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Connor O'Donoghue- interview

In his solo show, Connor O'Donoghue will be sharing the many personal life lessons he's experienced in the hope of resonating with audiences. Having been brought up in an Irish Catholic household, acceptance is a strong theme in Homobesity: How My Fat Gay Body Made Me, when overcoming adversity through his journey.

Speaking more about his rollercoaster of a story that Connor has subsequently written to perform, he answered the following questions.

 

What inspired you to create this production?


I wanted to tell my story! Thankfully, we’re living in a time when queer stories are being shared more and more often, but fatness is something that is still shrouded in shame and there aren’t enough fat gay stories out there. I think I have a unique story to tell and I think it’s important that I tell this story in way that is joyous and funny, as well being honest about the pain of living in a fat gay body.


Why do you feel it’s important to share your narrative, and discuss these themes through the arts?


I think a narrative like this is important because it allows me to challenge the shame around our bodies, the shame around being fat and the shame of feeling like you’re not good enough at 'being gay'. In this image-obsessed time, it’s vital to share stories of life that aren’t all about muscular Instagram influencers with flawless skin.


How have you managed to touch on such a range of emotions in your storytelling?


I think my age helps. I was 41 when this show premiered on the Brighton Fringe. I have had the time to go through multiple perspectives on my own body in my forty-one years and my relationship with my fatness has evolved through bullying and harassment as well as through being fetishised and worshipped by chubby chasers; I have experienced the loneliness of being gay in a fundamentalist Christian community and the joy of being gay in a mesh shirt in Soho. I’ve lived the rollercoaster of weightloss surgery. I don’t need to reach very far to find a range of emotions!


What influence did religion have on your upbringing and outlook on homosexuality?


I grew up in an evangelical Christian community – I was a teenager who knocked on neighbours’ doors to tell them about Jesus; a teenager who stood on street corners singing hymns and trying to recruit more souls for God. While growing up in a tightknit community gave me a feeling of security and love throughout my childhood, it also made me feel deeply ashamed of my sexuality. When I first realised I was gay, I assumed that I would still marry a woman and have children and that my sexuality was a cross to bear, a test from God. And even though I had accepted my homosexuality by the time I was an adult, it still hurts to know that the people I grew up with voted against gay rights in Ireland’s referendum on marriage equality and that they still see homosexuality as a sin. I think queer people who come from homophobic social groups experience a rootlessness that people whose sexualities 'match' their families and communities don’t have to endure.


How has your confidence in yourself grown to talk so openly about your weight, sexuality, and journey to now?


I think that living in a closet gives queer people a strange relationship with honesty. I was thirty by the time I finally told my parents I was gay. From that time onwards, after so many years of living in secret, I found myself being bolder and bolder in speaking my truth. Years of hiding meant that my story started to burst out of me – almost as if I had no choice but to share it! And as I started sharing my story with people, I saw the power that came with my vulnerability. When we are honest and show who we really are, we can make authentic connections with people. The more I tell my story, the more I find it resonates with other people – and not just gay people and not just fat people. Everyone can identify with the experience of exclusion from the 'cool kids’ club', whether those cool kids are the straight football lads, or the skinny pretty gays.


How can society take more steps towards being more inclusive and promoting acceptance?


I think telling stories can be an important part of promoting acceptance and inclusivity. We can’t understand how antagonistic society is to fat people until we listen to fat people talking about what it’s like to have someone complain to a flight attendant about having to sit next to you on a plane, or what it’s like to have teenage boys on bikes call you names as they cycle past. And we can’t understand the struggles of queer children until we hear stories about how it feels to be told that the people you fall in love with mean that you’re unclean and doomed to sadness and disease, or how it feels to land in London at the age of thirty-five and feel like you’re finally getting to have the adolescence that all your straight friends had twenty years before.


What is your overall message to those who see the show, or those thinking about coming?

This show is for everyone. Yes, it’s very specifically my story, but it’s a story about fighting and overcoming obstacles, about finding self-love. It’s a story for anyone who has a body, and a story for anyone who’s ever felt out of place in the world they’re living in!


 

Big thanks to Connor for discussing this, and giving a fascinating insight into his new show- best of luck with the run!


Get tickets here:



Additional thanks to Matthew Parker for coordinating this interview.

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