Dil Wickremasinghe: From wearing miniskirts in Rome to preaching in a floral ensemble

From a privileged Italian start to homelessness in Sri Lanka, Newstalk presenter talks on Roisin Meets podcast of finding life she always wanted in Ireland

Dil Wickremasinghe knew there was something different about her when she found herself daydreaming about Madonna “morning, noon and night”. At the age of 17 she told her parents she was a lesbian, but it didn’t go well.

Dil Wickremasinghe knew there was something different about her when she found herself daydreaming about Madonna “morning, noon and night”. At the age of 17 she told her parents she was a lesbian, but it didn’t go well.

 

Dil Wickremasinghe doesn’t have a typical migrant story. Born in Italy to Sri Lankan parents, she lived in the lap of luxury in Rome until she was 12 years old.

“I lived in a house with 16 bedrooms. We had an intercom system so I could call the cook and order my lunch. Those were the good old days!”

Just as she was about to become a teenager though, that world came crashing down. Her parents separated and she was sent to live with her grandparents in Sri Lanka, where she didn’t speak the language.

At around the same time, the Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking at the Wickremasinghe door and her mother dove “feet first” into that religion.

“One moment I was wearing a mini-skirt in Rome, and next thing I was preaching wearing some kind of floral ensemble at like 4, 5 o’clock in the morning in a train station in Sri Lanka,” she recalls.

Something different

Wickremasinghe knew there was something different about her when she found herself daydreaming about Madonna “morning, noon and night”, while her friends were lusting after George Michael.

At the age of 17 she told her parents she was a lesbian, but it didn’t go well.

On the advice of their church, they kicked her out and she was forced into homelessness on the streets of Colombo. Wickremasinghe says that, with hindsight, this was the best thing that could have happened to her, because if she had stayed in the family home she would have had to hide who she really is.

After a stint at a Sri Lankan national radio station she took a job as a flight attendant, but got itchy feet five years into the job. Her girlfriend at the time was Irish and she decided to move to Dublin, where within 24 hours of landing at the airport she found herself in the middle of the city’s Gay Pride festivities.

“I found myself marching down O’Connell Street as part of Dublin Pride singing It’s Raining Men - the irony of it all,” she says.

Good omen

It was a good omen though, and 16 years later, Wickremasinghe is now happily married to her wife Anne Marie Toole, through whom she says she finally found the love and acceptance she had always craved.

The couple welcomed their first child - baby boy Phoenix - last year, just days before the Same-Sex Marriage referendum was passed.

Listen to Dil Wickremasinghe in conversation with Róisín Ingle on the Róisín Meets podcast.

Her show Global Village is on Newstalk every Saturday evening from 7pm-8pm.

Dil Wickremasinghe is also the founder of Insight Matters - a counselling and psychotherapy service she set up with Anne Marie Toole in 2011. See insightmatters.ie/

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