Back in 2014, Panti, aka Rory O’Neill, made headlines when she appeared on stage in Dublin following a performance of James Plunkett’s 1913 Lockout drama The Risen People to give an impassioned speech about prejudice and homophobia. That appearance followed a series of controversies that culminated in state broadcaster RTE making payments to a number of anti-LGBT activists after O’Neill accused them of being homophobic.
At the ILGA event, Panti noted:
“Sometimes you can get into a lot of trouble just for using the word ‘homophobia’…In my case, I have been sued by a whole bunch of people whom I suggested were a bunch of homophobes – sorry, my lawyer prefers if I say ‘allegedly suggested’ – that they were a bunch of homophobes. And these by the way are people who actively campaign for gay people to be treated differently than everybody else…which makes it all the more bizarre to me that they were so horrified at the suggestion…that someone would suggest they were homophobic. Which is weird to me because if you were going to actively campaign for gay people to be treated differently to everyone else, then own it. Don’t actively campaign for gay people to be treated differently to everyone else and then get your knickers in a twist when someone suggests that might be construed as homophobic.
“Since when did homophobic become the worst thing you could call someone? There’s a very easy way to stop people suggesting you might be a homophobe and that is to stop actively campaigning for gay people to be treated differently to everybody else.”
“I’ve never been to Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, but that doesn’t matter because I know it like the back of my hand. I know the kind of people that were there. I know the fun that they were having. I know the freedom that they felt to be able to be themselves, totally. I know the boys that they were kissing and I know the music they were dancing to. Because I have kissed those very same boys and I have danced to that very same music. I have never been to Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and yet I’ve spent some of the best times of my life there.”
You can watch the speech below, along with Panti’s 2014 “noble call” and a trailer for documentary The Queen of Ireland below.