ShoutOut's submission to the joint committee regarding the Relationship & Sex Education curriculum

Brief introduction

ShoutOut is a registered charity which delivers workshops in schools to tackle LGBTQIA bullying and exclusion. We started in 2012 and since then have delivered nearly 700 workshops across the Island of Ireland. That’s a reach of over 20’000 students. As well as student workshops we also deliver educational training to teachers, parents and guardians, youth workers and social workers. We feel education is the best way to tackle exclusion and stigma. We have spent many hours with young people across the Island discussing LGBTQIA issues, and the lack of inclusivity in RSE is very apparent. Due to this we feel strongly that any update to the curriculum must to LGBTQIA inclusive and positive.

 

Factual Information

Research

The statistics around LGBTQIA young people’s mental health and sense of belonging is troubling. A recent study* found that LGBTQIA young people where twice as likely to self harm, three times as likely to attempt suicide and four times as likely to experience severe stress, anxiety and depression than their non-LGBTQIA peers.

This, in no small part, is due to a feeling of being isolated, and “other”, which is compounded by the lack of discussion about LGBTQIA identities in schools. It only stands to reason that clear, non-bias discussion of LGBTQIA identities will help bridge the gap which has been formed over decades of silence.

Pertaining specifically to school, this same report showed only 20% of LGBTQI students felt they belonged completely in their school, leave 80% who did not. 67% of young people witnessed LGBTQIA bullying in school. 1 in 4 missed or skipped school to avoid negative treatment due to being LGBTI, and 1 in 4 considered leaving school early.

Young people of Ireland are entitled to an education, but when their place of education is unsafe for them they are effectively being denied this right. We feel inclusive RSE is one way to tackle this problem along with methods currently being carried out by ShoutOut such as teacher training and open spaces for discussion in workshops.

*LGBTIreland Report, 2016

Experience of ShoutOut

We have spent many hours discussing LGBTQIA issues with secondary level students and as such have made several observations.

Firstly, in the vast majority of cases, we are informing both teachers and students alike of the existence of intersex people. Considering intersex people make up 1.7% of the population (Blackless, Melanie; Charuvastra, Anthony; Derryck, Amanda; Fausto-Sterling, Anne; Lauzanne, Karl; Lee, Ellen (March 2000). American Journal of Human Biology.) there is an unjustifiable lack of knowledge about this.

Because the young people have never heard of variance in sexual characteristics, and often the teachers confirm they have also not heard of it, they can be reluctant to accept this information in spite of it being factual. This shows a big gap in education which must be addressed.

We also observe a fundamental misunderstanding about trans identities at all levels of secondary school leading to isolation, bullying and sometimes physical violence for trans young people. Many times, ShoutOut workshops are the only time trans identities will be discussed in the school and only for those who were present that day, in a school which invited us in. This type of education should not be left to chance like this and has led to fostering of intolerance among many young people towards trans people.

We have noted that much of the homophobic attitudes expressed stem from a complete lack of understanding about consent. Particularly observed in all boys schools, homophobia is at first an aggressive display of hatred. However, when this is explored further many boys express that they would be unwelcoming to anyone who came out because they are afraid that they will sexually pursued by a gay classmate despite the lack of them experiencing this, or knowing of anyone having experienced this. Their lack of understanding around consent makes them feel that they will not be asked for consent and will be harassed just because someone is attracted to their gender. (One would then be concerned about the young women these boys interact with).

Specific Recommendations

Biological Sex

Biological sex is constantly being forced into a false dichotomy in schools. People have no real sense of the many variations that exist in sexual characteristics and as such people feel like they are “other” if their sexual characteristics differ to what they have been told to expect. We feel RSE should include information on the variety of ways humans can display sexual characteristics and the reality that chromosomes do not always determine sex, and sex does not always determine gender.

Although this is not the focus of this exercise, ShoutOut feels strongly that this should be included the science and biology curriculum as well, so LGBTQIA identities can be woven into the narrative of learning.

Gender, and how it differs from sex

Gender and sex should be discussed and differentiated in RSE. As well as this gender roles should be discussed, how they change over time or due to culture, and how people should not feel defined by them.

Minority orientations

Minority orientations are those outside heterosexuality including, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, and pansexual. Because these identities are in the minority this means people are often assumed to be heterosexual until told otherwise. Because of these assumptions, people who are apart of minority orientations can feel isolated.

 Trans identities, gender identity and gender expression

Transgender identities should be fully explained giving students a comprehensive education in gender alignments, gender identity and gender expression. Specifically, the way gender identity and expression are different. Young people need to know that many trans people have known their gender identity from as young as 3 years old, and when they come out as trans they are not suddenly deciding something but aligning their gender identity and their gender expression in a new way.

Trans people may or may not take medical steps in their journey, but whether or not they will, or have, is not anyone’s business but their own.

Gender identity should not be expressed as a binary concept. As mentioned above sex is often wrongly forced into a pure dichotomy, and similarly so is gender. Gender exists on a spectrum and the concept of non-binary or third genders have been seen in virtually every society since written record.

Some people identify with the sex assigned to them at birth (cisgender), some people do not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth (transgender), but everyone has a gender identity and gender expression.

Sexual activity as a spectrum

Sexual activity is a spectrum of different acts and should not be limited simply to the act of intercourse. Many people have different wants and desires which will manifest in a variety of ways with their partners, or with themselves.

Because young people are taught that sex is one specific act, those who have disabilities which preclude them from taking part in that act feel excluded. Sex means different things to different people, with the common unifying factor being consent between individuals.

Similarly, not experiences sexual desire but may experience different forms of attraction.

HIV and stigma

Many young people think only gay and bisexual men have HIV, and do not realise that it is a condition anyone can be living with. In 2016, men who have sex with men made up 51% of diagnoses, with 28% among heterosexuals, 16% unknown, 4% among intravenous drugs drug users and 1% mother to child transmissions.

RSE should include information regarding the effective treatment of HIV. They should know that someone with HIV who is taking medication may have an undetectable viral load and therefore will not transmit the virus.

Although it is beyond the purpose of this exercise, we feel the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 1980s should be apart of the history curriculum.

Fluidity of identities

It should be highlighted that identities, including gender identity and sexual orientation, are not always a static concept and people can change over time. If someone’s identity does change over time that is no reason to be disrespectful of it. There should be no stigma attached to a shift in identity which occurs later in life, as many young people may have adults in their life that come out and be confused by this change.

Similarly, all identities should be respected and not challenged. In particular, bisexual people face much discrimination under the idea that it is a “phase” that someone will grow out of. Many studies show that bisexual people make up the majority of the LGBT community* but even the number of bisexual people does not stop the stigma around this identity.

While most bisexual people will identify as bisexual for their entire lives, they are still faced with being erased as either gay or straight depending on the gender of their romantic partner.

*http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2016/images/01/06/nhsr88.pdf

Assumptions

As humans we all make assumptions, every day. It’s part of how our brains work, to fit things into categories so we can assign information about it from past experiences. However, sometimes our assumptions are wrong and that’s OK. We feel this is an important concept to be introduced in RSE as it greatly pertains to relationships and personal wellbeing.

This is particularly applicable to LGBTQIA people because the unifying factor between all the identities contained in LGBTQIA is that it is outside what is assumed of people. People assume that people are heterosexual, or cisgender, or perisexual (non-intersex), or allosexual (not asexual), or monosexual (not pansexual or bisexual). This is why we have the concept of “coming out”; LGBTQIA people have to let people know that they are not what has been assumed.

 

 

 

 

 

Join the ShoutOut Board of Directors!

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We’re currently accepting applications for the role of Director. It’s a great opportunity to join a fun and committed team and make a difference in the LGBTQ+ community.

 

 

What is the Board of Directors?

The primary role of the Board of the Directors is to oversee the direction of the organisation. Unlike the Executive Team, the Board is not generally involved in the day-to-day administration (booking workshops, assigning volunteers etc.) but instead makes decisions regarding the broader policies, procedures and focus of the organisation. It is also responsible for the sustainability and strategic development of the organisation.

What’s involved in the role?

Your primary responsibility would be to attend the monthly ShoutOut board meetings. At these, the board receives updates from the Executive Team, votes on any important changes and assesses what needs to be done next! Directors also take on a variety of other tasks when required i.e. assisting with grant applications, fundraising, writing the annual review etc. The role is flexible and can be adjusted to your own interests and time commitments but it’s important that you be ready to lend a helping hand with whatever job crops up. This is also a voluntary role.

Who are we looking for?

There are no specific requirements for this role and we hope to receive applications from a diverse range of candidates with different backgrounds and experience levels. If you are motivated to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people then you are eligible! We do however particularly welcome applications from individuals with experience or interest in the following areas:

·   Transgender Rights and Equality

·   Secondary and Primary School Education

·   Corporate Social Responsibility

·   Social Work and Youth Work

·   Charities Governance

How do I apply?

Please send a CV and cover letter to our Chair, Declan, at declan@shoutout.ie by May 15th.

If you’ve any questions, you can also contact Declan at the above address.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Meet a ShoutOuter - Spencer Christie

We've now completed 213 workshops this school year! These are all carried out by our incredible volunteers. Spencer is 22, currently studying French & Drama in TCD. He is our of our most committed volunteers, always happy to go to a school when he definitely has other things he needs to do! Here is what Spence has to say about volunteering with ShoutOut.

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When I first heard about ShoutOut, I knew I wanted to get involved. I luckily had had a really good time being out as gay in secondary school, but I was always acutely aware that some of my peers in other schools around the country weren’t getting as easy a ride. Now, a 22 year old Arts student with plenty of free time on my hands, getting to visit schools all over the country in an effort to make things better for queer students and school communities in general is how I get my kicks.

The most enjoyable aspect of working with ShoutOut is having any preconceptions I might have of a school based on its geographical location, its patronage or its gender makeup blown apart. I am consistently surprised and delighted by how well-informed and involved today’s teens are in advocating for queer rights and being allies to their classmates. But that’s not to say that our work as volunteers isn’t necessary. At a time where the internet is the primary source for second-level students to research what their schools and their curriculum is failing to educate them about, our role is to be an approachable and friendly face to provide accurate and real-world information.

If you haven’t done so already, give volunteering a go. It’s one of the most rewarding and beneficial experiences for both yourself and the students you get to talk to, and no matter how you come away from a workshop feeling, you’ll have definitely made an impact to someone’s life in that school.

200 workshops complete since September!

We have completed 200 school workshops since the start of the school year! We could not be more grateful to the dozens of volunteers who made this possible! Honestly, they each gave up their time to get to a school when they definitely had other things they needed to do, but they chose to do this and we're so so so appreciative! 

These 200 workshops represent hundreds and hundreds of voluntary hours. Most of these workshops were with secondary school students but this also includes the workshops we've done this year with parents and guardians and teachers as our three side approach to creating a safe school environment. 

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This means we've reached about 6000 young people, across 18 counties, and we're far from done! We still have many workshops coming up next week and loads after the Easter break so watch this space!

If you're a student, parent/guardian, teacher or youth worker and you would like to request a workshop please do not hestitate to contact Bella on bella@shoutout.ie.

Again a huge thank you to all our volunteers! 

ShoutOut @ The Lush Summit 2018!

Well don't we feel like the luckiest of ducks! Last week we got to attend the infamous Lush Summit in London. 

Lush has been the most incredible supporter of ShoutOut for years and years! In the Henry Street and Graphton street branches they regularly sell their Charity Pots with the funds going to ShoutOut. We've made a lot of school visits purely because of the support from Lush and we couldn't be more grateful!

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So how excited were we to go to the gathering of the campaigns and initiatives that Lush support (and some exclusive Lush products to boot!). Near the Tower of London we entered this vegan nirvana, and met the most incredible people!

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Finding ourselves very at home in the "Queer Cafe" we got to chat to some of the amazing people behind Mermaids, a group supporting families of trans people. We then attended a talk from Bisi Alimi about the nature of homophobia in Nigeria, the staunchly held gender roles, and the wonders of love. 

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After a vegan burrito we were fuelled to hear more! But we were invariable starstuck by meeting (and hugging!) Mara Keisling, the founder and executive director of the National Centre for Transgender Equality in the US. She spoke about trans rights in the US, and about Lush's campaign in support of trans rights. 

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Well, then we charged our phone by riding a stationary bike, a few more vegan snacks and back into the fold! 

Next we hear from PROUD from the Czech republic who advocate on behalf of LGBT seniors, something which is sadly often overlooked. We heard from Louise Hooper who literally wrote the book on LGBT refugees and spoke about the invasive way refugees are asked to "prove" their gender identity and/or sexual orientation to be granted refugee status. 

Humbled and mind thoroughly blown we returned to Ireland to continue our work in educating young people and those who work with young people, to take the "?" out of LGBTQIA. 

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A ShoutOut to Irish Designer, Roberta Murray

We are beyond chuffed that Irish Designer, Roberta Murray, has teamed up with ShoutOut to create this beautiful limited-edition tote bag, with all proceeds going to ShoutOut! 

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This goregous bag will be available this week from Designist on Georges Street for €12.50. It makes the perfect Valentines Day Gift for yourself or a loved one! 

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Thank you Roberta! We love it!

ShoutOut to my teenage self: Robbie Lawlor

ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our fourth contributor is Robbie Lawlor.

Robbie Lawlor has spent the last few years trying to break the silence and stigma around sexual health and HIV. He believes our vision of reaching, Zero New HIV Infections, Zero AIDS Related and Zero Stigma & Discrimination by 2030 can be achieved. As the worlds biggest Youth Power advocate, he believes that using youth voices will be paramount in making these goals a reality. Robbie works for Youth Stop AIDS, ActUp and European AIDS Treatment Group. He's currently fighting for PrEP to be subsidised by the HSE. Follow and support Robbie's work on twitter: @Robbie_Lawlor

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Dear Robbie,

Right now I know you are having really conflicted feelings. You have had girlfriends, you have romantic feelings for women, you are even (kind of) sexually attracted to them. Right now you don’t fully understand why your friends are so obsessed with getting girlfriends and talk about sex all the time. You won’t fully understand why your friends say they love their girlfriends or feel heartbroken when they break up. You don’t really think about it. You seem to think that maybe you just don’t have it in you to feel as strongly about women and sex like they do. It will be another three years till you figure out that it is because you were looking for all those feelings in the wrong gender.

You will be angry because you wish you grew up with all those experiences, but with men. Don’t fret though, those feelings for men will come. Your future relationships will be great. You will fall in love. You will have sex that feels natural. You will have breakups. You will be heartbroken. You will regain those lost teenage years.

You won’t fully understand that you’re gay until you’re 18. It will be a scary time for you. However, we are in luck. In one year time, Sara (our sister) will come out as lesbian. The family will have a bit of a negative reaction but this quickly blows over. You still won’t fully understand it about yourself, but on reflection, her coming out has helped you understand that being gay isn’t a bad thing. She will be the first person you come out to. She tells the family but that’s ok, it takes some of the pressure off you, and you know she couldn’t hold a secret for the life of her. It will run smoothly. Everyone will be supportive. Top Tip for coming out: video record all reactions. Our reaction videos could make a million hits on Youtube. You may as well capitalize on our coming out experience.  

You will love college and have a great social life. You will feel part of a community. Life will be everything you wanted it to be. Then you will turn 21 and you will get a shock diagnosis. You will become HIV positive. You won’t fully understand what impact these three letters will have on your life. You will go through a really bad time. You will start to believe that you are “unclean” and a second-rate human being. You will have really bad reactions to HIV medication. You will develop mental health issues and you will feel like you hit rock bottom. You will feel like you will never get old Robbie back.

There will come a point, thanks to friends and family, that you will finally begin to understand that you are not less or unclean. You are like everyone else; just trying to live their best life. You will make a decision, just like you did when you came out, that nobody’s words will make you feel bad about yourself again. You will make the decision that HIV and your sexuality will not define you in a negative light but you will carry with Pride all the teachings and experiences they will bring you. You will happily let go of old Robbie and decide to embrace a new Robbie.

Growing up you will meet some of the most amazing and inspiring people you could ever imagine meeting. Then you will see the negative effects an intolerant and sex shaming Ireland will have on these people. When you are thrust into a world that doesn’t always see you and your friends as equals, something will snap. You will decide to do everything you can to help change society for the betterment of people living with HIV.

You have great dreams at 15. Well, life will give you something above and beyond your dreams. You will go through hard times but do not change a thing. Those hard times in life make who you are today.

P.S. Buy Bitcoins.

Robi

ShoutOut to my teenage self: Ivana Bacik

ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our third contributor is Prof. Ivana Bacik

Senator Ivana Bacik is one of Ireland's most prominent LGBT allies. She is a barrister and Reid Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at Trinity College Dublin. First elected as a Senator for Dublin University in 2007, she was re-elected in 2011 and 2016, and currently leads the Labour group in Seanad Eireann.

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Dear Ivana,

As a teenage girl in secondary school in the 1980s you would be amazed at how much positive change has come about in Ireland over the decades since. One of the biggest changes has been greater equality for women and for LGBT people. In the 1980s, secondary school students would not have been very aware about LGBT issues, and indeed the term ‘LGBT’ was not generally used. Homosexuality was still a criminal offence (it was only decriminalised in 1993 in Ireland). Only when I started at university, in Trinity College Dublin in 1985, did I begin to learn about Gay rights. We had a very active Gay Soc on campus, as well as a Women’s Group, and we used to run joint campaigns on sexual liberation and on lots of other issues – student fees were rising annually, unemployment was very high (18%), and most of us expected to have to emigrate when we left college, so a lot of our campaigns were on economic issues. But Trinity staff and students also led the way on social campaigns around decriminalisation of homosexuality, women’s rights and contraception. David Norris was lecturing in the English Department, Mary Robinson in the Law School; we knew our lecturers were on our side in these progressive social campaigns. We even had an (illegal) condom machine in the Students’ Union shop; although it kept getting vandalised by those who disagreed with it! 

In general, the atmosphere in Trinity was very socially and sexually liberated – much more so than in any secondary school, or even any other college, in the deeply conservative Ireland of the time. But we were still greatly affected by the social and religious conservatism around us. As President of Trinity Students’ Union in 1989, I and my fellow officers were taken to court and threatened with prison because of our advocacy on reproductive rights. I am very proud that we students took a stand in support of our beliefs despite the threat of legal sanctions.

Of course, Ireland has changed so much since then, with decriminalisation of homosexuality after David Norris’ brave court case in the 1980s, the legalisation of contraception and divorce in the 1990s, the wonderful marriage equality referendum success in 2015 and greater economic prosperity, that’s it now hard to understand the incredible difference that the liberated Trinity College atmosphere made to all of us lucky enough to be in college then. 

As a young woman and a feminist, my natural inclination was to support my friends and comrades in Gay Soc with their campaigns and actions. Since that time, I have always endeavoured to be a strong LBGT ally. In fact, after leaving college and qualifying as a barrister, I represented Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan in their courageous High Court case seeking the right to marry – a case which paved the way for the referendum some years later. These campaigns take time, but we have now won many of them and I hope we will win more.

So my message to you is, keep up the fight, keep campaigning– don’t give up – things will get better! Finally, as an LGBT ally you must always speak up and advocate for those who are discriminated against, bullied or given a hard time because of their sexuality. An injury to one is an injury to all. We are all together in the fight for an Equal Ireland.

Ivana

 

ShoutOut to my teenage self: Sharon Nolan

ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our second contributor is Sharon Nolan.

Sharon is a queer activist from the West of Ireland and a coordinator for Bi+ Ireland. She dreams of making the world more inclusive of the entire LGBTQIA+ community whatever way she can, and getting the 8th repealed. She’s can usually be found (giving out) at @sharmander_says on Twitter.

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Hey Sharon,

I know you’re stubborn and that you think you know all there is to know about the world but I think I’ve got some tips that’ll help you navigate your way through the next few years and beyond. Firstly? You’re going to finally let yourself free from behind your pile of books. You know all of those opinions, passions and love you have, that you were just too scared to show? You’re pretty damn outspoken about them now! That crippling lack of self-confidence does ease off with time too. Even if it doesn’t disappear, you learn to power through it regardless!

You’re going to go through a lot of phases. Historical vampire theories, true crime novels, mini top hats with every outfit, and neon blue eyeshadow being your staple look to name a few.  But your bisexuality? It will end up being one of the aspects of yourself that you’re most certain about.

There are going to be some hurdles along the way because not everyone is as sure or as comfortable with your bisexuality as you will be. There will be a lot of coming out, and (frustratingly) repeated coming out. There will be awkward dinnertime conversations and late night DMCs (deep meaningful conversations). They’ll even be talking about being bisexual on TV, and the sky doesn’t fall in!

Also? You don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ bisexual. You don’t have to defensively tell people you like boys and girls 50/50 (because we know that’s a lie about how you feel), or accuse others who aren’t bi+ in the ways you imagined it as ‘not being bi enough’. That’s just some internalised biphobia, but you’ll work through it and come out the other side better than ever, and ready to recognise that our community all experience attraction in different ways, and that doesn’t make anyone any more or less bisexual. Your frustrated annoyance at gay bars and pride events wasn’t the bigotry you thought it was - but instead a reactionary frustration for not experiencing the acceptance, welcome and representation in those ‘gay spaces’ that you expected.

I can’t lie, the unexpected biphobia within your new LGBT+ home will hurt. You expected some of your straight friends to have doubts and questions, and to assume ugly stereotypes, but your fellow community members? That will sting. This experience leaves a fire in your belly though, and lead to you making a commitment with yourself to work towards changing that experience for others who come out as bisexual, pansexual, or anyone who’s attracted to more than one gender. While on this journey, you will find your community. You’ll meet some of the greatest friends anyone could ask for - all while you’re growing, finding your feet and speaking out more.

With this, you’ll also get the opportunity to join the amazing Bi+ Ireland team! You’ll get to help create events and spaces for anyone under the bisexual umbrella to meet each other and support each other, you’ll get to help represent the community at different prides across Ireland, and together you’ll work towards bi+ visibility and inclusion throughout society. I may be ‘bi’ased (heh), but we have a fantastic coordinator team and you’re going to love them all so much. The most amazing part of it all though is that you’ll get to help be part of the movement to create spaces for our bi+ community throughout Ireland, ando work towards making the spaces you and so many others dream of!

With being bisexual, this happens to lead to you dating people of different genders over the years. The main difference isn’t how you feel about each of them - but how society reacts around this. Holding a girl’s hand in public the first time will be a scary experience, and seeing how the social dynamics of being read as ‘queer’ for the first time has the world viewing you through a whole new lens. Luckily, Ireland is a much kinder and compassionate place in 2017 to be LGBT+ than when you first come out, so as the years go by it’s going to get easier, with further support from the wider community.

Most importantly? You’re still as big an emo kid as ever - and yes, you do finally get to see Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance in concert!

In all seriousness though - you’ve got this better than you ever realised, I promise, and you’ll be Taoiseach before you know it!

Love always

Sharon

For more information on Bi+ Ireland's work visit http://www.biireland.com/ 

 

New Chair of the Board Elected!

Declan Meehan has been elected as Chair of the Board of Directors of ShoutOut. Declan has been involved with ShoutOut since its beginning in 2012, when ShoutOut first ran a pilot scheme in just 10 schools in Dublin. Over the past 5 years he has worked in various roles with the organisation, most recently establishing ShoutOut as an all-Ireland organisation by bringing ShoutOut workshops to Northern Ireland through a partnership with Cara-Friend, of which Declan is Deputy Director. Declan is also the Vice-Chair of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum, as well as a committee member of the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, Love Equality. 

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“It is an honour to be chosen as Chair of the Board of Directors of ShoutOut", said Declan. "The recent registration of ShoutOut as an official charity, combined with the appointment of Bella FitzPatrick as Director, and the restructuring of our Board of Directors with the position of Chair, are all important steps in ensuring the professionalisation and continued growth of ShoutOut. As Chair I am committed to supporting the excellent work of our volunteers, and our Director, as well as staff in schools all across Ireland. We want to ensure that every LGBTQ+ student in Ireland can bring their full and truest self to school every morning, and leave their school day in the afternoon without having experienced bullying or negativity because of who they are. ShoutOut is committed to changing the experiences of LGBTQ+ young people for the better in secondary schools across Ireland. We are also committed to the principles of transparency and good governance as a registered charity." 

In addition to Declan Meehan, the Board of Directors is comprised of Eoin O'Liatháin, Clare Ní Cheallaigh, Paul Behan and Anna Keogh. The Board will seek to expand its membership in early 2018 to broaden its diversity and expertise. 

You're Hired!

We are delighted to announce our first employee! 

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Commencing immediately Bella FitzPatrick will take up post as ShoutOut’s Director. Bella has been with ShoutOut for over 3 years and has worked tirelessly to ensure our school and volunteer networks have continued to expand. We are delighted to have her join in this capacity.

In her own words, “I'm so honoured to be ShoutOut's first paid employee. It’s my privilege to work with so many wonderful volunteers, teachers, students and workplaces. I want to work myself of a job; I want the concept of being bullied for your gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual characteristics or gender expression to be a thing of the past. We have a long way to go, but we will get there. ”

Since it’s inception 5 years ago ShoutOut has been an entirely voluntary organisation. We’ve relied on a committee and volunteer community to give up their time, energy and passion towards the mission of safe schools.

Now the scale and breadth of our operations, the demands of managing 10 school projects every week, as well as our newly formed corporate programme, has meant the need to move toward a more formal structure. We’re confident this will ensure the sustainability and quality of service for our organisation. Please join us in congratulating Bella and celebrating this exciting milestone for ShoutOut.

Warm regards,

Eoin, Paul, Declan, Clare, Anna,

ShoutOut to my teenage self: Aoife Martin

ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our first contributor is Aoife Martin. 

Aoife is an IT professional and outspoken advocate for trans rights. She trended on Twitter once and has been dining off the glory of that ever since. In her spare time Aoife enjoys wrestling her unwieldy book collection into shape and having opinions on film. She can be found babbling away on Twitter where her handle is @aoifemrtn. 

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Dear Aoife,

Is it okay if I call you Aoife? I know that's not your name at the moment and you haven't even thought of it as a name, but maybe when you read this letter you'll consider it. I think of you often, you know. Especially during those troubled years - the dreaded teenage years, as mam liked to call them. They're never much fun, are they? I probably shouldn't tell you then that you're going to have to do it all over again - only this time instead of testosterone coursing its way through your body it's going to be oestrogen. Maybe that makes it easier. It's not everyone who gets a second chance at puberty but at least this time it'll be the correct hormones.
I know it’s not easy being at an all-boys’ school and having to wear those bland scratchy grey trousers and bland woollen grey jumper that makes sure you’re not seen as an individual. Nor is it easy for you to fit in. You don’t want people to realise. You make jokes and you laugh so that people don’t realise. You act the eejit so that people don’t realise. You talk the talk so that people don’t realise. Your body is changing but not in the way that it should but you don’t want people to realise.

If I tell you that you’ll get past this will it make it easier? If I tell you that one day you won’t have to sneak around stealing chances where you can to try on a skirt or a dress or some makeup will you believe me? That one day you’ll be out and proud of who you are and not embarrassed or ashamed to be you? That you’ll be able to go out in broad daylight and not be terrified that people are laughing at you or worse? That you’ll have friends who will accept that you are a woman and treat you as such? Or that one day, you will refer to yourself as trans woman and be proud of that fact? What? Sorry, yes, trans woman. That’s a word you won’t have heard yet. It’s a nice word. Much nicer than transvestite or transsexual, those clinical words that do their very best to obscure the person underneath. We are so much more than our labels, aren’t we?

If I could tell you two things, other than buy shares in Apple, is first of all that it’s okay to be transgender. That’s important and worth repeating. It’s okay to be transgender. I know you might think you’re the only person who feels this but you’re not. How do I know? Wait until you discover the internet, Kiddo. The internet? It’s too hard to explain but it will open your world. You’ll meet people who love you and accept you for who you are and you’ll have a grand old time.

The second thing I’d say to you, and I hope I’m not going all preachy on you here, is talk to people. People who love you. People you can trust. I know it’s not easy because what you’re hiding inside feels so shameful and embarrassing but it’s not. I repeat again: it’s okay to be transgender. Trans people are awesome. How do I know? Because I’m one, you’re one and you, Aoife (I really like that name you know), are amazing. You belong to a unique group of pioneering people who have been around since time immemorial and who challenge the status quo. That makes people uneasy. People don’t like to be challenged. But this is your life, not theirs. They can’t tell you to be someone who you’re not. Be you. Be strong. Be awesome.

I won’t lie and tell you that it’s going to be easy. It’s a bumpy road ahead and you’ll take many wrong turns, but that’s life isn’t it? In that respect you’re no different to anyone else. We all make mistakes and sometimes we even learn from those mistakes. But remember this, it’s those mistakes that make us who we are. Try not to beat yourself up over the ifs and the buts and the what-could-have-beens. Someone wiser than me once said that which does not kill us makes us stronger. And it’s true.

You have a long and difficult journey ahead but you will get there. How do I know? Because I did. We did.  

Sincerely yours,

Aoife.

PS It’s okay to be transgender.

ShoutOut at ILGA Europe!

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Earlier this month ShoutOut were lucky enough to be able to send Managing Director, Bella FitzPatrick, to the ILGA Europe Annual Conference which took place in Warsaw. We want to express so much gratitude to ILGA Europe who sponsored Bella's trip over, making it possible for ShoutOut to be represented at this incredible event. Here's how Bella found the experience:

The theme of the event was: "Change! Communities mobilising, movements rising!", which was very fitting for me as a volunteer working to create safe schools on the Island of Ireland. 

Among the incredible workshops and talks I was able to attend a meeting about youth work hosted by the amazing organisation IGLYO. IGLYO showed us how they are assessing the level of LGBTQIA+ safety and inclusion in schools across Europe. 

Next I learned about research into safe schools from US org GLSEN. We can't wait to work with IGLYO and GLSEN in the future! 

We heard worrying statistics from the True Colors Fund about how LGBTQIA+ youth are affected by homelessness in greater numbers then their cis-straight counterparts, and how much a stable home and welcoming schools are vital for LGBTQIA+ young people. 

As well as workshops and talks on safe schools and youth issues, I was able to attend workshops on a variety of topics such as bi visibility, parent support, and intersex rights. 

On the last evening we went to the Palace of Culture and Science which was aglow with rainbow colours! 

This conference was truly transformative, and I'm very lucky that I was sponsored to go, and that I have such an understanding day job that always make room for my work with ShoutOut.


 

Meet a ShoutOuter - Ross Hunter

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ShoutOut isn't one person, it's dozens and dozen of volunteers! This is how we do so many workshops. It's the beginning of November and we've already 50 workshops this school year!

Ross is one of our most committed volunteers. Learn more about Ross!

Hey guys! I’m Ross, a 21 year old from Meath with a passion for meditation, psychology and most importantly ShoutOut! I’ve been a volunteer for about two years now and I can safely say it has been one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences I’ve had in college!

I remember walking into my first workshop looking like my dog after he’s peed on the new carpet. I.was.so.nervous. Thoughts flew through my head “What if they act out?”, “What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?”. My anxieties were soon eased as I was introduced to my partner for the day Conor. Conor was a ShoutOut veteran and all round cool guy. He helped me through my first workshop and gave me all the hints and tips I could ever want. It was bizarre yet liberating sharing my story of coming out with a group of 14 year olds (now it feels like reciting a shopping list!).

I couldn’t help but think that one of those kids could easily have been and just how beneficial I would have found it! What I love most about ShoutOut is the feeling after you finish a workshop (and that’s not just from the free lunch!). You really feel like you have made a difference. Just standing up there, as a LGBT* individual you can be a role model, a voice and that can be a lifeline in itself

WE'RE OFFICIALLY A CHARITY

ShoutOut started 5 years ago as a bunch of friends from college wanting to bring the accepting nature of university into schools. 

Seeing a demand for such a service it was formalised: ShoutOut would deliver workshops in schools to tackle LGBTQ+ bullying. We partnered with the Anti Bullying Council and other organisations to develop the workshop. 

Since then we've created new services: training for teachers, and workshops for parents & guardians. Last year we felt very official as we got our first ever office, in Outhouse on Capel Street. 

The next big milestone for ShoutOut was becoming all Ireland. We partnered with Cara Friend in Northern Ireland and now we offer workshops in 32 counties. 

Over the years we've delivered nearly 500 workshops to students: that's 15000 students who have heard the message that it's OK to be who you are, and it's never OK to bully anyone. 

Now we help workplaces become more accepting too: with our corporate workshops we can help create welcome workplaces for LGBTQ+ employees. 

The journey has been amazing. Just today our volunteers delivered 7 workshops in two schools! 

Today we're reflecting because we've finally become an officially charity! It's a new era for ShoutOut! We're so happy to have our beautiful Registered Charity Number: 20141769 - look at it! It's georgeous!

We'll continue to give workshops to schools whenever we're needed no matter where on the Island of Ireland. 

 

10 Tips to Ensure Supportive Schools!

There's likely an LGBTQ+ student in almost every classroom across Ireland. Here are our ten tips to ensure a supportive school environment:

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1. Ensure the school's anti-bullying policy clearly & explicitly addresses homophobic and transphobic bullying. 

2. Include all types of families and relationships in class discussions, lessons and resources. The silences around certain representations can be very loud for some students.

3. When pupils use phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ it's essential for the teacher / principal to challenge this. Even if it's not intended as an insult, it can be inferred as such and must not be tolerated.

4. If a student comes out to you respond by thanking them for telling you, continue by asking about their experience in telling others, and let them know of the internal and external support available if needed.

5. Put up an LGBT themed poster!

6. Take part in Stand Up!, a national week against homophobic and transphobic bullying.

6.. Have an SPHE class on the differences between sexual orientation and gender. 

7. Respect the correct gender, name and pronoun for addressing transgender or intersex students.  

8. Transgender students should be allowed to wear a uniform that corresponds with their gender identity and access toilet and changing facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

10. Book a free ShoutOut workshop!

ShoutOut Wins a Belfast Pride Award!

We're delighted to announce that ShoutOut has won a BelfastPride Award along with Cara-Friend for our LGBTQ+ Inclusive Schools Programme!

Last year ShoutOut and Cara-Friend partnered together for the use of our schools programme for schools in Northern Ireland.

For this 27 workshops we're delivered in 10 schools reaching 800+ young people.

 Along with Cara-Friend we're very grateful for everyone who voted for us!

Along with Cara-Friend we're very grateful for everyone who voted for us!

170 WORKSHOPS COMPLETE!

Today was our very last workshop of the school year! 

This marked the 170th ShoutOut workshop since September. 

 

170 workshops

5000 school students

67 secondary schools

17 counties

Delivered by 65 trained volunteers

 

This represents over 1000 working hours from our workshop facilitators and the Directorial team, all of whom volunteer their time. 

66% of our workshops took place outside Co. Dublin 

We also trained 150 secondary school teachers on LGBTQ+ issues and how to be ally to their LGBTQ+ students. 

This would not be possible without our fantastic volunteers, the wonderful teachers who welcome us into their schools, and the incredible sponsors who support us. A huge thank you to Fidelity Investments, Oracle, Ulster Bank, Dropbox, Intertech, Lush and all the individual donations which have made the above possible. 

We cannot thank everyone enough. 

Yours,

Bella, Clare, Declan & Eoin