The LGBT Campaign exists to provide political representation for, and campaign on behalf of, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students within Northern Ireland. As well as fighting for social and political change, the campaign also seeks to empower LGBT students in their unions by providing training, resources and the sharing of good practice.
The last decade has seen huge changes to the lives of LGBT students across the United Kingdom and Ireland. We now have an equal age of consent, the right to join the military, our relationships recognised in law through the Civil Partnerships Act, the right for our gender to be recognised via the Gender Recognition Act, and the right to be considered as adoptive parents – to name just a few landmark changes.
The LGBT Campaign was involved in every one of these changes: holding lobbies of Parliament, the Dáil and Stormont, signing petitions and running grass roots campaigns to ensure our voices were heard. We have had many success stories but there is still far to go.
LGBT people still face many different forms of discrimination and oppression within society and within the student movement. It’s now time to refocus our efforts to win the hearts and minds of people throughout Northern Ireland, and we can only do this with specific LGBT representation on campus.
Why is the LGBT Campaign important?
This is a time when we as a community are facing up to new challenges: the rise of the far right and increasing attacks on our rights by some religious groups. There is still a lot to do before LGBT people are equal in society, and the NUS-USI LGBT campaign and LGBT students and groups on campuses are vital to achieve the social and political change we need.
The LGBT Campaign has taken the fight for our equality out of our colleges and onto the streets, confronting the bigots wherever they raise their heads. Whether in the students’ union bar or Stormont, the NUS-USI LGBT Campaign has never been far behind.
What has all this got to do with students?
What hasn’t it got to do with students? LGBT students are part of a society that systematically discriminates against them. Among LGBT students there are high numbers of victims of hate-crime, those who are refused insurance or a GP appointment because of their sexuality, and students who are harassed and bullied by academic staff and fellow students, to name but a few examples. And, unfortunately, LGBT students do experience discrimination that relates specifically to their student lives and their lives as graduates from further and higher education. For example, anonymous marking is still not mandatory – allowing homophobia in the marking process. LGBT students also face losing all funding if they come out to their parents, since HE funding relies on parental assessment.
Equality and diversity is fundamental to the student experience. We know that LGBT, women, black, and disabled students face barriers, not only to get into education but while in education itself. The dropout rate for LGBT students is known to be much higher than the rate for their heterosexual counterparts. The issues facing LGBT students are not just a side issue but something that should be at the core of every union.
Discrimination – the facts
- In 1982 Male homosexuality was decriminalised in Northern Ireland with the passing of law reform in the House of Commons.
- First civil partnerships take place in Northern Ireland on 19 December 2005, followed by Scotland on 20 December and then England and Wales on 21 December.
- LGBT young people are less likely to discuss their sexuality within the family.
- Those with a Christian ethos are more likely to disapprove of LGBT people.
- LGBT people in Northern Ireland are more likely to have experienced harassment than their counterparts in the rest of the UK and Ireland.
- In some countries, being LGBT is punishable by death. Iran executed two gay teenagers just last year. Other countries penal codes prescribe hard labour or imprisonment for LGBT people (International Lesbian and Gay Organisation, 2006).
- Homosexuality was only removed from the World Health Organisation (WHO) list of recognised illnesses in 1992 (WHO 1999).
- The modern day LGBT movement was started in 1969 with the birth of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF).
- Studies show that LGBT people have significantly higher than average rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm (The National Inquiry into Self-Harm, 2006). One study found that 40% of young LGB people had self-harmed at least once (Social exclusion, absenteeism and sexual minority youth, 2000).
- Until 2000 (Scotland) and 2003 (England and Wales) legislation meant that school teachers were unable to talk about homosexuality, even to pupils trying to come to terms with their sexuality. In Northern Ireland, the law does not apply directly to the school curriculum. The courts have held that ‘articulating the orthodox religious view on homosexuality in the classroom does not relate to any access, benefit or detriment’ under the law. However, if it is conveyed in such a manner as to harangue or bully a pupil, or group of pupils this would be unacceptable and could be unlawful under the law. The Department of Education has produced guidance on Relationships and sexuality (RSE) education in schools.
- Main law around discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation can be found here: Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006
LGBT campaign – useful contacts
Transgender NI is a website which is intended to be a support for those seeking information and support around issues of Gender Dysphoria in Northern Ireland. It has been designed and created by the support organisations detailed in this website, including the Gender Identity Clinic for Northern Ireland.
SAIL is a support group for the families of gender variant or Transgender individuals of any age who are in need of help, support or advice, whatever the circumstances.
They organise meetings and social gatherings in a variety of locations, where they can talk and discuss our collective experiences in a private, confidential and supporting environment. They are also available to meet and talk one-to-one in a location in which you feel comfortable, or simply to talk over the telephone.
If you would like to come to a meeting or if you would just like to talk to someone about gender issues please contact Nicola on 07510228411 or Simon on 07443611317. All calls or texts will be treated with complete confidentiality. Or you can e: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com for more information.
The Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA) is a leading Northern Ireland organisation dedicated to enhancing the life of LGBT people here and human rights advocacy on behalf of those who experience discrimination or abuse on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
T: 028 9066 4111 M: 077 1957 6524
Cara-Friend was established in 1974 as a voluntary counselling, befriending, information, and social space organisation for the LGBT community. Since then, we have established ourselves as one of the most encompassing organisations in Northern Ireland, bringing together LGBT men, women, and young people. We participate in as many community activities as we can possibly have time for, as well as lobbying on behalf of the LGBT community with government and other organisations.
T: 028 9027 8636
A: Belfast LGBT Centre, 9-13 Waring Street, Belfast, BT1 2DX
The Rainbow Project
The Rainbow Project was founded in 1994 in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Northern Ireland. Since our beginnings we have developed in an LGBT organisation with the aim of promoting the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Northern Ireland.
T: 028 90319030
A: LGBT Centre, 9-13 Waring Street, Belfast, BT1 2DX
Here NI is a community organisation and registered charity based in Belfast. We’re here to support lesbian and bisexual women and our families and improve the lives of L& B women across Northern Ireland. We do this in lots of different ways; through providing information; developing support networks in rural areas and towns; facilitating training; lobbying government and agencies on your behalf; offering a community space for meeting and much more.
T: 028 9024 9452
A: Belfast LGBT Centre, 9-13 Waring Street, Belfast, BT1 2DX
So Me (Sexual Orientation More Equality)
So Me (Sexual Orientation More Equality)is an Equality Commission for Northern Ireland initiative for Lesbian Gay and Bi sexual (LGB) people and anyone who thinks LGB people should have the right to live a life free from discrimination. If you have been treated unfairly because of your sexual orientation at Work, in School, College or University or while using services, or know someone who has please get in touch with us and report it. We can help you and we offer free and confidential information and advice. We also operate a 9-5 Monday to Friday free enquiry service via 02890 500600 or alternatively you can chat anonymously with the So Me team via our website www.some-ni.co.uk, just click on the live chat icon at the bottom right hand side of the screen, type in your question and a member of the team will help you.
1 in 2 gay, lesbian and bisexual people feel they are being treated badly in NI today but over 80% don’t report it. Use your voice!
T: 02890 500 600
Twitter: @So_MeNI W:www.SoMe-NI.co.uk