Guess I’ve always wanted to be a real boy.
They all tried. And the more they tried, the more I tried. Well, there was the time the man came to fix the radiators in the gaff. Heavily involved in the dollies in the sisters bedroom was I. So I scampered under the sister’s bed. And hid there. The dust from the carpet filling me up, strangely comforting. And he bashed his tools about while I waited in fear. And then he was gone.
There was the Uncle Martin. An Irish Homer Simpson I suppose. Every week I was left there in my grandmother’s, while my mother with expensive taste shopped downtown. And every week the same old boring question, with a jeer and a sneer as he downed a bottle of milk, “So Neil do you play football?” And he’d laugh like Jabba the Hut. And the pain that I began to know. And it just grew with the years as I did.
My first migraine happened in the all-boys-school St Joseph’s. I was trying to impress somebody - my father’s friend had gone there. Louis had modelled himself on John Wayne and was a man’s man. In his honour I went to that kip of a school. I wore a pissy blue jumper of wool and polyester nightmares. The great Irish prime minister Charlie Haughey had gone here. I learned how to be a brat.
“Do it , it will make a man of you.” So I got into the habit of training on the local football team and playing matches, only to be distracted by the trees which I’d hide in and climb. And then there was scouts, where I was thrown in with the other soft-natured boys, and somehow was never beaten up in all my days of sticking out like a sore thumb. Ah, that will be the height.
Name-calling happened always. And I always wanted to be accepted by the pack of wolves who snarled at me on my way to and from school. I learned how to be funny.
From one pack of wolves to another I jutted. Dublin Youth Theatre became my tribe and the place where I fell for one or two beautiful boys. Love that would never be known. A secret that I lived with while trying desperately to be a leading man in Greek tragedies and Irish farces.
And the cool directors who floated in to see us never put me on the pedestal of masculinity. So I yearned for it. And sought out third-level education in the form of a concentration camp called Drama Centre London. A BBC documentary called Theatre School told me that this was the school for me. Anthony Hopkins had based his Hannibal Lecter on its principal, Christopher Fettes.
On the day of enrollment Michael Fassbender and I chatted in line. A Swiss girl called Claudia (pronounced Cloud E Ya, but she would always say it didn’t matter) joined our conversation. She said, “One day one of us three is going to be famous.” Cut to 10 years later and I’m sitting in the multiplex on Parnell Street watching a nightmare unfold. My life was the river Styx and I was drowning in Michael Fassbender’s success. Jealousy is not something everyone admits to. This was a dark place. But it was to be another few years before I would learn to let go of resentment and be happy for others.
I struggled there for a while. All sorts of shit. I had a very negative and paranoid view of the world. And my poor body was the manifestation of years of the irrational belief that owing to the nature of my sexual attraction to men, I was doomed to go to hell. The men I acquainted myself with were ones I gave my power away to. Everyone in my life was there to tell me that I could be much better. People who spoke with the harsh facts of reality were my teachers. And life was supposed to be hard. This was square peg, round hole culture.
I never took drugs until the pain of living was too much. Then I had to. At the age of 28 I popped an E. It wasn't my thing. Then I discovered weed. And it’s great. Until its stops being great. And I hate everything for no good reason.
At the age of 28, HIV positive now, and enduring a headache that wouldn’t leave, I succumbed to drugs. Darkness devoured me and I lost myself. It was delicious.
Forgive me but I wish not to pick at the scab of war stories. What's done is done. And I’m fine with it. I understand why I did what I did. And to my disbelief I have forgiven my parents for their fear of me. They’re innocents. They did their absolute best and gave their children everything. I love them.
A minion of Irish law and Catholicism, mam had pleaded with me that if I was to be an actor, I was not to do a gay scene. She had commented on one leading Irish performer when he was on TV, saying that he was a puff. That was enough for me to know that I could never tell. But eventually I did. And the bitter tears of mourning were shed. The son they had hoped for was dead. And my father was inconsolable, for the family name wouldn’t be continued. That honour now fell on my brother. My mother was concerned about what relatives and neighbours would think.
Intimacy has been hard for me. It’s so much easier to have sex than to make love. Drink and drugs are a social lubricant not exclusive to me in this country. But as this gay marriage referendum looms, its timing is good. I’m seeking connections with the men I meet. I’m seeking connection with the food I eat, with the pastimes I part-take in, and in the people I socialise with.
I never thought we were allowed to love, us monsters. I thought we had to do it in the shadows. Gay men met in parks or toilets. They didn’t have a wholesome existence.
Clawing my way back, I wonder how I survived sometimes. I know that I’m a lucky ladeen. It still takes me aback when people say that they like me, so strong has been the self-loathing inculcated in me. Here in my life in Dublin 8 I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams. My reality is not of MTV cribs. But my heart is full.
It is the new tribe of sound heads that keeps me going. It is this tribe that has helped me drop my mask. And the boxes that I haven’t ticked in society have little to no hold over me. The difference between waking up everyday and wanting to kill yourself versus being happy to greet the day is vast.
With a new found self-esteem I dare to do the things that I denied myself for so long. I enjoy singing so much, but I was reluctant to share just how happy it made me, because I’ve always sensed that an audience (specifically an Irish audience) has more affection for a war story. Our band is called Buffalo Woman.
I do not have the need to live in the oblivion of drug addiction anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an absolutist. I still smoke joints. But it’s not the same transgression that it was. Lies aren’t penetrating my soul in the same way. I’ve done too much work on myself. You may very well still see me in an absolute jock or hungover like an anti-christ. Mm… But I think a nice neat little happy ending is brewing. Sure why not.
Live in your passion. Live in your passion. That’s what I’ve learned. In the words of Lenny Kravitz, “Let love rule.” Sounds gay right? See, they’ve put love and gay into the realm of ‘don’t go there.’
Yesterday I strolled through town. A young scut in his pack of hounds taunted me. “You’re gay,” he said. I gave him the finger and said “Yeah, what of it?” I love cock. What can they do? Because it’s not illegal now. Because society says it’s okay. “I’ll batter you,” he said. I fill with rage for a moment. But I have the sense to drop it. I sit myself down in La Dolce Vita for some sassy banter with tricksy waitresses and some mothering pasta. And I think about how some day some poor cunt is going to call me a faggot and I’m going to let rip on him. I’m going to kill him with my bare hands and die or be imprisoned for my sins.
I do understand - Forgive them for they know not what they do - but I’m tired of being polite. I’d happily go full psycho on the ignorant. How many gays have been punished? Uh. I know that killing is not the answer. But I’m going to give the finger again. Someone’s going to throw the first punch and I’ll be letting the bitch, the demon, the Lector out to play. Real boys don’t use their nails. I’ve got something extra. Beware of the rabid faggot that lurks behind a gay face.We now know that we have a right to be angry.