Originally establised as Laois LGBT+ Project, we quickly expanded to Laois, Kildare, Offaly and Westmeath because of the demand for services from people all across the Midlands. It is the only dedicated LGBTQ+ service covering these counties.
The Project runs support and social groups, including Over 50’s groups, queer book clubs and sports groups, trans groups and so much more. Each month we run between 15- 20 groups across the Midlands. The service also supports individuals on a 1:1 basis, signposting them to services and supports they might need. This is alongside running events throughout the year both big and small, from coffee mornings to mark Coming Out Day to full festivals, such as Laois Pride and Heartlands Pride in Athlone.
Through these activities we hope to help create a much needed sense of community for LGBTQ+ people in the Midlands, and reduce the isolation felt widely throughout the community. The Project also works towards ensuring the wider community is as inclusive and diverse as possible, where LGBTQ+ people feel safe and can thrive in their communities through LGBTQ+ Inclusivity and Diversity training for schools, businesses and organisations.
Each year we hear from over 500 LGBTQ+ people who need our support, and each month at our groups we meet 100-200 people who want to connect to an LGBTQ+ community in their rural area.
The people we meet are incredible, and they exist outside of cities and larger towns, many of them in their hometown, some having moved to a completely new area, and even some after fleeing their home countries in search of a safer, better life in Ireland. Midlands LGBT+ connects all of these people to create strong and vibrant LGBTQ+ communities and friendships in towns and villages that have not known them before.
The impact of what we do in the Midlands is felt when we ask people their thoughts on the service. Here is what some of them said:
“As an older lesbian I have enjoyed the meet-ups with the 50+ group. The kayaking was great fun and so too the painting class. I look forward to more events. I feel supported by this group.”
“The free counselling I received from Midlands LGBT+ Project was invaluable. I am not yet ready to attend a group but the 12 free sessions I got with a therapist helped me come to terms with my gender and I am in a much better place than I was before.”
“As someone who’s only begun coming to terms with her sexuality in the last two years, discovering the Midlands LGBT+ services on my Instagram feed was a huge moment for me. Seeing people in my area being so comfortable with who they were was an amazing thing for me to keep in mind when those around me weren’t so welcoming. I decided to start small with the online book club - which is filled with the best people and most engaging conversations - but I can definitely see myself getting the confidence to go to in-person meet-ups in the future, my biggest goal being a Midlands Pride event.”
Unfortunately in recent weeks, we have hit a huge barrier, when a grant we usually rely on to support our staff and services was not allocated to us due to over subscription. This has left the service in limbo for the past month and its future very uncertain. So we are making a plea for help from those all across Ireland to support us in any way possible so that we can continue to support our rural LGBTQ+ communities.
There are a couple of ways you can support us right now:
• Buy our merch. It’s coming up to Christmas, so gift one of our amazing t-shirts to a friend (or treat yourself). The sales of these really help us to continue our work.
• Donate to us, as little as €5 really does make a big difference.
• Volunteer, donate your time and skills to helping us continue our groups, our fundraising efforts and our service.
You can find out more about Midlands LGBT+ Project at our website www.midlandslgbtproject.com where you can purchase merch, donate or volunteer or just read all about the things we do. You can also get live up-to-date information on where we are and what we are doing on our instagram page @midlandslgbt.