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.
Moving house is frequently said to be one of the most stressful things anyone can do.
The massive investment both financially and emotionally can take its toll, especially if the process takes months to complete.
It is why anything that helps to elevate some of the stress along the way can be hugely beneficial. This includes addressing some of the practicalities in advance, and having a list of who to notify when you move can help.
We look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home
Dozens of companies will need to know your new address, whether this is an insurer who may use them to help calculate your insurance premiums or a retailer who need to know where to send the clothing you ordered online.
Without updating them, you may endure a bigger headache from moving home than you had anticipated.
North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, said: ‘When moving home, it is vital to plan ahead. Moving day can come upon you very quickly, particularly if there is a short time between exchange and completion.
‘Buildings insurance is the most important thing that needs arranging on your new property as soon as you have exchanged contracts.
‘Confirm your moving date with your removals firm and make a list of who needs notifying about your impending change of address – the electoral roll, the DVLA, Amazon and other delivery firms, particularly supermarket deliveries. The last thing you want is for your orders to turn up at your ‘old’ address once you have moved.
‘Don’t forget to change your council tax, while utility providers will also need informing, and given final meter readings. The more you plan ahead, the smoother the process will be.’
A checklist for who to notify when you change address can help to elevate some of the stress of moving home
Tom Parker, of property website Zoopla, agreed: ‘Moving home can be overwhelming with so much to do. When it comes to notifying organisations, it’s best to divide it into digestible categories like work, household and vehicle.
‘Notifying your employer is a top priority, especially if your payslips are sent to your home. If you own a vehicle, ensure you update your driving licence, insurance providers and vehicle logbook.
‘Make sure you also notify organisations like your broadband, utilities, insurance providers and council tax. Finally, don’t forget the small things like magazine subscriptions and store cards.’
Here we look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home.
Perhaps one of the most important and probably most overlooked places that need to be notified of your change of address is HMRC, which needs to know for tax purposes.
Similarly, your employer needs to know when you change address for your payroll, so that it can update your contact details.
In addition, your National Insurance number helps the Government to identify you and is used by the organisations such as the DVLA and HMRC, so this will need your new address attached.
There are various companies providing services to your household that will need to know about your move so that they can update your contact information.
In some cases, you may end up continuing to pay for a service in your former home that you are no longer using if you fail to update these companies.
They include your cable or satellite provider, your phone and broadband company. It is also important to update your TV licence contact details, which can be done up to three months before a move.
You will also need to notify the supplier of your vehicle breakdown cover and your car insurer.
Most insurers take postcodes into account when calculating premiums and the cost of insurance cover, so they will need to be notified of your change of address.
You may need to contact those insurers who provide cover for household contents, health, life, travel and your pets.
As well as your health insurer, you will also need to provide your address to other healthcare organisations.
For example, if you change doctors when you move home, you will need to let your old doctor know so that your medical information can be forwarded to your new doctor. This may similarly apply to your dentists and opticians.
Your gas, electricity and water suppliers will need your updated contact information, even if you are leaving them behind at the old property and taking on new suppliers.
It can take a couple of days for energy providers to update your information, so it is worth contacting your suppliers ahead of your move. However, you may be able to move your deal to your new property.
Make sure you take readings of your utilities on the day of your move so you can update your suppliers with these and only pay for the amounts you have used.
Royal Mail’s redirection service may be worth considering as it forwards any post sent to your former address to your new address. You can apply for the redirection up to three months before your moving date.
There are several companies and organisations that fall into this category and will need to know your new contact address.
They include bank and building societies, your pension providers, loan companies, credit card providers and store cards. If you are on a state pension, the Government will need to know your new details.
Others include your accountant as you don’t want important tax documents going to your old address (if you are not using the a postal redirection service). And don’t forget updating NS&I with your new address if you put money into premium bonds.
Ireland is one of the world’s five places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a new study. The others are Iceland, Tasmania, the UK and, topping the list, New Zealand.
The researchers say human civilisation is “in a perilous state” because of the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that has developed and the environmental damage this has caused.
A collapse could arise from shocks such as a severe financial crisis, the effects of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists says.
To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities have come out on top.
The researchers say their study highlights the factors that nations must improve to increase resilience. They say that a globalised society that prizes economic efficiency has damaged resilience, and that spare capacity needs to exist in food and other vital sectors.
“We chose that you had to be able to protect borders and places had to be temperate. So with hindsight it’s quite obvious that large islands with complex societies on them already” make up the list.
The study, published in the journal Sustainability, says: “The globe-spanning, energy-intensive industrial civilisation that characterises the modern era represents an anomalous situation when it is considered against the majority of human history.”
The study also says that environmental destruction, limited resources and population growth mean civilisation “is in a perilous state, with large and growing risks developing in multiple spheres of the human endeavour”.
New Zealand was found to have the greatest potential to survive relatively unscathed due to its geothermal and hydroelectric energy, abundant agricultural land and low human population density.
Jones says major global food losses, a financial crisis and a pandemic have all happened in recent years, and “we’ve been lucky that things haven’t all happened at the same time – there’s no real reason why they can’t all happen in the same year”.
He adds: “As you start to see these events happening I get more worried, but I also hope we can learn more quickly than we have in the past that resilience is important. With everyone talking about ‘building back better’ from the pandemic, if we don’t lose that momentum I might be more optimistic than I have been in the past.”
He says the coronavirus pandemic has shown that governments can act quickly when needed. “It’s interesting how quickly we can close borders, and how quickly governments can make decisions to change things.”
But, he adds, “This drive for just-in-time, ever-more-efficient economies isn’t the thing you want to do for resilience. We need to build in some slack in the system, so that if there is a shock then you have the ability to respond because you’ve got spare capacity. We need to start thinking about resilience much more in global planning. But, obviously, the ideal thing is that a quick collapse doesn’t happen.” – Guardian
A couple who bought a 19th-century coach house for £284,000 reveal their transformation of the property into a stunning family home on tonight’s episode of George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations.
Childhood sweethearts Laura and Adrian, from Staffordshire, sold their own home, moved into a caravan and began renovating the derelict building into an Insta-worthy three bedroom house, with an added granny annex for Adrian’s parents Andrew and Elinor.
The couple, who appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight, initially wanted to renovate the 900 sq ft property within a £350,000 budget.
But the build was hampered by difficulties from the outset, including delays with planning permission and the Covid-19 crisis, pushing their bill up to £450,000.
BEFORE: Laura and Adrian, from Staffordshire, reveal their unrecognisable transformation of a 19th-century coach house into a stunning family home on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations tonight. Pictured, the home property before the build
AFTER: At the end of the build the couple unveil their stunning contemporary home which oozes charm and character. The living space blends modern style with traditional features, keeping the building’s style alive
BEFORE: Having been used as a coach-house for other people’s caravans for the past decade, the building is in poor condition with rotten timbers and mismatched brickwork at the start of the project. Above, a room that becomes the living room
AFTER: The couple went £100,000 over budget on the build after unexpected costs sprung up but were delighted with the final result, including this stylish living room complete with pops of colour and plush furniture
The property is situated in the grounds of what was the Cliff Hall estate in the village of Kingsbury, near Birmingham.
When George first met the couple in June 2019, they had already been living in a caravan on the site for 18 months in order to save money.
Laura, a project manager in forensics, revealed the family have already ‘put a lot of effort’ into the building given it was originally intended to store horses and has been completely empty for 10 years.
Having been used as a coach-house for other people’s caravans for the past decade, the building was in poor condition at the start of the project, with rotten timbers and mismatched brickwork.
But it was ripe for renovation, with Adrian and Laura seeing it’s potential and pipping a developer to the post to buy it for £284,000.
KITCHEN BEOFRE: The couple appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight as they reveal their hopes to transform the 900 sq ft property with a budget of just £350,000. Above, one of the derelict rooms with crumbling and uneven floors before
KITCHEN AFTER: Features including the exposed brick walls and wooden beams add a touch of character to the space, which is otherwise kitted out as a modern home perfect for family living
Laura and Adrian end up living in a caravan on the building site for three years in order to get the project finished – but they insist it has all been worth it
The ground floor had two large spaces, with two small rooms squashed into the middle. Meanwhile upstairs is a wide open space.
Laura and Adrian planned to build a modern timber frame inside the old brick shell, allowing them to configure the space exactly to their needs. They also wanted to build a self-contained two bed annex connected to the main house, where Adrian’s parents Andrew and Elinor will live.
Andrew says: ‘It was one Saturday morning they came up and they bought pictures of this place they’d looked at.
‘In the past, we considered a wild pipe dream of building something as a family. They said, “If you sold your house and we sold ours and we steal your pension, we could do this”.’
Meanwhile Elinor jokes: ‘They said can we have your money basically.’
Understandably, the couple have high expectations, Elinor tells George: ‘I’m not compromising on kitchens and bathrooms.’
Meanwhile Andrew, who uses a mobility scooter, says the property will need to be on one level.
The family carefully stockpiled everything from the demolition of the barn, including over 70,000 bricks, to save money.
With planning permission finally granted, and the family aimed to get everyone in in 10 months, enlisting local contractors to help.
They quickly spent £15,000 reinforcing the current foundations and pouring concrete into the building’s floor.
HALLWAY AFTERWARDS: The stunning space is flooded with light, while Adrian’s clever design and craftsmanship brings together contemporary elements with the traditional features of the barn (pictured, the hallway)
However it was not long before they feel their budget dwindling, with Adrian confessing he had to let go of his local builders.
He says: ‘It’s a shame I haven’t got another £50,000 to let the guys crack on. Not at the rate they’re on. The problem was never going to be getting someone to build it, it was going to be me doing as much as I can to get my hands on.’
Meanwhile Laura confesses: ‘We’ve been here so long, it’s like what’s another few months to get it right.’
Two months later, winter arrives in Tamworth and living in a caravan begins to take it’s toll on the family.
Elinor says: ‘Caravan is getting a bit tired now, it’s looking a bit worn. It’d be nice to have space.’
Meanwhile Andrew adds: ‘Things are going reasonably well, but things are looking a little bit tight. Adrian has been busy – it’s a compromise between how much time he’s at work and being justified to get others in on the budget.’
MASTER BEDROOM AFTERWARDS: The couple build timber beams into the property, creating a stunning barn style master bedroom. The luxurious space is a welcome change after months living in a caravan
With the budget and schedule slipping, Adrian is doing more and more of the work himself.
Andrew jokes: ‘Time is a big problem, we said it would be finished by Christmas…but we didn’t specify which Christmas that would be.’
By February 2020, Laura is also feeling the strain of caravan life – having lived in one for over two years.
She says: ‘It is hard work. these past few months, we’ve really struggled with the weather. It’s the mud more than anything.’
Meanwhile the mother-of-two admits she feels the burden of building a home for her in-laws as well as her own dream property, saying: ‘I’m really lucky, we got on really well anyway but we’re feeling a huge sense of responsibility towards them. Basically they’ve invested everything they’ve got in us and the vision we had.’
She continues: ‘I’ve known Adrian since I was about eight and we’ve been together for 17 years. We lost Adrian’s brother a few years ago and it makes you re-evaluate things and you realise how important it is to have family around you. It puts a different perspective on life. This has bought us closer together for sure.’
One month later, the family were knocked sideways as the pandemic shut the site down.
The couple ended up spending £100,000 over their initial budget in order to complete the stunning family home for their children and in-laws. Pictured, the dining space leads on from the kitchen and has an industrial-style picnic table
Elinor tells the camera: ‘We’re doing okay, it’d be nice to move in. We haven’t all fallen out completely but there’s been some arguments.’
Laura and Adrian struggled to get building supplies amid the pandemic, with Laura saying: ‘It’s reordered the schedule of things. Some of the busy jobs we’d been hoping would happen, just haven’t’ been able to.’
By July 2020, the building was finally watertight. But the budget was gone. ‘A family member has managed to lend us £50,000…but there’s only £4,000 of that left,’ Adrian says on the programme.
‘But there is another £10,000 that will get the build done…It’s my mother’s own secret stash that was going to pay for her kitchen just to get the house finished.’
George says there was a ‘massive challenge’ to get the family into the building within two months and admits he is concerned about how much work there is still to be done.
Meanwhile Laura and Adrian also create cosy single bedrooms for their two sons, which are joined together with a mezzanine for the children to play on (pictured)
However two months later, the couple unveiled their stunning contemporary home which oozes charm and character.
The living space blends modern style with traditional features, keeping the building’s style alive.
Upstairs, the space is divided to give the children their own mirror image bedrooms with a mezzanine between the two.
Meanwhile the gorgeous master bedroom acts as the perfect upgrade from caravan living.
And downstairs, the adjourning annex for Adrian’s parents is an elegant new-build structure connected to the main house with a glazed walkway.
The couple confess the three year long build has been ‘more than worth it’, with Adrian saying: ‘I think we’re going to be around £450,000 build cost. I’ve done it for a reason, I’ve done it for the family. That’s what it’s about.’