Meet the Volunteers: Brendan
Meet our Dublin Pride volunteer Brendan.
Posted on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - Back to News Stories
The Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride Volunteer Programme attracts individuals from all walks of life; from students to social workers, business and IT professionals and more. In addition to allowing you to use your skills outside an educational or professional setting, we also provide training opportunities for volunteers.
Brendan (he/him) is not just an LGBTQ+ community activist but also the CEO, co-founder and board member of the Sandymount School Past Pupils Union, which organises social events for former students. In our interview, Brendan speaks about his experience with the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of organisations like Dublin Pride.
When did you join Dublin Pride, and what’s it like being a volunteer for the organisation?
“I spent seven years as a youth member of BeLonG To and was able to benefit from the services they offered to young LGBTQI+ people in the early 2000s when the organisation began. That really inspired me.
I always felt that I had a lot more to offer to our LGBTQ+ community and wanted to give back. So I signed up as a volunteer after marching in 2005 the parade, and it’s been a tough but also rewarding 16 years. I actually spent most of my time as a volunteer for Dublin Pride at Outhouse LGBT Community Resource Centre on Capel Street.
Volunteering for Dublin Pride has been the most enjoyable experience. I have honestly gained so much from it, and the Dublin Pride team has always encouraged volunteers to be the best they can be by allowing them to use their skills and experiences for our community. Volunteers are such an indispensable part of Dublin Pride, especially the Pride Parade, and the team knows that.
After the Pride Festival is finished, the entire organisation and directors come together along with our members to examine and discuss feedback and how the festival went that year. Once a year, our annual general meeting is called and company members come together to appoint the Board of Directors for the following year and to discuss company matters as well. For me, volunteers play a vital role in the organisation. Volunteering with Dublin Pride is not just a great opportunity to make new friends but also give back to the community, and I have seen first-hand what they can achieve by working together.”
What was your coming-out experience like?
“I was afraid to come out to my family and friends, and it wasn’t until I was 16 that I told my siblings I was gay. In the early 2000s, there weren’t many people to look up to as a young gay man. There wasn’t a lot of queer representation on TV really until shows like Bad Girls, Will & Grace and Queer as Folk. They had a huge impact on my life in terms of helping me accept my sexuality. Thankfully, nowadays we have more LGBTQI+ characters on TV than ever before.
Coming out was a big relief for me, and I began to feel more and more comfortable as a gay man. Ireland still had a long way to go for LGBTQI+ people to feel comfortable being open about their sexuality, but I was fortunate to come out here.
That being said, there wasn’t enough support given to LGBTQI+ students in my school, and it wasn’t until BeLonG To Youth Services opened in the early 2000s that I was able to find the support I needed as a young gay man.
I still remember my first Pride Parade in June 2000. I was so excited to walk down the streets of Dublin alongside so many other young LGBTQI+ people, and there were of course the music and all the powerful speeches by community activists.
After the parade had finished, I went to my first ever gay bar, The George. I was only 18 years old, and it was a fantastic place to go to as a young person at the weekends. I actually met my first boyfriend at The George when I was 21 years old. This relationship was something very new to me, but we ended up dating for three years.
I was quite overwhelmed that first time at Pride, but I remember coming home and telling my family that it’d been the best day of my life.”
What role does community activism play in your life?
“I’ve always been very active within my community. When I was in primary school, I got involved in the Student Union where I served in different roles including secretary and treasurer. I even became the chairperson of the Student Union.
After I left school, I got more involved in LGBTQI+ activism. Activism allows me to engage with organisations in the community, listen to their concerns and place them on the national agenda. The recent Marriage Equality referendum campaign is a good example, where a group of local community activists came together and started a national movement that affects all of us to this day.”
How has community activism changed since you first got involved?
“I strongly believe that social media is changing community activism and political movements. Social media plays a crucial part in campaigning; more so than ever before. I strongly believe that the powers that be need to do more to stop online bullying and harassment. It is a problem that is getting worse as we become more and more dependent on technology.
Growing up in the 90s, we didn’t have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; social media didn’t exist. I think growing up without it was much better because I knew who my friends were, and we still always managed to meet up over the weekend. Social media is dominating our lives, so I feel kind of lucky that these things didn’t exist back then.”
What are some of the challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces right now?
I am very proud that I was able to be part of important changes in Ireland, marching to support civil rights. I was so happy to see the success of the Marriage Equality referendum and to see the introduction of the 2015 Gender Recognition Bill. What is needed now is the introduction of a hate crime bill.
In spite of everything we’ve achieved over the past number of years both within and for the wider LGBTQI+ community, there are new groups and community organisations that have only just set up. Their voices must be heard and be able to share their experiences within the LGBTQI+ community.”
What role does Dublin Pride play when it comes to community activism?
“Dublin Pride began as a protest march in 1983 when Declan Flynn was murdered in Fairview Park. He was a gay man and the victim of a hate crime. Dublin Pride has changed a lot since then. While it remains a march for our rights and freedom, it has also become a celebration of our history and of how far we’ve come.”
If you are interested in joining the volunteer team at Dublin Pride, please fill out this form.
Photo credit: Brendan Searson