This was a speech delivered as part of the Political Panel held in Parliament on May 17th 2017 to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Community leaders spoke on some of our priority issues and MPs from political parties were invited to respond and share what their party would commit to ahead of the election.
Kia ora, I’m Tabby the Founder and National Coordinator of InsideOUT, a national charity that aims to give young people of minority sexualities, genders and sex characteristics a sense of safety and belonging in their schools and communities.
Safety for our young people is one of the biggest issues facing our rainbow communities in Aotearoa and across the globe. It is important to recognise that all of the issues we talk about tonight are affecting our rangatahi, but some of the most pressing issues are bullying and safety in schools, access to mental health support and transition pathways, and the huge need for resourcing, training and support for our youth organisations across the country who are working in this sector.
A few weeks ago InsideOUT ran Shift, our national youth hui which brought young people all the way from Whangarei to Invercargill together for four days of workshops, the opportunity for young people to connect with their community, be in a space where they were free to be themselves and take away skills, knowledge inspiration and strength to go back and make change in their own lives and communities. I want to share some quotes from the evaluations that young people who attended filled out – and these are just a few of many similar stories. I want to acknowledge and honour the young people that shared their journeys with us.
I now feel more confident in everyday life, just knowing that there are people like those at the Hui in the world who can remind me that I’m valid and that I’m not alone.
I was pretty close to suicide before the hui in all honesty, everything seemed too far away and I had no one. Now I feel at least like I need to stay alive for the next hui
Before coming to hui I felt completely alone and like nobody understood the struggles I face daily but after connecting with people here I realised I am not alone and I am going away with a new group of friends going through a similar thing. I now feel more hopeful about my future and transition. Being surrounded by people who understand and respect my identity has made me feel less alone and I feel like the new skills I have learnt will have a huge benefit to me in lots of different areas.
I feel like I’m wanted and that I’m loved and that I’m valid
Places like this are so rare that when you find them you have to hold onto them
Young people in NZ’s rainbow communities are five times more likely to attempt suicide, yet the services that are working to save these young people’s lives are constantly struggling and under resourced. Shift is just one example of numerous youth and volunteer-led initiatives around the country where our communities are fighting to create better outcomes for our rangatahi.
I think the quotes I’ve shared illustrate the huge impact that can be had on a young person when they get to experience what it’s like to be in a safe environment, one that validates them, cares for them, empowers them, provides opportunity for meaningful learning and gives them permission to just be themselves. Imagine the possibilities for our young people – our country’s future – if every environment they were in was providing those basic measures for wellbeing – safety and belonging.
Just in our schools alone there is so much potential to create positive change – however the Youth 2000 research by the University of Auckland showed us that there was no change in the huge amount of bullying that young queer and trans students face in over ten years!
That statistic horrifies me because it shows the severe lack of care and action from government and education providers to do anything about it.
I want to challenge all of our politicians in the room tonight to be part of making a difference in this area. I believe these statistics can change.
Our takatāpui, fa’afafine, trans, bisexual, gay, lesbian, intersex, genderqueer young people aren’t going away – in fact more and more of us are opening up about our experiences and asking for respect. For the most part, our organisations and our young people know what needs to be done to make things better, we just ask you to please, please start listening.
You can make a donation to support InsideOUT’s work with young people here.