“Be you. Be proud.”
That is the powerful message of the Samaritans Omagh that was held aloft on placards at the weekend during the town’s first ever Pride parade – but, for many people living in Tyrone, the words are still a source of struggle.
Sadly, there are people who are too afraid to show who they are for fear of judgement and live behind a facade and a smile, quietly tormented; while others may still be figuring out their identity; their likes, their dislikes; and their sexuality.
If this sounds like you, then you are not alone.
And you will never be alone: A Samaritan is at the other end of the line to talk to you, listen to you – and most importantly, remind you that you are accepted and loved for exactly who you are.
Moved by the beauty, joyous rainbow colours and poignancy of the Pride parade was Fiona, a Samaritans volunteer for the last 10 years, who spoke to the Ulster Herald with heart when she described just how much the Pride parade meant to the LGBTQ+ community in the town, and the future of Omagh.
But she also knows deep down that, for others, it stirred up feelings of confusion, fear and maybe even shame.
“We have callers ringing us us who have feelings that they are struggling to identify, or come to terms with,” she described.
“They just don’t know what is going on, or how to be. Some people feel afraid that ‘coming out’ will cause them to be rejected, isolated or hurt by their loved ones; their family and friends, and their community – while others are embarrassed or ashamed of their sexual orientation, and live a life very different to who they truly are inside.
We are here for every one – whatever your gender; sexual orientation; background. We’re here for you, irrespective of what you have done in the past.”
“Very often, we will act as a sound board for people who are plagued by a whirlwind of thoughts. Speaking to us, at any time of the day or night, helps people make sense of what is going on in their heads, while untangling their hearts, minds, feelings, and anxieties.”
“We will lend you a caring, listening ear, and every phone call to us will be as long as you need, and it will remain absolutely confidential. We will never judge you, and a problem shared is a problem halved. “So be you and be proud – but if you can’t, please talk to us.”