The Irish drag queen who became an internet sensation after attacking homophobia in the region has blamed the church for perpetuating intolerant views.
Speaking at Amnesty International Pride last night in Belfast, Panti Bliss, who is the alter-ego of Rory O’Neill, condemned the role of religion in fuelling homophobia.
“Homophobia is a problem in all of the UK. But polls suggest that Northern Ireland has a particular problem,” O’Neill told The Independent.
“Twenty-six per cent of Northern Irish people in a recent vote said they’d have a problem living beside a gay neighbour and that’s a pretty stark statistic,” he said.
“I think the simple answer is that Northern Ireland is a more religious society and many people use religion as an outlet to express homophobic views.”
O’Neill spoke of his own experience coming out to a church-going parent. “When I came out to my own mother, who’s a religious woman herself, I never doubted that she loved me. But of course it took her a long time to come to terms with what her church had taught her all her life, and who her son had turned out to be, and that caused her a lot of difficulty and a lot of pain.”
Bliss is one of Dublin’s foremost drag queens and in recent years has become an “accidental activist” for equality.