Tell us a bit about the origins of RainbowYOUTH. When was it established and why?
RainbowYOUTH was started in 1989 by a group of young people who wanted to create a safe space for LGBTIQ youth to meet socially away from the bar and alcohol scene.
What support programmes does RainbowYOUTH offer?
Our staff team in Auckland provides referral pathways for queer and gender diverse young people to seek counselling, health care etc. and a safe space for them to talk through issues.
We also provide drop-in centres in Auckland and Tauranga that are open on weekdays for queer and gender diverse youth to come in, look at our resources, check out our library and community wardrobe, and even volunteer to help out at the centre.
We also run peer support groups where young people can connect to others the same age and experiencing similar things.
Our I’m Local project aims to connect and create support networks for queer and gender-diverse youth in regional areas. Find a region-by-region directory of LGBTIQ support groups at www.imlocal.co.nz/#yourlocal.
How does RainbowYOUTH work with schools to support students?
RainbowYOUTH’s door (or email inbox!) is always open to any students who are having issues with their schools and would like extra support.
Our teaching resource **itals** Inside Out** is a seven-part video series to help teachers in classrooms teach students about challenging norms, what homophobia, biphobia and transphobia looks like and how to stop it, as well as gender and sexuality 101 information.
We also have resources for young people who want to start up a Queer Straight Alliance in their schools.
What advice would you give to a young person who is confused about their gender or sexual identity?
Being confused is okay, you don’t need to have all the answers right away. The internet is full of helpful info about sexuality and gender identity, and you can head to RY’s website too.
If you’d like to chat more (via email, phone or face-to-face) don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about those who are nervous about coming out to friends and family?
Don’t feel pressured to come out to anyone you don’t want to. If you are thinking about coming out, make sure to keep the following things in mind:
- Tell someone you trust first, who can act as a support person as you tell others in your life.
- Organise a contingency plan. If you’re worried that whānau or those you live with might have a negative reaction, organise beforehand a safe place to stay for a couple of days while things settle.
- Remember, someone’s first reaction might not be their final reaction. You’ve probably been processing your gender/sexuality for a while, so you need to let people who might be shocked have some space to process it, and then approach them again.
How can friends and family support a young person who is struggling with their gender or sexual identity?
The same things apply to any problem you would help them with: listen to them, don’t judge them, check in on them, offer to come along to any appointments they might be making, or to visit RainbowYOUTH.
You can find heaps more info in our resource ‘Growing Up Takatāpui: Whānau Journeys’: https://takatapui.nz/growing-up-takatapui.
If you feel like the person close to you could potentially harm themselves or others make sure you get in touch with an organisation like Lifeline Aotearoa, or in extreme cases call 111.
How should young people deal with ‘haters’ when it comes to their sexuality?
Best case scenario is that you remove them from your life – either by keeping your distance or unfriending them on social media. Focus on the people who show you love and support.
If that’s not possible, RainbowYOUTH can help work through other steps with you – just get in touch.
What’s next for RainbowYOUTH? Any new campaigns or projects on the horizon?
We’re continuing to expand our services regionally, and we’re also working on some exciting projects to help create mental health awareness and knowledge of the legal rights for queer and gender diverse youth. Our first line of merchandise will be released in May.
We invite anyone who is interested in supporting RainbowYOUTH and our mahi to get in touch. We’re a charity, so donations are a key way that we keep our services running. You can donate via our website: www.ry.org.nz/donate.