Julie-Anne Corr: I was ready to take my own life because of my sexuality
Northern Ireland's first openly lesbian loyalist politician has spoken of how the struggle to accept her sexuality led to her attempts to take her life as a teenager.
Shadow Belfast City councillor Julie-Anne Corr also revealed how the removal of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall in 2012 resulted in her becoming politicised and joining the Progressive Unionist Party.
She told the Belfast Telegraph in an exclusive interview: "I was so turned off politics as a teenager and really hated it, hated everything that it was.
"But now here I am as a politician. At that time my biggest ambition was making sure that I could wake up in the morning without attempting suicide again and coming to terms with my sexuality."
The 27-year-old said that the decision to table a motion to remove the Union flag was "an absolute disgrace" and it caused her to take part in street flag protests in Mount Vernon.
She said that sharing a common British identity with her family and community helped her feel "less of an outcast" growing up.
Ms Corr said: "The one time that I always felt at home or close to my family and having something in common with them was during the 12th of July or with our flags.
"So when the flag did come down, I was still facing a lot of discrimination as a gay woman and while I wouldn't go as far to say it stripped me of my identity, it was something that I shared with my family and as it was changing, it was hard to accept."
The shadow councillor also described how she had to deal with feelings of isolation and guilt from struggling to accept not only her own sexuality, but also the consequences of her own father coming out as gay, which drove her desperate attempts to end her life as a teenager.
She said: "When my father told me that he was gay, I was 11 or 12, I didn't know what it was so I had to Google it.
"And it seemed to me it was like a disease and that disease had broken my mum's heart."
Ms Corr was walked down the aisle by her mother when she entered into a civil partnership with Kerry Johnston last month and hopes that one day she and her partner will have children.
She represents the Oldpark electoral ward area of north Belfast, along with the city's Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon from the SDLP and three Sinn Fein councillors and one DUP councillor.
Julie-Anne Corr is one of three shadow councillors from the Progressive Unionist Party elected in May to the new Belfast City Council.
She will take her seat on April 1 and like other shadow councillors, is paid a pro-rata salary in the interim.