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'There's a constant fear we will be attacked, intimidated or called slurs'

Seven in 10 young LGBT+ people believe schools in Ireland are not safe places.

90423188 File photo from Dublin's 2016 Gay Pride Parade Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

SEVEN IN 10 young LGBT+ people believe schools in Ireland are not safe places, according to a new survey.

The survey, carried out as part of the annual GCN Youth Issue, consulted 565 people between the ages of 13 and 24.

70% of respondents to the Budding Burning Issues survey disagreed with the statement: ‘Schools in Ireland today are safe places and are fully inclusive of LGBT+ students.’

Some 39% of people surveyed highlighted a serious lack of inclusive sex education, and 25% said bullying and homophobia continue to be a problem in schools.

Speaking about the results of the survey, Moninne Griffith, Executive Director of BeLonG To Youth Services said: “As thousands of young people return to school this week, it is both upsetting and disturbing to know that our LGBT+ youth feel unsafe in their school environment.

Growing up LGBT+ can have harrowing effects on the mental health of our young people when they are not accepted. LGTB+ youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide, and two times more likely to self-harm than their counterparts.

Griffith noted that about 36% of schools engage with BeLonG To’s Stand Up week against homophobic and transphobic bullying, but said more work needs to be done. She added that the upcoming LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy will give an opportunity to address these issues.

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’

Speaking about their personal experience, one of the survey’s respondents said: “It’s more of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation in my school.”

Another person noted: “There’s definitely a constant fear for a lot of young people that others perceive to be LGBT+ … [that they] will be attacked, intimidated or called various slurs like ‘fag’ or ‘lesbo’.”

A third person stated: “In all my school years there was no same-sex sex talk, no information on coping with realising you’re LGBT+, no representation in school literature whatsoever.”

Brian Finnegan, editor of GCN, said the passing of the marriage equality referendum in 2015 “gave the impression of an Ireland that had become in the majority accepting of its lesbian and gay citizens”.

However, he said this hasn’t been the case for many people.

“While we knew that LGBT+ people continue to face stigma and prejudice, we weren’t quite prepared for the overwhelming response that acceptance is the number one burning issue for under 24s,” Finnegan said.

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Órla Ryan

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