The most recent Youth19 survey has shown that LGBTQ+ students in New Zealand experience significant stress and stigma regardless of positive overall findings. Currently, half of the 7,721 students involved in the most recent survey reported that they have had many positive experiences, and that they are coping well in their environments. Despite this, there has been an increased amount of discrimination against rainbow youth, particularly for those who are transgender and gender diverse.
Home, school, general community and healthcare settings were all environments where students reported they had been mistreated or not supported, with 55% stating that when they needed healthcare there was none that was accessible for them. This was identified as the most urgent issue, especially within the mental health sector, as over half of the surveyed students reported significant depressive symptoms. Dr John Fenaughty, senior lecturer at the University of Auckland and co-investigator for the study, said that the discrimination rainbow youth experience “are known drivers that underpin the increased rates [of] mental health challenges we are seeing”.
Volunteering opportunities were the only exception to this where higher levels of discrimination were not reported, with Dr John Fenaughty further stating that “willingness to support others is an important strength to celebrate and nurture, and we need to ensure that rainbow young people are supported”. Younger LGBTQ+ students have shown to match the level of volunteering within their communities to those of cisgender students, however there is not enough being given back to them as only 32% of students reported they “always felt safe” in their own neighbourhoods.
Croi O’Sullivan, a Victoria University of Wellington student, told Craccum “for me personally, it feels like recently there’s been a rise in animosity towards queer people. As a drag performer, walking down a busy street to a gig can be pretty terrifying because of the constant cat-calls and slurs yelled out. It feels as though the more visibly queer you are, the more at risk you are of being harassed, which just makes me, and many of my friends, feel like we have to play down our queerness in public because we just want to be left alone.”
Recent action occured on the 2nd May, when Karangahape Road was home to a peaceful protest to support people who identify as transgender and non-binary, and raise funds for their safe space. Logan Collins, co-protest organiser and University of Auckland student, said that the protest was held to raise awareness for those marginalised groups, and they hope to gain investors for their funding page to facilitate a safer queer nightclub space within Auckland Central. This will allow an authentic space for those who currently experience harassment and discrimination within the city’s nightlife, and will provide a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students.
Just last week, residents of a University of Auckland hall were issued a reminder that discrimination is not tolerted in residences after a slew of transphobic comments were posted anonymously on a confessions Facebook page. The University has a zero tolerance policy for bullying, harrassment and discrimination of any kind.
University of Auckland students in need of mental health support are encouraged to contact the University Health and Counselling team on 0800 698 427.
If you are in need of crisis support, call or text 1737 for 24/7 support from trained counsellors. Other numbers include Youthline’s free call line at 0800-376-633, or free-texting 234.
If you would like to donate to help create a safe space for the queer community, you can visit their Givealittle page.