Bex Fraser says “coming out” might be easier these days, but there’s still plenty of people who worry about reactions from family, friends or workmates.
“I came out as bisexual and non-binary in the Waikato in my late twenties, and I live in Pirongia now, so I know what it’s like when you’re in a small town.
Fraser says a free seven-week course, The Big Q’s examines some of those issues.
“It’s for adults over 18 who are starting to question their gender or sexuality, because we know that can be a scary time for people.
“It can feel like you stick out like a sore thumb when you’re the only Rainbow person you know living in an area. So a group like The Big Qs really does feel like family.”
Fraser is a programme facilitator with rainbow organisation Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura.
“We talk through the fears and joys of coming out and how to negotiate this with family and friends, and help people connect to others on similar journeys.”
Fraser says the course, available through Hamilton’s Fraser High School, is a safe place to explore being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, “or any other identities people might have”.
The co-facilitators of the course, which is supported by the Tertiary Education Commission, are Caya Divakalala and Tim Bennett, also from Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura.
Enrolments have opened for the next programme starting in August.
“I first identified as queer in the early 2000s in Sri Lanka,” says Divakalala. “For me it’s especially important to recognise the Rainbow includes people of all ethnicities and cultures, because it can be very lonely if you don’t know anyone like you.”
Bennett, originally from Ngāruawāhia says the programme covers Rainbow history, social life and topics like consent and healthy relationships.
Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura will receive $24,750 towards investigating more about the elder abuse experienced in the Rainbow community through a national survey and key interviews. They will work collaboratively with Rainbow Hub Waikato to understand the needs of these groups.
The group was one of three in the Waikato among 11 across the country to be granted funds from a $250,000 Elder Abuse Prevention Fund last month.
“This targeted funding is desperately needed. We have almost no information beyond the anecdotal, which suggests big gaps for us.” Sandra Dickson, Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura Project Manager, said.
The Big Q’s has been running for five years and is available every term.
Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura has resources about healthy relationships and safety on their website: https://www.kahukura.co.nz/