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Saturday 11 April 2015

25 years of RainbowYOUTH: Mathijs Lucassen

Posted in: True Stories
By Jacqui Stanford - 19th November 2014

Now 39 and a respected academic, Mathijs Lucassen first became involved with RainbowYOUTH when he moved to Auckland in the mid-90s. Now he is an executive advisor to its board.

Born in the Netherlands, Dr Lucassen grew up in rural New Zealand, first in Waikato then in Southland. It was in 1996 that he moved to Auckland and became involved in the RainbowYOUth social groups.

He recalls feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement the first time he attended. “I was so amazed that there were so many people like me and I just found the experience of meeting so many like-minded young people liberating.”

Dr Lucassen remained involved until 1999 when he went overseas, and when he returned he was too old for the organisation, which caters for people up to the age of 27. However the organisation remained a memorable part of his life.

“I think the biggest and most powerful thing about RainbowYOUTH has been meeting young people who were queer and trans that were really open and proud of who they were, especially when I was young and didn’t have a load of support. I found that really powerful and uplifting.”

He’s now a lecturer and research fellow at the Department of Psychological Medicine at Auckland University’s School of Medicine, where he’s been involved in a number of crucial lgbti research projects.

Dr Lucassen has also been an executive advisor to the RainbowYOUTH board for the past three or four years, something he has really enjoyed. “It has allowed me to remain involved in an organisation that is so important to young people in Auckland and further afield.”

He thinks it has changed over the years, in that its impact is now greater. “But it is still an energetic, dynamic and fun ‘for youth and by youth’ organisation. So in essence it is still the same at heart.

“We would be worse off without RainbowYOUTH. But this raises the question for me, what can we do to make sure RainbowYOUTH is around in 25 years’ time? The constant issues of securing enough funds to stay afloat for small charitable organisations like RainbowYOUTH is an on-going issue and I think we as a series of communities should do what we can to support our charities, because as much as some things have changed, many things have remained the same in society.”

RainbowYOUTH members and supporters from across its 25 years will converge on Auckland’s Floating Pavilion tonight for a reunion and birthday celebration.

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Jacqui Stanford - 19th November 2014