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Ireland’s First Gay & Lesbian Awareness Week for Young People

Ireland’s First Gay & Lesbian Awareness Week for Young People 

Thursday, April 08 2010 

Today BeLonG To Youth Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Young People launched the nation’s first ever gay awareness week for young people. The week is themed STAND UP! Show your support for your LGBT friends, and focuses on the importance of friendships amongst young people, particularly when tackling homophobic bullying. 

Speaking at the launch of the week, TV Presenter and documentary maker Anna Nolan said: 

It’s so important that gay young people get support from their friends. Homophobic bullying is a huge problem in Ireland and a great way to stop it is for all young people to stand up against it together. We know that this is already happening amongst many young people and we want to acknowledge that and to encourage all young people to do the same. 

The Awareness Week encourages all young people to ‘Stand Up’ and: 

  • Show  their support for their lesbian gay bisexual & transgender friends 
  • Don’t stand  for homophobic bullying. 

Thousands of young people will be participating in Stand Up! in an effort to stamp out homophobic bullying, which is a major problem amongst  young people. 

Also addressing the event, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said: 

I am very pleased to be here to support BeLonG To and Stand Up – gay awareness week for young people. BeLonG To does invaluable work supporting young people and their families during the potentially difficult period of identifying and accepting their sexuality. Wider society also has an important role to play in ensuring that everybody is treated with dignity and respect. That is what human rights are all about. This week puts a particular emphasis on the love and support that friends can and do provide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender young people. I am delighted to be part of this fantastic celebration this evening and to lend my support to this great initiative this week.” 

Speaking about the Awareness Week, Michael Barron, Director of BeLonG To Youth Services said, 

Homophobic bullying is the most common form of harassment experienced by young people.  We’ve seen how it can have devastating effects. LGBT young people have told us that friendship with their peers makes a huge difference in their lives and helps them to accept themselves and to overcome such harassment.” 

He continued, “Because these friendship are so important we have devised materials for use in youth projects and schools which encourage understanding of LGBT young people and which provide all young people with some tools to help them better support their LGBT friends. 

BeLonG To is launching a series of public awareness ads which will reach young people online through YouTube, Facebook and various social media. These ads also celebrate the friendships between gay and other young people – the friendships which BeLonG To believes are key to tackling homophobic bullying. Top Irish film makers have produced these ads for us, using their own time and resources because they believed so strongly in the campaign. 

At the launch, Carol-Anne O’Brien Advocacy Coordinator in BeLonG To Youth Services said, When gay young people look for support they by and large go to their friends first. This support is vitally important and we are celebrating it.  Young people are coming out younger and in greater numbers than ever before.  We need to let all young people know that being gay and being friends with young people who are gay is completely ok and is just part of life.” 

O’Brien continued, “When young people are empowered to understand gay identity more and when they feel they can support their friends they are more likely to take a stand against homophobic bullying.” 

But we need to be clear,” said O’Brien, “the state has the major role to play here. Homophobic bullying is endemic in Irish schools and state services. The government needs to take much stronger actions to ensure that this harassment is ended once and for all.” 

The launch was hosted by the National Performing Arts School on Sheriff St. where 100 young dancers did a performance from the popular TV show GLEE.

Editor’s  Notes: 

BeLonG To Youth Services is the national youth service that works with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender young people from 14 to 23 years of age. We provide services to, and advocate on behalf of LGBT young people. BeLonG To works to ensure that everyone knows that being gay is okay and that gay young people are not harrassed and bullied. 

BeLonG To’s services include: 

  • 12 youth groups around the country – in Waterford, Tipperary, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Donegal, Dundalk and Dublin 
  • Training and Development – to teachers, youth workers and professionals who work with young people 
  • Public awareness raising – which has previously included the Stop Homophobic Bullying Campaign 
  • National Policy – work with various government departments to ensure the inclusion of LGBT young people in national policy and strategy. 
  • Research – including Supporting LGBT Lives – the largest ever study of the LGBT population, funded by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention. 

Research on the impacts of homophobic bullying 

Supporting LGBT Lives – A study of mental health and well-being amongst LGBT people, with an emphasis on youth found that: 

Coming out as LGBT 

  • Most people know they are LGBT at 12 and start coming out at 17. 
  • The period between knowing they are gay and coming out is the period of greatest vulnerability for a young people and where the highest rates of depression and suicidal behaviour exist. 

Homophobic Bullying 

  • 58% of LGBT young people are bullied in school 
  • 25 % have been physically threatened 
  • 20% skip school due to fear 
  • 5% drop out of school due to bullying. 

Impacts of homophobic bullying 

Those who experienced homophobic bullying and/or lack of acceptance by significant others in their lives as a consequence of their LGBT identification were particularly susceptible to depression, self-harm or suicidality.” 

Impacts of homophobic bullying include: 

  • Stress 
  • Depression 
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse 
  • 27% of LGBT people had self-harmed at least once 
  • 50% of LGBT people under 25 years had seriously thought about ending their lives 
  • 20% of LGBT people under 25 years had attempted suicide at least once 

(All from “Supporting LGBT Lives: A Study of the Mental Health and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People” carried out by the Children’s Research Centre TCD and funded by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention) – Link Here