Irish journalist's moving story: 'I thought homos were the lowest of the low - and then my son came out'

Tom Hickley's eye-opening account has swayed some into the Yes camp on the day Ireland decides whether to legalise gay marriage

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The Independent Online

A journalist's emotional open letter about his son coming out has become one of the must-read stories of the referendum - and even helped some voters decide to vote Yes.

Tom Hickey wrote of how his son Daire coming out transformed his understanding of gay people - and even made him ashamed of his previous tolerance for homophobia.

In the Irish Independent, Hickey explained how homosexuals were never acknowledged during his childhood, and it was only when his own son came out that he began to fully understand it.

"I never knowingly met [a homosexual], never really thought about them until I came across the story of Oscar Wilde," he writes. "To say I was shocked was putting it mildly."

 

Hickey explains how he was brought up thinking all gay men were "effeminate characters" and that routine bulling was meted out to people who fitted that stereotype.

"In my world, where I sought to fit in and earn everyone's approval, I joined in the homophobic chatter whenever the subject was raised. Homos - the lowest of the low."

When his son told Hickey he was gay, it signalled a complete change.

"It was a sudden transformation," he writes. "Had you asked me the day before you might have assumed I was homophobic because I didn't have much time for gays. All I knew in that moment was that I loved my son more than anything in the world, gay or not."

Hickey's story has attracted a great deal of debate, and some even say it has influenced the decision people will make in the polling booth.

Until 1993, homosexuality was criminalised in Ireland. If Ireland votes to enshrine gay marriage in the constitution, it will the only country in the world to have done so by referendum.

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