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9 October

“It’s easier to come out as gay, than as a Traveller”

 

On 11th October 2018, National Coming Day and Mental Health Awareness Week, LGBT Ireland together with other members of the LGBT Traveller & Roma National Action Group will launch five short videos targeting LGBT Travellers, the Travelling community and wider society.

The videos focus on key topics such as:

  • Coming Out
  • Mental Health
  • Being Traveller & LGBT
  • Acceptance not Tolerance
  • “Here’s the thing!”, a series of powerful messages of encouragement and straight-talking advice for parents and families of LGBT Travellers.

The video subjects are all gay Traveller men, who admit that while they had it hard coming out in the Travelling community, they had it far easier than lesbian and Trans Travellers. Hence, lesbian and Trans Traveller subjects remain elusive video subjects.

Oein, John and Martin, who feature in all five videos, are passionate in wishing to make a difference in their community, and wider society generally. They have full confidence in the love Travellers have for their family and so believe that current lack of support for LGBT family members is a symptom of a lack of understanding of what being LGBT is. This lack of understanding can often translate into family and community homophobia – sometimes conscious, sometimes not. The fear of being rejected or bringing shame on the family and community they love can lead many LGBT Travellers into self-destructive behaviour, including taking their own lives.

Research specific to LGBT Travellers is scant. A small study carried out in 2012 by then Eastern Region Traveller Health Network (ERTHN) revealed stark mental health trends in young LGBT Travellers. Fifteen young LGBT Travellers completed an online survey and/or an in-depth interview.

  • 7 of 7 participants who had come out had had a negative reaction to disclosing their LGBT identity.
  • 5 of 11 had self- harmed and were aged between 15-18 years of age when they started self- harming.
  • 6 had seriously thought about ending their life and 5 of those 6 stated their thoughts were “very much related” to being LGBT.
  • 5 had made plans about how to take their own life, and each person had made 2 to 4 attempts.
  • 2 of 3 participants with children had planned and attempted suicide.
  • The average age of attempting suicide was 17.4 years.

The study strongly recommended LGBT awareness training for Traveller organisations and for parents. The LGBT Traveller & Roma National Action Group is taking this recommendation seriously in developing video training resources. Martin Kupchak, our volunteer videographer, has been instrumental in the video project. The National Action Group is proud to launch the videos and the awareness training which is urgently needed to save lives and promote a brighter tomorrow on National ‘Coming Out’ Day 2018.

 

 

Collette O’ Regan, Training Coordinator, LGBT Ireland.

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