Welcome to Cork city LGBTI+ students

LGBTI+ organisations in Cork are reaching out to young students as the new college term begins, writes Community Worker, LGBTI+ Activist and student KONRAD IM
Welcome to Cork city LGBTI+ students

"College can be a fresh start where students can finally feel free to be their true selves with little judgement and where they can meet others that share similar stories and experiences.," says Konrad. Picture: Stock 

GROWING up LGBTI+ can be very difficult for any young person. The 2016 LGBT Ireland Report found that the most common age people discover that they’re LGBTI+ is 12, while 16 years of age is the average age people tell someone for the first time.

A more recent study from BeLonG To Youth Services found that 73% of LGBTI+ young people feel unsafe in their schools. This experience can be particularly tough for those in rural areas.

While many students from rural areas are itching to get to college in search of greater opportunities and experiences in ‘the big city’, this need to escape to cosmopolitan surroundings can be greater for LGBTI+ young people. Being LGBTI+ can be a massive challenge in rural Ireland where everyone knows your personal business and you can sometimes feel like ‘the only gay in the village’.

Lorna, aged 25, a student from rural Cork who has just graduated and identifies as lesbian recalls: “For me, college was a chance to meet others who were gay and were my own age. I saw the city as a chance to not be afraid to hold my girlfriend’s hand or kiss her on a night out or dance together in a bar.

“It meant I didn’t have to hide who I was and I could explore what being gay meant in a place where not everyone knew me or my family.”

College can be a fresh start where students can finally feel free to be their true selves with little judgement and where they can meet others that share similar stories and experiences.

This makes fleeing to college in the city ever more appealing for LGBTI+ young people who spend years planning and dreaming of this great escape. But with Covid-19 these plans and dreams that have been years in the making have been crushed for many. This pandemic and its devastating effects have meant that families have lost significant incomes, many college courses have gone online, student accommodation is no longer an option and these struggling young people are stuck studying remotely in sometimes hostile home environments.

“Our colleges are open, accepting places that we can use as refuge from what may be an otherwise unaccepting situation. Unfortunately, this won’t be able to happen this year due to the pandemic which has made it more difficult for students to access vital student services and social supports” says Alex aged 20, a transgender student studying in CIT.

Konrad Im
Konrad Im

While some are studying remotely in their family home, others have moved to the city where again they’re studying online following the Level 3 restrictions put on colleges last week. Vital services and supports which are usually physically prominent to LGBTI+ students are also facing restricted operations at this time. While these services can’t open their doors and welcome people in with open arms, they’re still trying to reach out virtually and say “Welcome to the City” to all LGBTI+ students.

Michelle, aged 21 says: “Initially when moving to Cork I was apprehensive about coming out to new friends. I had come from a Convent school in rural Ireland where I had gotten lots of mixed reactions when I came out. Within the first few weeks I became a member of the CIT LGBT* Society.

“Over the course of the first year the society really helped me settle in and become more confident in myself. I would encourage people to reach out to the resources available to them if or when they go to college”.

Here are some supports available to LGBTI+ students:

LINC is an organisation aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of all women who identify as lesbian and bisexual. They offer a range of services, supports and social groups/clubs including weekly virtual drop-ins, coming out support, low cost counselling and lots more. They can be contacted on info@linc.ie, by calling 0214808600 or visit www.linc.ie for more info.

Gay Project provides information, support and resources for the gay, bi, queer and trans community. They offer a range of different social, peer support and interest groups some of which currently operate online. For more info visit www.gayproject.ie, call 0214300430 or email info@gayproject.ie.

Sexual Health Centre offers an LGBTI+ Sexual Health Support Service focused on LGBTI+ specific sexual health advice around healthy relationships, sexual issues and coming out support. They also provide free Rapid HIV Testing and a condom pack postage service. For more info email konradim@sexualhealthcentre.com or call/text 0861382022.

CIT LGBT* & CC LGBTQ* Societies are student led college societies that aim to enhance the student experience for LGBTI+ students. They both currently hold various social, educational, political and cultural events online. For more information:

CIT LGBT* Society email lgbtcit@gmail.com. Facebook @lgbtcit, Twitter @citlgbt and Instagram @cit_lgbt_soc.

UCC LGBTQ* Society email lgbt@uccsocieties.ie. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @ucclgbtqsoc.

Gender Rebels is a Cork based group that advocates and supports all transgender, non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming individuals. They hold regular social events and online chats through Zoom. You can contact them on genderrebelscork@gmail.com or visit www.genderrebelscork.com.

Cork Rebels FC are predominantly gay non-profit football club that provides the LBGT community in Cork with the opportunity to play and learn soccer in a positive and friendly environment. Visit www.corkrebelsfc.com for more info or email them on join@corkrebelsfc.com.

Cork Frontrunners is an LGBTI+ running group that meets weekly. For more info frontrunnercork@gmail.com or Facebook/Twitter @frontrunnerscork.

Choral Con Fusion is an LGBTS Inclusive Choir that welcome everyone equally, regardless of musical experience, sexual orientation, gender or background. Visit www.choralconfusion.com or email info@choralconfusion.com.

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