WATCH: “Personally Speaking,” Growing up Gay with a Speech Impairment

It’s June 16th, and I’m sitting at home on my laptop watching videos on YouTube as I usually do. I suddenly get a Direct Message on Twitter from theOUTfront account, asking me to write an article about myself for their “Generations of Pride” series. I was shocked someone wanted to hear from an unknown gay Irish person like me. Then, after thinking about it and asking the right questions, I agreed. How often do we get the chance to tell our stories on such a platform as this? So here we go. 

Growing Up

I was born and bred in Dublin in Ireland. I am the middle child, which is a very unique position to be in. 

“Unique” has seemed to be the key word that encompasses my life. The thing that makes me the most unique would be the fact that I was born with a severe speech impairment. It’s actually not as “severe” as it sounds. 

It’s only due to the fact that the muscles around my mouth are developing at a slower pace than everyone else’s, that’s all. Such a small thing, but it affects my life quite a lot. There’s not a day when I don’t think about avoiding having a conversation with people out of the fear of being misunderstood and having to stand there awkwardly in silence. That’s happened a couple of times and is *not* a pleasurable experience. 

Coming Out 

I was one of the lucky ones to have a positive coming out experience, although, in truth, I never really said the words “I’m gay” to anyone. In 2008, my family and I were on our annual holiday to France. 

My mother happened to find a letter I wrote to a childhood friend (which I was never actually going to send, mind you). I had hidden it in a wall pocket of my tent. She called me in to the tent that she shared with my dad and asked me if I was gay and I replied with the creative response of “yes”. She sighed and told me she accepted me and would love me unconditionally. I knew this but hearing stories of people who have been disowned by their families and thrown out of their homes made me aware that it could happen. 

A few weeks later I started the first year of secondary school and I was waiting in the lobby to go to my locker. (My school had this really weird rule that you couldn’t go to your locker before 9:10 in the morning. I still have no idea why.) As I was waiting, I was thinking, just to pass the time. 

I remember thinking about my being gay, and how everyone else seemed to think that it was strange and I should be the source of ridicule and being called names, and I was sick of it. So, I decided to say to myself: “So what, I’m gay! Who cares?”

Little did I know; those words would change my life. I wasn’t a different person per se, but the perception I had of the world and most importantly myself had changed. I felt 10,000 tonnes lift off my shoulders as the words left my mouth. Then, I went to my locker and went on with my day, with a newfound pep in my step.

My (almost) Inexistent Social Life

As I say in my mini-doc, having a speech impairment impacts my social interactions, which means dating is also quite a challenge. I’ve tried using the apps (and no – I’ve never used *that* one.) 

I’ve recently been making huge strides with this though, as I’ve been attending a weekly meet up for gay men on Saturdays in the city centre. It’s quite fun. We meet in a building which is where an organisation that helps LGBT youth in Ireland is set up called OutHouse

(via OutHouse Instagram)

We talk in the café area for a couple of hours and then we go to a gay bar down the street called PantiBar, where we talk for a couple more hours, this time with drinks. If I’m really up for it, we then go to The George which is another gay bar in Dublin, where it’s Karaoke night. I have yet to get up and sing. We’ll see. 

I’m not expecting anything to happen dating wise with the people in the group, but I am having fun talking to and meeting other gay people. It’s something that I haven’t been able to do when I was younger, but I’m happy to be doing it now. 

Making My Mini Documentary

In 2017, I was in the middle of my 2nd Year in college. I was a student in what was then called as the Institute of Technology Dublin, which has now merged with several other colleges in Dublin and is now TU Dublin. 

One of my modules was called “Visual Fundamentals” and I had to do a group project of making a ten-minute documentary about a topic of our choosing. I waited a while to suggest making a documentary about myself. The last thing I wanted was to seem self-centered and to take away from the ideas that the rest of the group had. I had thought about doing it independently but having a group of people to do it would be a huge help in getting it done. And the two other people in the group loved the idea. 

We had to be really creative in the way we did it. We had the idea of having questions that I would be answering while b-roll footage will be shown, describing things that I’m talking about. The style of the b-roll would be to show the isolation and frustration that I felt on a daily basis. For example, me sitting alone in college, sitting at the back of a lecture or walking through Park with my dog, Theo. Subtitles would also be paramount, since everyone wouldn’t understand what I was saying.

Making the documentary was very therapeutic for me and was the first time that I really saw myself as others did. Someone who is funny, charming, a hard worker. In addition to that, I saw myself as someone who sold himself short a lot of the time, which is something that I’m working on. 

If you want to see the documentary, the full video is below: 

 

Hopes for the Future

I hope that in the future I am happy, more than anything. 

I have had this image in my head of me sitting on a couch in my future home with a husband and a dog. The fire is lit and we’re watching a movie as we’re cuddling. It’s such a simple moment, but it’ll mean everything to me. 

Theo

I also have recently found the desire to be a father after looking after my cousin’s nephew for a couple of hours. I was never really that good with kids, but I somehow trusted that I could do it and it was quite obvious how fun he was having when I chased him and tickled him. Ugh. I can’t wait. 

Before I sign off, I want to thank theOUTfront for giving me an opportunity to tell my story on their wonderful platform. It’s been a real honour. 

Until next time, Over and Out. 

Kind Regards, 

Tadgh Brennan, @TheTadghB on Twitter

Follow Tadgh on Instagram HERE

Editor’s Note: With Pride Week 2019 beginning and Stonewall50 celebrations getting underway, theOUTfront is thrilled to include Tadgh’s story and mini-doc in “Generations of Pride.”  As World Pride 2019 comes to the birthplace of our Community, we are proud to have him as our first global contributor.

 

Previous posts from theOUTfront series, “Generations of Pride”

Matthew Shepard – a Saint for our times 

Paying Tribute to Our Community’s Courageous Plaintiffs for Equality

Removing the Mask

Keith Haring, Our Street Artist to the World 

Sankofa, an African American’s Ancestral messenger of Pride 

Celebrating STONEWALL 50 with Generations of Pride 

Be part of STONEWALL 50 wherever you are by telling your story of Pride on social media using

#GenerationsOfPride

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