Out in UL Create Gender and Sexuality Wall for Rainbow Week!

By Kiera Thornton

As a part of Rainbow Week 2016, Out in UL held an interactive event in the Students’ Union Courtyard on Wednesday 9th November which allowed people on campus to contribute to the society’s Gender and Sexuality Wall. The wall was painted with a total of eighteen different colours, each representing one sexual orientation or gender identity. Passers-by who visited the courtyard between 12-3pm were invited to paint sections on the wall to represent their own orientation and gender, eventually filling each of the wall’s segments with a diverse range of colour.

The Gender and Sexuality Wall was created with the aim of bringing about awareness for lesser-represented sexual orientations and gender identities. This corresponds with one of Out in UL’s aims as a society and a key objective of Rainbow Week; showcasing the diversity of sexuality, gender expression and gender identity among UL’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community. This event allowed queer identities to be publicly showcased to the entire university population, in hope of bringing the LGBTQ+ community and the wider community on campus together.

With people’s perceptions of orientation and gender beginning to evolve beyond the binary ideals of the past, the Gender and Sexuality Wall event was crucial not just for showcasing diverse identities but for educating others. Indeed, many students approached Out in UL’s stand throughout the afternoon, with the intention of learning more about the topics of sexuality and gender identity. Students were also afforded with the opportunity to take a quiz on the various LGBTQ+ pride flags to enter a raffle, with one lucky person winning a free Christmas Days ticket. All of those who took part in the event kept an open mind on the subject of queer identity, and certainly Out in UL successfully educated many people with this event.

This event was one of many events held by Out in UL during Rainbow Week, an annual event hosted by the society which marked its sixth year and took place during Week 10 of the semester, November 7th-11th. Education is consistently a key aim of Rainbow Week, and other educational events held during the week included the workshop on feminism and the LGBTQ+ community, delivered in conjunction with UL Feminist Society on the Thursday of Rainbow Week. Out in UL also held Queer in the Courtyard – another interactive event which invited people to reflect on what the word “queer” meant to them – and teamed up with Limerick-based charity GOSHH to hold a workshop on the gender spectrum.

Among the other events which happened during Rainbow Week were the “Past, Present, Future” event in the Scholars Club – a nod to Out in UL’s history, allowing members to reflect on the past of the society, while looking to our hopefully bright and long future – and UL Drama Society’s “Stigma”, a production about mental health which featured stories from two of our committee members. Of course, Rainbow Week would not have been complete without the staple “Big Night Out” in Strokers on Thursday 10th November, a fantastic event with performances from Notorious K.I.D. and Alice Pow, as well as music from DJ Eoghan Clark. The ethos of Rainbow Week is “education, fun and educational fun”, and this year’s events most certainly lived up to this objective.

(Originally published in An Focal – ULSU Student Newspaper.)

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Rainbow Week 2016!

By Robert Culhane

This year’s Rainbow Week falls on Week 10 of the semester, starting on Monday the 7th of November. The idea of Rainbow Week is to celebrate the LGBTQ community in its entirety through a fun and educational way. It is hosted during the autumn semester of every year and is one of Out in UL’s biggest events. The week involves a lot of work and dedication by all committee members as it takes a substantial amount of time and coordination to organise, but the finished product should be an amazing week on campus. The aim of Rainbow Week is also to provide visibility of the LGBTQ community in the wider society in an inclusive manner whereby anyone can partake in the events organised by Out in UL throughout the week. It is our week as a society to showcase what we do and what we stand for in a fun, interactional way while also educating people on LGBTQ topics.

Rainbow Week starts on Monday the 7th of November with ‘Queer in the Courtyard’ from 1 to 3pm. The centrepiece of this event is a canvas with the word ‘queer’ which will be placed in the students’ union courtyard. Anyone is welcome to write on the canvas whatever they feel the word queer means to them. Despite using the word ‘queer’, it is not just open to LGBTQ people and everyone is invited to take part. On Monday evening from 7 until 9pm we will be hosting our ‘Past, Present, Future’ event in scholars which is a mixer for past, present and future Out in UL members. We will be showcasing past events and achievements as well as looking at how we hope to advance as a society and move forward in the future.

Then, on Tuesday we have our ‘Gender Spectrum Workshop’ with GOSHH in SU Room 3 from 1 to 2pm. GOSHH are a charity based in Limerick city who provide information on sexual health and LGBTQ+ topics, and this workshop will focus on gender variance. In the evening we are holding our ‘Big Night In’ event in Plassey Hall from 7 o’clock onwards where we will enjoy a relaxing evening with games, takeaway and music. All members are welcome!

On Wednesday in the student union’s courtyard from 12 to 3pm we will be hosting our ‘Gender and Sexuality’ event where we will provide a board for people to paint different colours which will represent the different genders and sexualities of the LGBTQ community. In the evening, our good friends in UL’s Drama Society are holding Stigma, a performance in which monologues about mental health are read out. Some of our members have submitted pieces to Stigma to give a much-needed queer slant on the mental health issue.

Thursday will see us holding another collaboration event, this time with the Feminist society which will be a workshop on the LGBTQ’s place within the feminist movement. As queer people on all parts of the spectrum have for a long time played a major role in feminism, this should be an incredibly interesting workshop.

In the evening we will be holding our ‘Big Night Out’ event, which is one of the most anticipated events during Rainbow Week every year. This will take place in Strokers on Upper William Street – Limerick’s only LGBTQ-specific venue – and will feature performances from some of our fantastic members and friends. Doors open at 9pm and it should be a fantastic night for all! Finally, on Friday we will be hosting Recovery Tea with the Tea Appreciation Society from 1-3pm in SU Room 3 where we will all sit around and relax, drinking tea and playing games to recover from the busy week. As you can see, Rainbow Week has an amazing line-up this year and we hope it will a wonderful week which showcases the vibrancy of UL’s queer community.

Orlando Pulse Remembrance

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By Kiera Thornton

On Tuesday October 25th, Out in UL held a remembrance ceremony for the victims of the Pulse shooting which occurred earlier this year. This was Out in UL’s event for SoUL Week which was held to mark one of the deadliest incidents of violence against LGBTQ+ people in history, allowing people on campus to pay their respects to those who died and to stand in solidarity with UL’s queer community.

The tragedy this ceremony remembered took place in the early hours of June 12th when a lone gunman attacked Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed and dozens more was injured. Pulse is particularly popular among the Latinx queer people in Orlando and over half of the victims were of Puerto Rican descent, a fact that is too often erased from media coverage of this tragedy. The shooting sent shockwaves through the international LGBTQ+ community and the pain and despair in Orlando was most certainly felt worldwide, with people all around the globe expressing their sympathies on social media. Even months after Pulse was attacked, it feels fresh in the minds of queer people.

Out in UL’s Orlando Pulse Remembrance took place in UL’s Main Plaza at nightfall. Attendees gathered at 7pm and thanks to the help of ULFM committee members, the entire ceremony was aired live on campus radio. The ceremony was opened by Out in UL Co-President, Seán Lynch, who spoke a little bit about the importance of Out in UL holding such an event. “The LGBTQ+ community is brought together by a common set of experiences and ideas and thought and lives, and although something like the Orlando tragedy can have happened halfway across the world, it is something we either can all feel or can know someone else who has felt their pain.”

Following this, Lorcan O’Donnell, Out in UL’s Campaigns Officer, talked about his own unique experience having been in the United States when the Pulse shooting occurred. This powerful speech described the reaction to the shooting in the Castro LGBTQ+ neighbourhood of San Francisco and how queer people stood together after the tragedy. After this, the names of those who died at Pulse were read out and the lanterns that had been laid out in the Main Plaza were set alight; 49 lanterns for each of the 49 victims. This emotional moment was followed up by a speech from ULSU Welfare Officer Caolan O’Donnell, which expressed a message of togetherness in the midst of tragedy and praised UL’s queer community. “Our LGBTQ+ community in UL are among the most welcoming you could ever meet. They do not judge a person based on how they appear or who they love, but rather by the integrity of their character, […] time and time again we see these people as strong, vocal advocates for selflessness”. Seán Lynch concluded the ceremony with a final speech in which he thanked all those who came along and those who made the event possible. Most of the attendees remained for at least another half hour, reflecting on the tragedy and taking in the candlelit spectacle.

Without a shadow of a doubt one of the most emotional and empowering events held by Out in UL in recent years, the Orlando Pulse Remembrance ceremony achieved one of the society’s fundamental aims in bringing the LGBTQ+ community and the wider community together. People stood together – regardless of orientation, gender, race or religion – to remember those whose lives were lost in the Pulse shooting. Certainly, this event allowed everyone on campus to show their solidarity towards LGBTQ+ people at this university.

#Education Is and why education access is an LGBTQ+ community issue

By Kiera Thornton (Vice-President and Public Relations Officer, Out in UL)

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Today, Wednesday 19th October, thousands of people will take to the streets of Dublin to protest against further increases in student fees in Ireland. With the Irish government suggesting that they will implement a student loan system and increase student contributions to €5,000, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has organised the “Education Is” campaign to fight back. Many other groups are taking part, including UL Students’ Union and Transgender Equality Network Ireland, to name but a few.

Such an increase in student contributions would have a major impact on access to third-level education in Ireland. Students would effectively be saddled with a debt of at least €20,000 for an undergraduate degree, a price that no individual should be expected to pay for the human right of education. The government should focus on making third-level education more accessible to students from all backgrounds and the system they are proposing is going to make education access even more limited. It will ultimately lead to thousands of talented young people in Ireland being priced out of education, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds or communities.

Young LGBTQ+ people are particularly vulnerable to being excluded from education. Earlier this year, the LGBTIreland report found that queer students had very negative experiences in Irish secondary schools, with 1 in 4 missing school to avoid bullying and harassment and approximately 1 in 20 leaving school without graduating. Queerphobia leads to many LGBTQ+ people facing an uphill battle to complete education, and creating an extra burden for us to access higher education worsens this. The same report found that Irish LGBTQ+ people had significantly elevated rates of mental illness compared to the general population, which is another barrier for queer people in education.

Most strikingly, it was reported that many LGBTQ+ people in Ireland still fear coming out to their families. As an increase in student fees would undoubtedly lead to people in Ireland relying on their families even more for financial support, the effects for a community whose members experience relatively high levels of family estrangement could be catastrophic. Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) provides most people under the age of 23 to provide details of their parents’ income(s) upon applying for a grant. If a student is estranged from their family, they are required to submit documentation “proving” their estrangement. I know from personal experience that this process is incredibly difficult and it is inarguably a highly problematic prerequisite for receiving financial aid in paying student fees, and one that affects some of the most vulnerable students applying to higher education. The government will only continue to fail its most disadvantaged citizens by implementing a student loan system, instead of seeking a solution that provides free third-level education for all students in Ireland.

All LGBTQ+ people in Ireland must stand in solidarity with those marching on the capital today. The proposed fee increase would lead to many in our community being prevented from accessing education and this can be nothing but detrimental for the inclusion of queer people. Education is a right rather than a privilege, and that right must not be shunned by our government.

HIV Testing Day!

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On Thursday 13th October, our HIV Testing Drive was held in UL Students’ Union in conjunction with ULSU and GOSHH. It was a massive success and we must thank everybody who came along and got tested!

With 491 people in Ireland newly diagnosed last year, HIV is on the rise in Ireland and awareness is as important as ever. The increase in HIV has led to a new wave of grassroots activism among the LGBTQ+ community, with numerous groups fighting to end the HIV/AIDS crisis. However, the days of HIV being considered the “gay man’s cancer” are over, as while around 50% of new cases are men who have sex with men, the amount of HIV positive heterosexual men and women is growing. Indeed, an important part of Out in UL’s HIV campaign involves addressing common myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV. Contrary to popular belief, one cannot contract HIV from hugging, holding hands with or sharing cutlery with a HIV positive person, and it is possible to have HIV without knowing it, as it can take several months after initial exposure for a test to show positive.

Out in UL spent the week leading up to the testing day working with GOSHH and ULSU’s Welfare Officer, Caolan O’Donnell, to promote this event. Information and facts about HIV appeared on our social media, on campus radio and even on Spin South West, as our campaigns officer, Lorcan O’Donnell, was on air for a few minutes the day before testing, talking about HIV awareness and our testing day. This generated a massive amount of interest among our own members and the wider student body, successfully starting a vital conversation about HIV during SHAG Week.

On Thursday, we set up a pop-up clinic in SU Rooms 2 and 3, and staff from GOSHH arrived on campus to carry out the testing, which ran from 9am-6pm on the day. This consisted of a testing room, where the tests themselves were carried out, and a waiting room, which was staffed by Out in UL committee members and provided information leaflets on HIV, as well as free condoms and dental dams. The clinic was consistently busy throughout the day, a reflection on the incredible response to our HIV testing initiative. We also received more publicity on the day itself, with some of those who were tested speaking to Spin South West about why they thought it was important to be tested for HIV.

Out of all the people who signed up, we tested over half within the SU and the pop up clinic. Due to the overwhelming response we couldn’t test everyone who had signed up plus others who did not sign up in advance and walked into the clinic, and we accordingly referred those who remained untested to the GOSHH centre on Redwood Place in Limerick city centre. At GOSHH’s clinic the testing process is identical to that at the clinic we held on campus. One only needs to have their finger pricked to take a tiny blood sample and it can then be tested for HIV. The Rapid HIV testing process takes no longer than ten minutes; it is quick, easy and completely confidential, making it a very attractive and popular method for people to find out their HIV status. As Rapid HIV pop-up clinics on university campuses in Ireland are relatively uncommon, this testing day provided UL students and staff with a crucial opportunity. To have tested this many people for HIV and opened up a conversation about HIV on UL’s campus is a brilliant testament to the work our committee put into this campaign.

SHAG Week and FREE HIV Testing!

So, as those of you at UL may know, week six is UL Sexual Health and Guidance Week, or SHAG Week for short! As Out in UL is a 100% sex positive society, spreading sexual health information is an important part of our aims. Sex education is particularly important for the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland, as information on queer sexual health is still very much lacking in Irish schools.

Our members’ meeting tomorrow night at 7pm in S116 will be all about sex, covering sex positivity, consent and information on protection and STIs. This is a meeting we hold every year and one that’s really important, so we hope to see as many of our members there as possible!

Next Thursday, we’re teaming up with GOSHH and UL Students Union to provide free rapid HIV testing to students! As HIV is on the rise in Ireland with 2015 seeing more new cases than previous years, knowing your status is more important than ever. Of course, HIV affects not just men who have sex with men, but also heterosexual men and women, and this testing is intended for everyone to avail of.

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Rapid HIV testing is incredibly fast and easy, and anyone who gets tested will be entered into a draw to win tickets for Metropolis! We hope to get as many people as possible tested in the SU next week. Please share our Facebook event page and tell all your friends!

An amazing start to the year!

It is almost the end of week five here in UL and that is hard to believe because the first five weeks of the academic year have flown! It has been an incredible start to the semester for Out in UL and I’m sure our committee speak for the whole society when we say that we have thoroughly enjoyed the semester thus far. Our semester started with an incredible reception at the C&S Recruitment Drive where we got a really satisfying number of signups and massive interest in our society. This made us all the more enthusiastic for the weeks ahead!

Our members meetings have been taking place on Monday evenings from 7-8pm in S116 (just like last semester) and have been really well-received so far! Covering such topics as queer vocabulary, bisexuality/pansexuality/polysexuality and where LGBTQ+ people see themselves in the world around them, all of our meetings engaged our members immensely and were very enjoyable for all involved. Of course, the real MVPs here are our members themselves! We are incredibly grateful for how much members have contributed to the society’s activities so far this semester, particularly new members! The future of Out in UL looks so bright.

So what to expect for the rest of the semester? With week six being Sexual Health and Guidance Week (SHAG Week), our next Monday members’ meeting is going to be all about sex ed! We’re also going to be holding free rapid HIV testing in conjunction with GOSHH and UL Students’ Union next Thursday, and there will be more information to come on that in a subsequent blog post! With Societies of UL Week (SoUL Week) in week eight and Rainbow Week in week nine, there is going to be lots more news to come, so watch this space and keep an eye on all of our social media for updates. The next few weeks are not to be missed!

HAPPY OUT IN UL NEW YEAR!

The autumn semester starts tomorrow, and you know what that means! Lots of things but most importantly that Out in UL is BACK! Everyone at Out in UL HQ is excited to see all of our members again and we are so enthusiastic about the year ahead! This coming week we are particularly looking forward to meeting all of the new LGBTQ+ students at UL and welcoming them to the Out in UL family. Our aim is to be a welcoming, inclusive society that will do our best to support and advocate for LGBTQ+ people on campus and beyond.

For any new students who are interested in joining, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Register for the UL Wolves site if you haven’t already and go to Clubs and Societies > All Societies > Out in UL.
  2. Select “Request Membership” and pre-register for membership.
  3. Come meet us at the recruitment drive and pay the €3 membership fee.
  4. HOORAY YOU’RE A MEMBER NOW!

This year’s recruitment drive will take place from 4pm-7:30pm on Wednesday 7th September in the sports arena! The recruitment drive gives students the chance to sign up for clubs and societies. Out in UL will have a stand there and you’ll get the chance to meet some of our committee members and ask any questions you may have about our society, so do come along and sign up!

Our first members’ meeting of the semester will take place on the Monday of Week 2, that is, Monday 12th September at 7pm! The location of the meeting is to be confirmed but more details about the meeting are to come. Be sure to check your student email towards the end of next week as we send out weekly emails to our members containing information and news about the society!

That’s all for now but be sure to check this space and follow our social media in the coming days for more updates! We look forward to meeting you all! ❤

Pride Season 2016: Out in UL’s trips to Dublin and Limerick Pride!

So, this is our first blog post in a while, and we hope all of our members and friends are enjoying their summer! Even though we’re away from UL, it’s been a lively few weeks for Out in UL as Pride season is in full swing. For the weekend of the 24th-27th June, a number of our members travelled to Dublin for what is Ireland’s largest Pride festival and a fantastic time was had by all. We were among the tens of thousands of people who took part in the annual Dublin Pride Parade on the 25th and it was truly phenomenal.

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The Out in UL entourage at the end of the Dublin parade!

Dublin Pride this year came at a very sensitive time for the community as it took place just a couple of weeks after the horrific Pulse massacre in Orlando. This year’s march was for many of its participants very much a show of solidarity towards victims of queerphobic violence and a demonstration of defiance in the midst of hatred and hostility. Of course, it was also a day for the celebration of our community and how amazingly far we have come.

Fast forward three weeks to the 16th July, the day of the Limerick Pride Parade. While nowhere near on the same scale as Dublin Pride, Limerick Pride is a very special event for the city’s LGBTQ+ community. This year the parade was the largest yet and it is amazing to see the extent to which Limerick Pride has grown. A slightly smaller group of Out in UL members and friends marched in the parade and it was equally amazing to Dublin Pride.

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Out in UL peeps at Limerick Pride!

Another very special thing about this year’s Limerick Pride is that it was the first time Limerick Pride has ever transgender grand marshal. Broden Giambrone, chief executive of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), gave a rousing address at Pridefest in the Hunt Museum gardens where he spoke about the advancement of the trans community and the need for restoring the political meaning behind Pride. This was a very important moment for some of our society’s members and friends and a historic moment for Limerick Pride as a whole.

Without a doubt, this year’s Pride season has been fantastic for our society and we thank all of our members who came along, we hope you guys enjoyed it! We hope everyone has a fantastic second half of summer and we cannot wait to see you all again in September!

Out in UL AGM & Mary Pinkhairs 2016!

Out in UL’s Annual General Meeting (also our last members meeting of the semester, sadface) was held on Monday April 18th and our new committee was elected! We are incredibly excited for next semester as our committee looks like a force to be reckoned with, featuring old faces and new. Following our AGM, this year’s Mary Pinkhairs took place, recognising the extraordinary conventional and unconventional achievements of our members. Congratulations to all the winners and those who were nominated, and to everyone in the society for making 2015/16 an amazing year for Out in UL. ❤ Worry not, we’ll be back in a few months and here’s hoping that 2016/17 will be another fantastic year for our wonderful society!

Mary Pinkhairs 2016 – The Winners!
Best Mary Pinkhair: Ciara Gordon
Roots Award for Growth: Sarah Hogan
Best Couple as Shipped by Mary Pinkhair: Ilyana Keohane and Baked Goods
Shadiest Mary Pinkhair: Francis Lee
Best Moment: Lorcan disappearing at Pride and Ciara falling off the bus
Why Jack Off Alone Award: Seán Ó Broin Mike Wazowski-ing Seán Lynch
Best Mysterious Mary Pinkhair: Student centre referendum No campaign (accepted on their behalf by Yes campaign shade-thrower Kiera Thornton)
Honorary Mary Pinkhair: Michelle Whyte

Incoming Out in UL Committee for Autumn Semester 2016/17!
Co-Presidents: Ciara Gordon and Seán Lynch
Vice President and Public Relations Officer: Kiera Thornton
Secretary: Sarah Hogan
Treasurer: Christian Tan
Events Officer: Seán Ó Broin
Events Assistant: James Connolly
Campaigns Officer: Lorcan O’Donnell
Health and Safety Officer: Francis Lee
First Year Rep: Vacant – to be elected at start of Autumn semester
Ordinary Committee Members: Robert Culhane and Catherine Mann