Newly-formed LGBTQ+ Committee takes a positive stance on equality
By Gabriella Peralta
A new group called the LGBTQ+ Committee will work to encourage greater community awareness and understanding of equality issues in Gibraltar.
The LGBTQ+ Committee was created by a group of young people in response to criticism of Pride events last June, particularly on social media.
Symbols of unity including the rainbow colours on Moorish Castle instead drew negative reactions from some in the community, but spurred others into positive action to promote education.
Co-chairpersons Lorraine Olivera and Richard Jordan, and Secretary Kirsty Callaghan, told this newspaper that when they saw some of the reactions to the Pride events, they knew action was needed.
The brainchild behind the committee was Ms Callaghan's, who after seeing the comments felt personally affected as she has family members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The initial idea was to organise a Pride event and this snowballed to the creation of the LGBTQ+ Committee, whose members hope others will become involved regardless of their sexuality.
"We're all equal here," Ms Olivera said.
"Gay people aren't different, people who are transgender aren't different.”
“We have the same struggles, we pay the same bills, we pay the same taxes, we're all in it together.”
“There's the lack of understanding and the lack of knowledge that separates people. We want to take that away and provide education and bring people together."
One of the committee's aims is to encourage a change in daily vernacular. By way of example, they say equality is not about tolerance, but rather acceptance.
The Committee also wants to give back to the local community through charitable fundraising.
Mr Jordan added GibSams and Childline have agreed to work with the committee and take on LGBTQ+ volunteers who will be able to discuss these issues with callers.
"We don't want to be one of those groups in the background or eventually fizzle out, we want people and the Government to know we're here, we want to create something big, we want to get everybody together," Ms Olivera said.
The Committee believes Gibraltar is lagging behind in respect of education and awareness about LGBTQ+ issues.
"Things are already improving, but it should be continued," Mr Jordan said.
Ms Olivera added it is the small daily issues that need to change, such as phrases people call those who are LGBTQ+.
"This is not about screaming and shouting, it's just about saying 'look guys, we all live here together,” Ms Olivera said.
“Yes we have so many cultural differences, we have so many differences in general and we have differences in sexuality, but at the heart of it we are all the same'."
"We just want to be equal, that's all it is. It's not like we want more or we should have better, or we should have our day, it's just about that it's just about being equal."
Another aim of the committee would be to change laws when needed.
One such law in particular is when giving blood, a person has to declare their sexuality and sexual history when giving blood. When they declare they are gay depending on the circumstance they may need to wait longer.
In a bid to educate all areas of the community, the committee plans to visit the schools and youth clubs to talk to youngsters.
"When you're a teenager you're confused anyway, so imagine struggling with your sexuality as well as everyday life as a teenager," Ms Olivera said.
Mr Jordan described how he would like committee members to share their stories, struggles with sexuality and inform others that sexuality is not a choice.
Coming out can be extremely difficult for some people depending on their family and social dynamics.
They hope the committee can provide a helping hand to members of the local community who struggle with this.
"A lot of people don't come out because they are scared," Ms Olivera said.
"They're scared or they move away, just to be themselves."
Ms Olivera said she has seen abuse towards others for their sexuality in Gibraltar, as has Ms Callaghan.
"The reality is there is still an undercurrent of negativity," Mr Jordan said.
Ms Olivera said even moments like having a dinner with her wife can be difficult, with comments from men in particular.