Cian sat in a barber chair wearing heels
Cian at The Fireplace BarberImage by: Amy O'Sullivan
Cian sat in a barber chair wearing heels
Cian sat in a barber looking at camera
Cian's arm with a tattoo saying 'Brod' meaning pride
1 November 2023

Cian's story: Embracing your true self

4 minutes read time

Cian Griffin, a social media manager and Movember Ambassador from Wicklow shares why he feels it’s important to be a role model for the younger generation.

Growing up in rural Ireland gay and not having any role models really took its toll on my mental health. Not having somebody to look up to or share my feelings with was incredibly difficult and isolating. I didn’t have representation in the media or on television, let alone among the people in my life.

It wasn’t until after college that I felt like things started to improve and I felt I belonged to a community. I joined the LGBTQ+ GAA team, Na Gaeil Aeracha, which along with starting therapy, helped me to manage my mental health issues. Finding people that I connected with who shared a similar life story and the same struggles was a huge help.

" Embracing your true self and being authentic can be something that will bring you great happiness. "

One of the best things about the club for me is the diversity of players. You can learn so much from someone, whether they are ten years younger or ten years older than you, whether they’re from the same county as you, from the opposite side of the country, or from a different country all together. The club has introduced me to so many people from so many walks of life that I wouldn’t have otherwise met and there’s something very wholesome about it. Not only is the talking and community aspect of the team helpful, but the fact that you are exercising and being active also helps your mental health.

When I was asked to get involved with Movember it was a no brainer. I think most people know someone who has been affected by suicide, so it’s important to me to help destroy the stigma around men’s mental health and be a role model to the younger generation. It of course isn’t always easy stepping up and being vocal, but having the courage to do so helps others do the same, and that domino effect is what needs to happen for real change.

I’m doing a fundraiser this Movember, where I’m going to walk on a treadmill for 30k in a day wearing heels. The reason I want to do this type of fundraiser is for a bit of fun and I wanted to do something a bit dramatic and eye-catching. Something to get people talking! Masculinity is something Movember talks about a lot, and ‘what it means to be a man’ so I wanted to marry this idea with the type of content I normally post on Gaylgeoirí which challenges stereotypes around gender. That said, I’m not fully sure if I know what I’ve gotten myself in for!

If I was to give advice to anyone struggling with their mental health it would be to join a sports club or a community of some sort. It can be nerve wracking at first getting involved. I remember before my first Na Gaeil Aeracha training session, two of my friends drove me there and nearly had to force me out of the car because I was so nervous. Ultimately though, you realise everyone is in the same boat and we’re all just there to connect and make friends at the end of the day. Taking that plunge wasn’t easy, especially after COVID, but it’s the best decision I ever made.

Another thing I would say is to allow yourself to be vulnerable with your friends. Reach out and tell them how you’re feeling and let them know if you’re going through a hard time. If you notice one of your friends is quieter than usual check in on them and ask if they’re ok, not just once but a few times.

Lastly I think a huge part of me growing up was realising that in the past I used to worry a lot about what other people thought of me and worried I wouldn’t be accepted. I’ve learnt over time that not everybody is going to like you and that’s ok. You’re not going to be able to please everyone and you will fit in once you find your tribe or community of people. Embracing your true self and being authentic can be something that will bring you great happiness.

Follow Cian’s epic heeled’ treadmill challenge - Walk a mile in my shoes