Farewelling Rainbow Youth

June 30, 2013 in General

Rainbow Youth held elections for a new board at its AGM yesterday. After serving on the board for the past year, it was with sadness and many fond memories that I decided not to stand again.

I vividly remember the first time I contacted Rainbow Youth.  It was a grey, overcast day in Invercargill, and I snuck out the back at work so my Dad wouldn’t see me using the phone. I blurted out I was gay and that my church was going to throw me out. A voice on the other end talked me through my plans and offered full support, which I found reassuring. I was 19.

The church began the process of excommunication at the beginning of May 2009, and a few days later I flew to Auckland to begin exploring. Rainbow Youth was one of my first ports of call. Tommie was running the centre back then, and gave a lot of useful advice for building my new life as an openly gay person. He put me in touch with various contacts he thought may be able to help, and recommended I visit ID.

The ID group meets every Sunday

ID is a social group run by Rainbow Youth for those aged 18-27. It meets every Sunday at 5pm at the Rainbow Youth centre on K’ Road, and gives young people a chance to explore their identity in a safe, positive environment without having to venture into the frightening (and potentially soul-destroying) nightlife that is often the most visible aspect of the gay community. While bars and clubs have their place, they are not necessarily ideal for someone struggling to come to terms with who they are.

Visiting ID blew my mind. I had grown up believing I was completely alone, and suddenly there I was, surrounded by dozens of other young people who felt the same way as me. It was an incredible feeling. I talked to people who had had similar experiences, also people whose families were completely supportive, and realised I was but one of many people making up a very diverse community. Through ID I was able to build social networks and make fantastic friends, many of to whom I have remained close.

Several years later I was delighted to be able to take on responsibility as a facilitator for helping to run ID. I had gained so much from the group, and welcomed the opportunity to give something back. It was an honour to be part of people’s journeys of self-discovery, and seeing them go on to realise their potential through Rainbow Youth filled me with pride.

I stepped down as a group facilitator last year so I could stand for the Rainbow Youth board. I was keen to be involved with the management of the organisation, and was particularly passionate about working with the education programme. Over the past year I have been delighted with what we have achieved as a board, and believe that our education package is second to none. I have seen it change lives, and know it has the potential to change many more.

It was with sadness that I decided not to stand for the board again this year. Rainbow Youth has been a big part of my life for the last four years, and leaving is like saying goodbye to a dearly loved friend. I’ve laughed and cried with Rainbow Youth, and Rainbow Youth has laughed and cried in return. There is a strength and resilience among members that is rarely seen elsewhere, and I am confident the organisation will go on to achieve great things.

Kia kaha, Rainbow Youth. I believe in you.

For more information about Rainbow Youth, head over to their awesome website

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