On Sunday 26th April 2020, Ireland joined others around the world to celebrate the 11th Lesbian Visibility Day, a day to celebrate, recognise, and bring visibility to lesbians. To honour this day local community group Donegal LGBTQ+ shared the story of Ann Marie which outlined the struggle of accepting one’s own sexual identity. In this Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ feature with the permission of Ann Marie we share her journey of loss, of love and the battle to belong.
Hi all, my name is Ann Marie or aka Annie. This is the normal way I introduce myself because that is who I am. When people ask me what I do, I say I work as an accounts administrator and I coach football and camogie and tutor part time.
Again, this is what I do but that’s not all is it? It’s that nagging voice in your head telling you to blurt out that you’re a lesbian shout it out get it out there but I don’t and not because I am ashamed but because it shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t define my decisions in life it doesn’t make me a better or worse person. If I make a big deal of been a lesbian then its making it out to be a big deal and it’s not. I am who I am and the ups and downs of life make me who I am not who I love.
When I was in my teens I always felt a little different to other girls my age. Boys weren’t the big concern in my life. One of my best friend set me up with her neighbour. We went out for a bit but lasted a month or so. I had to pretend to be upset that we broke up but I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel upset though he was a nice guy, cute and treated me well. Then one day everything changed not because I dramatically fell in love with a girl but because of a TV show called Playing the Field. I was extremely sporty playing camogie, soccer and basketball (I started playing Gaelic football late in life).
This show was about women playing soccer and the drama that goes with it. I loved it and there was two characters who started getting close to each other and they happened to be two women. I became obsessed with them but in my head, it was just because they played soccer. Reflecting back these characters opened up my eyes. It was late 90s and I had never seen two women together before. I would safely say I was very naive. So, I starting looking for shows that would have lesbian content, fortunately for me it was a time of change in the world and TV shows were starting to introduce gay characters for me Bad Girls and Buffy became my new favourite shows. The only problem was I was in a relationship with a guy.
Expectation is hard to deal with but when the expectation is coming from yourself it’s a whole lot worse. I always wanted to be the best and I took negativity and criticism really bad. I wanted to be the best daughter, best granddaughter I wanted to be someone that my parents would be proud to introduce to friends. I wanted mam to be able to show off her daughter and show how well she brought me up and for me this was the hardest part of been gay. I didn’t want mam to have to introduce her gay daughter to anyone. So, I kept it a secret I became an actor in my own right, said the right things at the right time did the right things and even talked about marriage. Then one day I met someone that would change my life for ever in good ways and bad. I fell in love but I was still in a relationship with a man. I would talk for hours with her about my feelings, about my fears and about my lies that I had to tell. She was amazing she listened she gave me advice and we fell in love. The thing was, as we look back on it, how we fell in love more or less instantly. So, after my grandfather died I made a promise that I would do the right thing. I would finish my relationship and start preparing myself to talk to my parents.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the woman I fell in love with lived a in a different country thousand miles away. She travelled over to meet with me for the first time and it was amazing. Everything felt right. Holding her hand, looking into her eyes everything just felt the way you read in books but that nagging voice in the back of my head was telling me to run. Anxiety hit, fear of telling my mam and dad doubled this shit was real now. Before I could pretend it didn’t exist but now I couldn’t. I would stay up long into the night going over how I would tell them. Every time I would build up the courage something stopped me from doing it. I hated myself, I hated looking in the mirror I couldn’t look at myself in the eye. I starting retreating into my room secretly drinking to help me sleep. I was 26. I spent nearly 10 years with a secret that was slowly killing me inside. So, what happened next well my biggest regret happened next I was so consumed with how I was feeling that my relationship with the woman I loved got destroyed. Not going into the details as that is another story to be told.
My mum was having a birthday the big 50 and I managed to ruin it by coming out as I was not able to hold it in any longer. It just came rushing out the week before her surprise birthday party and I gave the poor woman no chance to deal with it. I didn’t tell her in a controlled way I was totally uncontrollable at that point. She didn’t take it well but not for been gay I don’t think but probably more about the way I done it. My mum and dad are amazing people. It took them time to deal with it but who am I to judge it took me 10 years. They are my biggest allies and voted yes in the referendum and are proud to introduce me. Mam says “how could I not be proud of you look at you, look at who you have become”
So where am I now, I now live in Donegal (from Kilkenny) and I am back with my first love and smashing the long-distance thing. Advice for those coming out be relaxed be calm be proud of who you are, been part of the LGBTQ+ community is just something your part of it doesn’t define you. You define yourself.
I am Ann Marie. The person I was meant to be and the person I will be in the future.
NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network would like to thank Donegal LGBTQ+ and Ann Marie for sharing with us an insightful lived experience.
Donegal LGBTQ+ aims to promote the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people and increase the social connectiveness across the county by providing information and supports as well as offering events with local partnerships. They are a non-profit community and you can find them on facebook here by email at email@example.com or phone number 086 088 7738.