Out in UL, the LGBTQ+ Society in the University of Limerick, has been a staple of the UL Clubs and Socs since 1997. The society has commandeered many events and trips through the years (and is planning just as many this year!) such as Queerbash, Alternative Miss UL and trips to Dublin and Limerick Prides. In recent years, however, the committee has come to realise that there are students on campus who require more support than the weekly meetings can provide, and thus the idea for the Befriender’s Service was born.
Speaking to Out in UL’s ever-helpful and friendly Befriender’s Service coordinator, Health and Safety Officer Kevin “Vinnie” Hussey, he told me that the service was founded after being inspired by two key issues; First, college can be a place where people may be realising that they are LGBTQ+; and second, those who are only beginning to question their identity, or those who are not yet ‘out’, may not be comfortable associating with a society called Out in UL.
“The society committee decided that they, as representatives of the collective experiences of LGBTQ+ students, must provide a platform to engage and support others,” Mr Hussey added.
“The Befriender’s Service is essentially an information and support platform for
1) people who are questioning their gender or sexuality,
2) people who are not ready to join the society and attend meetings and events, but still wish to have a contact with other LGBTQ+ people on campus, and
3) people who simply have questions about how the society works, what our policies are, and what we do.”
The service is also open to those who may not identify as LGBTQ+ themselves, but who may have had a friend or family member come out to them, and who may be unsure what that means, or how best to support them.
Trained Befriender, Ignas Nenorta, said that many LGBTQ+ young people experience isolation as they come to terms with their gender or sexuality, and the Befriender’s Service is there to offer support and information for them as they come to college, often far from home. He also added that the training for it isn’t too difficult and that he would like to see others volunteer for it.
Befrienders can chat with and provide support online to anyone who may be feeling nervous about coming along to a meeting, or who may just be inquiring about services. For more in-depth discussions, a casual meeting with two trained Befrienders can be arranged. They aim to make everyone feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
The Befriender’s Service can be accessed through:
- the Befriender’s Facebook page: (Out in UL Befriender’s Service)
- the tumblr ask blog (outinul.tumblr.com/ask)
- sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and putting “Befriender’s” in the subject line
As always, Out in UL hold their meetings every Monday in S-116 (Schumann Building) from 7-8 p.m., and Queer Hangouts are from 1-3 p.m. in the Student Life Centre, Room 3. All are welcome to attend.