'LGBT+ Young People Need More Than Token Gestures' BeLonG To Launch Strategic Plan 2019-2021

Speaking at the launch, BeLonG To said their work over the next three years will "focus on enabling Ireland to support, understand, and celebrate LGBT+ young people to live up to their full potential".

Image: Maxwell Photography

Flying a rainbow flag is a great first step, but real inclusion needs a whole community approach says BeLonG To Youth Services, today launching their three-year strategic plan for the future of LGBT+ young people in Ireland ‘Sharing the Learning’.

The 2019-2021 Strategic Plan highlights the need for schools, services, and organisations to deliver LGBT+ inclusive services in a way that has a real impact on the lives of LGBT+ young people. The national organisation for LGBT+ young people in Ireland will lead the way offering training, tools, and resources to equip schools, organisations, and services to understand and meet the needs of LGBT+ young people.

This involves changing attitudes and behaviour through developing and implementing effective organisational policies and plans, implementing programmes that support diversity and respect, and ensuring that staff are equipped to address LGBT+ issues. Professionals need to be equipped with the tools to respond appropriately when an LGBT+ young person ‘comes out’, to signpost LGBT+ young people as appropriate to outside agencies and supports, and to work with the community outside the service, including local schools, parents and community organisations to promote a wider LGBT+ inclusive community.

LGBT+ young people in Ireland experience specific barriers when accessing services including education and healthcare according to the 2016 LGBTIreland Report. These include a lack of acknowledgement or understanding of LGBT+ identities and specific experiences and the appropriate language and terminology to use. According to the report, LGBT+ young people experience two times the level of self-harm, three times the level of attempted suicide, and four times the level of anxiety and depression compared to their non-LGBT+ friends as a result of fear of isolation, fear of rejection, and bullying.

Speaking at the launch of the strategic plan, Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon commented: “It is vital that we not only move away from the secrecy associated with being LGBT+, but we must provide appropriate and adequate support for the children involved. I have been consistently in awe of the ability of children and young people to come out of even the darkest holes psychologically – once they have the right support from the people they trust and who can offer a non-judgemental listening ear. If we want our children to fulfill their potential, we need to create the best possible environment and give them every opportunity.”

Moninne Griffith, CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services said: “Flying a rainbow flag and celebrating Pride are good first steps, but real inclusion is more than this – it is a whole community approach to ensure LGBT+ young people are visible, valued, and fully included. Being LGBT+ does not mean you should experience unequal treatment when you go to school, access services, or start work. Yet LGBT+ young people can experience discrimination from a lack of understanding to outright hostility in their day-to-day lives from using the bathroom to visiting a healthcare provider. Over the next three years, our work will focus on enabling Ireland to support, understand, and celebrate LGBT+ young people to live up to their full potential—free from exclusion, judgment, and discrimination. We will share our expertise offering training and resources so that Ireland that is a positive and welcoming space to grow up LGBT+.”


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