'I came alive at the dances...' Ahead of his MC duties at the the Géilí at Mother's Cultúr Club as part of this year's St. Patrick's Festival, Corkonian podcaster and creative PJ Kirby celebrates being proud, Irish and queer - and throwing a few shapes while you're at it.
Growing up on a diet of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon didn't necessarily make me the most patriotic young fella in Ireland.
On numerous occasions my sister would give out to me for referring to the bin as the garbage can. I was an iPad child before iPads existed. I wanted to be American, to have my own show on Disney followed by a spin-off music career. Being a an Irish boy from Cork City felt like a hindrance.
This all began to change during the three weeks I spent at Irish College in the Baile Mhúirne Gaeltacht. I fell in love with my history, culture and a few boys at the Céilí. None of whom I told, of course, as I couldn’t have been further in the closet at the time - but I came alive at the dances.
That summer I picked up the tin whistle, shoed the donkey on the dance floor and learned that "Is fearr gaeilge briste na bearla cliste". The pride I had for my country was growing but another huge part of my identity was hidden away. My love for Ireland only grew as I got older but it always felt like it needed to be kept separate from my queerness, like the two shouldn’t mix.
I was born the year homosexuality was decriminalised and it took twenty-two years until the same sex Marriage Act was passed. Change was happening but bit slower than this impatient millennial hoped.
When the news broke about marriage equality, I was living in London and all of my friends were ecstatic. The Ireland I loved felt like it was blowing me a kiss back. The two parts of my identity that I held close to my heart began to blend.
St. Patrick's Day is a day to celebrate being Irish in every form it comes in, and you’ll find me throwing a few shapes on the dance floor as a proud Irish queer.
In the AM, I’d boast to my UK coworkers about the glorious green fields of Ireland, filled with the nicest people you’ve ever met. Honestly, Tourism Ireland should have been paying me because I was doing the Lord's work. My friends and I would joke that everyone’s fadas were getting bigger over their signatures. A symbol of us being proudly from the homeland.
Then, in the PM I’d go to queer clubs and just dance, let go and be free. Honestly I’ve never felt liberation like it. It was like the céilí from Irish College got covered in glitter and I could finally dance with the guys I fancied.
This is why queer clubs like the very appropriately named Mother are so important. They make us feel free but also protected and safe like a good Mother should. It’s so exciting what they’re doing with Cultúr Club this St. Patrick's Eve at The National Museum of Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate being Irish in every form it comes in and you’ll find me throwing a few shapes on the dance floor as a proud Irish queer.
Don't miss PJ Kirby as he MC's the Géilí at Mother's Cultúr Club as part of St. Patrick's Festival Quarter happening at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin on Thursday 16th March 2023 - find out more about the St. Patrick's Festival programme here.