As one of the few Rainbow-focused youth organisations with the capacity to work on a national level, RainbowYOUTH reaches areas of Aotearoa where support is hard to find or non-existent.
Rainbow youth in Tauranga and Western Bay, now have their local support charity available once again in a new space in the CBD.
Founded in 1989 as Aotearoa’s first youth-focused LGBTQIA+ support charity, RainbowYOUTH provides support, information, and advocacy for intersex, queer and gender-diverse youth.
With centres in Whangārei, Auckland, Tauranga, Taranaki and Wellington, RainbowYOUTH envisions seeing all young people thrive in Aotearoa. They achieve this by fostering safe, inclusive, accepting, and diverse family environments that are drug, smoke and alcohol-free.
Bay of Plenty rangatahi now have a new space to go for one-on-one support, peer support and group sessions.
All services are aimed at improving protective factors and reducing the harm caused by the inequalities experienced by queer, gender diverse, takatāpui and intersex youth. RainbowYOUTH works with local and national groups, including the government and various businesses, to holistically bring about positive change for their community.
RainbowYOUTH enables young people to develop their identities and sense of self by providing support to improve overall wellbeing. They strive to expand the services available to create greater community participation and connectedness.
RainbowYOUTH’s BOP Regional Coordinator Leanne Fry says local youth can find it hard to build connections with others in the rainbow community.
“There may not be anyone else in their school to connect with, and therefore our space is where they can come together, be themselves, support each other and develop healthy relationships.”
“With our new BOP centre open, we are welcoming 80 to 100 visitors into the space per month,” says Fry, “We’re seeing group sessions consist of 10-16 individuals and are welcoming one to two new people each week.”
RainbowYOUTH BOP reaches around 250 rangatahi each month. It engages via peer support groups, one-on-one support and through school engagement, as well as the whānau of these young people.
Alongside these main services, Bay of Plenty’s local RainbowYOUTH drop-in centre also offers youth access to resources, a community wardrobe, sexual health corner, free Wi-Fi, and a queer and gender-diverse library.
RainbowYOUTH BOP also hosts fun events for their community, focused on beneficial skills, as well as offering opportunities to have fun. Previous events have consisted of self-defence workshops, pilates classes and sewing classes.
Ally Johnson, RainbowYOUTH’s Grants Coordinator, says the young people who attend the centre report feeling comfortable and safe in the space.
“They are socialising and building healthy relationships with each other, creating support networks, and improving confidence in their identities.”
“This helps them be more confident in their day-to-day lives and put that confidence towards taking practical steps for improving their wellbeing, helping them get into services they need, and providing support so they know they have someone in their corner,” says Johnson.
Peer support groups take place on Wednesdays from 5:00pm to 7:00pm and alternate fortnightly between 13-18 and 18-27 year olds. The drop-in centre is open from 2:00pm – 5:00pm on Wednesdays and 2:00pm-6:00pm on Fridays.
For a community overrepresented in negative health and wellbeing statistics, RainbowYOUTH are working to improve these outcomes by providing support and development.
According to the Youth ’19 Report on Negotiating Multiple Identities, 35% of rainbow youth report clinically significant symptoms of depression, and 33% reported serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.
These percentages are often more than doubled when rainbow youth share more than one marginalised identity, such as disabled, Māori or Pacific.
These statistics show that rainbow youth do not feel safe or accepted due to several factors and the 2018 Counting Ourselves survey supports this, with 36% of participants avoiding seeing a doctor due to worry of disrespect or mistreatment as a trans or non-binary person.
Again, more than half of participants seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months, with two in five having attempted suicide at some point.
With significant percentages of rainbow youth experiencing discrimination and bullying, having a safe space to retreat to, where they can be themselves and find true friendships and support, is essential.
TECT recently funded RainbowYOUTH BOP $10,000 which will go towards the centre's funding structure alongside funding from BayTrust, Tauranga City Council, the Rule Foundation and COGS.
Rachael Gemming TECT Trustee says, one of TECT’s ways of working is through enabling others. We aim to help strengthen local organisations so they can create long-term social change, enabling the region to thrive.
“As RainbowYOUTH BOP’s services continue to bring successful outcomes for their youth, they are seeing improved engagement and attendance within their peer groups and other services in general.”
“Tauranga is moving forward from being a conservative city, and having a safe space for young people to be themselves and create support networks is essential.” says Gemming.
Through word-of-mouth and social media, this organisation is expected to grow to reach more isolated young people throughout our community. Being involved with RainbowYOUTH BOP has enabled youth to improve their hauora and have better participation in schooling and employment.