#LoveIrishResearch BLOG: Paula Fagan on 'how LGBT research is driving forward change'

Paula Fagan is National Co-ordinator of the LGBT Helpline, which provides access to a network of trained volunteers who offer a non-judgemental, confidential, listening support and information service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as well as their family and friends. 

The last twenty-five years in Ireland have been monumental for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community. In that time, we have seen the decriminalisation of homosexuality, formal recognition of the relationships between same-sex couples, the ability for people over the age of 18 to self-declare their gender identity. With so many milestones reached for the LGBT community in such a short space of time, what has the impact been?

That is where research which focuses on LGBT people is so important. Research in Ireland is vital in capturing the experiences of LGBT people so we can see what is working and what is not. It is also an opportunity for the voices of LGBT people to be heard and for the LGBT community to be included in another aspect of Ireland. As we progress in Ireland as a more inclusive and considerate nation, we need to make sure that this inclusion and consideration happens in all aspects of life — including our research.

Much research across the country now has LGBT inclusion as part of their work and the findings are crucial to LGBT organisations and the LGBT community. The research helps inform organisations about all aspects of LGBT life; from experiences of early life through to the ageing population. In order to support the LGBT community in the best way possible, there is a need to keep up to date with the latest and greatest research being conducted around LGBT issues.

The LGBTIreland Report (2016) was Ireland’s largest report on the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTI community to date. The findings of the research indicated that the community still faces many issues including safety, schools and education, careers and the workplace, ‘coming out’ — and ultimately how these issues continue to impact on the mental health of the LGBT community.

Specially noted in ‘Speaking from the Margins’ (2013) research by TENI, was the prevalence of stigma and discrimination which is experienced by the community.

The 2016 research project, ‘Burning Issues 2’, gave the community the opportunity to have their voices heard, which offered insights into the experiences in all aspects of life for LGBT people in Ireland. Of the many issues highlighted in ‘Burning Issues 2’, the topic of sexuality and gender acceptance was the most commonly referenced issue of importance for the LGBT community in Ireland. 

Looking, thematically, at LGBT research in Ireland, we can see the recurring need for greater LGBT visibility and awareness, greater inclusion in education, increased protections through legislation and policy, more supports and services for the community, reducing the rates of bullying and harassment, challenging societal norms, addressing stigma and discrimination, and a focus on enabling and empowering the LGBT community to flourish.

That is why research is so important; so we can better understand the community’s needs and focus our work to keep up the positive momentum that has been created over the years. The research to date indicates that there is still much, much more work to do so that our LGBT friends and family are given every opportunity to be themselves. The statistics, outcomes and results from LGBT research are far more than numbers and words; they help to inform how to drive forward positive change for the LGBT community in Ireland. 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.