FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Scroll through for information about call charges, volunteers, the types of calls that we answer and general LGBT information
How much does it cost to call the Switchboard Helpline?
Calls to the Switchboard Helpline are charged at local rates from landlines. Costs from mobile phones may vary depending on your service provider.
Where is Gay Switchboard Ireland based?
Our office is based in Outhouse LGBT Resource Centre in Dublin.
Do you have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans to volunteer?
No. Gay Switchboard Ireland volunteers are expected to demonstrate support, understanding and empathy for LGBT+ issues.
What do you look for in a volunteer?
Volunteers must be able to be non-judgemental, non-directive and adaptable to the needs of the callers. For instance, a call from a young person wondering if they should come out could be followed by a call from someone looking for information about sexual health or a 50 year old woman who feels isolated and lonely after a relationship break up.
While we don’t expect volunteers to know everything about LGBT life in Ireland, we do look for people who have a good understanding about the diversity of people’s lives.
What’s a typical volunteer like?
There isn’t a typical volunteer!
Gay Switchboard Ireland volunteers come from a range of backgrounds, genders and age groups*. They all share the ability to listen and support people and each volunteer has something different to offer our callers
Applications are welcome from all members of the LGBT community, particularly from those who are generally less well-represented in society.
(*Volunteers need to be over 18 years of age)
What happens when I apply?
You will be invited for an informal selection interview if your application has been successful. This is a chance for you to find out a bit more about us and also for us to find out a bit about you.
Don’t worry- it’s very relaxed and informal!
If you aren’t successful you can re-apply, and any previous applications won’t affect future ones, but we do ask that you wait 6 months before re-applying.
If you are successful and are also accepted for training at your interview, you will be invited to participate in the New Volunteer Training Course.
What does the training consist of?
After interview you may be invited to participate on our New Volunteer Training course. The training will equip you to deal with and support the range of callers that we get at Gay Switchboard Ireland.
Training is generally 2 full Saturdays and 5 weekday evenings.
It covers the theory behind active listening and consists primarily of interactive group exercises, call types, current LGBT+ issues, guest speakers and role-plays. .
On completion of your class based training, you will be assigned a dedicated mentor who will guide and support you while you listen to calls on a number of shifts with an experienced volunteer. After completion of the ‘listening in’ shifts, you will then answer calls while an experienced volunteer listens in with you to support you. The mentoring process takes about 3 months.
How are shifts organised?
Gay Switchboard Ireland operates a flexible shift system and there are currently no fixed shifts. Weekday evening shifts are 2.5 hours in length while Saturday & Sunday shifts are 2 hours in length.
Volunteers select and book the shifts that suit them on an online roster system.
What commitment is expected of me?
The minimum commitment is currently 2 phone shifts a month, which can be organised however you like based on your own personal circumstances.
As a Gay Switchboard Ireland volunteer, you are expected to keep all information that you hear confidential. To ensure your welfare, our Volunteer Support Team are there to support you and allow you de-brief after a shift ends.
Volunteers are expected to attend at least one ongoing training session per year.
A lot of time and resources go into training so we ask that volunteers give a minimum of 12 months commitment to the service and callers.
If you are having difficulty maintaining your shift commitment, you can have your commitment level adjusted for an agreed period of time.
At the end of the day, we are here to support each other just as much as we support our callers.
Who supports the volunteers?
Each shift is staffed by 2 volunteers . In addition, there is an allocated Volunteer Support Team member who is available by phone to support the volunteers who are on a shift. Volunteer Support Team members are experienced volunteers who have been with the service for 12 months or more.
The Switchboard Committee are experienced volunteers who carry out and oversee the professional management of the service. The committee meets once a month.
I used to be a volunteer for Gay Switchboard Ireland in the past. Do I need to re-train?
Not usually. Ex-volunteers who have completed the entire training process since 2010 and worked on the phones for at least 12 months are usually assigned a short term mentor for a number of shifts before being allowed to answer calls on their own again.
Ex-volunteers are always welcome back.
TYPES OF CALLS
The types of calls that we get at Gay Switchboard are as diverse as the people in society. Our aim is to give you a safe space to discuss whatever you need to with us.
We do not judge you or tell you what to do (except in relation to safer sex) and whatever you tell us remains confidential between you and Gay Switchboard Ireland.
All caller phone identities are blocked so we are unable to identify your phone number, thus ensuring that your call remains confidential.
Below are just some of the types/themes of calls that we get at Gay Switchboard Ireland. The list is endless really:
- Coming out
- Gender Identity
- Cross Dressing
- Relationship issues
- Family problems
- Worried or concerned parents
- Having sex for the first time
- Safer sex and sexual health
- HIV concerns & prevention
- Looking for an LGBT venue, social and support groups
- Issues at school, college or work
- Feelings of loneliness & isolation
- Domestic violence
- Need for a chat
Exceptions to the Rule!
Generally speaking, whatever you tell us remains completely confidential between you and Gay Switchboard Ireland. However, there are some exceptions:
- If we feel that you may be in danger to yourself (such as suicide) our volunteers have the right to ask if you require medical assistance which will require them ask for and pass on your personal information to the appropriate emergency service/s.
- If we feel that you are a danger to others (eg; a bomb threat) our volunteers are obliged to inform the authorities.
- If you tell us information which indicates that a child or a vulnerable adult is at risk then we will be obliged to inform you that we have to pass on details to the relevant authorities.
- If you threaten the safety of our volunteers we will pass on your details to the Gardai (Police).
Our full Confidentiality Policy is located at the bottom of each page on the website
UNABLE TO TALK TO US
Gay Switchboard volunteers are very friendly and are trained to offer support. They can also signpost you in the right direction if you need additional information or support from another relevant group or organisation.
However, we understand that sometimes it can be difficult to pick up the phone and talk. To make things a bit easier, here are some questions & answers that we are commonly asked:
How do you know if you’re gay or lesbian?
Understanding your sexual orientation is really about understanding your long-term feelings and attractions. It has nothing to do with whether you have acted on those feelings or not. People don’t choose to be gay or lesbian, just like people don’t choose to be straight. Being gay, lesbian or bisexual may not be as common as being straight but it is considered just as normal and, in our experience, most people who are attracted to people of the same sex would consider themselves to be gay or lesbian. However, at Gay Switchboard, we believe in respecting our callers as people and will never attempt to place a label on you.
What does bisexual mean?
It means that you have the capacity to be attracted to either males or females, depending on the person. Some people who are bisexual may have a stronger attraction to one gender over the other but there is enough of an attraction to both for them to consider themselves to be bi. Bisexuality, like homosexuality or heterosexuality, is a normal variation of sexual orientation. Being bisexual is not a phase nor does it mean that people can’t “make up their minds”. While it is true that some people who are gay or lesbian may initially identify as bisexual, the vast majority of bisexual people have genuine feelings or physical and romantic attractions to both genders. Bisexual people also have the capacity to form long-term, loving and monogamous relationships with another individual if that is what they are looking for at that point in their lives.
What does trans or transgender mean?
The term trans is an umbrella term that includes different things, all having to do with gender identity.
Being transgender is different from being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Some people who are transgender may also happen to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. People who are transgender may sometimes decide to make changes to their physical appearance in different ways. Some people make those changes only through the clothing that they wear while others will have some form of gender-reassignment surgery. The term “transitioning” applies to the period of time when people are making these changes.
For more information, please contact Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) at www.teni.ie
What does intersex mean?
Intersex is an umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male.
A person with an intersex condition may have elements of both male and female anatomy, have different internal organs than external organs, or have anatomy that is inconsistent with chromosomal sex. These conditions can be identified at birth (where there is obviously ambiguous genitalia), at puberty (when the person either fails to develop certain expected secondary sex characteristics, or develops characteristics that were not expected), later in adulthood (when fertility difficulties present) or on autopsy.
Many individuals who are intersex do not identify as transgender or do not consider themselves covered by the transgender umbrella.
What is a Crossdresser?
A person who wears clothing, accessories, jewellery or make-up not traditionally or stereotypically associated with their assigned sex.
There are numerous motivations for crossdressing such as a need to express femininity/masculinity, artistic expression, performance (e.g. drag queen/king), or erotic enjoyment. However, people who crossdress generally have no intention or desire to change their gender identity or assigned sex, although some people may go on to identify as transgender or transsexual.
‘Transvestite’ is a term sometimes used instead of Crossdresser. However, this term is generally falling into disuse and may be considered derogatory by some. This is due to the fact that transvestite is used as a formal psychiatric/diagnostic term suggesting that a person crossdresses for sexual gratification, which can be stigmatizing.
What does the term queer mean?
Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that do not identify as straight. The term had a negative meaning for most of the 20th century until some political and social LGBT groups reclaimed the word in the 1990s to establish and assert a political identity. Some academic disciplines, such as queer theory, use the term to denote a general opposition to binary, or traditional, thinking. If you would like to hear more about Queer Theory, have a listen to this UCD Podcast .
Should I come-out to my parents and friends?
Deciding to come-out to a family member or friend is a very big decision. There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t do that. Many people first come-out to themselves and then give themselves some time to understand and become comfortable with their feelings.
If you do decide to come-out, some people find it helps to first pick one person who they think might be the most supportive and respectful. Sometimes that person could be someone who is themselves LGBT or, if not, a close friend or family member. If you’re a young person (14-23) and need to ask more, you could check out BeLonG To for support.
I think my child is gay, and I don’t know what to do.
Thinking that a son or daughter might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT) can raise many questions for a parent. Often a parent is unsure whether they should talk to their child about this. Communicating is almost always a good thing. Letting them know that you are respectful of whoever they are and being open to talking can make a huge difference. Of course, not all children are ready to talk so don’t force them into aun uncomfortable situation. As long as you let them know that you are a safe person for them to talk to then you’ve laid the important groundwork for a discussion in the future, when they are ready. For more information check out Loving Our Out Kids (LOOK) at: www.lovingouroutkids.org or TransParenCi at: firstname.lastname@example.org