Report on needs of LGBT+ young people in Tipperary launched

Youth Work Ireland Tipperary’s Lisa McGrath reflects on the findings of a study into the lives of LGBT+ young people in Tipperary

The Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC), commissioned a report – Needs Analysis of young people identifying as LGBT+ in Co Tipperary, Ireland – which was launched on Thursday 31st January. The report was overseen by Youth Work Ireland, Tipperary (YWIT) and consulted young people in Roscrea, Thurles, Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Cashel and Tipperary Town and identified the needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender + young people. We, as a country, have come a long way and in a surprisingly short space of time in relation to supporting this group of people. In 1993 – that’s just 26 years ago – homosexuality was decriminalised. Yes, it was illegal to be gay! Speed up to 2015 and we as a collective society voted to open marriage to the LGBT+ community. In doing that, we said love is love.

As a youth worker with YWIT, I have been working with LGBT+ young people for eleven years now and while there have been some changes on a wider societal level a lot is still the same. For example, 12 years of age is the most common age that a person discovers their sexual orientation. Ten years ago that young person might wait until age 17 to come out – to tell other people. That’s up to five years living with this secret. It is a very stressful time to say the least. Today, that young person might come out at 16, so there are still feelings of fear and anxiety around telling people. According to the report, in order to feel safe young people need: visibility of others, role models, flags, posters that gives the message, yes we are LGBT+ this is possible. The report also consulted Allies. Allies are people who support equal rights and gender equality. While some of us can’t see the wood for the trees, it is good to get the perspective of someone looking on. While this report is brilliant to have been commissioned, it shows how little we actually have progressed in relation to young people. We might be this amazing empathetic, all inclusive, diverse society but when it comes to young people’s experience that is very far from the truth.

Unfortunately, this report highlights the fact that schools are the most disappointing in their lack of progression supporting LGBT+ young people. One school in the six represented was described as supportive. Young people described a lack of visibility of LGBT+ supports; of awareness of teachers, a tolerance of homophobic comments by teachers and indeed a further perpetration of these comments by teachers laughing along. Some experienced misinformation or a downright refusal to even discuss LGBT topics. One can see why anyone who identifies as LGBT would not feel safe coming out. They fear they will not be accepted, worse they would be rejected, isolated. There is also a real fear of physical harm. Imagine feeling like this is a place where there is supposed to be hope, mutual respect, empathy, encouragement to blossom and find your own way in life. Instead these young people are forced to hide their true selves. This has to change as school is such an important part of a person’s life.

The number one recommendation or need for LGBT+ young people is a stand-alone LGBT+ service where young people can be supported, get much needed advice and be able to hang out with other LGBT+ young people and allies.

You can download the full report by clicking on the link at the top of the page.

 

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