Our first coming out story in a while comes from Irish political organiser and activist, Neil Ward.
Coming Out, as most people who have done so will attest, is a process rather than a moment. Every month of my life I have to come out to more people, and I have to continue examining how my sexuality has influenced my life, my values, my politics and my behaviour. Which makes any Coming Out a difficult story to tell.
To combat this, I don’t intend to try telling the story of my Coming Out, but rather the story of one night in that process – the first night that I consciously realised the meaning of the confusion which had occupied me for so long.
In early 2000, I was coming towards the end of my 9-month stint as an Arts student in UCD. While my academic performance was less than exceptional (to say the least) during that nine months, I had discovered that I wasn’t terrible at basketball. I had quick hands, and my height was naturally advantageous. And I fucking loved it – I’d practice, play and exercise for hours at a time – often getting to the UCD gym before noon, and leaving at closing time. Memories of that time still fill me with joy – I’m not much of a sporty person nowadays, but I still think back fondly to those carefree days.
The other enjoyable aspect of playing basketball for UCD, was the extraordinary boozing we’d do – a group of 10-20 teenagers and young men on the absolute lash. Our nights out usually ended messily (giving away my shoes at the Portobello bridge being the highlight of one particular evening), but they started so much more innocently. We could smile together, and that was what really bound us. We’d tease and torment, leer and laugh, chatter and chastise – all in the best spirit imaginable.
The combination of a bastketball match followed by one of those nights on the beer in March 2000, led to me walking fown the road in Stillorgan with one of the other lads, in whose house I was staying. As usual, we were setting the world to right – chatting about music and basketball, analysing the result of the evening (which I can’t for the life of me remember at this point), and talking about the big issues of our worlds.
Suddenly, with no apparent lead-up or prompting, I stopped dead in the street – sober as a judge. “Fuck me” were the only words out of my mouth for a while – I retreated into myself processing the most unimaginable thought I had ever encountered. To say this practically-catatonic version of me alarmed my companion is probably an understatement in hindsight, but he was either too wasted or too gentle to try and intrude too much on me.
What felt like hours later (and in fact was at least 30 minutes), I lifted my head and resumed walking, picking up the conversation where we had trailed off. In the most stunning revelation my life has ever experienced, I had realised that my fondness for men was partly sexual. And my life immediately made sense.