Pop stars Edele Lynch and Sinead O’Carroll had gay friends as teenagers who were accepted in their Irish hometown, however the pair knew other LGBTI people wouldn’t have been as lucky.
“I can remember at school kids would childishly gabble about sexuality,” Lynch told the Star Observer.
O’Carroll agreed and said despite not seeing much discrimination firsthand, she knew it was happening.
“We were always around [gay people], so it was never really an issue,” she said.
“But I’m sure that it was difficult for many of them – it’s not an easy road.”
Lynch and O’Carroll make up one half of the double denim-wearing Irish pop group B*Witched, who had international success after releasing their breakout hit C’est La Vie in the late nineties.
As with many pop icons of the time like Britney Spears, B*Witched quickly amassed a large gay following, one that has persisted and seen them recently perform at Cardiff Pride and London’s largest queer ball, Sink the Pink.
“We were always aware that we had gay fans, it was something quite obvious,” Lynch said.
“In Ireland’s dance community there were all kinds of people getting to know themselves, and I just never saw anyone as different than me.
“But not being gay myself, it always made me sad that it wasn’t as easy for them to say they were gay as it was for me to say I’m straight.”
With changing times however, Lynch believes attitudes are far more accepting and inclusive.
“I have children now and I openly talk about gay people and the LGBT community in the house with them so they’re aware and accept,” she said.
“But when I was growing up you wouldn’t openly have a conversation with your family about that.”
In May last year same-sex marriage was legalised in Ireland, after a referendum was held that saw 62 per cent of the Irish Republic’s electorate voting in favour of marriage equality.
The “yes” vote marked a milestone in Ireland’s move towards a more liberal and secular society.
Lynch said she was proud of the country for passing marriage equality on the day.
“It was a really big deal in Ireland, especially because we’re so religious,” she said.
“I think it’s time we came together and realised we’re all due the same things, and cut from the same cloth – when did people think straight was right, and gay was not?”
O’Carroll said there had been so many debates leading up to the referendum that a lot of them weren’t even focused on same-sex marriage.
“It kind of turned into questioning what we’d do if gay people wanted to have children as well,” she said.
“I felt really proud to be Irish on the day it passed, it was amazing.”
Here in Australia, a non-binding plebiscite may be on the horizon if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s legislation is passed.
If given the green light, Australians will be looking at a February 11 public vote on same-sex marriage preceded by a “no” campaign worth $7.5 million dollars.
Both Lynch and O’Carroll were surprised to hear that same-sex marriage was still illegal in Australia.
“I would’ve expected it to be legal, it’s a shame,” Lynch said.
“If there’s going to be a plebiscite there’s no room for the fear of it, you have to use your voice to speak up.”
O’Carroll questioned the non-binding nature of the plebiscite.
“It kind of feels like – if it’s a yes and the government still has the right not to legalise it, what’s the point,” she said.
“To have that control doesn’t seem fair, and the government’s obviously not listening to the people either.
“But if it’s a strong majority that supports marriage equality then it will hopefully lead to a positive outcome.”
In February next year B*Witched will be touring Australia for the first time since 1998, alongside pop royalty Atomic Kitten, S Club 3 (formally S Club 7), and East 17.
Lynch said she’s dying to head back over to see how much has changed.
“I don’t know what to expect, I’m just excited to play for our Australian fans,” she said.
“We also can’t wait to see all our LGBT fans – we hope they can come along, be themselves, and be free.”
O’Carroll said they’ve been well supported by the LGBT community, and hopes the group will see them at the show.
“It would be great to see the community in all its glory in Australia,” she said.
B*Witched are touring around Australia in February 2017. Tickets are on sale now.