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Thursday 29 June 2017

Peer support vital for queer and gender diverse youth

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News, Our Communities
By Daily News staff - 18th April 2017

Queer and gender diverse youth in West Auckland are finding vital support and a safe place to connect thanks to a young changemaker in the community.

LGBTI Changemaker of the Year 2017, Quinn Fyers
An intern at national youth support organisation RainbowYOUTH, Quinn Fyers also facilitates a peer support group based in West Auckland where youth can get together and talk about issues, have fun and connect.

Fyers was recognised for his dedication to queer and gender diverse young people at the Youth Awards ceremony in Parliament this week.

He says talking to an adult often feels like counselling and can be a bit uncomfortable for youth, whereas the peer support model allows them to feel at ease.

“I definitely wish I had that growing up, because it would have made me feel a lot better and a lot safer,” says the 20-year-old, who came out in early 2016.

RainbowYOUTH Support Manager Morgan Butler, says the Q-West group plays an important role in the lives of youth in West Auckland, where being open about sexuality or gender identity can be unsafe.

“Auckland is such a big city that it is difficult for some people to travel into the city just to attend a group for an hour or two. Having groups in the outer suburbs ensures that all our young people have a chance to attend a safe and affirming environment with young people in the same situation.

“Being based in West Auckland, there is always a safety worry for the young people that attend the group. Different parts of Auckland have different reactions to sexual and gender diverse people. A lot of our young people are not out yet and they have to find discreet ways to attend the group.”

While attitudes towards sexuality and gender minorities continue to shift, Fyers says there are still issues that need tackling. He says homophobia is a big issue and recent incidents such as the one involving All Black Lima Sopoaga reinforce this.

“I think that can damage young children’s minds and make them feel unsafe,” he says.

“There’s also still quite a bit of transphobia going on… I think there hasn’t been a lot of education around trans people, so even within the queer community they don’t quite understand that gender and sex are two different things.”

In his role as an intern, Fyers helps to create a welcoming, safe space at the RainbowYOUTH drop-in centre in central Auckland. He has also taken on the responsibility of training new interns, something Butler says creates a process of young people supporting and working in a peer support model.

Butler says much of the work in the queer and gender diverse communities is done by people under 30 and the Youth Awards are an important acknowledgement of this work, giving them a sense of pride in the work they do. Daily News staff - 18th April 2017

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