When Donal Óg Cusack came out in 2009 as an openly gay athlete in the Irish sport of hurling, it was huge news. He was the most prominent gay Irish athlete ever and his coming out was a milestone for the culture. Last week, he delivered the keynote speech at a pride event in Foyle, County Derry, that is brilliant, funny and moving.
The Irish Times has reprinted the whole thing, but here is a taste that hopefully will get you to read the whole thing. He evokes a sense of place, team and community that is rare and I can see why he is so popular in Ireland.
- It's an honor to be here this evening. I come from a small village in east Cork called Cloyne. How do I describe home? Well. If I decide to walk to the shop and back that's pretty much the gay pride parade done for the year. So if you guys think you have come a long way, for me being here tonight is like playing Radio City Music Hall.
- I'm an out gay man. For me that's a small part of the deal. Half a chapter maybe in a lifetime's story. But if out of curiosity you come to see me play and can't pick me out because we all wear helmets I'll be the one just in front of the loudmouth on the [stands] with the megaphone. He'll be singing: "he's gay/he's bent/his ass is up for rent/ Dónal Óg/Dónal Óg." People around him will be looking embarrassed and I'll be staring up the field. Not giving a f**k.
- I came out to be myself. To be Donal Og Cusack. I'm lots of things. For 40 to 50 hours a week I'm an electrical engineer. For far fewer hours in a week, sadly, even in a good week, I'm in bed with a man. I never get invited to Electrical Engineer Pride events though.
- People want to define me a certain way. I didn't come out to play on all gay hurling team though I'd take a bullet for anybody's right to do so if they want to and I enjoy ideas like the Ulster Titans rugby. I came out for the right to be me and to play for Cork as me and for everybody to accept that.
- What unites us at the end of the day is pride in being who we are, pride in the totality of who we are as people. Pride in the fact that we refuse to just fit the label hung on us by prejudice.
You can follow Cusack on Twitter.