By Gearóid McCarthy
Out in UL, the University of Limerick’s LGBTQ society, held its first members’ meeting on Monday 14th September, ahead of what promises to be another successful year for the society.
Having been crowned Ireland’s best LGBTQ student society at the GALAS in March, Out in UL can take a great deal of confidence from what has been an amazing 2015 so far, both for the society and for the wider LGBTQ community in Ireland.
In May, the people of Ireland voted in favour of marriage equality in a historic referendum that marked a watershed moment in LGBTQ history, both national and international. This was not the only legislative development for the benefit of Irish LGBTQ people, as the past month has seen the enactment of the Gender Recognition Act, which gives long-awaited recognition to transgender people living in Ireland.
It is hoped that these positive changes to Irish society will offer encouragement and inspiration to LGBTQ students of the university. I, myself, feel as if I have experienced a monumental enhancement to my quality of life. These legal advancements were accompanied by a cultural revolution which has occurred in the past year, which has made Ireland a more equal and inclusive society.
For the first time in decades of LGBTQ struggle, wider Irish society came to recognise and embrace our community. Of course, I should not neglect to mention the massive role young people played in the success of the referendum. This is particularly true for students of the University of Limerick, with the Students’ Union officially endorsing a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum. The power of the message of inclusiveness that endorsement sends out cannot be underestimated, and it is a testament to the endeavours of the university and its student body towards equality.
For the first meeting of the year, Out in UL’s members gathered in Room 3 of the Students’ Union. Personally, I was struck by the diversity of the group, which contained people from all walks of life. Undergraduates, postgraduates and Erasmus students were all represented, as were a range of different identities under the broader LGBTQ banner.
As a first year student who had never really experienced anything similar to Out in UL before, I was initially nervous but I was quick to settle in, with the help of the very welcoming committee and other members. It was primarily an introductory meeting, with the committee introducing themselves and the aims and purpose of the society.
The meeting also discussed the events which are planned for the year, including Rainbow Week, an annual LGBTQ awareness week that celebrates our diverse community, and Queerbash, Out in UL’s showcase event. Following the opening presentation, activities took place which allowed members to talk to and befriend each other.
In spite of the fact that I am completely new to the society, I can already say with confidence that Out in UL is a wonderful and essential facility for the LGBTQ students of the university. It provides an open and non-discriminatory environment in which friendships can flourish, and also quite importantly respects confidentiality. Nobody is forced out of their comfort zone and what is said in the group stays in the group.
I hope to benefit from the society’s many services, including its befriending service and its hangout space on Thursdays. The efforts of Out in UL to improve the university experience of LGBTQ students is commendable and it is without a doubt one of the more crucial societies of the University of Limerick.