A moment that changed me: summer in New York taught me to reject shame and grab life with both hands

Watching a man I called the Red Cowboy strut through St Marks Place in Y-fronts and waistcoat, I saw what it means to be defiant and outrageous. I loved it

When I was 19 I lived in Belfast. It was two hours from my childhood home in Dublin and I loved my life there, studying at Queen’s University, living with a gaggle of hilarious and brilliant girlfriends, and working in cafes and a nightclub at the weekends to fund my record-buying habits.

At the end of my second year, I applied for a J1 short-term working visa for the US, for which any Irish university student was eligible. I was determined to settle in Manhattan.

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