LOOK, formerly Parents’ Support, consists of a small group of parents who have gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered children. It started very quietly in 1980 – with 2 sets of parents, who had discovered that other parents needed to talk about and adjust to the fact of their children’s sexuality.
For some parents this can be a time of anxiety,worry,confusion,just as it might be for their children. This is why we listen and support reassure and encourage provide information – All in total confidence.
This was at a time when homosexuality was ‘hidden’ – very often children did not tell their parents until they were well into their twenties or older – It was still a criminal offence , the Roman Catholic Church still had great influence within society and consequently it was very difficult for children and parents to ‘come out’.
Parents then were mainly ‘older’ parents’. The parents, who initially started supporting other parents, did so with the help and co-operation of Gay Switchboard Dublin. Their function was and remains to reassure and encourage parents to talk about their children and themselves, to listen and provide information about the sexual orientation of their child and reactions of other parents, so that they will realise they are not alone and that their child is Just As Good.
Parents were able to contact GSD and be given the telephone number of a parent who would listen and talk with them in complete confidence. Whenever parents felt (feel) the need to meet with one of our Parents this was and still is always possible.
Some open meetings have also been held down the years in Dublin venues. The parents’ group has become larger since 1998 and now also has four members in Clonmel, Waterford and Ennis. The original name for LOOK was Parents’ Inquiry, with the name changing to Parents’ Support in 1993, came a booklet and leaflet “Is Your Child Gay or Lesbian”?
This was the year that homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland, and, along with other organisations dealing with gay issues, we were invited to a celebration at the Áras.
Once we became a bit better known, there came requests to appear on television and radio programmes such as The Late Show, Marian Finucane, Gerry Ryan, Morning Ireland, 5-7 Live (now Drive Time) on RTE Radio 1.
And a number of local radio stations, for instance Waterford local radio and Kildare local radio Various organisations such as the LGBT groups in UCD and the Irish Nurses’ Association have asked for our input as well as Sensitivity Training for priests and nuns. The Gardai in recent years asked us to give informal talks about who we are and what we do at the sensitivity training of their own community officers, and these have been very successful.
In 1998 our booklet was reprinted – funded and approved by the then Eastern Healthboard Along with other gay groups, we were received by the President Mary McAleese, in November of that year. We were funded by the Waterford Regional Youth Service to update and reprint our booklet in 2000 – this re-print was launched by dr. T. Moffatt, Minister of State in the Dept. of Health and Children.
More funding came from the European Community Foundation for Ireland, in 2001, for a nationwide advertising campaign telling people support was available.
The Dept. of Social Welfare funded the training of six new members in 2003. And, in 2001, we made an information video, which we funded ourselves.
Times change. It has become easier to come out, there are many more facilities to support the gay community. LGBT children are coming out earlier, some as young as 14. Their parents are younger, they need a different kind of support, geared to the needs of their teenage children. We have to be able to accommodate these changes as part of the gay community.
Our facilities have been broadening so that now other gay community groups, such as BelongTo, Outhouse and GLEN, ‘send’ parents to us and we see ourselves providing parent support which includes
The taking of telephone calls, meeting parents, parents who will be able to support in other ways such as talking about what we do to all groups who deal with children and young people in their working life, such as e.g. GP groups, teachers, parents at PTA meetings.
We need at times to be able to talk to the various aspects of the media, When controversial issues arise.
There is a need to provide better support to our own ‘outreach’ parents All parents have various kinds of talents and we would like to offer new parents to our group the possibility to develop whatever talent they feel they can offer other parents,their children and the gay community .
It is important to point out that we are not counsellors, we are parents Who listen and support.