Ireland

Meet Panti Bliss

Ireland's most famous drag queen and LGBTQ activist

by Stranger’s Guide

Rory O’Neill a.k.a. Panti Bliss, is a popular drag performer and LGBTQ/HIV/AIDS activist. Panti’s forthright and powerful public speeches have garnered widespread attention throughout Ireland where, despite important gains for LGBTQ rights, the queer community still faces powerful discrimination. Here’s an excerpt from one of Panti’s most famous orations:

“Our society is homophobic. It is infused with homophobia. It is dripping with homophobia. And when you are 45 years old and you have spent 30 putting up, 30 absorbing all of those small slights and intimidations and sneers and occasionally much worse, you just get tired of it. … Of course, many people object to the word homophobia itself. They object to the “phobia” part.

“I’m not afraid of you,” they say. But I’m not saying that homophobes cower in fear every time they pass a Cher album, but they are afraid. They are afraid of what the world will look like when it treats gay, lesbian and bisexual people with the same respect as everybody else. They are afraid that they won’t fit in this brave new world of equality. But, of course, their fear is irrational because, of course, the world will not look any different. Kids will still want to eat ice cream, dogs will still play fetch, the tide will still come in and parallel parking will still be difficult. The most vocal homophobes who know that they long ago lost the arguments around the decriminalization of homosexual sex or every other advance for gay people since… they know that they can’t just come right out and bluntly say what drives them, which is an animus toward gay people.”

Panti Bliss regularly hosts the annual Dublin Pride celebrations, which take place in June each year. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will be virtual parade on June 28.

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Photo credit: Felicity Rainnie

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