NXT:15 LGBTIQ Youth Leadership Conference: Panel Discussion: LGBTIQ Well-being


This panel is the termed ‘Wellbeing’ panel
for LGBTIQA. I think this panel is very very important when we look in relation to the
Youth 2000 survey series, which all of you have received in your pack, so we will be
referring to some of these statistics in this today for a lot of the questions because they are very pivotal to who we are and what we are as a community and our weaknesses per se and our wellbeing. so of course you guys all know me, I’m Sophie I don’t need to
expand on what I do or whatever, you pretty much all know me now. I kind of define wellbeing as something that is beyond just mental, I see it as a physical, a spiritual and everything else that encompasses who I am as a person. What I really would like for us to do for
this panel is to not make it so that we are talking at you, we’re going to make sure that you are part of our discussion. So the questions that I ask the panelist, after they finish
answering the question we’d really like to throw it out to you guys to see what you guys think about these questions and how we could possibly team together to create some social change. So to begin with, I’d like 3 people to raise their hands and I’d love for you
guys to define wellbeing for yourselves as a person. So would anybody like to volunteer to define what wellbeing means to them? Anybody else like to have a go? You could also think of like drugs and alcohol
as well being a part of that, H what do you think? Awesome, yeah Andrew. Awesome. Thank you so much for
volunteering to say something about wellbeing. So we are reconditioning the Youth 2000 just be aware that, I’m just going to give a content warning now that we will touch on stuff that is very very characteristic of all of us. I know that a lot of us have been
through mental health issues, we’ve been put in situations of being bullied, abuse and
we will be touching on that, the safe room as everybody knows is up the stairs in the
marae if you just grab either Tuvi or Robby they will be very happy to sit up there with you
if you don’t feel comfortable talking about some of this stuff because it will be a trigger possibly, just putting that out there. So I’m going to introduce my panelists, so
we’ve got Mani, and Renee and Harriet and they’re going to introduce themselves. Mani? Okay so starting on some declarations first; I’m an inter-sex person, I’ve struggled
with the effects of child hood trauma all my life so I’ve been officially diagnosed
with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Health and wellness in the community is a passion of mine, but in our community particularly. When I look at the report and see those stats I get sad and then I look around this room and I get excited. We’ll be talking more about that today because the world out there is not going to give us our health, it’s not,
we give ourselves our health and that’s about first of all feeling that we are worthy
of that. So I’ll talk a lot more about that this afternoon, but it’s amazing to be here
and thank you. Thanks Mani, as has been said, my name is Renee. It’s kind of special to
be invited to be a part of this panel, I’m a lesbian woman and I’ve identified as a
lesbian since I was about 17. I’m also a mom, I have 2 lovely boys, 11 and 4, and I
began my professional career working at Rainbow Youth which is why it’s kind of nice to
be back here. Always focused on evidence based practice, I did my thesis on the effectiveness of Rainbow Youth workshops and reducing homophobia for secondary school students, so that was
quite a nice chuck of work that provided some information for funding for a wee while after
that. Throughout my professional career I got to a place where I work with the high
and complex needs young people, so I’m still working with youth. I was talking with Mani
earlier how I’ve forgotten how fabulous well internally resourced young people are,
talking with you guys and seeing you here I forget how awesome young people are that are at the other end of the scale, it’s really great to be in a room where I’m sitting with a whole lot of active young people who are going to make a difference in our society. Hi I’m Harriett and my major passion area is youth mental health. I think it’s a really
important time when a person’s ability to roll with change and look after their own
mental health is developing and so I think it’s a great access point. I like working
kind of at the beginning of the story and the prevention stages so that where my current work is, but I’ve also been interested in the trauma that can lead to some one becoming unwell. so my background prior to this has been working with people in the more trauma states that have left them in a bad place, so I wanted to get back to the beginning and get to people before they end up in a bad place. So that’s where I’m coming from.
Awesome, so the first question that I’m going to ask the 3 panelist is how they define wellbeing, just to get some perspective on where they come from in terms of their experiences where they may have a different definition of wellbeing. So Mani what do you think of
wellbeing? Just a minor techy thing, we’ve got a little echo thing going on which is
fine because echoes are cool, but if you don’t want to echo we’re going to need to adjust
the mics. So what I didn’t say before, I’m a mental health professional as well, I’m
a counselor, I have a small private practice but I also run an organization raising awareness around intersex issues which I am myself. When I think about what health is, what wellness is, it’s often in my profession, the absence of illness. What I’d like to do now is let’s
just throw it open to the group. So I can think for me being healthy is the presence
of laughter. From the floor, shout it out. Glitter, being grounded, smiling, family,
food, sexy, yogurt, sleeping reasonably well, going for adventures, happiness, connected. See we’re starting to put some texture into it, so I think wellness is quite a complicated thing and it’s a highly individual thing. What makes me feel well is probably different from yours, subtly. How do you follow on from that? I guess one thing when I was thinking about wellness and what wellness means I totally acknowledge that it’s different for different
people and it’s also different for different cultures, what happiness or what wellness
is I should say. Something that really stood out to me though, was that the really big
part was that interconnectedness you have with your world around you, with your friends, where do you belong, who do you have connections with, who are you accepted by, who are you rejected by, what is your worth, do you respect other, do others respect you. So those where some of the questions that were important for me to be able to answer when I think of
wellness. I always see wellness and mental wellbeing on a spectrum very much. A lot of the work I’ve been doing around mental health or wellness has been quite a separate thing that only some people have and generally the unwell people have and so I see it very much a part of every ones lives and everyone moves along a spectrum at different times. And I
see wellness as being a comfortable sort of like what you were saying H, a balanced place for yourself and being able to carry out the day to day things that you think are important and keep you happy. Awesome, so we’re going to go on to another question for all of you
and it is in relation to the Youth 2000 statistics. Although we are smarter, it has been found that LGBT- I’m going to add IQA on the end of that although I’m just going to put a
warning that only the statistics in here are the LGBT, unfortunately not for the IQA which is really unfortunate but I’m sure more research will be hopefully publicized for
the IQ and the A. That the LGBT students have a lower emotional wellbeing rating, a greater long term health problems, greater chances of self-harming and considering suicide, and greater bullying incidence, I could literally go on about these statistics all day, especially when compared to the heterosexual counterparts. So the question is, do you think that we,
as a community, are able to change these statistics? If so, how should we change them, Harriet? of course we can change them I’m very optimistic about social change, that it’s always possible. How, I think it is a slow process and it needs people working in all different areas. I see
a lot of these issues to be quite institutionalized and they run just in the background of everything that we do day to day, so stuff like that takes a lot of work to change. But the work
I’m doing in schools at the moment, I can already see, especially starting with young
people, so we not be able to change older generations but working with young people
they are so eager to do things about these issues because it is around them all the time and they are dealing with them and they want to get out there and do stuff. So I found
the young people I’m working with just really want to be a voice for people who don’t
feel they’ve got a voice at that point in time. So I’m very optimistic I’m going
to change things. I’m absolutely optimistic and the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. You look at how far we’ve come so far, so we know that the ball is just rolling
and that we are just going to change further and further as time goes on. To kind of throw it back to you guys, when you look at these stats and some of them are pretty shocking and they’ve been there for many years; why are we experiencing some of these stats? Why do we have increased bullying? Why do we have increased self-harm or suicidal idealization? How come, what do you think? There’s no right or wrong answer. There is a correlation between that. But when you look at why these stats are there, we can kind of broaden them in to some categories maybe and there seems like that’s a slap in the face. we can say if we target schools and keep targeting schools, and that’s happening thanks to what you’ve been talking about
or Rainbow Youth is doing, that we’re going to make a difference there, I think we can
think big, we can think national strategy, we can think about what institutions do we
need to change, we need to tackle our appearance generation, so how do we do that. Maybe they can be instrumental in telling us how that can happen. But if we think big and think
national strategy and break it down to smaller parts, we can definitely make a change, absolutely. So when we look at the stats, one of the things that are very easy to get
misled that there’s something flawed and wrong with us as a community. Actually all
these stats tell us is what’s wrong with society; those statistics are a result of
living in a community where we are invisible, where there is bullying, where there isn’t
appropriate access to the resources that people need, where we have families that disown us; they are simply just an accumulation of all of that and the stats that we’re getting are
not the whole picture. There are groups missing in these stats, but also I don’t think at
the moment that they are accurate reflection because peoples fear in terms of actually
saying what’s going on. Can we change it? Absolutely, we change it by creating communities that support and care. So all the work that you are doing here in this room and other
people are doing, that’s what will change it. And I think the other thing, reaching
a place where we go ‘actually we’re entitled to live healthy, well, joyful lives’ with
all of those cool things that you were saying before and not be silence about it. Those
stats have to reverse for all marginalized communities. and I think that’s the other
piece of this is working with the other groups in society who are invisible, who also have
bad stats and just going ‘no that’s not okay for the most privileged people in New
Zealand to be well, we all deserve to live happy healthy lives’. So we have to get noisy and strappy and grumpy and get out there and get what every single person is entitled to
as a human right. Awesome, now specifically talking about alcohol smoking and drugs; Renee has luckily focused on service models and development with in alcohol and drug and mental health issues in her field of practice. So specifically a question for you; when we examine the statistics, although they are not representative of all of us, it is seen that the LQBT students are more likely to be subjected to substance abuse. How can we create a more inclusive support network that focus on alcohol and drugs in order to change these particular
statistics around substance abuse in our community? For me, it kind of a 2 prong approach. When you look at the other stats to do with self-harm and depression and suicidal idealization,
it makes complete sense that we have skewed stats around alcohol and drug use. When New Zealand culture as a society, when a young person reaches their teenage years its absolutely
okay to get shit faced often; so when you have a young person that’s not feeling okay about themselves, constantly having their own narratives going on in their heads and
not feeling okay about things, when they start drinking or using drugs and suddenly they
feel a little bit numb, they feel a little bit okay, the worlds a little bit of a better
place, it makes a complete sense that our stats are skewed and we find it in other groups be it Maori or pacific island groups like that for the same reason because it just feels kind of good to be a little bit numb. When you practice being numb for long enough then alcohol and drug use becomes a habit. at the other side, you will know from your own experience in the community that using drugs and alcohol is really fun, you have lots of fun when you’re out of it generally, there’s a dark side to it, but let’s face it it’s pretty fun.
So when you’ve got a young person who is coming out and is starting to mix in the gay and lesbian community where it’s actually heaps more acceptable for a 16 year old kid to hang out with a 25 year old, because they are all youth and that’s okay, where in
general situations that’s not okay; so if you’re in a heterosexual environment a 16
year old and a 25 year old probably wouldn’t be hanging out together socially, but suddenly it is. So you’ve got that whole developmental phase where young people are exposed to things where they wouldn’t probably be exposed to them until a little bit later. also we
look at what activities are there for gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and intersex coming out lots of them probably include drugs and alcohol and dancing, having a whole lot of
fun. if I think of something that’s not a usual past time, say stamp collecting, say you’re a stamp collector and you go ‘I really want to meet other people who are stamp collectors, I want to learn about stamp collecting, I want to maybe find a little love connection
someone who’s a stamp collector’, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be meeting
in a bar getting off their face and having a really good time, but in our communities
often they are. So probably not to many stamp collectors, a bit of a primitive analogy but
you get where I’m coming from. So how do we provide alternative activities that are
going to engage young people and be fun and aren’t centered around drugs and alcohol?
is it stand up paddle boarding morning? There’s a new massive room in Grayland that’s all
trampolines. Do we have a massive gay trampoline morning there? You know, being a little bit
creative and having it regular so that people are being active and connecting with each
other without drugs and alcohol. What do other people think? what are your thoughts? I was in Amsterdam a few years ago and I didn’t know my way around at all, my partner and I were looking for the gay
bars and we asked a policeman on the street, ‘do you know where the gay bars are’, and
he said, ‘ of course I do’, and he told us where they all were. Then we says, ‘there
one that’s down there,’ and he yells out to another policeman, ‘where’s that other
gay bar down there?’, and they all knew the information. We rocked up to this gay bar
that had 2 parts; one everyone was sitting down playing board games, it was really bizarre we didn’t know what was going on, and the other part everyone was dancing. So yes there was alcohol there and yes there were drugs there, but that wasn’t the primary connection people had with each other, they were doing stuff together, they were interacting, they
were laughing and lots of people weren’t drinking there That’s awesome. alot of people feel that way as well, I know I’ve talked to a lot of you, I don’t drink personally
and personally it’s a trigger for me, and I know that would be maybe a trigger for you or that you’re not comfortable around people who drink, that’s why I was a little bit
disappointed in some of the queer groups that all the activities, specifically with in the
south island, it is based around drinking and that there isn’t that connection any
more, its lost. Andrew, what do you got to say? wouldnt that be good as like a project around New Zealand setting up hubs that are a space that is funded for like reach and stuff like that that we could have a place to actually stay and meet each other and everything like that. Just keep
that in mind. I’ve got a question for Harriett. So this is just talking about support groups,
if you’re in group one with me I talked briefly about our group alphabet soup that
we created in Dunedin and we’re really struggling getting in high schools because they feel that we are presenting the gay agenda on to the young children and turning them all gay. So in response to that, it is very evident that the LGBT support groups and the strengthening of council services with in high schools is happening in some instances; however it isn’t in some other parts of New Zealand who are struggling to get in to high schools to promote support for LGBT students, even with the alarming statistics that we do show them. Harriett
is awesome because she founded a project called speak out, and I’m sure she’ll tell you
all about it. What have been your key successes in gaining school engagement for your project? So Speak out is a project I started the middle of last year, thanks to the Embassy actually, my aim is to basically reduce the stigma around mental health for young people with the hope that
they’ll access services sooner, and that be a way to combat some of the horrific statistics in all youth communities but particularly in this community. The project is to have
groups of 6 to 8 young people in a school that effectively run a comity or group and
they will run 6 to 8 initiatives throughout the year promoting various educational content, but more around creating a more inclusive school environment and that being their main role within a school. So we’re currently set up in 5 Auckland schools, we’ll be adding
5 more schools this term and then we’ve also just received funding for it to go for 3 years. I think the key ways for getting in to schools, schools were a lot more closed then I had
anticipated, so I have learnt as Sophie has this lesson, still learning it the hard way.
they are very scared of talking about any of these topics like, just as Sophie was saying, you’re coming in and talking about suicide, school are terrified that you’re going to
come in and talk about suicide and then it will put the idea into students heads and
things like that. I think knowing the school communities you’re going in to first and
knowing what programs they already had maybe what issues they’ve come across, so a lot
of the schools I went in to had been a part of the yellow ribbon campaign that was run
a few years ago and they’ve encountered a lot of issues with that, so me coming in
and talking about mental health was something that put a lot of schools off. I think the
main success I have was connecting with another group that was already in schools, the Peer Sexual Support Program, which runs just in Auckland currently; they could see the need and so
they were happy to support me going in to schools they were already in. Then once I was set up in a few schools, other schools were more happy to join in because they could see other schools were doing it, they were okay with it, it hadn’t caused anyone to go and
do anything crazy. So I think the social sector is often not the best at is collaborating well enough, and a lot of guidance counselors mention this, there are a lot of people coming to them with different programs and things they want to get in and often they’ll be
quite similar as well, so connecting with the communities around the schools to find
what they want and what’s already worked and knowing where you’re going into. Has
anyone here been trying to get something into a school and struggling with that? Just Sophie?
What sort of issues have you been encountering? That key person, definitely because you want for them to gauge things and iron out stuff before you’re needing to go to management. The other issue that I found quite prominent is once we do get into the schools and they show up for the group that we talked to them about critical theory and stuff like that, we actually find it really really difficult to be able to use them as a means to really get other people on board because of course they’re young, they haven’t come out yet,
they are still testing the waters, they don’t know, it’s quite hard to put that kind of
big weight on their shoulders, to try to get a lot of more people to mobilize against
the board and actually have a say. That’s what we’re found in the past and I think tabby, do you find the same? Yeah, it is a lot of pressure on them, I mean their trying to go
through things already. That’s our biggest issue. I think young people like us going
in and doing these things, we’re just that bit older that we can really advocate for
the students to the boards and management, but we’re still very connected to what’s
going on in high schools in a lot of ways. So I’ve got another question for Harriett,
and H you’ll definitely probably want to get in on this one. So this is about Speak
out again, which had an amazing conference that we all heard about that H presented at,
not given enough time but that’s alright there’s a lot we want to go through. So
just want to let everybody know, how has you’re project promoted aspects of destigmatization of mental illness and wellbeing for the queer community and in the high schools for that
conference, and what you plan to do in the future? Well, we had H come and try and give a 101, so I think that just the depths of education, I could see a lot of the students
there it was new information for them and almost an empowering vibe from them to be like ‘wow we didn’t know this information, now we do, this is great’. Then I think the
whole project is looking to just bring that community to schools and create a more inclusive culture. So into our planning, we want to do a few times a year nation-wide initiatives, once we are in more schools, that all the schools are doing together on certain issues, so I think that’s one way we bring in specific queer community based things. It will be ongoing, its ongoing planning at the moment so definitely open to anyone who wants to get involved in doing that with us as well. But I guess we’re trying to come for a bit more of a general
inclusive point of view rather than going on to specific issues and I think that’s
come out of schools not wanting you to come in and really be talking explicitly about
suicide or explicitly about self-harm, so we’re looking at more of a youth friendly
lighter way of addressing the issue. Does anybody have any other comments that they want to make about the topic of high schools and anything like that, or even say anything? Would you guys like to say anything about that? I haven’t had any experience going in to any special education yet, I think it will definitely be a hard one to get into
and it’s quite a protected often community. I think from what I’m doing, our content
would have to be quite adjusted as well, but definitely down the line I think to say these
things don’t effect someone just because they have a disability is just irrelevant.
I think there’s a lot stigma around what someone with Asperger’s or Autism feels
or thinks or how their relationships work as well, there’s quite a lot of misconception there in itself. Actually, because I was talking to you before at Mount Ross, going in to Mount Ross School I found there is a huge mix in Mount Ross School but there’s been a lot of interest from the Indian students in what we’re doing. A lot of what has come out from them is that mental health in their culture is not something that you talk about and its very shameful and for them there’s a number of students where their parents had been through issues and the whole family has been shunned or them themselves had been through a suicide attempt or something and that lead to their family being shunned. I think for us there’s
a lot of cultural work we need to do in our education and processing with this as well
and then of course we are very aware of the higher rates in Maori and Pacific cultures
as well, then again in males with suicide. So there’s a lot of those sub risk groups
that as I get the nuts and bolts running, is where we would like to access more. At the moment, the first 5 schools we got onboard, the school counselors were facilitating the groups but I’ve run into a couple of safety issues with school councilors around that, with them wanting their students to become pier counselors basically. My feeling is that to be able to council, you need a lot of understanding around risk assessment and when what someone is telling you needs to be escalated, or when you can just keep talking with them. Our next round of schools, the students are going to be working with youth workers, so quite a different frame work to with the counselors, so it will be interesting
to see how that goes. Yeah, that is such a common story with guidance counselors and another piece of work I’d like to add to my list of things to work on is for young
people to be able to self-refer to services as well because a big issue when I’ve talked to young people is you have to go through your counselor or your GP; the guidance counselors don’t have the time in resourcing everyone that needs to be seen and they tend to do
stuff like that, call your parents, and GPs are generally associated with your families
or there’s just not a good relationship often with young people between their GPs. So I’d really like to see young people being able to self-refer to mental health services
in the future so that process and be bypassed all together. Awesome, so I’m going to move on to the next question otherwise we’re going to run out of time, but we will have time
for questions afterwards. So this question is for Mani, and very good linking on to health care. So it’s quite alarming to see that 35% of LGB students and 40% of transgender students are unable to access health care when they need it and I’m going to include
intersex in this also. In terms of the normativity within medical practice, how can these people with in the queer community and established LGBTIQA groups with in New Zealand combat this type of invisibility with in health care? That’s really good; do we have 5 hours to
talk about this? I know, here we go. In Australia with research that’s been done, they’re
now saying with a reasonable level of confidence that if you put our rainbow community together it’s about 12% of the population. Can you imagine what 12% of the budget would look like for our community? The dream is real. We don’t have anywhere near 1%, it would
be a fraction of 1%. That’s the issue, so we come back to education and training and you were talking about a counselor, I am a counselor and just in this room here when I hear you speak, 2 things; one becasue the person was behaving inappropriately in terms of ethics, this should have been a conversation with you first but for your confidentiality
broken, so not good practice to start with. A number of years ago we brought an expert around intersex issues to New Zealand, and he was on holiday and he was willing to travel all around the country and provide people with training for free, all he and his wife
were looking for was a bed. And so many of my colleagues and smaller communities said ‘we don’t have people like that here’, which just broke my heart because I know that we’re in every single community underneath every single rock in New Zealand, there is no part where our community is not. So that issue is huge, but it does start with education.
Here in Auckland there are some amazing historic and really important things going on, not
just here in Auckland, we’re going to hear what else is going on in the country, but
I want to talk about one initiative in particular and that’s the Medical School. So for the
first time ever last year there was a paper for 4th year medical students on sexuality
and gender. It may well be the first in the world, we don’t know. now that paper was
just going to be a one off, so an elective paper for last year; what happened was as
a result and a lot of people in this room where involved in lecturing on the paper,
3 people medical students came out to their colleagues and their colleagues were horrified. So you’re a gay person or a lesbian person or a transgender person, I’m not going to
say what it was, and you don’t feel safe here at medical school to come out. So they did a wonderful screening of the film Intersection and came together as a medical school and went ‘this has to stop’ and they set up a diversity group, they went back to the board and said ‘this has to be part of the formal curriculum’. It’s not yet, but the paper
is again in there this year and the numbers who take it have doubled. So I think the thing is chucking it down and then getting excited about what we are doing because it’s really
easy to be over whelmed by what needs to be done and what hasn’t happened yet. So let’s go around the room and identify any other projects that are going on, so we can do a
little bit of ‘ we are actually awesome and amazing and are doing extraordinary things’. So let’s just go around and people talk about either what they’re doing or what
they know in their local communities. So we’ll start with you in Christchurch. Well I use
to be in Dunedin, so you guys know I started Alphabet Soup with another person called Carry as well and Adam. And we started this project and it was fabulous however we are struggling a little bit at the moment, but that is all right we will get through the tough time and
I’m sure with some help from Rainbow youth as well. I’ve been actually thinking about
starting a Lincoln University queer group; there isn’t anything there so hopefully for this conference and form the help of rainbow youth I will be able to start one. I’m going to be a real pain, because Tuvi is looking at me with the time. what I do want to do
for tomorrow is we have the back of that white board and what would be really great is we’re going to get some whiteboard markers and we’re going to write down all the names of the projects that we are involved in so that we can have a recognition of what we’re doing right now
and either put things in to perspective and putting the names. so we’ll do that tomorrow morning if you guys come a little bit early like 5 minutes early and just write down what you’ve been doing like the lunch breaks and stuff so that we do have that recognition. quickly the only other thing I want to say is that we have to get out of the binary so
whatever, whether it’s around sexuality, gender identity and bust it out and expand
it and really have narratives that capture the diversity of this extraordinary community. So the next question that I’m going to ask Mani, it’s really obvious to see the negative effects of a cisheteronormative white led male dominated culture. Do you have any ideas Mani in practice and even examples on how we can challenge current intersectionality with in society in relation to our community? Well I am aware that we’ve run out of time, so visibility is so important and that’s
not there as a requirement for all of us, but when were able to be visible we’re able
to talk about the beautiful complexity and multidimensional aspects of our community is so important; and if you those of you in the room who are cisgendered, its that work of allies, its that work of making sure that narrative is in the room as well.
So all of us here have roles to play in this

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