Speaking at Amnesty International Pride last night in Belfast, Panti Bliss, who is the alter-ego of Rory O’Neill, condemned the role of religion in fuelling homophobia.
“Homophobia is a problem in all of the UK. But polls suggest that Northern Ireland has a particular problem,” O’Neill told The Independent.
“Twenty-six per cent of Northern Irish people in a recent vote said they’d have a problem living beside a gay neighbour and that’s a pretty stark statistic,” he said.
“I think the simple answer is that Northern Ireland is a more religious society and many people use religion as an outlet to express homophobic views.”
O’Neill spoke of his own experience coming out to a church-going parent. “When I came out to my own mother, who’s a religious woman herself, I never doubted that she loved me. But of course it took her a long time to come to terms with what her church had taught her all her life, and who her son had turned out to be, and that caused her a lot of difficulty and a lot of pain.”
Bliss is one of Dublin’s foremost drag queens and in recent years has become an “accidental activist” for equality.
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