PERFORMER and activist Rory O’Neill and fashion designer Richard Malone joined Minister for the Diaspora, Colm Brophy to launch an exhibition celebrating the Irish LGBTQ+ diaspora worldwide.
Out In The World, a new landmark exhibition at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, marks the unique contributions of members of that community across the globe.
“I left Ireland in 1990 and I didn’t so much leave as I ran,” returned emigrant, Rory O’Neill explained.
“At that time I strongly felt I would never be able to make a home here,” he added, “I never felt the concept of Irishness was elastic enough to include someone like me.
“Ireland was aggressively heterosexual. Ireland has changed so much, it has undergone a dramatic and transformative journey.”
Mr O’Neill helped launch the new exhibition this month.
“I’m pleased to launch this exhibition because it addresses the feeling of being excluded that drove you away and also the sense of change that has happened making Ireland a much more welcoming place for people like me,” he said.
“It is both crushingly sad and beautifully hopeful.”
Fashion designer Richard Malone also spoke at the launch event.
"It's so exciting for me to show in the trajectory of radical queer Irish diaspora who have fought for our rights,” he said.
“This show celebrates all of the different voices that have become a part of our identity, it celebrates how radically Ireland has changed in my lifetime. It shows us in a light that is human and vulnerable and respectful."
The exhibition, titled Out in the World: Ireland's LGBTQ+ Diaspora, aims to tell a more complete and inclusive story about emigration by documenting the extraordinary lengths that Ireland’s LGBTQ+ diaspora went to in their quest for love, recognition and security.
After months of cultural and heritage site closures, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum launched the interactive exhibition on June 8.
It will be free of charge to view for the month of June, as part of Dublin Pride Festival 2021. It will continue to run at the museum until December 1, 2021.
The exhibition is diverse, with stories from the 1800s to the present day, detailing experiences from England to India and Chile.
Some of the stories included are of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) which was founded in a Japanese restaurant in New York city in 1990, the Brixton Faeries, a gay theatre troupe based in the UK in the 1970’s, and an Irish participant in the Stonewall riots.
“This exhibition is a remarkable opportunity to learn about a past which hasn’t been publicly acknowledged or recognised in mainstream Irish exhibitions or history,” a spokesperson for EPIC confirmed.
Dr Maurice J. Casey, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Historian-in-Residence at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, researched, curated and developed Out In The World.
“As the researcher for Out in the World, it has been inspiring to speak with all of the members of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ diaspora who shared their stories for the exhibition,” he explained.
“Learning from the families and friends of many of those featured has also been enriching. “Every research project is a collective effort because historians build on the work of others, but this research in particular has meant involving the community at every stage.”
The exhibition highlights 12 stories under six themes - exclusion, community, love, defiance, solidarity and return – which were chosen as they speak to significant parts of the Irish LGBTQ+ experience.
“By using a thematic approach, there are opportunities for intergenerational conversations and reflections upon contemporary LGBTQ+ history,” the EPIC spokesperson explains.
The exhibition features both a physical and online ‘storyboard’ whereby visitors can write their messages, reflections and personal stories to be featured in future iterations of the exhibition and online, creating an opportunity for these stories to become part of the exhibition in their local embassy or consul.
The exhibition also calls on people to share their own experiences of LGBTQ+ emigration at the exhibition and online at www.outintheworld.ie.
Dr Patrick Greene, CEO and Museum Director, added: “EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum shares a view of Ireland from the perspectives of our emigrants, to understand the social and cultural context of why they left.
“We research, collect and share the stories of Ireland’s diaspora through exhibitions, education and engagement in person and online.
“Out In The World: Ireland’s LGBTQ+ Diaspora is a unique vantage point you won’t get anywhere else.
“This exhibition is a chance to understand Ireland and its influence around the world through our LGBTQ+ emigrants, what they brought with them and their influence on the world.”