Shout Out Against Homophobic Bullying

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For Eoin O’Liatháin (23) and Declan Meehan (24) changing a culture of homophobic bullying, which has been imbedded within Irish secondary schools’ culture for centuries, was a tough task.

However, fuelled by their own experiences of bullying, the lads set up ShoutOut, an organsation with the sole task of promoting diversity and openness for LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) people within second level education.

“Homophobic bullying survives in small environments, which aren’t challenged,” said Eoin, the founder of ShoutOut. “That’s why ShoutOut are sending people in [to schools], to open up that conversation more.”

ShoutOut workshops give secondary school children a general understanding of LGBTQ issues and aim to eradicate both homophobia and transphobia bullying. The workshops involve young volunteers (up to 100 nationwide) who are able to relate their own experiences to pupils. To date, over 60 schools have taken part in the workshops offered by ShoutOut.

“The time is right for this now,” said Declan the communications manager at ShoutOut. “I think if a group were doing this ten years ago it wouldn’t get into a quarter of the schools we get into.”
The idea for ShoutOut came from joint incidents of bullying when the lads were at secondary school. “It was an absolute silence, people didn’t talk about it, and nobody was out,” said Eoin.

While at Trinity College in Dublin, Eoin came up with the initial idea of offering a service that aims to change attitudes and opinions of LGBTQ people. The main question was: “What would make a difference?” It was at this point Eoin met Declan at Trinity College Dublin, and they set about creating an organisation and website with the help of €10,000 donated from the US Embassy in Dublin.

Recent numbers published by ShoutOut regarding homophobic-bullying show startling results. The survey shows 50% of LGBTQ people under the age of 25 have thought about ending their lives, 20% have attempted suicide and 27% have self-harmed. Among secondary school students, 67% witnessed some form of homophobic bullying and 49% of LGBTQ students experienced the bullying. Finally, 83% of students think homophobic bullying is more tolerated than other forms of bullying.

“It certainly had an impact on some of them and that’s definitely what you’re looking for out of these workshops is to get the kids thinking more than anything else,” said Gregg O’Neill, a teacher at CBC Secondary School in Monkstown about the effects of the workshop ShoutOut held at the school. “I think one of the interesting things about the ShoutOut programme is it addresses an issue that is real and relevant in a lot of their lives.”

ShoutOut are not the only group to try and tackle bullying of LGBTQ people within secondary school. Last summer, the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, launched new procedures to tackle homophobic bullying, with a particular emphasis on cyber bullying. Thanks to these procedures, combating bullying must be an integral part of a school’s anti-bullying policy.

“If we can even prevent one person going through homophobic bullying, or ten or a 100, that’s where the drive comes from,” concluded Declan.

Above: Eoin O’Liatháin and Declan Meehan.

By Liam Cahill