LGBT*Q at TCDDublin, Academic Year '13-14

Technically, the title should read, “LGBT*Q and Allies at TCD”, but that would mess with the rhythm and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The point, though, is this: when reading the “Diversity” section of the “Get Informed” page provided for students on Dublin, there’s a section which says the following:

Although homosexuality is no longer considered illegal, attitudes in and outside of urban centers, like Dublin, still remain very conservative. Information on events, organizations and GLBT- friendly establishments and resources is available. However, the GLBT community is small and not highly visible.

As a member of Q Soc, Trinity College Dublin’s LGBT*Q and allies society (and the oldest in the country, no less!), I feel like maybe it’d be a good idea for me to make some personal observations based on living here. Personal experience speaks louder than guidelines, amiright?

First off, Q Soc is awesome. I’ve joined three societies at Trinity at Q Soc is by far my favourite, and not just because I met my best friend at the first event I went to. The leadership realizes how just signing up for a group  like Q Soc can be mind-rattlingly unnerving and they go out of their way to make sure that everyone who joins feels comfortable there (see: the introduction scheme and safe space policy). From weekly coffee hours where you can just go into the soc room for free tea or coffee and to talk with whoever else if there, to events like movie screenings (I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time this year at a Q Soc showing on Halloween) and debates, to writing workshops and discussion groups, to group outings to local LGBT*Q friendly clubs and bars, to social activism and campaigning, there’s a little something for everyone at any level they feel comfortable participating in.

One major thing that Q Soc does is organize, with the Student’s Union, a delegation of students who are sent once a year – free of personal charge – to an event organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) called Pink Training where students from all over both the Republic and Northern Ireland go to get together and attend informational workshops on LGBT*Q issues so that they can go back to their home universities better prepared to help the students in their care. This year it was in Belfast at Queens University and I was lucky enough to be one of the forty or so people who were selected to go this past weekend. We arrived in Belfast on Friday night after a two and a half hour drive up from Dublin. On Saturday we had a day full of workshops on a wide-range of different topics in the LGBT*Q community. Sunday morning was a few more workshops and then we went home that afternoon. The workshops were amazing; all the speakers were knowledgeable and engaging and I came away from every one I attended feeling as though I’d learned something important and that there was a community learning with me. It’s really an amazing experience, and I would advise any LGBT*Q or ally student (regardless of Q Soc affiliation – it’s not required) to put in to attend. Even though some of the workshops have a specifically Irish bent – Gender Recognition and Marriage Equality, of the ones that I attended – there’s a lot to be gained for international students in seeing how countries outside America are tackling the same issues as back home.

Now, speaking generally about my experience of LGBT*Q attitudes in Dublin, I have to point out that Trinity is a big, ole’ liberal island floating in the middle of city centre, and you’re incredibly unlikely to come up against outright homophobia at college. Apart from Q Soc, the student’s union has an LGBT*Q rights officer who is in charge of tackling any discrimination which might arise, the college itself has an equality policy, and the health centre is both LGBQ friendly and trained in T* health issues. In October, students voted overwhelmingly for a TCD referendum which states that, “TCDSU supports the legislation of Same Sex Marriage in Ireland.” The professors in my literature classes have assigned books with LGBQ content (including Emma Donoghue’s infamous Hood – which I highly recommend, by the way) and not flinched from talking about them in the least. The academic culture here, at least, is very accepting.

Outside of Trinity, there are actually quite a lot of options for LGBT*Q students to enjoy a night out. The Dragon and The George on South Great George’s St. in city centre are both popular clubs – Thursdays at The Dragon are a promo night called PrHomo (geddit? haha…ha) which is free admission before 10 PM (and €5 after with a Q Soc member card) and drink specials the likes of which you will scarce find elsewhere. Depending on the night there are also several bars which are LGBT*Q friendly and have good drink deals and (sometimes) enough room to sit down. As for public attitudes about LGBT*Q issues: Ireland has Civil Partnership and there is a Civil Marriage referendum coming up in 2015); I’ve seen same-sex couples holding hands or kissing on the street or on public transport without any negative repercussions from passersby.

All that being said, however, the Republic of Ireland is certainly a predominately Catholic country and it is on the conservative side for a European nation. T* rights, in particular, are some of the most abysmal in the EU and T* people are probably more likely to come up against prejudice in everyday life. I also don’t know a lot about attitudes outside of Dublin, as I live in Dublin and am exposed to primarily Dublin-centric things. If you attend Trinity, however, your experience is likely to similar in terms of contact, so I think that you could safely look at the above as a general starting point.

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