Panti Bliss – Ireland’s “most fabulous” drag queen – made an impassioned speech and issued a powerful message to homophobes.
Dressed in drag as his alter-ego, Rory O’Neill spoke out at The Abbey Theatre (The National Theatre of Ireland), revealing that he was once hit by a milk carton thrown from a passing car.
Panti was then called a “fag” by the “lads” inside the car.
Speaking to the audience – who were there to see a play about workers set in 1913 – Panti opened up about the milk carton incident and other instances of homophobia he has faced.
Panti’s inspirational call to those who demean gay people was prompted by the Irish broadcaster RTÉ paying damages to anti-gay rights campaigners that Panti described as homophobic.
Appearing on the Saturday Night Show back in 2014, Panti alleged that The Iona Institute and several associated journalists were homophobic.
The institute is a Catholic lobbying group that campaigns on social issues to “promote the place of marriage and religion in society”.
It opposes equal marriage on the grounds that “marriage can only be between a man and a woman”.
After the incident, RTÉ was forced to pay out €85,000 (£70,000) in damages to journalists and members of the Catholic Iona Institute.
They also temporarily removed the clip from their catch-up player, citing “legal issues”, and airing an apology two weeks later.
PANTI HIT BACK in her now-famous speech
Following the debacle, Panti took on homophobia and asked why the gay community should be made to put up with “reasoned debates about you and what rights you deserve or don’t deserve”.
Panti began: “Have any of you been standing at a pedestrian crossing, when a car goes by and in it are a bunch of lads, and they lean out the window as they go by and shout fag and throw a milk carton at you?
“It feels oppressive, and when it really does hurt, is afterwards, because it’s afterwards when I wonder and worry and obsess over…
“What was it about me? What did they see in me? What was it that gave me away?”
“And I hate myself for wondering that,” Panti continued.
“But I check myself to see what is it about me that gives the gay away, and I check myself to make sure that I’m not doing it this time.”
Panti added: “Sometimes I hate myself. I f**king hate myself, because I check myself when I stand at pedestrian crossings.
“And sometimes, I hate you for doing that to me.”
‘People are being murdered because they’re just like you’
In the 10-minute video, Panti – aka Rory – shares several of his personal experiences.
Panti said: “Have you ever been on a crowded train with one of your best gay friends, and inside, a tiny part of you is cringing because he is being so gay?
“And you find yourself trying to compensate for his gayness by butching up a little, or by trying to steer the conversation onto straighter safer territory?”
Bliss continued: “Have you ever turned on the computer and you see videos of people who are just like you, in countries that are far away and countries that are not far away at all?
“And they are being imprisoned and beaten and tortured and murdered and executed because they are just like you?”
The Yes campaign
The video of Patti’s speech has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and was even discussed in the Irish parliament.
What’s more, it played an important role in the Yes campaign, which eventually saw gay marriage passed by public vote in the Republic of Ireland.
The speech – which is thought of as one of the key moments of the pro-gay marriage campaign – was called “a noble call” by Stephen Fry.
And fellow broadcaster Graham Norton recommended that EVERYONE watch it.