First Dates Ireland dater Peter Kelleher Elliot has spoken about homophobia and bullying ahead of appearing in Thursday night's episode, saying that while this country has in general "come on so much", we have a way to go to ensure every citizens' safety regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation.
The 31-year-old hair colourist grew up in Cork after being adopted at the age of three from Romania and said "I always knew I was different from a young age".
"I think one obstacle on their own, adoption, foreign adoption and being gay, would have been so hard to get over, but to have to deal with three at once, it actually makes you a lot tougher," he told RTÉ Entertainment.
"You have two choices in life, you can play the card you're dealt with, or you can sit around and feel sorry for yourself."
Peter said he decided to take part in First Dates to "use this platform to be a positive advocate for the LGBT community."
"I think this country in general has come so much with certain topics, however homophobia sadly is still present in today's world", he said.
"Even outside of the LGBT community, we've come on so much in a social, economic and financial point of view that it's really sad to know that there's people out there with that backward mentality.
"I have no hatred towards them, I just feel incredibly sorry for them because they are still so narrow-minded and they're still in that mindset.
"Diversity comes in so many shapes and forms, in religion, cultural backgrounds, your gender, sexual orientation. You don't have to understand something, but just respect it."
He agreed that in certain aspects, Ireland has a long way to go to make everyone feel secure and safe.
"Everyone across the board should be able to socialise in an environment where they feel safe, where they feel comfortable, and where they can come home and close their front door and they're safe for the night", he said.
"Race, gender, sexual orientation, trans, whatever your situation is, you should never compromise your safety."
The hairstylist said verbal attacks and bullying are "unfortunately more prevalent now than ever".
"When I was a teenager, social media was quite new", he shared. "I was 16 when I got my first phone. They're getting their first phones now for their communions which I personally don't agree with, because I don't think communion-age child needs access to this hatred yet.
"In today's modern world with all the social media that goes on, bullying unfortunately is at an all-time high.
"When I was going to school you got bullied in the playground and it was left there. But now it's come home because it's such an easy target to bully someone through an app or a phone, and I think it's the most cowardly way actually."
In Thursday night's Valentine's special of the show, Peter is paired with returning First Dater Timmie.
He had decided to take part in the show as he'd already tried all of the online dating apps ("Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Grinder, you name it, I've done it") and hoped that heading to the First Dates restaurant "would be an opportunity to be able to get a different angle and a different approach."
It turned out that Peter and Timmie were already acquainted with one another.
"I've always known of Timmie", Peter said. "The scene in Dublin, even in Ireland, it's so small and compact, that everyone knows everyone or they have friends who knows someone. I knew Timmie just to say hello, or to talk about the weather, nothing too personal or in-depth.
"Truth be told, I always had a bit of a crush on him, so when I realised it was him, it was a deer in the headlights moment, I completely froze!
"It was like meeting your teen crush and all of a sudden they're there in front of you. Panic set in, a mix of emotions set in when I realised who it was."
Luckily, Timmie and Peter hit it off straight away. "The one thing I really liked about him was when I went in there first, you have to make your way over to the table", he said.
"I froze and Mateo said to me 'right you've got to move now over to the table', I think Timmie could see how nervous I was, and he very softly tapped me and said 'we'll be fine, we'll get through it'.
"That really calmed me down completely. As the date went on, I put my shield down. I'm sorry we didn't have more time."
Watch Peter and Timmie's date on First Dates Ireland which airs at 9.30pm on RTÉ 2.