Joining the board of the NXF has, for me, nicely completed a circle. Coming out in the late ‘90s, I moved to Dublin to work for GCN, a great experience where I found my community and learned design skills that I’m using still. To now be in a position to help frame the work of GCN and engage in the overall work of the NXF is a pleasure and I’m glad to be part of a ‘Meet the Board’ process in these pages.
My background is in community development; for years (too many to mention) I’ve worked with underserved communities and it’s been my pleasure to work with LGBTQ+ communities in different parts of the country, focusing on rural and isolated aspects of community life. Back in 2010, I was the Northwest Development Worker for LGBT Diversity, the first stand-alone LGBTQ+ development project in Ireland, funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. For three years we brought LGBTQ+ people together to create meaningful supports at a local level, and that model worked well – though when the project ended, there was little further support for rural communities. I’m now working with Cumann na Daoine in Youghal, leading the Seeding the County LGBTQ+ development project. A Regional Strategy for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in County Cork was launched at a community Seminar in Clonakilty last year and we are looking for ways to fund the delivery of its objectives.
In 2006, myself and Izzy Kamikaze set up the wonderful Northwest Pride, hosting community events outside urban areas and helping provide a lasting sense of community. Each year we created a Pride Village in student accommodation because community and safe spaces are of paramount importance. Over the ten years it ran, we hoped that people would be empowered to start Prides in their own areas, and seeing Prides take place in Sligo, Mayo, Cavan and Letterkenny lifted my heart. With this in mind, one aim I bring to my time in the NXF is to broaden its reach in rural areas, and to bring the voices of rural people, isolated people and those who don’t have a voice to further inform NXF actions.
As a board member, I represent the NXF on the Trans Equality Together (TET) campaign. This is a collaborative network of 27 member organisations, both queer and mainstream, led by Belong To, LGBT Ireland and TENI. The concerted efforts of these members intends to increase solidarity, equality and protection for all people challenged and disadvantaged by gender norms; to counter the negative misinformation so rife at the moment and to advocate for affirmative healthcare and a review of the 2015 Gender Recognition Act to support young trans people.
This coming together of organisations is very positive as a unified voice, especially a cross-community voice, is stronger, and supports the most vulnerable. In these current times of far-right interference and a marked increase in homo/transphobia, the work of this campaign can be far-reaching. Figures released by An Garda Siochana in March show a 30 percent rise in hate crime, with assaults on LGBTQ+ people second only to racist attacks. By spreading a unified message through this varied membership, we can affect change across communities and increase the solidarity of ordinary people in fighting hate. You can read more, or join the campaign, at www.transequalitytogether.com
In this campaign, as in LGBT Diversity, it’s encouraging to see Irish LGBTQ+ organisations working together in an environment that often splits the field in competing for limited funding and resources. This limited funding environment impacts heavily on community work outside the cities, volunteers get burned out, staffing becomes problematic, and down in County Cork we’re working on a shoestring but managing to achieve results for isolated queers all the same.
The NXF has a role to play in both urban and rural communities – to advocate for inclusion and equity. As a board, we’re currently engaged in strategic planning and looking to see how we can best deliver relevant responses for our community, how we can collaborate with other organisations, and how we can move forward more effectively in these troubled times.
As part of a Development Sub Group, we are exploring ways to collaborate with other organisations and if you have ideas how we can do this, please get in touch! The NXF has a role to play in helping shape Ireland’s queer environment and I’m glad to be part of this – our archive work holds our collective past safely and gives us the backdrop to stride purposefully forward into our shared future.