Everyone has a "summer that changed their lives". Their first boyfriend/girlfriend. Their first kiss. Their first kiss. Simple, innocent things that we all take for granted. After all, when you're a kid you expect to go to college, get a job, meet a girl, buy a house, get married, buy a dog, have kids. Right? Sometimes it doesn't always happen like that.
For as long as I can remember I always knew I was "different". I was a quiet, shy child. I didn't like sports (I have the co-ordination of a length of 2x1 so I can't kick a football in a straight line), I wasn't into girls in the same way the other boys my age were. I liked to draw, read. So that automatically made me a target for bullying. Never physical but worse, verbal.
As I got older, I found myself thinking male celebrities were nicer to look at than female ones. I didn't know why. In some ways my childhood was quite innocent.
When I finally did make the realisation that I was gay, I tried my best to ignore it. I also probably became more introverted. Concentrating on school work. Not letting people get to close in case I let my guard down and they discovered my secret. The night I got my leaving cert results, instead of going out and celebrating with my school friends, I went to the cinema. Alone.
And that's the way it was until March 1999 and something snapped. I'd become very depressed and really didn't want to feel that way anymore. I'd read about an organisation called Gay Switchboard Dublin and eventually plucked up the courage to pick up the telephone and dial the number. The first time I rang I hung up as soon as someone answered. The same thing happened the second time. On the third occassion I talked to the person on the other end of the phone and they listened as I finally said the words "I'm gay". It was the hardest thing in the world to do but by saying those two little words, a huge weight was taken off my shoulders.
I was told about a monthly meeting run by the Switchboard called Icebreakers. It was a safe environment where people who were going through the process of coming out could meet others in the same position. Make friends and explore the scene together. And by some strange quirk of fate happened to be taking place the following night.
I went to the Icebreakers meeting and made some really good friends. I remember walking home from my first visit to the George feeling an incredible high, happy for the first time in a long time.
A couple of months later, in work, one of my friends told me about her cousin who was moving to Dublin and would be staying with her. He was a really nice guy. And he was gay. I decided that this seemed to be as good a time as any to tell her that I had something in common with her cousin. I expected her to be shocked or at least a bit surprised. Instead I got "Oh. I kinda guessed as much. Maybe we can all go out some night?" Talk about an anti-climax! "You free to go to the cinema next Thursday?"