Brian McIntyre, 49: ‘I became an expert at managing the secret’

Photograph: Alan Betson

Photograph: Alan Betson


Brian McIntyre lives in Howth, Co Dublin

To live an authentic life is very difficult, and I knew that at age 10. Even at 10 I knew I had an attraction to men rather than women.

One’s sexuality is revealed over time. It’s a dawning rather than a discovery. It’s a real sadness to me that my dawning was a source of pain. I experienced my sexuality as a burden during my teenage years. I became an expert at managing the secret.

It was quite traumatic to be forced to hide part of my essence. It’s an injustice and a travesty that who you are can be framed by society to be wrong. I find it outrageous. Irish society would have had me believe being gay was the worst thing that could have happened to me. I still harbour some anger towards Irish society in the way it treated children like me.

I grew up in Rathfarnham as one of seven children. It’s much bigger than average families now, and even then it was remarked on. There’s always something happening in a big family. Our mother, Máire, is the constant, the fulcrum of the family.

When I was growing up I was interested in arts and music and performance. I sang from an early age, and played piano by ear. That’s what I loved, but I studied marketing. I figured it would be something creative and an opportunity to make money. I don’t regret not making a career from music, but the roads not taken are fascinating to consider, because they lead to a different life.

After college I joined Mars Corporation. Within 18 months I’d moved to Strasbourg for the company. When I left Ireland I wasn’t out to anyone, and part of the lure of France was ultimate independence. I was there two years, then in Jiddah for 18 months, London for three years and Vienna for two years.

I was feeling a bit corporate by then. I took a year’s sabbatical and set myself the task of learning Spanish. I had learned French already. I lived with a family in Buenos Aires, then in San José, in Costa Rica, and then I moved to Barcelona. I was an arriviste flaneur.

That year was the first time I began to separate the idea of life and career.

When you’re not earning money you’re much more driven to live an efficient life. Much of the expense of our lives is created through not having enough time. It’s very expensive to be busy.

I had come out when I was 23. The first person I told was a close friend of mine. The decision to tell him was highly traumatic, because the first time you tell someone you come out to everyone. My family were very supportive.

I went back to work at Mars after the sabbatical. I was in Switzerland for a year and a half, and learned German there. Then I resigned.

In 2000 I went to London. By that time the economy was beginning to boil in Dublin. I thought, I’m as far as London, why not go home? I think the salmon going back upstream is something that happens in the mid 30s; there’s a general roosting going on.

I came back to Dublin and set up my own marketing consulting business. My 30s were about getting out in the world, and my 40s have been about being comfortable with who I am.

I got back into music and walked the Camino of Santiago de Compostela several times. I went back to university for two years to study psychology, because I wanted to stimulate my thinking and get in touch with the next generation. I cycled around Ireland and across the States.

My father, Peter, died two years ago. It was the first experience I had of death, and it had a profound effect on me. You don’t see the meaning of your parents in your life until it’s taken away. It triggers a lot of reflection. The day my father died I realised that I wasn’t afraid of death.

My 40s have been the first time I ever considered spirituality in general. I reject the institution of the church, but I consider myself Christian, in that I respect the core values of Christianity: love and kindness and generosity.

What I really value in other people is joyfulness and positivity, and I find myself increasingly drawing away from people who are cynical. I find it deeply unattractive, and I don’t like it in myself.

Being gay has politicised me. I think things are different now from when I was growing up, but nonetheless we still live in a deeply conservative country.

I curate my life, because I’m not going to put myself in a situation I don’t want to be in. For instance, I would never go out in Dublin city centre arm in arm with a man late at night, when people have drink on them, because it’s dangerous. And it shouldn’t be.

This issue is something we all own as a society, not just gay men. It’s not my problem: it’s our problem as a society.

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