Senator Fintan Warfield recalled the homophobic abuse he has suffered in his own life as he urged schools and workplaces to support an initiative to tackle the issue.
Senator Warfield, who is openly gay and Sinn Féin activist and party spokesperson on youth affairs, LGBTQI rights and the arts, last week issued a statement backing the ‘StandUp!’ campaign by LGBT advocacy and support group BeLonG To.
BeLonG To’s Stand Up! campaign was identified as one of the key actions schools can take under the Government’s National Action Plan on Bullying.
Senator Warfield, who recently experienced a homophobic incident when he and his boyfriend were verbally abused on a trip to London, said:
“Homophobia is real – marriage equality was never going to solve the problem entirely.
“One of the wrongs that the LGBT community is trying to address is that we’ve been dropping the “t” from LGBT and not prioritising transgender rights.
“The Gender Recognition Act 2015 was very progressive, but it needs amending as 16 and 17-year-olds need to go through the onerous process of the courts and parental consent to self-determine their own gender.
“Despite substantial steps for equality in recent years, LBGT bullying and prejudice are still commonplace in Ireland. Due to this, our youth face distress coming out for fear of discrimination or mistreatment.”
When asked about his own experiences, Senator Warfield said:
“When I was in school, I didn’t come out but there was a BeLonG To poster in the school condemning homophobia.
“It said ‘it’s okay to be gay’, and I found that visibility reassuring and a realisation that staff could be approached.
“The only proven way to tackle homophobia and transphobia is to make intolerance unacceptable in our schools, workplaces and wider society and for LGBT allies to support their friends, colleagues and family members.
“That’s why I called on schools and workplaces to support BeLonG To’s ‘Stand Up!’ week and put an end to homophobia and transphobia.”
According to the CSO, 26 gender and LGBT related incidents were reported to the Gardaí in the first six months of 2016.