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Adam Pidgeon is 16 and attends ChillOUT. He identifies as a gay cis male. We caught him in the thick of exam season, and, thankfully, so far it all seemed to be going well.
Adam realised he was gay last year. Two of his closest friends are bisexual so they were able to offer him support, which was great, as in the rural area where he lives, the only support group is ChillOUT in Waterford city.
While Adam is not open about being LGBT+ in school, if the subject arose in class, he would openly talk about it. He mentioned that if he spoke about being gay in school, there would be a lot of nice people there who would support him but a certain group of people who wouldn’t.
After one of his friends told him about the youth group, Adam went along. He remembers that first day -
“I was quite nervous. I remember it just being my two friends and I and the leaders. We were talking about stuff, like, practically the entire day.” He said that being around other LGBT+ people “made me feel like I was not as alone.”
He describes what the group get up to - “Sometimes we just play games, sometimes we talk about topics, sometimes we just chill out.”
The group are excited about Pride coming up. When I asked Adam what the day meant to him, he answered, “Acceptance. And not feeling like we are the only ones.”
Adam gave a lovely message to the youth group organisers that they are bound to appreciate - “I would like to sincerely thank them from the bottom of my heart. Two of my closest friends are from ChillOUT and we would never have met. And also for taking the time out of their days just to give us a place where we can socialise with other LGBT+ people.”
Enya Eccleston is 16 and also attends ChillOUT in Waterford - a youth project for LGBT+ young people. She identifies as a bisexual cisgender young woman. Living in a small village, there wasn’t much available support when Enya came out but her parents and friends were super supportive, as were the teachers in her school.
“I heard about ChillOUT from my friend just a while after I came out. It was immediately incredible just having that space to go to and to talk. We talk about different issues and suggest to the leaders what we want to do and they organise events. I’ve felt a lot more confident since joining ChillOUT and being able to express myself.”
Enya described that while adults are usually supportive, other young people aren’t as much. She explained how attending ChillOUT gave her confidence in the face of ignorant remarks made at school; “I’m glad I went to ChillOUT before our school gave the talk on gender and sexuality. Because otherwise, I am 100 percent sure I would have just kept silent and not said anything while they were making those comments.”
Enya was able to attend Dublin Pride last year with her youth group. “It was incredible seeing everyone there and all the colours. It was just amazing, very welcoming. There was a youth breakfast for different youth groups all around Ireland.
And because of that we got to be in the front of the Parade so that we would start the soonest and end the earliest.”
Enya explained what Pride meant to her - “It means being open and being able to express your sexuality in a safe place. Being surrounded by others who also feel that they can be safe and open there.”
Enya had a hertfelt message for her youth group - “I would like to thank them very much for helping me. And I would also like to say they are just incredible, the work that they do.”
Katie Dunne is 17 and attends Luck Out for LGBT+ young people in Youth Work Ireland. She identifies as lesbian. Katie knew she was LGBT+ from the age of 12. “I kept it to myself but my family said they knew since I was a small child because I was your typical tomboy - anything pink I was allergic to. Anything the boys were doing I wanted to do.”
Katie didn’t meet any other LGBT+ people until she was 16. “It was isolating and kind of lonely to be honest. But there was a local youth group I found that, not to be dramatic, changed my life. It really helped me accept myself and my identity.”
“With the help of Youth Work Ireland I’ve gotten to know other people in the community. We organised a ball last year for LGBT+ young people around Ireland. Mostly it’s just really good to have a support network of other people that are like you. At the moment we’re trying to find funds to get up to Dublin for Pride. Finding transport is a big thing for us, it’s pretty hard financially for us to source a way to go to an event where we could be ourselves.”
With her youth group, Katie attended her first Pride last year. “For me, it felt like a place where everybody can be themselves, be open. It was a colourful atmosphere and everybody felt happy to be themselves. Everyone seemed really open and that was something that struck me - you could be interested in anything, you could be yourself, it doesn’t matter who you love, you’re just out here living your best life.”
Katie gave some excellent advice to other young LGBT+ people - “You’re not alone, there’s other people experiencing the same thing you are. It might take a while to find them but once you do, you’ll blossom.”
Charlotte McNulty is 17 and also attends LuckOut. She identifies as a cisgender gay woman. Charlotte described her journey - “I was around 12 when I realised I was gay. When I say I live in rural Ireland, I live in the middle of nowhere. So I had my parents and that was pretty much it for quite a while. I had a wonderful art teacher who helped me a lot. She worked with Youth Work Ireland Laois and we were the first secondary school in Laois to raise the Pride flag during Pride week. On a student level not so much, I did face quite a lot of homophobia and so did my friend.
“I joined LuckOut in 2017. It was awesome. I didn’t feel as alone. I got to experience a different community and I feel so lucky and privileged because not a lot of people can have that.”
Charlotte attended Pride last year with the youth group. “It was very overwhelming but very exciting as well because I had just fully accepted who I was. There were so many people laughing and smiling. That was the first time I felt I wasn’t as small, it was awesome being in a big place where even though we’re called a minority, we’re not really, because there’s a hell of a lot of us!”
Charlotte was truly inspiring when she described what Pride meant to her - “Pride is definitely a celebration, but I’ll always stand by the fact that Pride is a protest. I’m quite a privileged person in the community - I’m white, cis gender and I’m gay. There’s transgender young people in Ireland who have a really hard process of transitioning, there’s bisexual people who are questioned at every corner, there’s other countries where being gay is still illegal. What Pride means to me is that I will always be there with a sign in my hand and a shout ready. I’m not just fighting for myself, it’s important to fight for others.”
To help young isolated LGBT+ and #GiveTheGiftofPride visit