Tipperary’s first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) information Seminar, hosted by Tipperary Regional Youth Service (TRYS), took place on February 10, 2011 in Ballykisteen Hotel.
Key note speaker, Senator David Norris addressed the crowd with gratitude for such a warm welcome and also took the opportunity to officially announce his intention to run as a candidate as Ireland’s next President.
“Thank you, thank you Tipperary for allowing me to forget we are in the middle of a recession and thank you for your cead mile failte,” he told the audience.
The aim of the night was to create an awareness of the issues that LGBT young people face and also to offer support to parents of young people who identify as LGB or T.
Senator Norris was surrounded by an eclectic panel of speakers and indeed the audience enjoyed the highs and lows of each speaker’s narrative.
The speakers included Debbie and Jamie Kenny, a mother and son who featured on RTE’s documentary ‘Growing Up Gay’. Debbie and Jamie spoke about how they were both supported by ‘Belong To’ Youth Service, Irelands lead support agency for LGBT young people. They stressed the need for more organisations to work with ‘Belong To’, to provide a nationwide support to LGBT young people and their families.
Ann Cooney of ‘Loving Our Out Kids’, (LOOK), spoke about how this voluntary organisation offers support to parents from parents whose children have come out as LGBT. They too are hoping to offer this support nationwide and are looking for more volunteers to come on board. Michael Barron, director and founder of Belong To Youth Service, chaired the night and was hugely impressed by the wonderful turnout at Ballykisteen Hotel. “I must applaud the Tipperary Regional Youth
Service for taking the initiative to organise such an upbeat, informative and supportive event,” said Mr Barron.
“Even though as a society we have come a long way, homophobic bullying is still a prevalent and often heartbreaking dilemma that LGBT young people have to deal with everyday.”
Senator Norris echoed Michael’s sentiments and told us many stories that had us on an emotional rollercoaster. “Fifteen years ago I was a criminal,” he announced. “And today I am a presidential candidate,” which was received with rapturous applause. “I am proud to be Irish, proud of a country that has come so far in relation to equality.” He added, “Let us strive to ensure complete civil rights to every person in Ireland; members of the LGBT community, the travelling community, people with disabilities, foreign nationals… let us not stop but extend our hands to those who experience oppression in their native countries.”
Senator Norris made special mention to David Kato, Ugandan gay rights activist, who was murdered three weeks ago because he was gay. “Could we as a nation have done more to stop this despicable crime?” He asked.
As well as the more serious elements of his speech, Senator Norris had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with his colourful story about meeting a gay penguin called Norris in San Francisco Zoo. From observing the audience interaction it appeared they could have listened to Senator Norris all night and when he eventually did call it a night he stayed on to pose for photographs.
One guest voiced that she felt filled with optimism for the future, marvelled at how far people have come and said that this was evident because, “people aren’t totally affronted at the thought of having a president who happens to be gay”.
Another guest referred to the guest speakers sharing their experiences of their children coming out and how relaxed they appeared to be. She added “That’s the way it should be and we will look back in ten years time and recall the night all those years ago when President Norris in such a fun filled, relaxed atmosphere encouraged us all to talk and think about our kids and what it is like for them and their families growing up gay in Ireland in 2011.”
For more information you can contact TRYS at 062 52604, call into our offices in Croke Street, Thurles or Bank Place, Tipperary or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.