Derry woman breaks silence on racial and sexual abuse

Derry woman Susannah has been subjected to racial abuse in her home town. DER1517GS069
Derry woman Susannah has been subjected to racial abuse in her home town. DER1517GS069

A Derry woman who describes herself as “black, Irish, lesbian and Derry to the bone” says she’s had an “absolute bellyful” of the hate and prejudice that plagues her home town.

Susannah Toland, from the Bogside, says she has been a target for racial and sexual prejudice all her life and would abandon Derry - “this narrow-minded village” - in a heartbeat but for her ill mother who she helps care for.

Derry woman, Susannah Toland.

Derry woman, Susannah Toland.


Susannah spoke out after enduring the latest in a seemingly endless succession of hate incidents.

She says she broke down in her parents’ house last week after being abused twice in less than half an hour in the city centre.

“I just cried for hours,” she told the ‘Journal’. “I couldn’t stop crying. It was uncontrollable, I was a broken woman.”

Ms. Toland says she’s normally on the receiving end of one form of hate speech or another on a fornightly basis at least.

And the situation only deteriorated three years ago when she developed alopecia and lost her hair.

In addition to racism and homophobia, Ms. Toland now has to deal with prejudice and ignorance regarding her medical condition.

She describes Derry as a “narrow-minded village” that, to her, hasn’t progressed nearly enough in terms of the elimination of all forms of prejudice. Ironically, her comments come ahead of a weekend when thousands of Irishmen and Irishwomen will call for all children of the nation to be cherished equally, “oblivious of difference.” Ms. Toland said she wants the abuse to stop, both for her and anyone else who’s being victimised for whatever bigoted reason.

“There’s a fear factor about speaking out,” she says. “I know that because I come from a loving family and they support me. That makes me strong. I could write a book, ‘Black, Irish, Catholic and Lesbian.’ I got it all angles growing up but I can deal with it. But I’ve had enough of it now. If you don’t like my face, then don’t comment.”

Ms. Toland says the situation has become so bad she’s actually considering abandoning Derry for good.

“I’ve had a bellyful, an absolute bellyful. I’ve lived in Donegal twice in the last few years and I’d live there tomorrow only for the fact that my mum doesn’t keep well.”