Homophobia rife in Ireland, says broadcaster Courtney

Homophobia continues to “run rife” in Ireland, according to broadcaster and fashion designer, Brendan Courtney.

Mr Courtney is one of a number of celebrities from the LGBT+ community to back a new public awareness campaign, Call It Out.

Research supporting the campaign suggests Irish people underestimate levels of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. 

The research, carried out by the University of Limerick’s Hate and Hostility Research Group, found that 36% believe violence against the LGBT+ community is a serious problem in Ireland.

The findings contrast sharply with the reported, lived experience of LGBT+ people in Ireland.

Research published in 2016, by leading Irish LGBT+ organisations, found that one in three LGBTI people had been threatened with physical violence. One in five of them had been punched, hit, or physically attacked in public. 

But 80% of the 1,395 people who took part in the survey agreed that lesbians, gay men, bisexual, and transgender people should be free to live as they wish. 

People also said they would be comfortable with having LGBT+ people as neighbours.

Mr Courtney said some people wrongly believed that homophobia did not exist in Ireland, because of marriage equality.

“I, unfortunately, was attacked in Dublin in 2011,” he said. “I was punched to the ground and it was probably one of the most harrowing events of my life.”

Despite having a black eye, Mr Courtney presented the Irish Film and Television Awards the following night and his photograph was published in every newspaper the next day.

He found that being physically attacked for being a gay man helped the team behind the Yes Equality gay marriage campaign to show that homophobia still existed.

For days after the attack, someone would spit on the window of his clothes shop in the city and he received numerous death threats. 

He felt nervous for about six months.

Mr Courtney said he also experienced homophobia as a schoolboy, in the 1970s, and was badly bullied “for being different”.

He also recalled being in a room with other people in his professional life and being aware that they felt very uncomfortable about him being an “out gay” man.

“In some ways, it was like being a woman in the workplace in the 1950s,” said Mr Courtney. 

“I could get whatever I want, because they did not know how to handle me, but that, in its own way, was a very crippling form of homophobia.”

Mr Courtney said he was concerned that young people would go into college or the workplace thinking there was no homophobia.

The campaign is a joint initiative of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland and the Hate and Hostility Research Group at UL.

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