Someone Like Me

Darren is a QFA loans officer in our High Street Kilkenny branch. As a young man growing up he never saw people from his community anywhere. Visible, happy, thriving. It was a different time, there was less representation in the media & society. He never thought he’d be working in a financial institution, fully accepting and supportive of who he is. It is good for younger people to see that the credit union is a place where “someone like me” can have a flourishing & enjoyable career as well as strong messages of inclusion & support. We chatted to Darren this month, being PRIDE month, about PRIDE & what it means to him

It is fabulous to see how far Ireland has progressed over the last 7 years since the referendum in May 2015 amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that marriage is recognised irrespective of the sex of the partners.Now there are so many wonderful & visible members of his community, in all walks of life.

We chatted to Darren this month, being PRIDE month, about PRIDE & what it means to him.

What does Pride Month mean to you? Why is it so important for the LGBTQIA+ community?

This year marks the 53rd Anniversary (June 28th) of the Stonewall riots. The riots were a response to the harassment and assault on patrons and staff of the Stonewall Inn, a Gay club in New York City, by raiding police. At the time it was illegal to serve alcohol to LGBTQIA+ persons in a bar, and it was illegal to hold hands, dance with or kiss a member of the same sex. People were routinely and regularly targeted and attacked for being themselves or just being with people like them.

One year later marked the first Pride March where people from the community marched for civil rights in numerous cities in America. While in 2022, Pride events are held all around the world, it remains illegal to be LGBTQIA+ in approximately 70 countries, with the death penalty still being imposed in 12 countries. It is reported that 375 Trans individuals were murdered worldwide in 2021, two thirds of all LGBTQIA+ individuals have experienced violence, abuse and worse because of their identity. There are damning figures also in respect of Healthcare, Education, Work, and the incidence of reported hate crimes is on the rise.

In Ireland the incidences of reported attacks on members of the community are on the increase, and the most recent statistics are that one in three have being threatened with physical violence and one in five have been the victims of assault. In 2020, the LGBT helpline recorded a fourfold increase in the number of calls received.

The marriage equality referendum in 2015 was a historic moment in Irish society for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, their families, friends, communities, and it shone a positive light of Ireland on the world stage. The Gender Recognition act in 2015 was another major achievement, and we are the first country in the world to Publish and LGBTQIA+ Youth Strategy. These massive strides in rights have been would have seemed impossible 29 years ago in when in 1993, Ireland decriminalised homosexuality. These changes occurred because of the relentless sacrifices of those who came before, and they have been driven by visible and real activism by the community, protests, and marches. Today, though the landscape has changed dramatically, there are many challenges facing people purely because of who they are. These are some but not all the reasons Pride matters to me and to members of my community. Pride brings us together, LGBTQIA+ people, allies, friends and family. Pride gives us a safe space to be around people like us. Pride allows us to be visible and ourselves without fear. We come together to celebrate our culture, the achievements and strides we have made, while seizing the opportunity to highlight the problems and injustices still faced by the community in Irish society as well as across the world. Pride connects us and Pride is the reason many of can us live our lives authentically.

In what ways is St. Canice’s Credit Union inclusive of LGBTQIA+ staff and members all year round- not just in June?

St. Canice’s CU has a long tradition of serving our local communities, people from all walks of life. It’s evident that people are treated with respect and dignity, no matter what their background is and no matter who they are. For me, I know that I have never felt that I could not be myself and I would hope that members who identify as LGBTQIA+ would say that there experience the credit union is positive. Our efforts in supporting and highlighting various local causes and community projects is a major part of inclusivity. The organisation has highlighted and supported Pride on numerous occasions in the past and has always done so visibly and with care. I think, in recent times, colleagues have shown support and acceptance for our LGBTQIA+ members by wearing the Pride Flag colours. Visibility is important and it could make the world of difference to someone coming into us in terms of their experience; it is not always an easy world to walk through. The plans to highlight the message that “Everyone Is Welcome Here” using the updated Progress Pride flag is a strong statement of support for local LGBTQIA+ people and the diversity and inclusion training for staff is a very positive sign that St. Canice’s is committed to ensuring inclusivity into the future. These are very heartening efforts and they are well intentione, and I hope they are received by all members positively. All members are welcome at the CU! Finally, It is important to show that members of the LGBTQIA+ community work and contribute to our communities, in many different roles and for younger LGBTQIA+ people it is especially important because there is a place for us all in society and sometimes it may not seem that there is.

What do you expect from a good ally?

To me, a good ally believes that all individuals should be treated with dignity and respect. They know they will not always get it right but they are committed to being an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. A good ally engages with others and in particular, the community, organisations that provide LGBTQIA+ support, advocacy groups and others to ensure LGBTQIA+ people are empowered and included. It acknowledges and facilitates the inclusion of all identities. Finally, a good ally is willing to examine and challenge any prejudices that may exist. To be active and not passive in its aims and objectives.

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