guide. I submitted it before the Orlando shooting where 49 people were killed and 53 others injured. The aftermath of this homophobic act of terrorism makes safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people all the more important. On a personal level, I missed not having an LGBTQ+ bar/space close by so I could visit in the days following the massacre.
What’s it like being bi+ and living in rural Ireland? Since moving from Dublin to Kerry three years ago I have faced the assumption, on multiple occasions, that I am an ally and not a member of the LGBTQ+ community because I had my boyfriend/husband (same person, we got married after I moved) with me.
Whether this was down to the specific people involved or, in the case of canvassing, simply a result of the deliberate bi-erasure of the entire Yes Equality campaign I’ll never know for sure and once I said I was bi+ most people were great about it. Still, it can be draining and if not for talking to the brilliant people I’ve met through Bi+ Ireland I would have felt completely on my own.
Bi-erasure is still something I deal with on a regular basis but I think most, if not all, bi+ people do and it’s not a specifically rural thing. The more it happens the more determined I become to ensure that future generations won’t have to put up with it, that means calling it out when I experience or see it. It also means being visible, so people know that bi+ people exist.
On a practical level; heading out for drinks and a catch up with friends in the local gay bar isn’t always an option when the local gay bar is actually in a neighbouring county. The lack of a resource or drop in centre means there isn’t a designated safe space for LGBTQ+ people and without a central hub it can be difficult to know what, if any, events are taking place. I know because it was one of the first things I looked for when I moved.
Things are changing though. WinK (Women in Kerry), a group for LGBTQ+ women and their friends, turned one in May. They meet monthly and past events have included trips to the cinema, trips to the theatre, going for dinner, going for a walk all of which involve having a chat and getting to know each other more over drinks/coffee afterwards.
The recent establishment of a Kerry branch for the LGBT Helpline has the potential to become an anchor for the local LGBTQ+ community. Not just for those who may need to contact the service, but for those people who volunteer and those who will volunteer in the future. Hopefully it’ll lead to more activity locally and the eventual setting up of a drop in centre.
Sorry if this all sounds a bit negative, I don’t mean it to but the practicalities and the knock on effects of being so far away from LGBTQ+ spaces is an issue I’m passionate about and want to work on improving.
Living in Kerry has re-emphasised, for me, the importance of Pride events and making and maintaining connections within the LGBTQ+ community. Most importantly, perhaps, it has reminded me that the personal is still very much political when it comes to being out, especially for bi+ people.