Across the generations, Irish LGBTQ+ people have emigrated and found opportunities to live and love abroad. Yet this journey was rarely a simple transition from an oppressive island to a liberal wider world. Irish LGBTQ+ emigrants often faced prejudice abroad. Home, once a place of shame and silence, could also become a welcoming site of return.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, in partnership with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, are proud to play a role in illuminating this hidden history of the Irish abroad. In almost every pattern of Irish emigration – from the story of Ireland’s religious diaspora to the history of Irish humanitarianism and the Irish search for employment abroad – can be found an LGBTQ+ story.
Out in the World highlights 12 stories from the vast yet largely untold story of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ diaspora. It is the first exhibition to celebrate the role that Irish emigrants have played in making Ireland and the world a more inclusive place for LGBTQ+ people.
We highlight incredible and little-known stories, from the story of an Irish participant in the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion to the inspiring life of an Anglo Irish doctor who became a transgender healthcare pioneer and a Buddhist monk. These are stories of Irish LGBTQ+ emigrants who fought for the rights of their community abroad, who found love abroad and who created communities wherever in the world they found themselves.
In recent decades, Irish society has become more accepting of gender and sexual diversity. Exploring the lives of LGBTQ+ people beyond Ireland and the contributions of those who returned can help us to understand how Ireland became a more welcoming society. When Irish emigrants arrived home in their thousands to vote for Marriage Equality in 2015 they participated in a longer history. Irish emigrants have long fought for civil rights in the country they left behind.
The exhibition was launched at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum on the 8th June 2021, and was free to visit for the month of June 2021 for Pride. From 2nd July – 31st December 2021 admission to the exhibition will be included with admission ticket to EPIC. The exhibition will travel overseas to Irish embassies and consulates. An ambitious and dynamic series of programming will be conducted during the run of the exhibition.
Our six themes – exclusion, community, love, defiance, solidarity and return – speak to significant parts of the Irish LGBTQ+ diaspora experience, but they cannot encapsulate this evolving and diverse community in its entirety. You too can play a role in celebrating the lives of LGBTQ+ people in the Irish diaspora by sharing your story with us.
The exhibition was launched on the 8th June 2021 by Rory O’Neill, drag performer and activist. Further contributors to the event included Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and the Diaspora, Vanessa Monaghan, chair of the London Irish LGBT Network, Paul O’Dwyer, founding member of the Irish Lesbian & Gay Organisation in NYC, artist Richard Malone, and exhibition curator Dr Maurice Casey, our Historian-in-Residence with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Christelle Gerbhardt of Dublin Pride was MC.
You can learn more about the exhibition at outintheworld.ie. To stay up-to-date with all the latest news please follow us on social @epicmuseumchq.