Country-wide groups planned for young gays and lesbians
Resource type: News
The Irish Times |
A youth project aimed at gay and lesbian young people is to establish groups around the country in response to a growing demand from teenagers for advice and support relating to their sexuality. Belong To, a Dublin-based gay and lesbian youth project, was founded four years ago to provide gay young people aged between 14 and 23 with a safe, relaxed, comfortable environment, where they can make friends with other young people in similar situations or seek advice or support. The group is now working with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to develop a national programme which will help establish more gay and lesbian youth groups outside Dublin. Michael Barron, Belong To’s national co-ordinator, said the numbers attending the project have increased significantly since it was founded. It is currently supporting groups to develop services for young people in Galway, Limerick, Dundalk, Kildare, as well as Dublin. “We have seen the numbers of young people attending our groups in Dublin more than double each year, with many young people travelling from various parts of the country every week,” he said. “This is an amazing testament to the bravery and confidence of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual] young people in Ireland, but it has also highlighted the urgent need for more services, especially outside Dublin.” He said attitudes towards gay and lesbian young people were changing and becoming increasingly positive. “As seen through the work and growth of the project, LGBT young people are increasingly able to come out to their families and friends, they are more aware of their rights and are more confident in their identities. It has been a great pleasure for us to witness this, which I feel reflects a greater openness in Irish society more generally.” The group celebrated its fourth birthday at a function organised by the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, in Dublin yesterday. The event included an exhibition of young people’s art, short films and comics. It forms part of the annual Gay Pride Festival. Ms Logan said: “It is really important that all young people have access to the supports and services that they need. Belong To has done a wonderful job providing some of these supports and services to LGBT young people through their Dublin office, and I am pleased that this will be enhanced through their new regional presence.” Belong To is supported by a number of statutory groups including the Departments of Education and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.