Bullies' cruel taunts make LGBT teens feel unsafe on our streets
Gay schoolgirl Ciara Sheehan and transgender student Daniel Zagroski have told of the taunts and harassment they have suffered on the streets of Dublin from bullies.
Ciara (18), from Drimnagh, said: "It makes you feel unsafe. If you are holding hands with a girlfriend you have to be careful what area you are walking through. You get derogatory stares and men can say things that are not nice.
"My way of dealing with it is to brush it off. I will never see these people again," said Ciara who came out in first year.
Daniel (20), who is in his second year in UCD, said there were parts of Dublin couples would not walk through or if wearing something considered "camp".
They bravely spoke at the launch of a major report showing high levels of attempted suicide and self-harm among teenage lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI).
The stark findings showed that LGBTI teens have three times the normal rate of attempted suicide, twice the level of self-harm and four times the level of severe stress and depression as normal,
Ciara praised her school, Loreto College in Crumlin for the way it supports the 'Stand Up' programme which aims to stamp out homophobic bullying.
However, Daniel who came out as transgender in sixth year said while he did not suffer any bullying by classmates he did not receive the support he needed from his school.
"Schools need to be a safe place," he said. Teachers need to come out of their own comfort zones and not dismiss students as being too young to know their own gender, he stressed.
Both would like to see people of diverse sexuality depicted in books as early as primary level so that nobody can be labelled "different".
Prof Agnes Higgins of Trinity College, who led the research team, spoke of how she was saddened by some of the despair and hurt expressed by many of those who took part in the survey.
One young person who is bisexual and transgender said they were "ashamed and angry" because "people in school" use "fag" as to insult one another.
Another gay 15-year-old revealed how "students wrote faggot in permanent marker on my cheek"
He was driven to self-harm by the depth of distress he felt.
He said poignantly that he self-harms "anytime I feel like I am better off dead."
Another bisexual female described the release she got after self-harming.
"Most of the time, I feel pretty empty, feel no big emotions and when I harmed myself, at least I was feeling some pain and I knew I was still alive."
Support for LGBTI people and their families is available at www.lgbt.ie or at 1890 929 539. See www.belongto.org.