Marriage vote led to spike in calls to LGBT support service

Lead up to referendum ‘stressful’ with more than two-thirds contacting group aged over 36

The same-sex marriage referendum led to a spike in calls to a support service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as it recorded its busiest year.

LGBT Helpline said almost 77,000 people accessed information and support through the organisation’s telephone helpline and online services last year, with demand highest during the week leading up to the marriage equality referendum last May.

It said in the week leading up to and including the referendum, traffic to their website increased by 65 per cent on the same time period the previous year.

Paula Fagan, National Co-ordinator for the LGBT Helpline, said while the outcome of the same-sex marriage referendum was positive, the time leading up to the referendum was “very stressful” for LGBT people.


“As the nation debated the referendum, many LGBT people sought support from our services to cope with the intensity of having their lives debated in public, or to deal with negative attitudes expressed by family members or friends,” said Ms Fagan.

The annual report revealed just over half the people seeking help or advice were aged between 36 and 55, and more than two-thirds of the callers were aged over 36.

The majority of contacts were in connection with sexuality or coming out or family and relationship problems, with most people seeking information on LGBT-friendly counsellors and psychotherapists.

“Over two thirds of our callers were over the age of 36, highlighting the fact that many people struggle with sexuality and gender issues well beyond their teenage years. Older adults can face significant additional barriers to coming out; many callers in the older age brackets were married or in long-term heterosexual relationships and had children,” said Ms Fagan.

Great strides

Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said while great strides have been made for LGBT rights in Ireland, “being LGBT can often seem like a very individualised inequality.”

“If you’re an LGBT person you often travel on a journey by yourself. During my time campaigning in the run up to the marriage equality referendum, I was struck by the individual personalised, painful journey that many LGBT people have gone through,” he said.

Mr O Ríordáin called for a national LGBT strategy “that would take in all strands of government from housing, health, environment and employment”.

“My hope is that at some stage in the future, being LGBT in Ireland won’t be a big deal or remarkable,” he said.