Gay Belfast councillor: I couldn’t come out as gay because my dad did and it ruined our family

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A city councillor in Belfast has said she tried to kill herself rather than come out as gay, because when her father did it “broke [her] mum’s heart.”

Julie-Anne Corr Johnston, of the Progressive Unionist Party, joined Belfast city council last year.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Corr Johnston said she had started to self-harm in 2001, and two years later attempted suicide.

She said: “I cut the top of my arms, and continued to self-harm for two years. But it became evident that when the blood washed away and the wounds started to heal, my problems had grown.

“It was a short-term release, and life was unbearable.”

She said she thought she had “diagnosed the disease” that she had, and that she couldn’t come out because of “embarrassment.”

Going on, she said: “That disease had broken my mum’s heart, and ripped my family apart. I couldn’t hurt mum like he did by coming out.”

A friend threatened to tell her mum when she was 14 that she had been self-harming, and at 15-years-old, in 2003, she attempt to take her own life.

“I felt backed into a corner… Looking back, it’s easy for me to say I didn’t want to die, but at that time I felt it was the only option to get away from my problems without hurting mum,” she said.

“So I took a handful of my granny’s pills and ended up in hospital.

“I remember seeing the pain and hurt and fear in my mum’s face when I was in A&E afterwards. That’s exactly how I was feeling inside, and I felt comforted by that.”

Eventually Corr Johnston started therapy after a psychiatric assessment, and after initial sessions attended by both her and her mother because she was a minor, she came out to her therapist.