Our Story – An Oral History with London Irish LGBT Network

OurStory - nessymon - 1

Over the past year or so, I got to know the gang in the London Irish LGBT Network. Initially, it was because I had one of the members on The London Ear, chatting about an event.

I met some of the people involved at different events and chatting to them. The chair, Joseph asked me to go for a coffee. And that was that! Next you know, I’m on the committee and I’m making a podcast series for the group. It has been a slow process and I’m not finished yet but I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved with this.

It’s not about numbers or views (although lots would be great, let’s be honest), but it’s more about collecting peoples stories and archiving them for the future.

Everyone has a different story, no two life stories are the same and it’s important that we remember that and remember that although it’s a lot easier to live your life as an LGBTQ person now, it wasn’t always that way. Especially if you were from “Holy Catholic Ireland”.

I’ve been speaking to people from all backgrounds, ages, areas of Ireland, finding out about their stories and their lives – in Ireland and in London. It’s also really important to remember that even though technology has advanced, many most people live lots of their lives online. How are we going to archive these stories? We have to become contemporary historians when the people who lived through these eras are still with us.

I knew going into this that there were a number of things that I would have to ensure happened / didn’t happen. I want every interviewee to be free to share as much of their story as they want to. If they want to remain anonymous, so be it. That’s their decision.

I am overwhelmed by the courage of the interviewees to tell their stories and I am truly humbled that they have chosen to entrust their stories with me.

This has also been and continues to be a huge learning curve. So far, I’ve learned about Irish Gay History and about living with HIV and I’m really glad that I have a better understanding of these.

One thing has really struck me that I naively didn’t think happened anymore. A number of younger people were interested in taking part and then backed out. They live their lives, quite openly, here in London. I genuinely thought this didn’t happen anymore. It has made me more determined to speak to as many people as possible for the podcast. We need to still show people that being LGBTQ is normal, we’re just people.

Although the project has started, it’s not over. I’m looking for more Irish LGBT people to tell me their stories. If you want to remain anonymous, you can by all means. I would never force anyone out or reveal their identity if that is their wish. I can change how your voice sounds, if you don’t want people to hear that it’s you, that’s your decision.

It’s so important that we do this now for history preservation and for the lives future generations of LGBTQ people, we need the stories of our struggles told and acknowledged so they don’t have to go through this in the future.

If you’re LGBTQ and Irish, whether you or a parent were born in Ireland, please get in touch. I promise to give your story the attention and respect you deserve.

You can find all podcasts here and you will soon be able to subscribe on iTunes. You can also listen on Mixcloud or below.