A Conversation with Rainbow Project Director John O’Doherty: Pride 2017

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  • Sync NI Reporter

    Northern Ireland is preparing itself for one of the biggest calendar events of the year: Belfast Pride 2017. Ahead of the festivities, Sync NI met with Rainbow Project Director John O’Doherty to talk about social media activism, the Netreach initiative and the on-going campaign for marriage equality.

    1)      How have you noticed public opinion towards LGBT+ people change from your founding in 1994?

    There has never been a better time to be LGBT in Northern Ireland that in 2017. Public opinion towards LGBT people has been constantly improving alongside the visibility of LGBT people in Northern Ireland and across the world. We have seen substantial changes in the rights of and perceptions towards LGBT people in Northern Ireland and we believe that we are in a single direction of travel towards LGBT equality.

    2)      Can you speak briefly about the impact social media has had on activism around LGBT+ issues, both within the community and with allies?

    Social media has made a substantial difference to how the LGBT community and The Rainbow Project engage with people. It is much easier and safer to reach out to LGBT people through social media than to try and get them to approach us in public. The use of social media has also allowed us to reach many LGBT allies and help inform them of the work of the LGBT sector.

    3)      Can you speak briefly about your ‘Netreach’ initative?

    Our Netreach involved staff and volunteers spending time each week on social media and LGBT-specific apps and sites outreaching to connect with LGBT people in Northern Ireland. This work ranges from providing information and advice to signposting people to services. This is one of the most effective approaches taken by The Rainbow Project to engage with LGBT people across Northern Ireland.

    4)      The recent Love Equality march saw huge support both online and on the day. Do you have any future plans to further highlight to people the inequalities LGBT+ people face here?

    The campaign for Equal Marriage will continue until Equal Marriage has been achieved. We are very thankful for the support provided to us by our partners across these islands as well as LGBT people and our allies across Northern Ireland. We will continue to campaign on all key issues impacting on LGBT people across Northern Ireland.

    5)      This year’s Pride theme is that of protest. What advice would you give to people who want to be more active in fighting for LGBT+ rights? (Both in terms of people in the community and allies)

    My advice is simply get involved. There are many groups and organisations that need support and volunteers to carry out their vital work and they will always be happy to hear from you.

    6)      Finally, Pride means a lot of different things to different people, so what does it mean to you?

    Pride to me is about visibility. The visibility of the LGBT community has a direct correlation to the increase in support from allies and the wider community. We as a community are stronger when we are visible and pride provides us the ultimate opportunity for that. I also think that pride provides many new members of our community and our allies an opportunity to engage with the LGBT community and our culture in a way that no other opportunity provides, and as such is a vital part of our work towards full LGBT equality.


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