Gay Travellers are a minority within a minority. Ruby, who is trans, faces another level of prejudice
Imagine a world where you live in fear, and with each waking hour that fear grows to a point where the only escape comes from the promise of closing your eyes forever. Imagine being born into a life without choice or consultation, without the option of bartering the terms and conditions.
Imagine then, that you persevere through the hardships and navigate your way through the obstacles on a perilous journey that you had no part in choosing. While people from many backgrounds in modern Ireland must make this journey, it is a common experience for the LGBT+ community, who do so without any chart or map.
Martin: ‘My mother asked who else in our town was gay’ I myself was in my 30s when I publicly came out for the first time, and I chose to do it at an LGBT pride comedy event where I was performing. I came out because it was safe to do so, and while it was not the easiest thing I’ve done in my life, it was definitely the most liberating.
I was joined onstage by a friend and fellow performer, Katherine Lynch, who coincidentally was also the same person to bring me to an LGBT venue in Dublin for the first time, back in 2006.
Within days of my story reaching the local newspapers I was inundated with messages from the Traveller community, some nasty and homophobic, but the majority messages of support and hope. One mother wrote to me to tell me that her daughter was gay, and that if more Travellers came out, it would do a lot in stemming suicide amongst LGBT Travellers.
I was lucky, privileged even, that I had such a positive experience of coming out. The worst I got from my mother was asking me who else in our town was gay. A typical “Irish Mammy” response: “Gimme the gossip, son.” Of course, I chose not to indulge in that bonding session with my mother, as the idea of outing other people was a stretch too far for me.
My father’s reaction was different. We didn’t talk about my sexuality, not because he was homophobic, but because speaking about it would mean he would have to wrap his head around the physicality of me being gay, and that was far too an awkward conversation for both of us.
In the week that the article about my coming-out was released, I called my mother for a chat, and in the background I could hear my father shouting: “Is that Rory. Is he coming down for dinner?” My father, a big fan of the TV sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys, felt that calling me Rory (an openly gay character in the show) was enough for me to understand that he knew I was gay. Again in typical Irish fashion, making a joke about it at my expense was his way of saying: “It’s grand.”
I recently made a podcast for my HazBeanz show, and invited other LGBT+ Travellers to discuss the issues we face.
Hughie: ‘You fear your parents will never understand’ Hughie Maughan (26), who has appeared on Big Brother, Eating with the Enemy on Virgin Media and First Dates Ireland on RTÉ, speaks of the homophobia he has experienced. While he admits that homophobia in Ireland is not as bad as it was, in the past he faced heavy abuse from within the Traveller community.
‘The homophobia I faced in the community made me feel at that point that I would have rather been dead. That’s how bad it was’
“I faced homophobia from settled and Traveller communities, but if I am being honest, I definitely faced it more from other Travellers. Its also tough to experience it in school, because if you can’t go home and talk about it it becomes 10 times worse.
“One of the reasons it is worse is not because you think your parents don’t care about you, it’s more because you fear they will never understand. When you are listening to your father speaking with his friends, for example, and how they might have banter between them, and how if someone used a homophobic word against someone, it makes you think that you can’t speak to them about being gay.
“The homophobia I faced in the community made me feel at that point that I would have rather been dead. That’s how bad it was.”
Ruby: ‘It took me years to see that I wasn’t gay, I was trans’ Ruby O’Brien (21), a trans Traveller from Co Kerry speaks about being physically assaulted by a group of Traveller men in London, simply because she was trans and a Traveller.
“I was attacked one time in London, while out with my female cousin. It came from Traveller lads driving around in a van. I even had to call the police. They firstly threw eggs at me as they drove past while also shouting transphobic slurs at me, words like “tranny” and others. Then when they stopped driving, one of the men got out and came towards me, and then punched me.”
Ruby says that even now in her hometown of Tralee, Co Kerry, there is a lot of hate directed towards her. “A lot of the Traveller community here are ignorant towards the issue.”
Coming out for Ruby was tough. She came out first as a gay man, simply because she felt it was an easier process to engage her parents and family with. “I came out first as being gay, because it is easier to come out as gay. When I came out in my hometown, a lot of people accepted me as being gay, but when I came out as trans, a lot of people stopped talking to me. They acted like I was a stranger, and a lot of them were family members.”
“When I was growing up, I never knew what transgender meant. I only knew what being gay meant. I didn’t grow up seeing trans people, and it took me years to see that I wasn’t gay, I was trans. I thought I was just a feminine gay boy, but I was actually truly transgender.
“I feel that people need to explain to young people what transgender means, because I have friends that I believe are trans, but they feel that it’s just worse to come out as trans, so they live their lives as gay men, because there is no one explaining the difference to young Travellers.”
Stories like Ruby’s – believed to be the first Traveller to come out publicly as trans – remind us that we are allowing this hatred to continue, merely by allowing ourselves to be removed from the issue.
Oein: “There is an information gap in the community’ Oein DeBharduin (36) is a co-founder, with myself of LGBT Tara (Traveller and Roma Alliance). He has been working tirelessly for over a decade, with little to no funding or support from Traveller or LGBT+ organisations.
He speaks of the importance of LGBT Travellers having their voices heard in LGBT spaces and groups. There are very few LGBT Travellers working in any LGBT organisations, meaning an understanding of Traveller culture is at a minimum and preventing those organisations engaging in specific issues faced by LGBT people from the Traveller community.
‘Some people may feel their identity is under attack because someone else is freeing theirs’
“In Ireland … people don’t have the awareness or competency to support us appropriately. For example, we arranged a social gathering several years back with a collection of LGBT+ Travellers in Dublin city and we were refused entry into an LGBT+ Bar because there was an assumption that LGBT+ Travellers wouldn’t enter those spaces” .
The denial of access to public spaces and bars is of course not unique to just LGBT+ Travellers, there are numerous cases where Travellers have been discriminated against when trying to access services such as hotels, bars and restaurants. I faced that very issue myself with scores of venues in 2019, when I tried to book venues to host my comedy shows.
Speaking on ignorance within the Traveller community towards LGBT+ people, Oein says: “There is ignorance in the community, there is an information gap … Some people may feel their identity is under attack because someone else is freeing theirs.”
James: ‘I was more feminine than other Traveller men’ James Lawrence (23), a Traveller from Bristol in England, describes coming out as a gay man.
“I had a lot more experiences of homophobia before I came out as gay, I suppose because I was more feminine than other Traveller men. When people picked up on those less masculine traits, you would get called names like “nancy boy”, but when I came out, everyone seemed to ease off because they were all saying that they knew that about me already.”
James has been actively working on highlighting mental health issues among Travellers. “ I think with Travellers, we like to sweep poor mental health topics under the carpet, until it is at such a point where there is a mountain of rubbish under that carpet. So it is very important that we speak about the issues and not shun people for having them.”
Traveller organisations: ‘The culture is one of masculinity ’ When Ireland was going through the legal process of changing homosexuality from being a crime in the mid 1990s, Irish Travellers were only just beginning to emerge with organisations aimed at highlighting human rights issues faced by the Traveller community.
There is a sense from the LGBT+ Travellers that they cannot trust Traveller organisations to act on their behalf because the Traveller community would not then support them
There was an inevitable prioritisation of what rights were fought for, and like in every situation throughout history, LGBT+ people were the last to be thought of. Unfortunately, the majority of Travellers have suffered serious mental health issues and have at least once had a period of their lives shrouded in suicide ideation or some connection to suicide and poor mental health.
Irish Travellers are six times more likely than the rest of Irish society to take their own lives, with LGBT Travellers even more likely to do so. If Traveller organisations want to seek change in relation to how LGBT Travellers are viewed by mainstream society, then we must take a leap towards practising some introspection, because being a minority within a minority means LGBT+ Travellers face a dual oppression.
As a first action towards preventing suicide and self-harm, Irish Travellers as a community and as a network of organisations, need to admit the failings. We need to collectively call out the physical attacks on LGBT+ Travellers, and we need our organisations to take a stance.
Unfortunately, there is a sense from the LGBT+ Travellers that they cannot trust Traveller organisations to act on their behalf because the Traveller community would not then support them. It is ludicrous that consensus and stagnation is favoured over the prevention of homophobic and transphobic abuse of our most marginalised members.
That is not progression, it is the protection of that which we seek to remove, discrimination. It is fair to say that there are fantastic people working in Traveller organisations that have made huge efforts in tackling the issues, and there are brilliant organisations that are now reaching out to groups like LGBT Tara – which is still Ireland’s only LGBT Traveller-led group.
I reached out to Pavee Point to find out what supports or services they provide to LGBT+ Travellers who present themselves in need of help. Martin Collins of the organisation had this to say,
“In the promotion of the rights of Travellers who are LGBTQI, Pavee Point has over many years participated in Dublin Pride. We also as an organisation supported marriage equality.
“Our strategic plan acknowledges diversity in the community, but to be honest, the issues and needs of Travellers who are LGBTQI are not imbedded in the struggle. This is because of a lack of funding and staff but also homophobia.
“As you know, the culture that prevails is one of masculinity which we are all damaged by. I had my own personal journey when my nephew came out. I was the first he confided in. I did my best to support him. He got a hard time but he’s in a good place now.”
John Paul Collins of Pavee Point says: “Over the past two or three years, Pavee Point has passed many of the requests we receive for representation / inputs over to the action group as we feel it is best placed coming from a Traveller who has lived experience and also to give the group visibility.
“When we receive calls for supports, we work to support the individual / or family member as best as we can which also includes an onwards referral / signposting to the relevant support agency, and we continue to offer that support until it is not needed anymore. A lot more mainstream/ targeted support in services is needed for LGBTQ Travellers and Roma.”
We also asked The Irish Traveller movement for a comment. They said: “The Irish Traveller are active members of the National Action Group for LGBT+ Traveller & Roma Rights. It is committed and actively participated and contributed to its objectives and activities since its establishment. The Irish Traveller and the action group recognises there are no specific LGBT+ Traveller and Roma supports currently available, other than support from LGBT+ organisations and Traveller organisations respectively, and is concerned about this gap and where LGBT+ Travellers and Roma may fall through.”
While I have no doubt that Pavee Point, and indeed all Traveller organisations, do their best to help LGBT+ Travellers as the need arises or as the LGBT+ Travellers present themselves, it does not go far enough in challenging homophobia and transphobia within the community, something that could be done through hard-hitting social media campaigns highlighting the issues.
Homophobia/transphobia is a mentality based on either ignorance or misinformed hate, which can be changed only through engagement and through proactive approaches via dialogue and policy changes. A lack of funding will inevitably lead to fewer hours being spent on LGBT+ Traveller issues, which is why it is now imperative that funding be made available to allow for LGBT+ Traveller health and community workers.
However, we need to aim to have LGBT+ Travellers represent themselves, empowered by the full collective support of Traveller and LGBT organisations. Traveller culture requires the consensus of the community, as culture is an adaptive term that is fluid over time.
LGBT+ Travellers are equally part of the Traveller community, and without our membership being acknowledged, there will be no consensus.
Whether it’s perching computers on ironing boards or struggling to find a peaceful corner in the chaos of a noisy family house, most of us have had to adapt our homes over the past 18 months.
But as the trend for flexible working looks set to continue, a new concept in housing is gaining traction.
Work from home (WFH) developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents are popping up across the country.
Modern living: Work from home developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country
‘The hub is a way of retaining the social aspect of office life,’ says Karly Williams, director of Barratt North Thames. ‘Being close to home enables residents to manage domestic issues, while mixing with others staves off any sense of loneliness and alienation.’
At Barratt’s Linmere development in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, which is due to launch in December, the office hub will be surrounded by cafes, shops and green outdoor space.
WFH residents won’t feel they are missing out on the coffee breaks and sandwich lunches they used to enjoy as part of conventional office life. Barratt’s co-working offices and homes are priced from £101,000 to £439,500.
WFH developments can also be effective in regenerating rural areas where unemployment is a problem.
In the village of Lawrenny in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, planning permission has just been granted to a local farmer, David Lort-Phillips, to build a WFH development of 39 homes with shared offices.
Lawrenny has been in steady decline since the 1980s and until recently looked like becoming little more than a cluster of holiday homes.
‘A village should be more than that; it should be a place to earn a living and to have a busy family life,’ says Lort-Phillips. ‘Many of the new WFH houses will be bought by people returning to Lawrenny, having been brought up here.
‘They will put back into the community, using local businesses and training up local young people.’
Prices of the new homes will range from £300,000 to £500,000 for two to four bedrooms, with management fees of £400 per annum.
One danger of building this kind of development in the countryside is that the new homes will jar architecturally with older, nearby properties. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
Galion Homes builds its developments in Somerset with home-workers in mind, so all the homes have offices with superfast broadband as well as nearby hubs and cafes.
‘We won’t be ugly “tack-ons” to villages,’ says Victoria Creber, sales director at Galion. ‘We build developments of no more than 50 homes, at low density, using local stone with a big nod to the local vernacular.’
Disturbing research, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, was published recently showing 25 per cent of WFH Londoners said they had suffered reduced well-being.
Fizzy Living, which targets its rental apartments at young professionals with an average age of 32 and earning £44,000 a year, tries to make life as stress-free as possible in its East 16 block in Canning Town.
The scheme comprises 292 apartments, each with its own balcony. Amenities include a meeting room, residents’ lounge, games area and yoga studio.
It claims to be the most pet-friendly building in London, having a specially designed dog washroom (known as the Pawder Room) and it offers a pet-friendly furniture pack for the more delinquent cats and dogs.
‘This block works for me because I can use different spaces for different activities and this combats stress,’ says designer Asher Peruscini, 37, from San Francisco.
‘I use my desk when I’m in design mode, the balcony for more creative stuff and the meeting rooms downstairs for socialising.’ Rentals are from £1,430 pcm.
For those who appreciate the zany side of life, Quintain Living has built The Robinson, a collection of three apartment blocks at Wembley Park in North-West London, in what its describes as ‘retro kitsch’ style.
Each building has a roof terrace where there are surreal delights such as a giant orange-shaped juice bar, a 50-yard row of sun loungers — reputedly the longest in Britain — and a slide that runs down to a courtyard in the floor below.
The WFH component isn’t forgotten — high-speed wifi is found in converted campervans on the terrace.
To de-stress, there is even a rentable spa caravan with a hot tub. From £1,755 furnished; £1,670 unfurnished.
Are WFH developments here to stay?
‘I don’t think working from home will ever replace the buzz of a team of people working towards one goal in the same office,’ says Harry Downes, managing director of Fizzy Living.
‘But I do foresee people being given the freedom to work at home when they need to, reporting into the office only to be kept updated on the bigger picture. It’s a new lifestyle and this type of development caters for it.’
Something of a flip-flop in terms of his strengths as a player as one or two misplaced passes in attack but resolute and solid in defence. A couple of glimpses of his footwork and pace but he’ll be hoping for more ball next Saturday. Rating: 6
14 Anthony Watson
He was excellent in the first half, the Lions most potent force in attack in being able to escape multiple tacklers, albeit most of the time in lifting pressure in his own 22/half. The ball didn’t run his way after the interval. Rating: 7
13 Elliot Daly
It was his first game at outside centre in Test rugby in five years and it showed. He gave away a couple of penalties, missed his trademark long-range penalty, was bested physically in the collisions and will be under pressure to retain his place. Rating: 5
12 Robbie Henshaw
Shaded his physical duel with Damian de Allende, carried aggressively, was accurate in the tackle and scrambled well, highlighted by forcing a crucial knock-on from Lukhanyo Am. He made one fine break albeit losing possession and a couple of finger-tip knocks-on but generally good. Rating: 7
11 Duhan van der Merwe
A couple of snapshots of his power in the tackle but like Watson was never given the type of ball where he could impose his strength. He didn’t have many questions to answer in defence because Cheslin Kolbe got very little ball. Rating: 6
10 Dan Biggar
The Welsh outhalf kicked 14 points from the tee and in a general sense, one pulled place-kick aside, his kicking game was reasonably well directed. He didn’t really bring his backline into play at any stage, suffocated by the Boks’ defensive press but overall the ledger was appreciably positive. Rating: 7
The British & Irish Lions
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9 Ali Price
He looked a little overwhelmed by the pace and physicality in the first 20 minutes but he gradually settled to the task. It was his excellent box-kicking after the restart that yielded opportunities for the Lions to regain possession and wrest control. Rating: 7
1 Rory Sutherland
A late call-up to the starting team due to Wyn Jones’s unavailability he was pinged twice at the scrum and the fact that his replacement Mako Vunipola made an appreciable difference when introduced could see him struggle to be in the matchday 23 next Saturday. Rating: 5
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
Two errant lineouts, one overthrown the other crooked, were the only real blemishes on his try-scoring performance that was accompanied by a high work-rate on both sides of the ball. Rating: 6
3 Tadhg Furlong
Loves a good celebration from the lineout maul tries, he won an important scrum penalty and was an important buffer in that set-piece when the Boks chased dominance there. He carried and tackled with typical application in a robust performance over the 67 minutes. Rating: 7
4 Maro Itoje
Deserved man-of-the-match, three turnovers in the first half alone including one within a few metres of the Lions’ line that saved a try. Immense in every facet of the game, he led by example especially in defence; intelligent and unrelenting. Rating: 9
5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt)
He was very quiet in the first half but considering the injury from which he has recovered that was to be expected. He was a key figure in the Lions’ second-half revival that included work-rate and decision-making. Rating: 7
6 Courtney Lawes
A huge performance in all aspects of the game, out of touch, carrying, making an eye-catching break that took him through three attempted tackles as a pre-cursor to one of his side’s better attacking moments. Tackled with authority. Rating: 8
7 Tom Curry
There could be no faulting his desire and work ethic but in conceding three penalties he demonstrated an impetuous streak that proved a bit of a handicap to his team in that opening half. His place will be under threat. Rating: 5
8 Jack Conan
He provided illustrations of the many qualities that he brings to a team, making one of two line breaks, defending and tackling with intelligence and carried the ball more than any other Lions player. Rating: 7
In a collective sense they, to a man, added energy and momentum at a crucial stage. Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler gave their team a rock solid scrum, forcing a penalty there to boot. Hamish Watson was lucky to avoid a card for a dangerous tackle. Conor Murray and Owen Farrell brought control and maturity for the most part. Rating: 8
Warren Gatland deserves great credit for the team selection initially as most of the big calls that he made work out superbly. His half-time recalibration of tactics and focus worked a treat as did the timing of the replacements. He’s never been afraid to change things up and that may be reflected in a couple of changes for the second Test one of which could see Bundee Aki drafted in at 12 with Henshaw moving to 13. Rating: 8
Britain’s village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed and dominating the list are seaside locations.
The pandemic has seen a ‘race for space’ with people living in cities moving to rural and coastal areas due to more flexible working practices.
They are shunning busy city landscapes for open green spaces in the countryside and easy access to expansive sea views.
Britain’s village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed by property website Rightmove
This four-bedroom house in Hemsby is on the market for £300,000 via Bycroft estate agents
Hemsby, just north of Great Yarmouth, tops the rankings produced by Rightmove, having seen the biggest rise in average house prices during the past year.
The typical value of a home in the Norfolk village has increased 22 per cent in the 12 months from June last year, from £221,533 to £270,144.
Three of the top five villages with the biggest house prices increases were in Norfolk, with Heacham and Caister-On-Sea also making the list.
Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in June 2021 compared to the same period last year, while asking prices in Caister-On-Sea rose by 12 per cent.
Caister-On-Sea also saw one of the biggest rises in demand for villages, with buyer demand up 46 per cent in June 2021 compared to June 2020. Average asking prices in Caister-On-Sea are £240,909.
David Lowes, of estate agents Mr & Mrs Clark in Norfolk, said: ‘With a general “escape to the country” desire prevalent for many, the rural county of Norfolk is in high demand.
‘With its 90 odd miles of varied coastline, the added possibility of a “next-to-the-sea” lifestyle, and the simple pleasure of a stunning sunrise or sunset means the coastal villages are of particular attraction.’
Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in the year to June 2021, says Rightmove
This four-bedroom house in Heacham is for sale for £475,000 via Sowerbys estate agents
He added: ‘Hemsby and Caister in the east and Heacham in the west of the county offer some of the more affordable options thus driving strong percentage price growth.
‘Each of these villages are close to larger towns too which helps with the transition to the countryside in terms of availability of amenities and activities.’
Rightmove defined demand as the number of enquiries it had via emails and calls to agents via its website.
Average prices percentage increases in these villages appear to be around three times as much elsewhere. But this may be affected by villages having lower stock and fewer transactions.
The average price of a home in Britain increased 6 per cent during the past year to June, from £317,058 to £336,073, according to Rightmove.
This four-bedroom house in Caister-on-sea is for sale for £400,000 via Bycroft estate agents
Rightmove revealed that six out of the top 10 villages with the biggest annual price growth in June are near the sea. House price growth in all of these villages rose at a higher rate than the national average.
Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said: ‘During the past year, we’ve spoken a lot about the changes we’re seeing in where people are choosing to live, and this data shows continued demand from buyers looking for villages and rural locations outside of traditional major cities.
‘While we have seen signs that cities are starting to make a steady comeback, particularly in the rental market, price growth across all areas of Britain continues to be strong.
‘With the summer weather finally here, we’re seeing an added drive from buyers looking for that perfect village location by the sea, which is supporting price growth in these areas.’