by Mark Holland
What is BROD about, like ‘what do we do?’ is a question we keep asking ourselves. We know what we are for but what are we actually doing? It’s possibly a question that a lot of Local Community Groups (LCGs) have been asking themselves lately, for different reasons, but unfortunately we never really got off the starting blocks. Our genesis collided with Covid and the rest has been a right pain for all of us!
We were more or less formed out of a need for some group to organise a Pride event during the summer of 2019. Having barely survived that, there is a lot that goes into organising a street party, we all got back in touch six months later with a view to organising another one, and to develop the potential of a West Cork LGBTQI+ hub, and then lockdown came along and poured a big cold bucket of water over our party plans, and any other plans we may have had to develop and grow as a local group. Now, any community group is only as good as its members, and we don’t really have any. Of course Covid did throw up some opportunities, and there is a lot you can achieve online, but online takes the L out of LCG, and it could be counter-productive to compete with the already established LGBT+ groups who are themselves struggling to maintain critical mass online.
So without any funds, paid staff or space, there is a limit to what we can do. Visibility is the primary function of any organisation whose core remit is inclusion. Exclusion is only ever based on fear of the unknown and once we are seen and recognised we invariably become embraced and integrated as functioning responsible contributors to the community we live in as ourselves. Getting these monthly columns out in the local community paper is one thing, chomping at the bit to get organising the next possible West Cork Pride is another; we are currently working with local youth groups with specific LGBT+ training, and we are also associated with organisations who run school workshops, two of which come in for special mention here:
First is ShoutOut, a charity that promotes inclusion of diversity through education by delivering workshops to students, parents, guardians, teachers, youth workers and workplaces. The reason that they deserve a special mention is because after the midterm break they will be launching their all new online workshops complete with animation that can be presented in any school, anywhere, anytime via zoom. These workshops are free of charge and designed for purpose to fit into the school timetable of a 45-minute class, any teacher, student or parent can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or to organise a workshop. These workshops are tailor made for TY students but are suitable for all first to sixth years, it would be an achievement to aim for all of the secondary schools in West Cork hosting ShoutOut workshops this and every academic year.
The other organisation deserving of special mention is BeLonG To, who every November run a ‘Stand Up Awareness Week’ specifically designed for Secondary schools. This year’s programme will be run from November 15-19, and as usual finishes on the Friday with its Gala #ComeIn event, for all of the students to come to school that day wearing a top the colour of one of the six colours of the rainbow to demonstrate diversity and inclusion in a positive and engaging way. The guide and resources for ‘Stand Up Awareness Week’ were sent out to every second-level school and Youthreach in the country two weeks ago. The Guide is exhaustive with a whole programme of events to plan a week around with lots of instructions, strategies and goals, a perfect project to get stuck into, with advice also on how to establish ongoing supports throughout the year with Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSA). For more information and to get your free Stand Up 2021 Digital Pack, contact email@example.com.
Besides all of that, for now, we hope to act as an information and signposting service for all of the local people who contact us. We direct people to the appropriate services and groups that may be available to them around the county, city or nationally, and we do have plans, now that social restrictions seem to be lifting, to establish a local social group with a purpose, so watch this space and hopefully we will have something taking shape, for real, before this year’s end.