GAY AND PERSECUTED; Prejudice Has Driven 60% of Ireland's Gays to the Brink of Suicide
ADRIAN McCRACKEN has paid a high price for his high-profile gay role in Ulster society.
As head manager of the gay man's advice group, The Rainbow Project, Adrian has been fighting to abolish the prejudice against homosexuals in Ulster for five years.
"I've been spat at on the street, had bottles thrown at me when leaving the office and received numerous threatening phone calls," he said.
"There is huge prejudice against gays in Ireland. I even had to move to London for 10 years so I could really express myself and live my sexuality.
"In Ulster I can't dress or look the way I want to because people think I look gay. I dye my hair and have an eyebrow pierced.
"On one occasion I appeared on TV to talk about gay men in Ireland. I was only on for about 30 seconds but the next day when I was walking down the street in Belfast people were jeering at me and one person even came up and spat on me in the middle of a crowded street.
"There was another occasion when I left the office late at night and was attacked by a gang of youths who threw bottles at me and shouted four- letter insults.
"To be honest, that's just a normal occurrence for many gay people in Ireland.
"A lot of the prejudice comes from very religious people but an equal amount of abuse comes from thugs who are just looking for an excuse to cause trouble.
"It says a lot about the state of prejudice in this country when the number of attacks on gay people goes up when there is a ceasefire on.
"I think we are easy targets for people to direct the anger and prejudice that lives inside them.
"Being gay in Ireland is a constant liability. One very close friend of mine who is also a volunteer for The Rainbow Project was nearly killed in an attack three years ago.
"He was attacked outside his house and had a concrete pathing slab smashed over his head. He spent six months in hospital and has never been the same since.
"His life is ruined because people couldn't deal with the fact that he was gay.
"Only last year a couple of gay women came to us for advice because they had been 'outed' in a police investigation. We pleaded with the police not to reveal their sexuality as part of the investigation but it didn't help.
"As a result they are now living in different parts of England because they couldn't take the abuse they received after people found out they were gay.
"The workplace is also a major source of discrimination. I have dealt with hundreds of cases where employers found out that their employee was gay and they sacked them on the spot.
"Unless they have been employed for at least two years they have very few rights.
"I have found that many men who call us for advice are in marriages or relationships with women which says a lot about how many gay men there must be in this country.
"Some are even entering into relationships with women to cover their backs.
"The most worrying fact is that more than 60 per cent of gay men in Ulster have contemplated suicide at one time or another as a result of the prejudice against them in society.
"Just as frightening are the findings in a survey that 30 per cent of gay men in Ulster have actually tried to kill themselves.
"Clearly, the prejudice is so severe here that it is causing innocent people to consider taking their own lives.
"I just wish that people would understand the pain we are put through as a result of ignorant prejudice.
"There are up to 70,000 gay men in Ulster alone, which is a loud voice, yet few are willing to speak out for fear of being shunned in their communities
"More gay men 'come out' when they live in built-up areas like Belfast and Derry but many who live in small communities and villages are terrified because they know the price they will have to pay.
"Fortunately, I was in the position to escape from Ulster for 10 years and discover that being gay is not a crime, but many have to live here and bear it. …