Features / Mental Health

The Day I Held My Boyfriends Hand – #HumansofHomophobia

You can read a follow up piece to this letter here

I held my boyfriends hand yesterday. I caught it, as I usually do on University College Cork campus and held it until we reached the main gates, only this time I didn’t let go. We moved along the Western Road, towards Washington Street, and as we reached the innards of Cork City something strange lingered over me.

I had become anxious, and soon I wasn’t speaking, I was afraid.

I shot glances around in my silence, searching for anyone who might do us harm, I felt an unease as cars slowed down next to us…I wondered whether they would shout “faggot,” or “queer,” at us, as they had done before in previous relationships of mine and other eras of times when I felt like showing my love and affection in the act of simple hand holding. I wanted to keep holding because it was cold, and it felt so comforting. But I did not want to put my boyfriend through the hurt and pain that words can cause, it was then that having consulted my conscience I almost let go.

But something very different happened, I felt a torrent of anger at the world. I felt angry at the world for making me feel this way, I felt angry at myself, that I would even entertain that this was not something that I should be doing. I felt angry at the world because society told me that I couldn’t hold my boyfriends hand without feeling fear, without feeling trepidation, without feeling a niggling sense of shame. Suddenly I felt proud and yet although it’s not like every passer had stalled to shout obscene words like “queer,” or “faggot,” at us,– but I still felt it, I felt it like it could happen any minute.

Yesterday, I felt so scared that I became angry, and I felt so angry at the homophobia that I had ignored since my teens that yesterday I couldn’t let go. I held his hand all the way to Paul Street in the centre of the city. I felt defiant, and elated that it felt normal to me, but I still felt afraid, I still felt anxious. I still felt, homophobia.

Homophobia is the secret that we share, and a secret of a “civilised,” society

I’ve heard many say that homophobia doesn’t exist anymore really. To those people I say, so long as I feel that tremor of fear, as I take my boyfriends hand in public, then homophobia exists. Yesterday I felt that fear, I felt that fear because I stepped outside of that little box that I was put in by society, to be “normal,” to do what “others,” do, to not show the smallest dram of affection in public.

Homophobia is the ghost of our oppressive past, let’s not continue to create an oppressive future. It is important this conversation happens now rather than later. So much time has been spent in discussing and wishing the problem away. Institutionalised homophobia is something that I am not ok with anymore.

I am someone who would have always said, I have never really experienced very bad cases of homophobia growing up, but this campaign has only showed me that not only have I experienced #homophobia, I live it on a daily basis, when I feel that fear as I walk into Paul Street holding hands with my boyfriend.

And that is not something that I am ok with feeling anymore.


You can view the campaign below, and I encourage you to share it as much as you can to show the human face of this horrible behaviour that goes on every single day.

I’m very proud to be a part of the #HumansofHomophobia campaign by UCC LGBT*. A campaign to highlight the very human face of the effects that this heinous behaviour has on people, real people, people like me, who just want to hold their boyfriends hands. In the cloud of promises and notions of being “good” people, Humans of Homophobia aims to deliver a stark and visual reality of homophobia in society.

Follow me on twitter! @RoliePolieeOlie

You can share the campaign on Facebook, here. 

Or share this page below using the social media links.

Facebook – UCC LGBT

In addition, if you want to email me, please feel free to because I will always reply at olanharrington@gmail.com




6 thoughts on “The Day I Held My Boyfriends Hand – #HumansofHomophobia

  1. Reblogged this on Like A Millennial and commented:
    A great tell of how something as small as holding hands can instill such anxiety in us today. I believe this is a struggle a lot of us face in coming to terms with who we are and he has done an excellent job at describing the gamut of emotions that we feel inside when faced with homophobia.


  2. I am sorry, that’s all I can say. I am sorry for our countries continued small minded and bigoted beliefs. I’m a young straight male and it sickens me that I could walk down the street holding hands with the person I loved free of fear and anxiety while you could not. And while I think our country is getting better, amongst our generation anyway, we’re still so far behind. Obviously a large part of our problem is the 84% of the population identifying themselves as Catholics and up until the arrival of Pope Francis the church has been a huge obstacle to the progression of our societies stance on LGBT relationships. I hope sooner rather than later you will be able to walk down the street hand in hand without worrying when or where the next slur will come from.


  3. Pingback: The Day I Held My Boyfriend’s Hand: #HumansOfHomophobia | Synced Magazine

  4. Sorry bud but if you feel anxious though nobody said or did anything to you then that’s your issue, not society’s. No problem with homosexuals whatsoever but I think this is just attention seeking nonsense. Especially considering the fact you were walking through cork city, aka the gay capital of Ireland. I honestly think this kind of thing only harms the LGBT cause. But whatever, roll on the “homophobe” and “gay basher” comments because I respectfully disagree


    • Hi Paul,

      Thank you for replying, however I feel you missed the point of the piece – being that fear is learned experience. Therefore the content was not dependent on anything happening – which people like you seem to be hung up upon, but it is rather the untold stories of the things that did and do happen.

      Just last week I had an incident where homophobic slurs were directed at me, and yeah, in Cork. I feel like you have a romanticised notion of a “Gay Capital of Ireland” which doesn’t exist and I think you have a sense of disillusion in commenting on the experience of others.


      Liked by 1 person

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