On the morning of Could 22, 2015, Emilene Stafford left her pub on Dungarvan’s Decrease Major Road and headed in the direction of the previous convent faculty with its black and yellow polling station indicators.
I used to be in tears, I could not consider this referendum was going down,” mentioned Ms Stafford. “Marriage equality scared me, it was scared for my enterprise and scared for the LGBTQ+ group too. I believed if this does not go properly, the place can we stand then?”
Ms Stafford had moved to the sunny south-east city seven years earlier than the vote to start out Merry’s Pub along with her father. She hadn’t come out when she arrived.
“I wasn’t the individual I’m at the moment, that is for positive,” she mentioned. Stafford had some issues about being out and about within the “small city” of Eire, however this was allayed when she started to see her regulars’ assist for marriage equality.
Then once more, final yr, when she proposed to her associate Irma Costello, the pub virtually fell over with presents from well-wishers. “I get emotional even simply fascinated with it,” she mentioned.
Seven years after the morning she nervously voted, Ms Stafford is now the driving pressure behind Dungarvan’s inaugural Satisfaction pageant, going down at the moment. For a few of those that grew up within the city of West Waterford, and even moved there, the concept of having Dungarvan to host their very own Satisfaction would have been unthinkable 10 years in the past.
Right this moment, town’s sq. and all its fundamental streets are dotted with rainbow flags with virtually unanimous assist from native companies. Walton Park in Abbeyside, simply initially of the Waterford Greenway, will host a family-friendly Satisfaction occasion between 4pm and 9pm. The opening ceremony might be hosted by Girl Fifi Fondue, an area drag queen often known as 37-year-old Conor O’Mahony.
“I am undoubtedly going to attempt to preserve my feelings in test at the moment,” mentioned Mr. O’Mahony.
“Right here I’m in my very own metropolis, doing my job, representing town and glad. And my mother might be there. It may be a very proud second.”
Dungarvan Satisfaction additionally features a youth group referred to as Chill Out for LGBTQ+ youth aged 10-14 in Waterford and South Tipperary. Mr. O’Mahony ‘creeped’ tears when he met her just lately.
“There was a degree the place I flared up and I needed to go. As a result of I am unable to let my make-up run – not with two units of false eyelashes! What struck me was how superb it was to see these youngsters who’re so younger and so conscious of who they’re. So open about who they’re. It is one thing I by no means would have had the house for at her age,” he mentioned.
The gown Girl Fifi will put on at the moment is the primary one Mr. O’Mahony ever purchased when he began dragging over 10 years in the past. He first wore it in Dungarvan when Girl Fifi made her native debut at a buddy’s social gathering on the Girl Belle Pub.
After footage surfaced on social media, faculty mates started texting him and asking if he was transgender.
“There was a lack of awareness,” he mentioned.
Even his circle of relatives did not perceive something about drag at first, however they’re now his largest followers. His father, who’s in his 70s, even sends Girl Fifi to a few of their drag exhibits with a curt “So long women”.
Mr O’Mahony, who usually works with stag and hen events, is happy concerning the alternative to spend Satisfaction month engaged on actual grassroots work with LGBTQ+ individuals on the bottom.
“That is the half I really like as a result of we have seen the industrial aspect of Satisfaction. It may be very pub oriented, it may be very late at night time. It is good to have it family-friendly, it is good to have it community-based,” he mentioned.
The Dungarvan Satisfaction Committee additionally advantages from JP McCarthy, who has returned dwelling after being primarily based in Cork through the pandemic. McCarthy, who was concerned with Cork Satisfaction, felt he needed to depart Dungarvan to ‘immerse’ in LGBTQ+ tradition and even meet different homosexual individuals.
“Strolling via Dungarvan now and seeing the flags and pennants… if I had been 18 or 19 it will be so uplifting and superb to see that, to know that your hometown is such an accepted place,” he mentioned.
Some consider Dungarvan’s first Satisfaction pageant may have occurred a lot earlier, in a metropolis that has develop into way more affluent and progressive over the previous decade.
John Gomes-Rea, who moved to Dungarvan in 2019 and is now a part of the city’s Satisfaction committee, believes the pageant “comes on the coattails of the change that has come earlier than us”.
Mr Gomes-Rea’s work gave him the chance to maneuver from London to Dungarvan in 2019. He and his fiancé – now husband – noticed Dungarvan as the right place to start out a household and jumped on the alternative. 5 months in the past, they welcomed a phenomenal child woman into their thriving household by way of surrogate.
“I needed to offer one thing again to town that has made us so good and welcoming as a pair and now as a household,” mentioned Mr. Gomes-Rea.
“Dungarvan Satisfaction was a means of giving again and hopefully leaving the world a greater place for my daughter.”
For all the boldness that they had of their plans for the pageant, the committee remains to be amazed on the assist they’ve obtained.
After the rainbow flag was raised, Ms Stafford was shocked when she was requested to offer a chat to college students on the native Christian Brothers faculty for boys. Once more, that is one thing that anybody who grew up within the metropolis would have had a tough time imagining not too way back.
An important factor for the Dungarvan Committee is to make their Satisfaction celebrations a hometown affair. “I’ve had a message from a beautiful gentleman who left Dungarvan a very long time in the past,” mentioned Mrs Stafford.
“And he left due to his sexuality, he could not come out. He fell out along with his household and has no communication with them. He now lives – out – in America along with his personal husband and household.
“He mentioned to see what is going on on in Dungarvan now – celebrating Satisfaction – he cannot consider this was the city he needed to depart all these years in the past.”