The importance of safe spaces for young LGBT+ people in Ireland

A younger member of the LGBT+ community shares their thoughts on why safe spaces are so important for young people in Ireland.

LGBT+ safe spaces - hands holding a sign that reads

As a young member of the LGBT+ community, I believe that safe spaces are very important to have. And I feel like there aren’t enough of them available.

Adults have many safe spaces to choose from; they have their gay bars, gay clubs and the like, but young people can’t access those and have very few safe environments where we can openly express ourselves. Yes, there are some safe spaces available to young people (like LGBT+ young clubs, and GSAs) but from my experience, they are scarce in number.

A GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) is a student-run club, typically in a secondary school, which provides a safe place for students to meet up and talk about issues related to sexuality, gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia. Many GSAs function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students. Approximately three percent of people are LGBT+, which means that there would be more than 20 LGBT+ young people in the average school. However, not many schools will have a GSA, nor will every school openly support their LGBT+ students, which leaves LGBT+ students without a safe place.

LGBT+ youth groups are amazing for young people to have. It gives young people somewhere safe to meet up, socialise, relax, and talk about things that are important to them. Many LGBT+ youth groups will also participate in activities that promote LGBT+ issues.

LGBT+ youth are much more prone to depression and anxiety than our cis het peers, due to being surrounded by persistent prejudices, stereotyping and discrimination. Having a safe space allows us to feel included and valid because we can see that there are people like us who live the same lives and deal with the same issues.

A safe space doesn’t necessarily need to have an entire building devoted to it, but there should be somewhere for us to meet up regularly – be it a GSA, an LGBT+ youth group, a group that meets up in the local community centre, or a queer-themed evening in a bookshop. A safe space can be anything and anywhere as long as it is a friendly environment for everyone to be their true selves.

This article originally appeared in GCN Issue 359.

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

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