Young gay Travellers have called for more supports as details of a new fund to help the wider LGBTI+ community are set to be announced today.
Brave Dillon Collins, who has spoken openly of how his own struggles with his sexuality led to suicidal thoughts at the age of 17, led calls for more supports for his community at the unveiling of the first national LGBT+ Traveller and Roma calendar.
“Being gay in the Travelling community is OK and needs more support,” Dillon said.
“If not addressed then this is where the suicide thoughts and depression comes into effect, and when we see young lives dying.”
His comments come as a new fund to support the wider LGBTI+ community in Ireland is set to be announced at Dublin’s online Winter Pride event today.
The Community Foundation for Ireland, which has provided some €1m in funding to LGBTI+ groups over the last 21 years, including becoming the first ever funder for marriage equality, said it is re-invigorating its support for the community to ensure that supports are available for young people, mental health and wellbeing as well as equality in the aftermath of Covid-19.
Its chief executive, Denise Charlton, said Covid-19, its impact and the issues it has brought to the surface including isolation, mental health as well as discrimination have only added to the demand for supports and services.
"It seems clear that even when it's gone, the pandemic will cast a long shadow.
"Many of our family, our friends and our colleagues fall into those categories.
"With this in mind The Community Foundation has decided to act. We will not wait for whatever may lie ahead, we will start forming our response now."
It hopes to start consultation on the fund soon, and applications will open in June.
Meanwhile, the calendar, produced by the National LGBT+ Traveller and Roma Action Group, features members of the community and their families, key historical and important dates for the Traveller and Roma communities, and the LGBTI+ community, and includes the phone numbers of important mental health support services.
It is being distributed to national and regional Traveller, Roma and LGBT+ support organisations this week.
The action group said they hope it acts as “a symbol of positive visibility and allyship” wherever it is displayed, and that it encourages LGBT+ individuals and any concerned family members to seek the help they need, when they need it.
Eileen Flynn, the first female Traveller to become a Senator, said she was proud to be a member of the action group which produced the calendar.
“It’s about valuing people differently within our community, rather than coming down on anyone for their sexuality and gender,” she said.
“Accepting people for who they are, is the only way to be, as there is really no right way to be a Traveller. Live and let live.”
Irish youth group, BelongTo, report that for six out of 10 LGBTI+ young people ‘coming out’ is the biggest issue they face.
Studies including the 2010 All Ireland Traveller Health Study have suggested that there could be up to 4,000 Travellers in Ireland who are LGBT+.
Higher levels of poor mental health are common both in the Traveller community and the LGBT+ community, and as a result, LGBT+ Travellers and Roma face layers of discrimination as they strive to find self-acceptance and community acceptance.