The north’s lead LGBT+ support organisation, The Rainbow Project, is now celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Northern Ireland has long been lagging behind in terms of marriage equality and LGBT+ rights as Stormont still refuses to recognise same-sex marriage. The Rainbow Project have been working together with organisations such as Amnesty International to achieve civil marriage equality for years.
Alongside their campaigning for marriage equality, The Rainbow Project also has a network of rural support groups as well as services covering health and wellbeing, counselling, sexual health and LGBT+ befriending. The Rainbow Project also provides free safer sex packs, rapid HIV and Syphilis testing. The group was established in 1994 and has grown hugely since then.
They are the largest LGBT+ organisation in Northern Ireland with centres in Waring Street, Belfast and Strand Road, Derry. The initial work of the Rainbow Project was focused on HIV and STI prevention but later expanded to the aforementioned services and supports provided today.
Speaking to the Irish News, Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty said: “There’s never been a better time to be LGBT in Northern Ireland and we just can’t say that often enough.
“In the 25 years Rainbow has existed, there has been a huge societal change in how LGBT+ people are viewed, and for most LGBT+ people that has changed their daily lives for the better.”
Policy and advocacy manager, Gavin Boyd, says “schools are still exactly the same as they were 25 years ago. They are the only public institutions in NI that don’t have to promote equality and there has really been no change to how lessons are taught or their regulations.
“That means young people coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender are still doing it in a hostile environment, which means that they’re still developing the same low self-esteem, poor coping skills, poor help-seeking behaviours and internalised homophobia.”
The Rainbow Project team and their supporters staged a protest outside an event in Belfast at the weekend that aimed to help individuals who have ‘same-sex temptations’.
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