This week is Traveller Pride Week! To mark the occasion, LGBT Ireland will continue its work with the National LGBT Traveller and Roma Action Group by delivering LGBT+ Traveller Awareness Training to groups of Traveller allies.
This is the first time the national LGBT+ support organisation will be running this training, but the project follows on from the successful launch of LGBT+ Traveller training videos on Coming Out Day last year.
On October 11, 2018, LGBT Ireland released five short videos targeting LGBT+ Travellers, the Travelling Community and wider Irish society. The videos, designed to reduce homophobia and offer practical advice for vulnerable LGBT+ Travellers, covered subjects including coming out, mental health and acceptance of LGBT+ identities.
The video subjects, all gay Traveller men, expressed confidence in the love Travellers have for their families and a sincere belief that the current level of homophobia within their community is a symptom of a lack of understanding.
Families and communities, struggling to understand what it means to be LGBT+, lash out against their LGBT+ members – while LGBT+ travellers, often afraid of being rejected or of bringing shame on their families and communities, lash out against themselves.
Specific research on the mental health of LGBT+ Travellers is hard to come by, but the findings of one small study carried out in 2012 by the Eastern Region Traveller Health Network (ERTHN) were bleak.
Of fifteen young LGBT+ Traveller participants, seven had been able to come out – and all seven had experienced a negative reaction. Six had seriously thought about taking their own lives, while five had attempted suicide. This study strongly recommended LGBT+ awareness training for Traveller organisations and for parents.
“It’s easier to come out as gay, than as a Traveller,” said one participant in LGBT Ireland’s video project last year. Coming out as an LGBT+ Traveller is, it seems, hardest of all. With the availability of video resources and the launch of a new resource on gender identity by TENI and Pavee Point last year, the campaign to improve the lives of LGBT+ Travellers is slowly gaining momentum.
Still, it’s clear that this week’s Traveller Pride Week training marks a crucial next step in an uphill battle for understanding.
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