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Tabby's whirlwind journey

Posted in: Hall of Fame
By Jacqui Stanford - 30th July 2015

She's met the Queen and been honoured for her work with InsideOUT. But Tabby Besley tells GayNZ.com the real highlight of her trip was spending time with other young leaders from all over the world - and gathering inspiration to bring home.

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“I said that I work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in New Zealand and she said ‘Oh how wonderful!’ and then it was onto the next person."

The 23-year-old Wellingtonian was flown to London for the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders Awards last month, to recognise her work to ensure that queer and gender diverse young people feel supported at school.

She says meeting the Queen was quite a surreal experience, which was over pretty quickly, but she took the chance to make a speedy statement.

“She said well done and asked what kind of work I do when she gave me my medal,” the InsideOUT National Coordinator says.

“I said that I work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in New Zealand and she said ‘Oh how wonderful!’ and then it was onto the next person.

“It was hard to tell from her expression what she really thought about it, but it felt pretty cool to have said those words to the Queen – I don’t expect many (any?) others have done that.”

The busy day began with a breakfast meeting with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, followed by a visit to the UK headquarters of Twitter and a meeting with Senior Executives at the BBC World Service, and finished with a ceremony at Buckingham Palace where winners rubbed shoulders with the likes of David Beckham.

Yet, all the pomp and ceremony aside, it was spending time with the other young leaders from around the Commonwealth which was the real highlight for Besley. She says hearing about the work they are doing and the challenges many of them have overcome was really inspiring.

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Among them was Donnya Piggott, 24, the other lgbti rights champion honoured by the Queen. She is from Barbados, where homosexuality remains illegal.

“Her organisation is doing very different work to InsideOUT, largely because of the different environments we’re operating in,” Belsey says.

“B-GLAD is focused on spreading awareness and messages of love and inclusion in the wider community, but through being the only visible organisation for LGBTQIA+ people in Barbados they are now dealing with a lot of people turning to them for support about their sexuality and gender.

“I spoke to a lot of the young leaders about what things were like in their countries for people in the LGBT community and while all of them were overwhelmingly accepting, most of them came from places where it was criminalized, discriminated against and people were have a really hard time being open about who they are.

“This is largely due to the after-effects of colonization which is really sad, and I wish Britain would take more responsibility for that and making things better now.

“In a session with the Commonwealth Secretariat I explained some of the issues and asked what it will take to make LGBTQIA+ issues a priority, but it wasn’t really answered properly. I know there is work being done, I just wish it could happen faster.

“While I strongly believe New Zealand still has a lot of work to do in this area, especially for trans people and in schools, it did really make me appreciate the work that has been done here and the place we do find ourselves in, and makes me more passionate about LGBTQIA equality on an international level.”

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With staff from the LGBT Youth North West Centre and Cafe

Besley also visited the LGBT Youth North West Centre in Manchester, which she says was really inspiring.

“They have a great set up where they run a café at the centre to help fundraise for it – mostly staffed by youth volunteers who get to learn skills, gain work experience and give back to their community. They have an allotment where they grow their own produce and a little library at the centre.

“It means that people who might be afraid of just walking into an LGBT centre can just come in for a coffee and check it out and so the services they offer becomes a lot more accessible.

“Myself and others doing work in the queer and trans community in New Zealand have often talked about setting up a community centre like this – so it’s definitely a dream I’d love to see happen as a collaboration between groups in Wellington. Ideally there could be community centres like that all over the country!”

Besley says InsideOUT will be doing some strategic planning over the next few months to look at where it’s headed, and releasing a couple of new resources on setting up and running a queer straight alliance and how to make schools safer for trans and gender diverse students.

“People can sign up to our newsletter at www.insideout.org.nz to stay in the loop!”

She is sending a massive thank you to everyone who supported her on her journey.

“I hope it helps bring a lot more awareness about the work that still needs to be done to support LGBTQIA+ youth in New Zealand and that it can be the start of a lot more recognition for the numerous young people doing work in this community.”


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Jacqui Stanford - 30th July 2015