“I HELD MY boyfriend’s hand the other day. I held it until we reached the main gates of University College Cork, as I usually do on campus, only this time I didn’t let go after we’d passed through.”
The words of UCC student Olan Harrington, whose essay entitled The Day I Held My Boyfriend’s Hand is currently going viral on social media.
Harrington wrote the essay for the college’s Humans of Homophobia campaign, which aims to highlight “the physical and psychological impacts of homophobia”.
He first published the piece on his own blog, where it was picked up by the Huffington Post.
In the essay, Harrington tells the story of the day he decided to hold his boyfriend’s hand on the streets of Cork City, and how his fear that they would be targets for homophobic abuse nearly made him let go.
I felt an unease as cars slowed down next to us. I wondered whether they would shout “Faggot!” or “Queer!” at us, as they had done before when I had been in previous relationships or had otherwise felt like showing my love and affection through the simple act of hand holding. I wanted to keep holding because it was cold, and my boyfriend’s hand felt so comforting, but I did not want to put him through the hurt and pain that words can cause. It was then that, having consulted my conscience, I almost let go.
But something very different happened. I felt a torrent of anger at the world. I felt angry at society for making me feel this way, for telling me that I can’t hold my boyfriend’s hand without feeling fear, without feeling trepidation, without feeling a niggling sense of shame. And I felt angry at myself for even entertaining the idea that this was not something that I should be doing. Suddenly I felt proud, and yet despite the fact that no one had yelled slurs at us, I still felt like it could happen any minute.
“I am someone who would have always said I never really experienced very bad cases of homophobia growing up,” he writes.
“But this campaign has showed me that not only have I experienced homophobia, I live it on a daily basis when I feel that fear as I walk on to Paul Street holding hands with my boyfriend. And that is not something I am OK with feeling anymore.”
Harrington’s words have resonated with many in Ireland and across the world: