There has been a lot in the news lately about the campaign across the globe for marriage equality.  In the United States, Barrack Obama recently said in an ABC interview that he personally believed that “same sex couples should be able to get married”.  Sadly, incidences of discrimination and even violence against LGBT people continue to occur on a daily basis around the world.

Today [17 May] is International Day against Homophobia – a day that I hope in the future will become obsolete.  In Ireland, I think we are moving in the right direction but we still have a long way to go.  Research shows that homophobic bullying continues to be a major problem especially for young LGBT people.  Four out of every five people interviewed for Supporting LGBT Lives: A study of the mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people* had been verbally abused because of their LGBT identity and 25 per cent had been physically assaulted because of their LGBT identity.  In other countries around the world, being LGBT remains a criminal offence and many LGBT people live in fear for their lives simply because of who they are.

People facing persecution because of their sexual orientation can claim asylum in Ireland (and other countries).  However, agencies working with LGBT asylum seekers, report that people unfortunately are afraid to talk about these issues and often don’t initially disclose this reason for their asylum application.  Migrants, especially vulnerable migrant groups such as asylum seekers often face numerous difficulties and obstacles.  The experience of being an asylum seeker coupled with the experience of being LGBT can be extremely arduous for people to cope with.

At Irish Red Cross, guided by our fundamental principles we are committed to fostering openness, understanding and diversity.  Irish Red Cross Youth has a number of initiatives aimed a tackling homophobia either directly or indirectly through our Positive Images Project [LSC2] and our Anti-bullying Campaign[LSC3] .

For the first time, IRCY will take part in Dublin’s PRIDE parade in June this year.  A self-nominated group of youth members and youth leaders from all over Ireland will join members of the National Youth Working Group and the Youth Department on an open-top bus for the parade.  A number of IRC youth and adult members are part of Ireland’s LGBT community and I for one am proud to stand up against homophobia and celebrate the identity of my LGBT friends and colleagues.

The acceptance of all young people, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, is in line with the fundamental principles and values of the Red Cross.  This message also underpins the work of the Positive Images Project which aims to create awareness amongst young people of the difficulties faced by vulnerable migrant groups which as outlined above can include LGBT people fleeing persecution because who they love.

Happy International Day against Homophobia and if you would like any more information about anything in this blog please don’t hesitate to contact me directly or comment below.

*Mayock, et al. Supporting LGBT Lives: A study of the mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (2009) was commissioned by BeLonG To Youth Services and GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network), funded by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention and conducted by the Childrens’ Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin and the School of Education, University College Dublin.