Living in Ireland, we can often forget the fight that the LGBTQ+ community went through to achieve equality. As a young gay person myself, I find that even I can be ignorant of the struggle. So, as a young reporter with Spunout.ie, I was delighted to come upon the Young Social Innovator (YSI) project “Proud as Punch” – a project that champions equality and understanding. This is an issue often overlooked in our society, where homophobia and discrimination remains an issue.
I first encountered “Proud as Punch” (of Breifne College, Co. Cavan) at the YSI finalist showcase, where each project pitched to a panel of judges. They arrived onstage with a bold statement, their faces painted in rainbow flags. Their showcase began strong and firm, telling us the situation of LGBTQ+ rights in our society. For example, young LGBTQ+ people are 60% more likely to receive discrimination. Despite this, “Proud as Punch” were hopeful, fresh, and truly positive – everything that a society should be.
This YSI group hosted a pride day in their school, in order to celebrate equality together. As the group themselves said:
“Ultimately, what Breifne College did was start a conversation”
They used social media effectively, managing to reach out to so many people across the world. We ultimately saw a message of love and acceptance in this project, and the desire to spread it across the world. The group worked really well together, and showed us the importance of being an ally to the cause, regardless of your sexual/gender expression. They spoke the message that everyone should be united, saying
“Be courageous enough to say: you have a friend in me”
This showcase was inspiring and refreshing, and reminded me as a young gay person to be proud of myself, and never forget who I am. We can help by being mindful to others, being mindful of our words, and being mindful of ourselves and our health. We can all take action, simply by being aware, and by standing up for ourselves and others as we move through life. And never sit down to hatred.
One of the judges asked if they had any resistance in making this project (which they hope to make a yearly event and bring to other schools). They replied by saying they had gotten a little resistance, but in the end everyone was happy to co-operate, and “the haters be damned”. Everyone really respected this attitude, as it reflects the loud, proud and loving face of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Proud as Punch” was an inspiration, and reminds us why YSI is, and always will be relevant. Our society needs improvement, and real equality, and this group did it by spreading love. YSI helped to recognise this project, and for that I am truly grateful. I hope we will all take up the flag, as a friend, as a family member, and as a human, and, as said by the group:
“Be brave, be you, be proud as punch”