Chairperson Report (Unsaid)

This piece is the emotional report I wrote for the Club I had both founded and chaired since its formal existence in 2020 and before.

Due to unfortunate discordant circumstances within the club, I reformed the report and excluded all vulnerability.

Evening everyone and thank you for attending the second AGM for Na Gaeil Aeracha. I will begin my report with thanking everyone in the various forms for the work we have all put into Na Gaeil Aeracha. A strength of mine has always been observation – so note that I appreciate the effort and commitment from our players, committee members and management alike. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

I believe the greatest movement this year was witnessing, and for those participating – in the glory provided by our LGFA team. From a take-off year of low numbers, our LGFA have shown us that their commitment and drive could never be questioned, and through the hard work and resolve of this year accomplished multiple wins, brilliant gameplay and unfathomable endurance. Their passion for improvement is something we should all massively applaud, as it draws nothing but inspiration and excitement as they continue moving up the ranks. Well done to all involved.

Our mission this year was to set up the GAA, and we accomplished that. I’ve been part of the team from since when it was ‘kickabouts’ in Phoenix Park and I am so proud of the first competitive year. While we didn’t ascertain any wins, the improvement is undeniable. And next year you will have your first win, and then your second and so on. It’s all on the cards. Keep that passion up, be relentless and go for it even if you doubt yourself. Nothing breaks that we cannot fix.

Emma had a statement at our last AGM of wanting Hurling and Camogie to be set up within NGA and we’ve had a lot of interest. Emma set up the pucabouts off her own back, and allowed the space to be created for those who wanted it, and for that we thank Emma on top of all of her duties. Now, coming into 2023 we have the official space for it be to ran. I’d like to thank those involved, particularly James Hayes for helping me help you. And of course, all those involved behind the scenes, too much to name. I wish you all the best for luck next year.

I think reflection is important and I’m sure we’re all sick of hearing that “it all started with a tweet.” The truth is this is it didn’t start with a tweet, but started a long, long time ago.

Regardless of its origins, there is an undeniable sense of content in knowing that there will never come a time where Na Gaeil Aeracha, in some shape or form will cease to exist. Because it’s within all of us and we are all of us, part of its story. Raising, teaching and learning. Na Gaeil Aeracha exists with its members who have travelled abroad and couldn’t play this year. They’re still part of the club. Na Gaeil Aeracha is still prominent, undoubtedly, in the spirit of those who plan to travel, or cannot commit to the team for a variety of reasons – they embody it, and it embodies them. It’s in the thoughts, in the support, it’s in the heart.

We’re all aware that a lot of us founding members are leaving at a committee level. I believe that with us as founders, we have a deep understanding of the club’s missions and values, and we have done all we set out to – we brought together our community and created a safe space for queer people in Irish sports, through LGFA, Gaeil Football, Hurling and Camogie.

To Emma, Caoimhe, Se and Luke, my fellow founders of this life-changing plan, I am sad to see us – all of us – move away from it. But we have put much more than two years work into this, and we certainly deserve the break.

Luke, the earliest associate, I wish you the best in your travels and career, and I hope you hang onto the memories of us discussing in The Globe the aesthetic and mission of the club. I speak for both of us when I say our vision was cute, but nothing to what NGA has become. We are both capable and resourceful.

Se, you have kept me calm a lot more than you’ll know as we navigated forward – you have always been easy to follow and have an innate ability to allow your expertise to be expressed in simple format so as to be concise. Your assurance has allowed me to be more confident in my role and in my life, to stop doubting and overthinking. That’s something I get to take with me. Thank you.

Emma and Caoimhe – you are both indescribable credits to this club and to me – I can’t even begin to describe what you’ve done for everyone in this room and beyond. You both have my undying respect and admiration and I look forward to journeying on and spending time with you outside the pressures of our common commitment.

Our second year was to ensure the running of the GAA alongside the LGFA, and we have accomplished that. The seeds have grown into standing plants, and it isn’t something we talk about, how much work goes on behind the scenes because we want to provide the best quality of a club we can, and we have been its first line of defense. I can acknowledge the shortcomings of the club, hopes and ambitions – gifts we wanted to give to you all to show our love for you. Which didn’t come into fruition. I hope you all know that nobody holds those failures with more pain than I do. Not because I can see the stress my committee have been under, but because I know across the board all we have wanted is to gift you all the best possible experience because I think the world of you all, and feel protective over my members. I hope my mindset of solutions over problems carries on, and we find continued strength in resolution and adaptability.

I spoke earlier that Na Gaeil Aeracha is in the heart and spirit of those here today, and beyond, all over the world. I hope that really registers with us all. And more on that – I hope we understand that NGA is in the hearts of people who are tucked into corners of the country which are isolated and may not have access to resources which they need to understand who they are. It’s in the hidden hearts of people who are scared to express themselves and remain cloaked, which is an element of humanity we can all identify with here. Na Gaeil Aeracha is a beacon to the youth, as they grow and perhaps find themselves in a world they are made to feel like they don’t belong to. It’s in the elderly, who see with smiles that something like this exists – finally. And it’s in our families, those of us fortunate enough to be able to relay ourselves to them.

And for those of us who can’t or have struggled to. Na Gaeil Aeracha is that family. And we support you.

There is one last thing I’d like to say, from a personal standpoint. I’ve never been proud of myself, because I’ve never had anybody proud of me. You get lost in that. I know I was. But through the strength of my many friends I’ve created, I gathered some support and some strength and through Na Gaeil Aeracha I was able to have conversations I never thought would come with my family. And just this year had my da told me he was proud of me. All thanks to Na Gaeil Aeracha, and the spirit you’s have all mustered in me. Thanks to you, I finally get to start working on a relationship which didn’t exist before. I look forward to a year of free time that I can spend working on a bond that I have always craved.

Thank you, everyone.

The Sky Is Blue

The reason I am alive today is because the sky is blue.

Isn’t that one of the stupidest things you’ve ever read?

For as far as I can remember, as soon as I knew about dying and death, I wanted it. It evolved from wanting to run away – to get as far away from everything that surrounded me like water against a ship – to being so still in my place – breathing in my surroundings, looking at them with no longer a motive to move from them or run. I accepted everything that was happening and just let it tear me apart.

All of my teenage years are ruined by sadness, to put it broadly. Alone, and now quiet, the boy I used to be was sad and nothing more. Alone, he did not try to pick up his pieces. He did not seek help. He did not try to be okay. He did not stir his black waters.

As I progressed these years, I got older, tougher, and more brave. Bleeding wasn’t enough, and suddenly I was experimenting with other ways. Why? I don’t know why. I don’t know why I hated myself that much, and when I look back, I am reminded of countless reasons – but I will never know which one exactly sent me over the edge. But I got older. Specifically from 15-17, death was in my eyes.

I searched everywhere for life, but it must have been running from me. I lost grip on everything that tightened me to my place here.

People call suicide selfish because those who love you suffer it. What those people don’t realise is that you think of those people all the time. Suicide can come in the form of a quick jump or fall or descent, but that’s not how it works. You go through just how much it would impact your little sister, you think of the brave face your older one will have to put on, you think of your friends who will always wonder why and if they had something to do with it. You think of everyone, and it holds you rooted for a bit. That’s love. But love isn’t as strong as people think. Love breaks. And that’s exactly what depression does. You start realising your little sister will weep and be scarred, but will go on with her life. Your older sister is strong and combined with your little sister, they will pull each other through. Your friends will fall out of love and care, and their paranoia will cease, and you will become nothing but a name that is honoured every year until there is nobody left to remember the date.

There have been so many times when I have been an inch to death. And I always put myself there. But the sky is blue. And on sunny days, the clouds disperse and the strength of the blue is so beautiful. And sometimes the sky is lost to a mass of cloud, and all is wrapped in a grey that calms a headache, and light misty rain falls like a blessing to soothe the hot blood beneath the skin. I could never kill myself, because the sky was too beautiful, and I would miss it too much.

A Personal View On Death

Death to me, is quite beautiful.

Death is tying a ribbon into a bow and labelling the package ‘Completion.’ It is finally being able to look back on a life and understand the meaning of that life, the question that has boggled philosophers, some of the best thinkers, since life began. Death is an epiphany. It’s noticing the beauty, the impact, the brilliance of someone.

With death comes a treasuring, and albeit a sum of regret too, but we cling on to what we remember of a life only once it’s gone. Death is keeping those memories and always feeling some sort of emotion because of them. Happiness, anger, desperation… In its own dark way, Death will remind you of what’s most important in life, in the most obvious way it can – through expression. Emotion. Elements of life.

Death is endless love, perhaps frustrating in some circumstances, but endless nonetheless. When we lose someone we love, when their life is complete, our love for them becomes immortal, because life can no longer touch that love, it cannot ruin that love, there will be no fights to tear that love. That love is crystallised and therefore unbreakable.

With death comes a terrible feeling that one won’t experience until they’ve fallen victim to Death’s grip. A pain, a sick feeling that was always there, like cancer, just waiting to be exploited. Mourning, grief… Emotions that cause sickness, sickness of hearts, sickness of souls, emotions that will make make you puke up the backbone of your reality and leave you staring at the mess on the floor. Death gives birth to the second part of life, and much like in the first part of life, we are born kicking and screaming and scared and stupid, but we grow. We age. Death prepares us for how cruel both it and Life can be, and will be, and you will see a different world, a world where you will not take ease for granted…But a world where you will appreciate the softness of snow, the flexibility of young glass, the changing colour of the sky.

The Stigma Surrounding Name Changing

Personally, I don’t have two different names. I have one name. Leo Grey is my preferred name, but I wasn’t born with it. I was born Karl Paul Andrew Shannon. I have, and have always wanted to change this name. Why? No reason necessarily, I just don’t really like the sound of it. Honestly, I think that I’d like to change it because names are incredibly personal and considering it’s my name, a name that I and I alone have to live with for the rest of my life (and possibly thereafter) I think I should be allowed to do that without the stigma that surrounds name changing.

From my experience there are many different genres of stigma that originate in different sources. For example, my family. My family were insulted and took it as a direct offence when I told them I wanted to change my name. I quickly added that it wasn’t to disregard my family, I just wanted to. But still, it was taken as offensive. I was young at the time, possibly around thirteen, so I was scolded for this behaviour.

All I knew was that I wanted to change my name. I didn’t know to what at the time, but I wanted to change my name. And me being me, I didn’t let my parents’ outlook sway me.

So I began experimenting with names at that age. I didn’t tell my friends because I didn’t know what to tell them, and I wasn’t sure how they would react. I never mentioned it to my family ever again.

I told my friends when I was about fifteen. I told the ones I trusted that I wanted to change my name, I pretended to those who I didn’t trust and that didn’t know me too well that I had a different name. (Obviously they knew my name was Karl, but I pretended my name was Karl-Max [Max being a name-phase I went through]). My close friends didn’t attack my stance, but instead questioned the idea of it themselves. They said it would be ‘weird’ if I were called something else, that other names probably wouldn’t suit me, but I took this as light-hearted, and truthfully, quite right.

So by the age I was sixteen, I had received a positive and a negative reaction. By the age I was sixteen I had discarded in my head the name ‘Karl Shannon’ and I was ready for the change to become legal. But there were problems. It’s a tricky situation, I didn’t understand what to do, I didn’t have the support of my parents, and I didn’t know my name yet. But the fact that I was ready meant enough for me. I was prepared to face the stigma and fight it tirelessly.

Leo Diarmuid Andrew Grey is my name. Leo (pronounced Lay-O) I chose due to it’s pronunciation and the fact that I just love it. Diarmuid I chose for it’s relation to Ireland. Andrew I chose to keep for personal reasons. And Grey being both my favourite colour and abstract thought. This is my name.

I have different friends now. They find it unsettling. Some say I’m attention seeking. I’m not. Some say it’s just a phase, and I’ll regret it someday. People use this as a backdrop for everything; tattoos, sexuality, hair dying, even fashion. But I did take their sight into consideration. I played with the name. I made it my e-mail address, I featured it on some of my lesser known networking sites, I say it to strangers. And you know what? I’m comfortable with it.

Professionally speaking it’s suspicious to have someone who changed their name, simply because it isn’t the ‘norm’. I don’t understand why this would hinder my ability to preform in whatever way, but I’m willing to explain; you guys watch too much TV. I’m not on the run from the law. Changing one’s name doesn’t make you invisible. Fake ID’s and identity theft isn’t as simple as that. If you ask me, I’ll tell you. I would have changed my name because I wanted to. Simple as.

My family still see it the way they saw it those years ago, which leaves me in a tricky place. I am still lawfully Karl Shannon, but in my mental state I’m not. I have refrained from the legal transition simply because I still don’t completely understand how it works in Ireland, and also because I don’t want the awkwardness in my family that would undoubtedly act as a silent gap.

To summarise, people will find it weird and suspicious when they hear of someone changing their name under these conditions. They are quick to judge, but I judge too. Why do you care? Does my name, old or new, inflict you in some way? Jealousy? Or just old-fashioned suspicion? The stigma surrounding name changing is unnecessary and though it isn’t a huge cause of depression or suicide, I think it is harmful in that it is oppressing self-expression and individuality, and it is outcasting people who don’t fit the norm standards over something so small as a name. It is also a means of guilt-tripping purposely proposed by family which is unfair. We should be who we want to be, without fearing our reputation in the eyes of those we love, or should love.