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Sunday 11 October 2015

GayOk! hits Hawke's Bay

Posted in: Community
By Jacqui Stanford - 20th August 2012

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We’re told Hawke’s Bay is a pretty tough place to be a young gay, lesbian, bi or trans young person. Thankfully a new group has sprung up to support queer teenagers and young adults in the region. We find out more about GayOK!

”In most cases coming out as queer is shunned in this region and in some cases it can become very dangerous,” one of GayOk!’s founders Lloyd Mason says, based on his own experience and the stories of people he has met.

“Many youth have lost friends or their relationship with their family has become difficult,” Mason says.

“A lot of youth don't come out as they are scared of what could happen.”

Mason says there has also been discrimination from people who should be there to support students, such as senior managers at local schools.

“There's also a lot of queer orientated bullying which not a lot is being done about it.”

GayOK! is gathering steam following the national meeting of the Queer Straight Alliance Network in Wellington last month.

Queer Straight Alliances (QSAs) are being formed at Karamu High School, Hastings Girls High and EIT polytech, a Facebook group is bringing people together, while a website is being built and a funding drive is underway.

Mason says the objective is to have QSA in all the major Napier and Hastings schools in the next year.

“These QSA will also be linked in with GayOk so that Hawkes Bay has a strong network of support,” he says.

“I'm also trying to encourage the schools to setup the QSA themselves, with the help of youth of course, so that they are there even when the founders leave.”

Mason believes QSAs are crucial, as Hawke’s Bay has one of the most undeveloped and misunderstood queer communities in the country.

“There is a very low understanding and acceptance of queer youth and there is no queer specific support in this region.”

Through its Facebook page, Mason says GayOK! has already improved some members’ outlooks on life and created new friendships.

“We envision becoming a hub which is more specialised for queer populous than social networks such as Facebook,” Mason says.

“Once we get in a better position we will try to add a wider range of services to our site, such as a queer safe environments list, job search and much more.

GayOk! ultimately wants to offer support through peer groups, role models and links to other organisations which can offer more specific support, such as sexual health help and counselling.

“We have a vision of a safer and more openly diverse New Zealand, with the help of the great potential of technology,” Mason says.

Anyone who wants to get involved, on any level, whether it be with events, communication or support, can contact Lloyd or Jason through the GayOK! Facebook page, or email Jason here and Lloyd here:

“Anyone who is capable, willing and has something positive to offer is invited to join and help out,” Mason says.

“Other organisations can also network with us, we will add them to our list of groups and they will be incorporated into our site too.”

GayOK! has set up a Pledge Me project which is taking donations

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Jacqui Stanford - 20th August 2012