The Accidental Columnist: Falling off houses, into a career, and out of the closet

Columnist Dean O’Reilly will be sharing insights from his responsibilities, experiences and milestone moments, which have a tendency to come about by accident.

Personal Growth

A few weeks ago, I found myself dangling from the second storey of my house. My housemate was away in Boston and I – rather stupidly – took the bins out and left my keys behind.

To avoid a locksmith, I climbed over our gate and spotted an open bedroom window. I scaled the wall and tried to pry the window open to let myself in. Unfortunately, the window didn't swing wide enough to let a person inside (a good anti-burglary feature in retrospect).

This story is a perfect example of how I find myself in situations I never intended to be in. The last thing I wanted to do after travelling for a week was to test my climbing skills, believe me.

I've realised my life and career are built on accidents like this. I never saw myself volunteering in LGBTQIA+ activism, consent and sexual health for the last seven years, nor graduating from psychology and working in diversity and inclusion across the UK and Ireland for the last four. Much like the bench I obliterated when dropped from the windowsill, these are all things I just fell into.

There is one story that I’d argue kicked everything off. My first big accident and the reason behind my online persona, Accidental Rainbow. It’s the story of how I fell out of the closet.

Before I tell you the story, I need you to understand that I detested being gay. I was viscerally ashamed by it. I hid my interests. I pushed down ‘gay behaviours’. I fixated on being a ‘good student’ to distract myself from crushes on boys. And I was never, ever, going to come out. That was until, one day, my friend was telling me about a night he had in Earth nightclub in Drogheda (the glamour!).

My friend told me about a guy he made out with. In my guise as a supportive ally, I asked to see pictures of this guy. When I saw his photos, my life took on a whole new trajectory.

I just couldn’t stop myself from following him. It was the first time I had seen someone that was gay, attractive and lived near me. One thing led to another and only a few weeks later, I’m seeing this guy, my friends have asked me if I’m gay and I’ve come out. All of it an accident.

Soon after, I started my degree. Once again, I couldn't stop myself, and I joined the LGBTQIA+ society. I began chairing that society a year later. While in it, I was randomly selected to attend Pink Training – the largest LGBTQIA+ conference in Europe – and this led to starting my own sexual health and LGBTQIA+ workshops (inspired by folks like Robbie Lawlor).

My time in the society led to my first job: creating a CV for RuPaul (read more in Gay Times). This, coupled with a few years working in student representation and conducting data analysis for private companies, led to working in diversity and inclusion at the University of Manchester. Now, through colleagues I met in my sexual health promotion, I’m a columnist. All of it, again, an accident.

At my Big Age of 25, I don’t think I’m particularly wise. I don’t think I’m particularly eloquent. But I am excited to share insights from the responsibilities, experiences and moments I’ve accidentally had thus far. Because there’s so much we can learn from accidents. Who knows what I’ll stumble upon next?

And I did get a locksmith in the end, if you’re wondering. It took them two hours and several hundred quid to get me in, so good thing I fell into this writing gig.

If you or someone you know has recently been exploring their sexual or gender identity and are wondering about the next steps, check out our dara & co masterclass on coming out.

Dean O'Reilly
Dean O’Reilly is an LGBTQ+ activist, sexual health promoter, psychology graduate, DEI professional and self-proclaimed ‘Little Monster’. If you’ve ever seen a 20-something filming himself taking an at-home STI test, you’ve probably seen him before.

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