Belong To's Moninne Griffith On Homophobic Bullying

Moninne Griffith from Belong To who talks about homophobic bullying

We may have equal marriage and gender recognition legislation, but anti-LGBT bullying is still rife in our schools and young people continue to suffer. The annual Stand Up! week seeks to tackle that bullying by encouraging allies, but it needs to be in every school in Ireland, says Moninne Griffith


We know that as well as providing support for young people with our youth groups in Dublin and throughout the national network, if BeLonG To wants to actually affect systemic change and reduce homophobia and transphobia, which causes a huge amount of anxiety and mental health challenges for young LGBT people, we need to be in schools.

When launching the LGBT Ireland report earlier this year, which was commissioned by BeLonG To and GLEN, lead researcher Professor Agnes Higgins said that post-marriage referendum our schools can still be very lonely, isolating, and sometimes dangerous places for young LGBT people to be. There’s been vast improvements in some schools, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Most young people have no choice about being in school, so it’s important that we make our schools safer, more welcoming, more inclusive places. That was the rationale behind Stand Up! when it first began seven years ago. It was about affecting a medium-to-longterm change to reduce homophobia, transphobia and stigma around being LGBT in schools. The main idea is that during a week in the school term, young people, not specifically LGBTs, will be given a list of activities for them to do to make it more welcoming and inclusive.

We send out packs and posters to schools and we support them to run a week-long awareness- raising campaign. What we ask them to do, really, is to provide a space for positive discussion around what it means to be LGBT. Different schools do different things – some young people bake rainbow cakes, some of them decorate the school in rainbow colours; we’ve gorgeous pictures of teachers wearing rainbow coloured t-shirts and all sorts of artwork, plays, discussions and other initiatives from previous Stand Up! weeks.

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Moninne Griffith is the Director of the national LGBT youth organisation, BeLonG To. Stand Up! runs this week at schools across Ireland from November 14 to 18. Find out more at


For lots of young people who go to school if it’s Eco Day or Soccer Week or whatever, they might not notice it because they’re not interested in those things, so a huge amount of non-LGBT young people may not see Stand Up! But we know from those young LGBT people who said it was in their schools that it makes a huge difference, even if it’s just having a poster up or it being announced at assembly. The message goes out that it’s okay to be LGBT in this school and we won’t put up with any homophobic, transphobic bullying. What we want to do is make it very visible for everyone, because it’s about allies.

In the lead-up to Stand Up! we run training for teachers and youth workers all over Ireland, a kind of LGBT 101 which we update every year. We talk about language, evolving identities, and how to support a young person if they’re coming out and how to recognise and tackle homophobic bullying. Then we talk more generally about the challenges, like the impact bullying has on young individuals. This year we’re going to be able to introduce the findings from the LGBT Ireland report as evidence for the importance of this kind of work, because we now have proof that homophobic and transphobic bullying are so linked to anxiety, depression, suicide and self-harm for LGBT young people.

We know from the LGBT Ireland report that Stand Up! is in 25 percent of secondary schools in Ireland, which is great, but it needs to be in more. We get funding from the Department of Education to send a Stand Up! pack to every secondary school in Ireland and we also get corporate funding. The Central Bank has given us a two-year commitment so we’ve invested that in the campaign for this year and next year. Also HSBC have given us a very generous donation, and the all the bucket-shaking at LGBT events, all the appeals we run – it all adds up and helps. It costs €21 to get a pack into a school, so every euro counts.

In the past we’ve done really poignant videos to go along with the campaign that were more of a story about the need for Stand Up! One year it was about a young gay couple who get outed at school and we see the repercussions and the bullying, and then everyone stands up for them in school. The feel-good factor was really appealing. Instead this year we’re going to film some of the work that goes on during Stand Up! week in schools around the country and we’ll share that in video content so that students and teachers can learn about what’s involved and what can be done, and the difference it makes.

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Moninne Griffith is the Director of the national LGBT youth organisation, BeLonG To. Stand Up! runs this week at schools across Ireland from November 14 to 18. Find out more at

This year too there will be quite a lot of focus on young trans people because what we’re seeing in our services here in Dublin and throughout the national network, as well as from the calls we get from teachers and principals, is that there are huge numbers of young trans people coming out across Ireland. Teachers and staff need that extra support to be able to support young trans people, whether that’s about understanding and using the correct pronouns, about uniforms, about bathrooms, or about the difficulties around PE. We want them to become aware of and sensitive to how small, simple changes could make their schools much more welcoming and happy places for young trans people.

We know from the number research that the drop-out rates for LGBT people across the board is high, but for young trans people it’s much higher and that’s because they’re finding school to be such a challenge. Only relatively small numbers have yet taken steps to make schools trans-inclusive.

If we are going to change stigma and homophobia in Ireland, then we need to be in the schools because that’s where a lot of the damage is done. You can help affect that change with BeLonG To in several ways. Primarily you can donate to BeLonG To – we always need more resources to expand the work we do. We also are always looking for people with specific skills to be on the board or sub-committees, overseeing different things around governance and finance, employment and so on. We’re hoping to build our capacity this year, so we’re looking for somebody who has experience managing volunteers who might be able to give us some time. I think there are a lot of people who would have a huge amount of skills that we could put to use, if we had that added capacity.

If we don’t want to have another generation of LGBT people spending their 20s, 30s and 40s recovering from horrific school experiences, we need to be affecting change now.

Moninne Griffith is the Director of the national LGBT youth organisation, BeLonG To. Stand Up! runs this week at schools across Ireland from November 14 to 18. Find out more at

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