In the past Ireland had been stereotyped as a sexually repressed country. As recently as 1994, homosexuality was illegal in Ireland. Thankfully we have come quite the distance in the past 15 years to emerge as a country which is open to discussing and exploring the notion of sexuality. To celebrate this, here at IrishCentral.com we have compiled a list of some of the most talented Irish and Irish-Americans whose admissions of homosexuality have inspired others to do the same.
Also known as Dolly, Rosie O'Donnell was born into an Irish family in Long Island, New York. Rosie was the middle child of five. Her father was born in Belfast, Co. Antrim and her mother passed away when she was only ten. When she was 18 she dropped out of college and ended up working on a host of TV shows including “Gimme a Break” and “Stand-up-Spotlight”. In 2002 she won an Emmy Award for her daytime talk show “The Rosie O'Donnell Show”. In 2008 she release her book “Celebrity Detox”. The actress split with her long term partner Kelli O'Donnell in recent years, the couple have four children together. O'Donnell is a big New York Jets fan.
Raised in Dolton Illinois in an Irish Catholic background, Jane Lynch is best known for playing straight-talking characters with a dry sense of humor, is it any wonder with her Irish connection! The award winning actress has a MFA from Cornell University and is deaf in one ear. With an extensive catalogue of both film and television roles, she has received several nominations for her role as Coach Sue Sylvester in the hit TV show Glee. She recently stripped naked on Saturday Night Live when she appeared as a guest host.
Born in California in 1962, her original birth name was Alicia Christian Foster. The daughter of Evelyn 'Brandy' Ela who had Irish roots, Foster's parents divorced before she was born. Nicknamed “Jodie” by her siblings she continued to use this name in her profession. Her acting career began when she was just three years old when she appeared in Coppertone sunblock commercials. Her first significant role came in 1976 when she starred alongside Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”. She has been awarded two Academy Awards both for best actress in a leading role.
Donal Óg Cusack
A Corkman, Donal Óg Cusack is a well known hurler and a prominent member of the Cork senior hurling inter-county team. Christy Ring was one of Cusak's close relatives, a man who many regard as the greatest hurler of all time. In recent years the goalkeeper became the first Irish sport-mans to openly talk about being gay. An electrician by trade the 33-year-old released his autobiography “Come What May” in October 2009.
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The Irish-American actress was born in Newport California in 1957. In her teenage years she dropped out of high school to pursue a career in acting. She is most well known for her role alongside Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”. In 1995 she joined Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Aiden Quinn and Brenda Fricker in narrating the documentary “Out of Ireland”, which traced the history of Irish immigration to the US. According to the New York Times she married her partner Melanie Leis at a civil union performed in New Jersey last year.
The infamous singer-songwriter was born George Alan O'Dowd in 1961 in South London to two Irish parents originally from Thurles, Co. Tipperary. He became well known for his contribution towards the New Romantic movement which emerged in the UK in the 1980s. From 1981-1986 he was the lead singer of eighties band Culture Club. In 2006 he was named as one of the most influential gay men in Britain by the London Independent. He recently collaborated with British Dj Mark Ronson.
Graham William Walker was born in Clondalkin Dublin in 1963. After dropping out of college in University College Cork, the Irishman moved to San Francisco where he began to explore a career in acting. Although he is Irish, the bulk of his television career has taken place in the UK. Known for his camp personality, he has hosted a number of his own chat shows including “So Graham Norton” and “V Graham” Norton” and “Graham Norton's Bigger Picture”.
Dublin born Gately was most well known as a member of Boyzone, one of the biggest boy-bands of the 1990's. Sadly at the age of 33 the singer-songwriter and author passed away in October of last year. During his time with Boyzone he achieved 17 top 5 single and 4 number 1 albums. After the band split, Gately continued to advance his singing and acting career including performances on such hit shows as ITV's “Dancing on Ice”.
A Wexford man Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. The multi award winning author is one of Ireland's most prolific writers, Toibin first studied at University College Dublin. He is a regular contributor to the Dublin Review, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. Earlier this year he was awarded the AWB Vincent American Ireland Fund Literary Award.
Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma was shorted listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for her novel “Room”. She spent the first twenty years of her life in Ireland before moving to Cambridge (England) to pursue a PhD and then onto Ontario in Canada. Named after Jane Austen's novel Emma, as a child she had wanted to become a ballerina. She started writing poetry at an early age and got her first book deal when she was 23.