A guest post.
I've been heterosexual as far as I can remember. It's simple enough. Growing up, I've always seen women as attractive. As friends as a young teenager, but also as I grew up I grew to find women attractive in a sexual sense as an adult. I think it progressively happens as one grows into a male adult.
However, it wasn't always that easy. As an 8 year old I was bullied horrendously for hobbies I pursued. I was massively involved in horses and showjumping as a result of hanging out with people who lived near my school who owned horses that got me involved in the sport. I fell in love with horses, and still love them to this day.
I won't toot my own horn as an intellectual 8-10 year old, but at the time I could tell I was being bullied for something that wasn't right. Frequently I was called gay and a faggot, and an absolute homo. Never mind being called an utter queer for the hobbies I enjoyed. It pissed me off to no end. Being a moderately more intelligent individual, I started researching. "What's a homo? What's a faggot? What's a queer?"
The only literature I could find as an 8-10 year old in the late 90's was all the utter nonsense the Church had spouted in mass, and also the utter nonsense they put on the shelves in the library in school. Logically, none of it made sense at the time. Actually, I'll be proud of myself here, because at the time, it literally made zero sense. My first foray into "Where's the logic here?".
I grew to hate homosexuality because it was put down by the Church, and because I was being put down as a result of it as a form of slagging. I very much adopted a "FUCK YOU!" approach to anyone that accused me of being a homosexual. I got the shit kicked out of me for telling people I'm not gay. It wasn't good enough for them because I couldn't prove I wasn't.
I went to Switzerland as a 12 year old with the Scouts in about 2000, and got my first taste of heavy metal. It was like a relief. Hearing Metallica's Master of Puppets for the first time is indescribable. Hearing those over-driven Marshall amps for the first time was a revelation. That fucking music knew what I was going through. It was like the music was taking over from me, to tell everyone that pissed me off to go and fuck themselves. It made me pick up a guitar to learn how to channel that anger myself through those riffs. I cannot thank my brother enough for casually telling me: "Here, you might like this!" and blasting out the entire album. Best and worst decision he's ever made by making me listen to that album! ;)
My dad bought me my copy of the Lord of the Rings on the 7th of April 2002 with the note: "Enjoy!" It was a gift from him that is my most cherished possession. I still remember buying it with him in Easons in Swords, and him bending the front cover of it as he put it under his arm as I gave it to him so I could get out of the car. The crease is still there to this day! ;)
That trilogy of books was, and is, an absolute escape for any 15 year old, and is still an escape for me. It's still something I pick up to this day. One or two sentences, and it reminds me of the mental escape I found from the bullying and misery that I endured as an 8-10 year old. I was glad and am still glad, that that misery was/is over.
As a teenager, when I heard Viggo Mortensen bought the horses when The Lord of the Rings finished filming and gave them to the horse handlers, all I could think was: "Viggo knows. Viggo knows exactly how I feel when it comes to these animals." Having looked up to him playing Aragorn, my respect for him was quadrupled when I heard that he had such a respect for horses that I had as a kid. One of the first thoughts I had as a young teenager was: "That man knows exactly how I felt as a kid. Loving animals is awesome, and I'm not wrong for believing it."
As I grew into a young man, I grew to find women attractive, as any young man would. One or two teenage romances there was the norm. All innocent stuff.
When 2nd to 3rd year rolled around in school, I noticed friends in my social circle started to come out as gay. Alarm bells started ringing in my head. "What the hell is all this?" "I've been accused of this before. Not for me!" and I didn't want anything to do with them.
It wasn't until about 2005-2006 when I started college when I became friends with some truly wonderful people who are gay that cemented my belief in how awesome these people are.
I had been bullied as a young man by people who used homosexuality as a derogatory term, and it kindled a flame in me that made me angry that the people who I've come to know as some of the kindest, most gentle people ever, were being treated as second class citizens because the people they loved were of the same sex as them.
It's been 8-9 years since I realised that people who are gay in this country are completely normal in every respect. I now regularly go on the piss with my friends who are gay, whinge about hangovers with my friends who are gay, get pints and whine about miserable shit that is pissing me off about day to day life with my friends who are gay, and all other sorts of day to day stuff.
I'm not perfect, and I have fucked up horrendously when drunk or whatever, so I am no saint or straight edge person you might think, but regardless of that, the main message is important.
As a heterosexual man who has been on the receiving end of horrendous gay bashing, I urge everyone to go out and vote on Friday and vote YES. Give all our gay brothers and sisters the chance to marry the people they love so that Ireland is truly equal. Don't be unnerved by anything that tries to dissuade you from the fact that you are voting on the marriage between two individuals who love each other.
Take care and I do hope to see an equal Ireland come Sunday morning.