Gay teenager to speak with Taoiseach about homophobic bullying

Teenager Ruairí Holohan will meet with Taoiseach Micheál Martin to discuss his experience of homophobic bullying in Ireland.

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Teenager, Ruairí Holohan will speak with Taoiseach Micheál Martin about the homophobic bullying he has experienced.

As we reach the end of Stand Up Awareness Week, 15 year-old Ruairí, from Drogheda, Co Louth, will have a conversation with the Taoiseach as part of a series of events taking place for World Children’s Day.

World Children’s Day is a commemorative date celebrated annually in honour of children, taking place on November 20 this year.

Ruairí, a Transition Year student who came out when he was 13 and experienced bullying, said: “It’s an absolute honour to be able to talk to the Taoiseach. I am going to speak to him about society and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Although we have rights, they aren’t implemented every day. Homophobia is still widespread. Everywhere you go, there are people who are afraid to get on a bus, walk down the street or express themselves.

“I have been called the ‘f’ slur. A queer. A gay. A fairy. It’s not easy.”

Speaking to RTÉ News ahead of his meeting with the Taoiseach, Ruairí recalled one example of the bullying he experienced in his previous school.

“I was so scared back in second year. A video of me kissing another boy went around, especially in some of the all-boys schools.

“I just felt so vulnerable. I felt should I change who I am? Or do I stand tall and let the haters hate? I look back now and I’m so proud that I stood my ground. And I just said: ‘I am gay and if you don’t like it, so be it’.”

Ruairí was selected by UNICEF Ireland for its fourth #KidsTakeOver of the Taoiseach’s office and he said he plans to use the opportunity to call for more awareness and teaching of LGBTQ+ relationships in schools.

“We as a society need to learn more. If we’re not openly discussing and valuing all kinds of relationships in schools, how can we stop intolerance and discrimination? What if mental health and rape were actually dealt with? I know people who have been affected by those issues, they’ve gone to their schools for help, but the school wasn’t equipped to deal with it. The issue isn’t black and white.

“It is not just about attitudes either, our health is at risk too. HIV/AIDS is on the rise among young people. Students are not aware of the health risks and needs. I want to ask can the Government commit to an RSE programme that addresses the health risks faced by all teenagers, but in particular LGBTQ+ teens, in the area of sexual health.”

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said: “This year has been life-altering for an entire generation of children and young people.

“But we can draw hope and inspiration from all of the progress we are making to respond to Covid-19 and reimagine stronger systems for the future.

“From distance learning through technology, to building stronger community-based health, nutrition, and water and sanitation systems, to the equitable delivery of an eventual Covid-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility, we have many reasons to look to 2021 with a renewed sense of optimism.

“On this World Children’s Day, we call on the global community to help us keep this hope alive by standing with children and young people in their hour of need.”

World Children’s Day marks the end of Stand Up Awareness Week 2020 where hundreds of schools across Ireland. Many county councils also displayed their solidarity with Offaly and Laois flying the rainbow flag over their respective councils for the first time.

Today, second-level students are wearing all the colours of the rainbow as a mark of support to the LGBTQ+ community.

Below are just a small selection of photos of what’s been happening in second-level schools across Ireland to mark Stand Up Awareness Week.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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