LGBTQ+ community groups stress importance of Pride and battling transphobia at Belfast event

From left to right, Cara McCann, Kirsty Mulholland, Liz Skelcher and Odhrán Devlin at a Citi community lunch which was hosted in partnership with PinkNews. They are standing around a PinkNews banner which advertises the Belfast reception in partnership with Citi.

Community groups and LGBTQ+ activists have come together to discuss transphobia in the media and the importance of Pride at an event hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews.

The panel discussion was moderated by Odhrán Devlin, Staffing Office Business Manager at Citi and co-chair of the bank’s Pride network, and featured contributions from Belfast Pride co-chair Kirsty Mulholland, HERe NI director Cara McCann and Stonewall’s Liz Skelcher.

Opening the discussion on Tuesday (27 June), Devlin spoke of Citi’s commitment to making its workplace an inclusive, safe space for LGBTQ+ employees.

“At Citi we are proud to partner with key LGBTQ+ sector organisations in Northern Ireland and recognise the invaluable contribution they have made to the lived experiences of our colleagues and wider community across the region,” Devlin said.

“Today we are pleased to be able to bring together a number of these organisations to have a roundtable discussion, looking at the current state of the community and challenges facing members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

He continued: “At Citi everyone is encouraged to take ownership to implement our diversity, equity and inclusion policies to enable a culture where everyone can reach their fullest potential. 

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“Our goals extend to the communities in which we operate and we are committed to collaborating with other organisations and industries to improve the wellbeing for LGBTQ+ people and other marginalised communities.” 

During the wide-ranging discussion, Mulholland, McCann and Skelcher reflected on the importance of rural Pride events and spoke of the need to challenge transphobia and homophobia.

Muholland, who is co-chair of Belfast Pride, explained why event organisers had selected the theme “Stand By Your Trans” for the 2023 festival, which is set to take place from 21-30 July.

Cara McCann and Kirsty Mulholland speaking at the Citi community lunch, which was hosted in partnership with PinkNews.
Cara McCann (L) and Kirsty Mulholland (R) speaking at the Citi community lunch, which was hosted in partnership with PinkNews. (Jonathan Porter/Presseye)

“So much has happened in the last five, six years – and in the last year and a half in particular with anti-trans rhetoric in the media and from the Westminster government – that we feel it’s really important for us to stand up and say we’re putting trans people front and centre of our festival this year,” Mulholland said.

“It continues to be a festival for every single strip of that rainbow, no doubt, but this year we’re talking about trans people. Trans rights matter.” 

McCann, director of HERe NI, said her organisation – which supports lesbians and bisexual women in Northern Ireland – had faced a wave of abuse on social media for its trans-inclusive stance.

“We will never apologise for loving and accepting our trans and non-binary service users,” she said.

Elsewhere, Skelcher heaped praise on Belfast Pride for standing up for trans rights.

“It’s not just a party for everyone, as someone once described Pride to me – this is about showing up for our community and showing that we support them,” Skelcher said.

The panel also spoke of the importance of regional and rural Pride marches. McCann said she was surprised to see a large number of anti-LGBTQ+ protesters at Omagh Pride earlier this month.

“Even though there was a good crowd, it was quite shocking the amount of loudspeakers and the amount of anti-LGBT+ sentiment being said by them,” she said.

“Sometimes, people in rural areas are forgotten about.”

Closing out the discussion, McCann urged LGBTQ+ people and allies to “challenge transphobia where you see it”. 

Mulholland added: “If somebody tells you a transphobic joke or a homophobic joke, don’t laugh at it, just say, “Wise up, catch yourself on”.”

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