Number of people seeking LGBT help on the rise

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THE number of people seeking LGBT support from the Gender Orientation and Sexual Health (GOSHH) service in Limerick has increased by more than 100 per cent since 2014.

Since the 2014 marriage referendum, the number of LGBT people availing of the service has increased from 40 to 86 people annually.

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The service, which is based on Davis Street in the city centre, caters for a wide number of people from various backgrounds who have to deal with societal judgement on a daily basis.

GOSHH LGBTI Project Support Worker Patrick McElligott said that the stigma and assumptions surrounding the community still persist and are a very real issue.

“In Ireland, everyone is protected in the eyes of the law. There is, however, a very large difference between the words in the law and the experience of a person in their society,” Mr McElligott said.

He said that there is still an assumption that if someone is homosexual that then they are less of man or a woman.

“There is a message that there may not be space for a man to be emotional and with women, there is a treatment that if they are a lesbian then they are a different kind of woman, a less emotional woman,” he explained.

The total number of people looking for support from GOSHH has risen from 175 in 2015 to 204 in 2017. The organisation has supported 177 people so far in 2018. The figures show a rise in the number of LGBT clients and a fall in the client load in other departments.

Mr McElligott attributed the increase in the number of people willing to get help to the fact that “there is now a space to reach out”.

He also believes that the process of educating society on LGBTI issues is a slow process.

“Sometimes I wish that we could flick a switch and this would be okay. It would be really nice in five years if we could move closer to that place of acceptance,” he said.

The organisation also works with client families.

They attempt to build self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence, while with the families it is about giving them space to ‘come out’ with the person.

“We all know what it is like to come out. Everyone has to come out whether it is about your first boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, pregnancy – in any situation where you feel anxiety about telling someone something,” Mr McElligott said.

GOSHH ran multiple workshops and seminars during Limerick mental health week and they can be contacted on (061) 314 354.