Northern Ireland’s LGBT community have organised a full calendar events from Sunday 15th-Sunday 22nd May 2016 to recognise and promote the work of LGBT sector organisations and statutory services in creating a society which is welcoming and affirming of all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
The official launch for NI LGBT Awareness Week 2016 will be held in Belfast City Hall on Monday 16th May, and will be welcomed to the seat of local government power in the city by the Deputy Lord Mayor Alderman Guy Spence.
Other events will follow during the week including religious services, education and training opportunities, a community picnic and a celebration of the work of employers in creating welcoming environments for LGBT employees amongst many, many other events.
Speaking ahead of the launch of NI LGBT Awareness Week 2016, Colin Flinn, a Joint Coordinator for the Week said:
“The theme of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) is mental health and wellbeing. In light of this, the organisers of this week’s events felt that it was important to focus on how experiences of homophobia and transphobia can have terrible and long-lasting impacts on their mental health and sense of self-esteem.
"We hope that when people attend events as part of this packed week, they will not only experience the joy and diversity within our community, but also leave with a better understanding of the challenges LGB&T people face and the actions required to truly build a society welcoming to all."
Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence said:
“Belfast City Council wishes to play its part in ensuring that all its citizens are valued equalled irrespective of their diversities. A city, where citizens can freely and safely engage with each other, live comfortably with each other while accepting and respecting difference, is a city which will thrive and attract new business and prosperity.”
Jayne Robinson, LGB&T Hate Crime Advocate at The Rainbow Project said:
"Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes can have a devastating impact on victims. While we are encouraged by the increase in people reporting homophobic and transphobic crimes to the police over the past 12 months, we know that there is much work still to do to ensure that all LGB&T people feel safe and welcome in their communities.
"Our advocacy service can support anyone who has been the victim of a homophobic or transphobic crime or incident and we work with the police to ensure that victims are properly supported throughout the process. Victims can even report crimes directly to us if they do not feel comfortable approaching the police. We want every LGB&T person in Northern Ireland know that there is no acceptable level of violence or intimidation which they are supposed to endure. It is unacceptable and we are here to help you."