By Frances Toner
A group of local activists who work to raise awareness on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, are decking Castlebar in rainbow flags to celebrate Social Inclusion Week in Mayo from October 22 to 26.
Members of the group, Tost? which takes its name from the Irish word for silence aim to question the silence around LGBT issues, gathered at Áras an Chontae on Wednesday evening to raise the rainbow flag.
The brightly striped flag represents diversity and inclusiveness.
Tost? has distributed a further 200 flags to shops and businesses around Castlebar and Westport and is asking them to fly the colours for Social Inclusion Week.
The bridge at Lough Lannagh will also be alight in the rainbow colours.
This is the second year Castlebar has celebrated Social Inclusion Week.
Chairperson of Tost? Cynthia Silva, said this is a very important week in the LGBT calendar.
“We reach out to the local community to celebrate with us,” she explained. “We would like to thank the many businesses in the town who are flying our flags and displaying our posters. It is a great show of support and very encouraging.”
Jean Cross is a member of the Tost? committee. She said she moved to Ballinrobe from Dublin 14 years ago and her experience, as a member of the LGBT community, has been very positive.
She said one of the group’s core aims is to support more people to feel confident enough to live openly as a member of the LGBT community.
“A lot of LGBT issues focus on the isolation and lack of visibility of the LGBT community,” she said.
“For many people, there is still some fear about ‘coming out’ and what that might mean for their personal lives, their jobs, and their family. Many gay people are afraid to take that step.
“Our core mission is to raise awareness of LGBT issues and address that fear and isolation.”
Next month, Tost? will be inviting local TDs to an event to discuss their policy on the upcoming Marriage Equality Referendum.
“Marriage equality will happen, it must happen, and we want to ask our politicians how they plan to bring it about,” said Ms Cross.
Other events taking place for Social Inclusion Week include a ‘drag night’ next Thursday at the Irish House, Castlebar, a walk in Rehins Wood on Sunday, and an outing for younger members of the LGBT community.
For more information on Social Inclusion Week events, contact Le Cheile Family Resource Centre on Tucker Street, Castlebar, at (094 ) 9025126.