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How Do We Make It Better? Mapping the Steps towards a More Supportive Coming Out Environment for Queer Youth in Aotearoa New Zealand By Murray Riches.

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Presentation on theme: "How Do We Make It Better? Mapping the Steps towards a More Supportive Coming Out Environment for Queer Youth in Aotearoa New Zealand By Murray Riches."— Presentation transcript:

1 How Do We Make It Better? Mapping the Steps towards a More Supportive Coming Out Environment for Queer Youth in Aotearoa New Zealand By Murray Riches

2 Why Do We Need This Project? Youth07 Report ▫ Queer youth reported higher rates of depression, suicidal tendencies and self-harming. ▫ Less positive family relationships ▫ Higher rates of alcohol and drug use ▫ Higher rates of sexual activity and sexually transmitted infections This all paints a pretty damning picture

3 Goals and Questions The purpose of this study is to highlight what the major issues faced by queer youth are, what support is already available, and what needs to be done to create a more supportive environment for queer youth in Aotearoa New Zealand. The project outlines three specific questions in order to meet its objectives: ▫ What are the key issues confronting queer youth in Aotearoa New Zealand? ▫ What is currently being done to overcome these issues? ▫ What needs to be done at the local and national level to address these issues and create a more supportive environment in New Zealand?

4 Method Two-tiered: In-depth conversations with the twenty-two community leaders and queer youth support workers. Broad review of local and international literature relating to queer youth support and policy.

5 Key informants Charles Chauvel Cherise Witehira Chris Carter Grant Robertson Howard Pond Jamie Burford Judie Alison Kevin Hague Luke Van Helden Mani Bruce Mitchell Martine Hartley Nathan Lachowsky Penny Hulse Priscilla Penniket Rachel Wright Ryan Kennedy Seb Stewart Simon Harger-Forde Tom Hamilton Tony Reed Tony Simpson Vaughan Meneses

6 The Issues Two overarching issues: ▫ Heteronormativity ▫ The discourse of silence

7 Heteronormativity: The Umbrella Issue The pervasive assumption of heterosexuality. ▫ The major difference experienced by queer youth in our country Heteronormativity is at the root of all the other issues Often we are largely unaware of the way we normalise heterosexuality.

8 Flaunting It: The Discourse of Silence “a good gay doesn’t talk about being gay.” Pervasive cultural discourses have sought to remove queerness from public discourse. Reinforce existing power structures and heteronormative values. Not just about challenging heterosexual assumptions – the queer community has at times been the first to buy into this discourse

9 Specific Issues Bullying ▫ queer youth are disproportionately victims of physical and verbal harassment. Isolation ▫ many queer youth feel totally out of place and alone in their environment. ▫ more subtle, yet equally damaging, form of bullying. ▫ Often goes unnoticed and ignored.

10 Specific Issues Invisibility ▫ Lack of positive queer role models. ▫ It is very easy to forget how far away and invisible the queer community can seem when you are on the other side of the closet door. Lack of Knowledge ▫ Professionals don’t have the skills and knowledge to provide appropriate support for queer youth. ▫ Source of significant emotional damage. ▫ Unwittingly propel negative or damaging heterosexist messages.

11 Specific Issues Inconsistency between schools ▫ Student’s experience of high-school is left almost entirely up to chance ▫ No framework of accountability to ensure all schools are positive environments. Diversity within diversity ▫ Narrow range of identities validated by the queer community. ▫ There are many queer young people in New Zealand who struggle to identify with popular queer culture and may feel that existing support groups and resources do not reach out to them.

12 Specific Issues Transgender health provision ▫ Current health policies are inadequate and unnecessarily difficult for transgender people. ▫ Difficulty getting the correct gender recognised on official documents. Lack of Public Awareness and skills ▫ Queer youth are often confronted with the exceedingly challenging task of being the first and only queer individual to ‘come out’ to their family and social group. ▫ Negative reactions – due to a lack of understanding of sexual diversity

13 Specific Issues Complacency ▫ Real risk of becoming complacent about the issues that continue to alienate queer youth. ▫ “If we want to overcome these issues we cannot buy into the ‘non-issue’ rhetoric propagated within and outside of our community!”

14 Existing Framework Policy ▫ ERO Reporting ▫ Anti-Bullying Package (since removed) Advocacy ▫ SS4Q ▫ Rainbow Desk ▫ Rainbow Wellington ▫ ARA ▫ Rainbow Youth Support ▫ Community Support groups (Rainbow Youth, WaQuY,) ▫ QSA Groups in Schools ▫ Queer Youth Huis ▫ OUTLine

15 Recommendations: What needs to happen?

16 High-Schools: Creating a culture that promotes diversity in our schools would have a real, positive impact on the lives of every young person in New Zealand. The presence of heterosexual privilege and restrictive gender assumptions in every form of school culture is a subtle, yet potent form of bullying and alienation that reinforces the message that queer people do not belong in our culture.

17 High-Schools Uniformity ▫ We need to develop policies that would ensure all schools create safe and empowering environments for queer students. Sexuality and Gender Diversity Education ▫ Make sexuality and gender diversity education part of the core curriculum. ▫ Diversity education is a positive and proactive way of challenging heteronormative values and creating a positive culture.

18 High-Schools Visibility in the Curriculum ▫ Weave diversity awareness into the curriculum. ▫ Validate queer lifestyles and empower queer students.  Queer identities are largely invisible in the classroom. Teacher Development ▫ Make queer issues and diversity training a central part of teacher training and professional development.  Teachers need the skills and knowledge to confront homophobia and support queer youth.  Queer youth feel most vulnerable and alienated when those in power do nothing to stop the harassment – or even contribute to it.

19 Support Groups Two prominent models: ▫ Community based support groups  E.g. Rainbow Youth, WaQuY ▫ Schools based Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) groups These models compliment one another ▫ Unique aspects of each are important

20 Support Groups National support networks ▫ Need to network and support one another  Sustain current support groups and provide opportunities for new support initiatives to develop. ▫ Two new national level networks aimed at building support services.  Rainbow Youth  QSA Network Aotearoa

21 Key Recommendations: Support Groups Promote the establishment of both community and school based support groups. Develop a national network where support groups can collaborate and support one another. Develop a national QSA network to promote the establishment of QSA groups throughout the country. Ensure collaboration between QSA and community based groups and networks.

22 Queer Visibility News Media ▫ News media affects the way the public views the queer community. ▫ Frequent and good quality media coverage create acceptance. ▫ We need to embrace the news media as a potential ally. Develop the capabilities of media spokespeople throughout our community. Engage with and educate journalist and reporters.

23 Queer Visibility Popular media ▫ Need to engage with and hold media accountable for negative and narrow representation of queer people. Visibility Campaign ▫ Seek government support for a national visibility/public education campaign. Encourage celebratory events that raise the visibility of the queer community. ▫ Must be representative of queer community Visible Role Models ▫ Work alongside sporting and cultural institutions to encourage more out role models in different public domains.

24 Diversity within Diversity: A major challenge for the queer community expressed by a number of respondents is how we care for the minorities within our community. ▫ We need to ensure queer events and spaces cater for all queer people, not just the hegemonic groups.

25 Cross-Sectoral Professional Development: Make diversity training and queer issues a central part of the training and professional development of all professionals who work with youth – i.e. Counsellors, Nurses, Teachers, Social Workers.

26 Policy Advocacy Establish a policy group or network dedicated to promoting policy initiatives that will empower queer youth and seek to have the queer youth perspective heard in any policy development. Work with schools and other institutions to see existing policy implemented or enforced. Develop policies that make it easier for transgender youth to navigate the heath system and access the appropriate services.

27 In conclusion… I want to reiterate a number of key recommendations: ▫ the nationalisation of the two support networks ▫ professional development for professionals working with youth ▫ creation of uniformly safe spaces in schools ▫ continue to promote the visibility of the queer community at large through celebrations, media communications and public education.


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