Rainbow Youth

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in zero.com. [00:00:05] Rainbow is a queer youth organization that has been running for 21 years. It's based in the Oakland region in 281. k road, where its current references center is it gives education throughout the greater Oakland area, to high schools and universities and organizations. It offers teacher training, it is run by youth for youth, there is a board of 10 young people under 27. All of the members are under 27. And they vote for that board. It also runs some of those members are also volunteers, and they facilitate groups. We have nine groups currently about two of those groups, just about to start. And some of those groups have regional, and some of those great based in the center, and also involved in advocacy giving information to young people. And it has three staff members, a full time executive director, a full time educator, and a part time administrator. And we're the only organization in the country. Currently, that's a queer youth organization that has a salaried educator that goes into schools. [00:01:34] And what sort of young people do get coming into the center? [00:01:39] It's, it's hugely diverse. I mean, yeah, I wouldn't say there was a specific type of young people we we get all sorts of people come in for all sorts of different reasons. We race to find out educational stuff, or just come in and hang out and us like, you know, we have lots of different resources here, like the Internet, and [00:02:00] book and movie library, like a lot of young people just come and hang out, because I think it's just a really cool space. [00:02:06] But yeah, I mean, it's really varied. You know, I couldn't really say that it was more one than the other. [00:02:13] Maybe mostly queer or, [00:02:15] yeah, yeah, yeah, mostly quit. We get a few people coming in who will possibly aren't queer, but they'll be looking for information they might be doing study or, you know, just want to get a bit more savvy to what's going on. But predominantly, yeah. [00:02:32] So you both work in the office, and you must be fairly flexible about people coming in and talking to you when you're working in that kind of thing. [00:02:42] It's an interesting topic, isn't it, we have a very unique work and office culture. Sometimes the staff, I can't quite tell if they're actually queer, you, [00:02:54] you who are actually part of the center, or if the staff members, they can be just as as quirky and upbeat as our members. [00:03:05] I guess, know, your staff, as staff members, we have young people, they just walk right through the front door, if there's no one in here to talk to, they just come straight into the office, and they seek out whomever they please, on the day to talk to us. And usually it's not me. I'm the executive director. And so I'm the oldest in the room, I guess that gives me the Almighty, wise old person, look, that's just not cool. They usually ask if [00:03:33] glasses are [00:03:35] the glasses and the guy here. But if Sam or Priscilla out there, they'll ask after them, you know, with them today, and I'll go I don't know. I don't know where Sam is today. Usually, just because, you know, I just love how they actually have so much ownership of their space that we are granted the right to work in it, you know, that this is truly this space. And, and if they need something, they basically come in and tell us. So an example would be on Tuesday, we had probably five people in the office. And they came in saying Tommy we want to change the office around this place is a mess. And I was like, okay, and we gave them jobs. And and originally they they were a bit upset because they didn't like the poster being up in the window, as long as it had been that it's in the window at the moment. So I did explain to them that that would change shortly. And would they like to clean out the back area, and they basically cleaned out the center? And were really helpful. So, you know, I guess as as, as employees, we kind of had to facilitate that. [00:04:45] Have you done anything to make them feel this? This is really the place? Or [00:04:54] do you think it's just happened? [00:04:55] I think I mean, you know, I'm one of the the new kind of additions to but but from what I have seen, I mean, I think that there is, you know, I mean, it's such an open space, like it's such a cool space, because people can just come in here and they can hang out. And there is such a sense of community, and particularly when you see new people coming in, and the other members that are already here are always welcoming and always talk and i think i think it's more than anything else. I get the feeling that it's it's the young people that that gives the other you know, young people that sense of ownership and that sense of community and really push that it is this space, which is really [00:05:36] cool. And how did you come to be working here? Have you always done community work, or [00:05:41] I've done a little bit of the past, but pretty much I saw their advertising for possession and I harassed me mercilessly. [00:05:51] So raise my words, [00:05:57] interview was done. work or qui qui work or? [00:06:03] Yeah, [00:06:04] I really do harass for a job. [00:06:06] And the board. Actually, if if you ever go for a job at rainbow youth, I tell you what going and meeting the board when you're over 27 is really kind of you have to be quite staunch, you know, the border, [00:06:21] I got the job. [00:06:24] I applied. And I was convinced by friends and peers in the community. I did a lot of work in communities, in the queer community with trans youth. And I've worked with trans youth for years and years and news, which involves queer youth work as well. But it's all voluntary, I'd never had a paid job. So it's quite a weird experience to get paid to do this sort of work. It's a real privilege, you know, you sort of think, well, I've got the greatest job in the universe. [00:06:51] And because it's such a powerful environment. [00:06:56] And I applied for the job, and, you know, I got, thankfully, the board hired me through through the regular process, you go through employment, you don't have to do there's no, there's no hazing, or any kind of, you don't have to dress in chicken suits or anything like that, you just kind of apply for a job like normal, and you get it. And yes, I was part of the process of employing somebody like them. And it's really hard to find people that really understand the community so well. And I think that's what's happened with when, with rainbow youth, we work really hard to ensure that the culture of the organization isn't run by staff, it's run by the members. And that's really where human service. So we take every single approach in a human way. So sometimes that process can be really kind of jumbled looking or chaotic. But it means that we're doing things that young people want to do. And [00:07:53] anything in particular that you do that would be really different from other places that our staff run and stuff focused on the community will be mission focused. [00:08:04] Yeah, the way that the group's run, we don't, I don't have a lot of the staff don't have a lot to do. Like the Facebook page, for instance, is run by facilitators, and is run by, by volunteers. [00:08:17] And so the facilitators are the young people, the not yourselves. [00:08:20] Yeah, the facilitators, all the young people in the board is all under 27. And the whole model is, and I think this has been studied in the past, because it has been, the organization's been around for 21 years. And every single project goes to the members. So members can be involved on any level they want. And the strategizing of the organization is all comes from feedback from the board that is feedback from the groups. So and research we do is aimed at young people, and part of our values in the mission and vision of the organization is what what used to be called youth participation, but we just say is youth perspective as youth point of view? is young, that's young people doing stuff. To be blunt? Yeah. [00:09:08] What do you think rainbow youth is important? [00:09:13] I mean, there's so many reasons, it's important. I'm educating, you know, I mean, not just young people, I mean, educating everyone, I think that [00:09:24] even with lower form, and some wins this, you know, there's still a need, and this [00:09:29] this year, hugely, I mean, particularly in small town, New Zealand, I mean, we have a lot of young people, right, in that, you know, not from Auckland, or Wellington or not from places where, I guess, education, or support as accessible as it is in the main centers. And, you know, for them to be able to have a place that they that they see that they can go to where they can get this. I mean, it's so important. You know, there is a lot of homophobia out there still in the there's a lot of work that we have to do. And also, I mean, providing a safe space, and a space for I think one of the most important things is peer support. So a place for young people to come together meet other young people that they can share experiences with and they can relate to, you know, that's, that's something that I don't think happens and schools as much and and, you know, I think this is quite unique. Yeah. So, yeah, quite amazing thing. [00:10:30] Do you know how it all got started? How does it become, I suppose it started small. And now it's, you know, you've got three paid staff through salaried staff and actual current premises that are solid and won't go away. [00:10:46] We pray [00:10:48] to the universe. So it's solid as any other community group youth, in these times of hard to find money. [00:10:57] The way it started was a group called Oakland, meaning gay youth could lie. Oh, lovely. [00:11:06] Nice. Kind of, I think it was quite edgy, you know, for its time. And it was from the university crowd. So it's kind of probably what, what is today uniquely. [00:11:21] And LG formed just after I think it was 8586 or something like this. [00:11:29] And then, in 99, they changed the name. And to, to, to give it more of a I think they were looking at youth issues in general. And that started to be rainbow youth. Then rainbow, you started employing a part time youth coordinator and went through number of phases where there was a house that used to be a rainbow youth house, because big issues back then were homelessness, not that they're not now, but there was funding for things like homelessness, suicide and, and the house ended up not working out. Lots of people and over the past 21 years have done a lot for Rambo to get where it is today in the community. And yeah, so I think it was 1989 it changed to rainbow youth and they actually got became an incorporated society and got a constitution and all that jazz [00:12:23] will be some of the funnest parts about your job. [00:12:26] My job? Yeah. [00:12:29] the funnest part playing we [00:12:33] I was reminiscing the other day with the you know, the computer game, the TV game, just to clarify, I'm very competitive. So sometimes I have if a bunch of people come in that aren't so comfortable, you know, a good game of we will get them going. Good game competitive tennis, or bowling. And I remember when I first started one of the members Lyft because they were moving house, they lift the guitar here, right here. So I remember I used to hide on the beanbags behind the couch and Play Guitar Hero after dark when no one else was in here. [00:13:09] That's I'm just kidding. I [00:13:11] was, you know, interacting with young people is my favorite thing, it doesn't matter what I'm doing. Sometimes, occasionally, I'll turn off the group. You know, and, you know, share some information give them you know, I don't turn up a groups often. But it's them coming in and saying things like Tommy, I've, I've, you know, got a plus on my assignment. And it's a young person who when I first met them, was shriveled up like a little pebble and wouldn't even talk, you know, and I'd sit on a couch, and I'd be talking at them for about 20 minutes. And now they come running in and tell me that they've got an A plus and an assignment and, and that they're getting on with their lives. And they really, they really amazing people. And they just needed that moment to say, say to somebody, hey, you know, what do I do. And another part of it I really like is getting out into the community, and getting what organizations outside of the queer organization sector, understand what the hell was happening for us and to get us in track, like involved with youth line youth town. That stuff's really exciting for me getting young people who aren't queer understanding what it is, and it's no different to them. You know, that's kind of exciting. And also the diversity of, we have a culture here, which is so diverse and so interesting. We have problems like everyone else in gathering that information, gathering that diverse structure. But I think we have a real commitment to building that. So it's sustainable, and so that we continue the the nature of a diverse culture in here. [00:14:59] Apart from from funding, what would be some of the big challenges, kind of facing family facing remember us, but I think also kind of queer youth groups and sectors and that kind of thing. [00:15:13] homophobia in school safety and schools. So huge challenge, just [00:15:20] getting schools to recognize that homophobia is a form of bullying, that it is prevalent, and it is affecting students to the point where they're harming themselves self harm, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, homelessness, that is, you know, and it's so subtle, making education around sexuality and gender identity compulsory in schools. If if we didn't have to teach it, that education, if all we were doing was giving resources to schools or getting involved on subcommittees in Parliament that, you know, getting other queer youth organizations involved in subcommittees on parliament, to make sure that that was part of the healthcare. That was actually a behavior that was not just about sexuality, and not just about gender identity, or about sex, and how the basics which is actually talking about relationships, and how people relate to each other, you know, that became part of the curriculum that would make homophobia just would disappear. You know, it would be easier for kids to go to counselors and say, Hey, someone's being a bully, and throwing pies at me as one example, or I have to leave the school because somebody, I'm in a relationship with someone and the parents are making me, me a saying we can't have that relationship. So I don't get my education that's affecting a whole person's life, not just the school. So recognizing our young people's needs in those schools, is a key element of that. And one of those things is that, that being part of the curriculum, sexuality, and gender, wedding, DVD being pilot curriculum, issues around young people and homelessness still occur. We need them and drug and alcohol use, so prevalent in our community. at such a young age, we need the government to help visibility around our community, we need young people being seen as same sex attracted people, or trans youth being seen as the identity they prefer, you know, and we need government support to help achieve it. We are a minority within the community. And I think sometimes we've been it's been sort of shelved a little bit. Statistics research is really important. We need research on our youth. And that research needs to be aimed at them for them, not about them. And we need we need a national body for the queer youth in general, queer youth ourselves, have been talking about it. Rainbow youth have done some research, which we're finalizing at the moment the recommendations for to begin that process, but we need a queer youth network that's really relevant to the those young people now. And yeah, basically, I hope that in five years time, we have regular funding from people like ministries, development and ministry, social development, Ministry of Social Development, actually get some of these things up and running. And that we don't have to scrimp and save just to be able to get our educator into schools that there's educators in all our youth groups, that there's a position available every region for sexuality and gender identity educator, because it is compulsory in schools to have that topic. So it's hard to say what the other issues are at funding, because so many of these issues require funding. But we were working in many ways we're being very creative. To combat these issues. The Umi apps campaign, which looks at healthy relationships, strength based approaches, we're following the youth strategy. And including youth voices and as many projects that we can, that are, that are from the broader community. We have a govt drug and alcohol network working group in Oakland that has that is, you know, pulling together resources between the organizations to talk about these issues, raise awareness of these issues in the community. But we can only do so much until you know and until it starts becoming the need for a campaign. [00:19:45] So what are some fun parts but your jobs him? He also hide hide behind the bean bags and the catch him play guitar hero? [00:19:52] No, I haven't played guitar here yet. [00:19:55] Oh, that's it, I think, let Tell me like, being able to like chat and hang out with like, people makes me feel younger. [00:20:04] No, it's really cool. Like, [00:20:05] doesn't make you feel [00:20:09] what does it would make? [00:20:10] We're out here the other day, like just talking. I mean, you have these amazing conversations, which is just really cool. And you get to see people come out of their shell, you know, as they get to know you. And as they get more comfortable. We're in the center. So awesome. That's so cool. [00:20:27] And I really enjoy in a really sick kind of way of getting to like deal with the stats and stuff. And like I know it I know, [00:20:35] you should see someone about that. [00:20:36] Yeah, I know. But like I, you know, I sort of like I really get this week from being able to help put together like resources and look at making Rambo sustainable. And you know, like, there's so many awesome things that are happening here. And being able to be part of that and saying that we're putting implementing these processes that last, you know, like, I can very excited. And also, I mean, like I occasionally get to go out with Priscilla to be involved in education sessions. They're amazing. Like, that's so cool. And it's so, so much fun just being like a room full of, you know, like 1415 year olds, and watch this collective light bulb go off in the heads, you know, like you can you can see it like in this group of people, you know, when they realize, you know, what homophobia is or what's going on, or you know that how they can make a change in that they need to? And that's so awesome. Yeah, so there's a lot of cool things about being here. [00:21:39] You mentioned or someone mentioned, there, the nine groups that run, [00:21:43] yeah, I can the group ID for over eight lanes, and that's in the center, GQ and 18th. And that's based in the center, and gender IQ, which is the gender identity group. Those three groups that are based in the center tend to be centralized to have you know, lots of people from the different regional groups meeting as well, they come to these groups. So so the regional groups include out and about which is an East Auckland, outwith, which is in West Auckland, and queer for sure, which is in the North Shore. And then we have activity groups, which are like queer nation, which is a bunch of people that meeting watch animation that's queer. And there'll be going to Armageddon this year and joining youth line at the table to you know, so they're involved in the outside community as well, it's one way we get our word out, the other group has go active, which is kind of like basically, the ID group wanted to do something outside of the support group meeting, because activities in a support group don't really match. So they do things like a laser tag, boating, and bowling night, and all sorts of picnics and all sorts of weird stuff. They do that in different times, you know. [00:22:56] And then [00:23:00] another group would be [00:23:03] a women's focus group, which they haven't figured out the the name yet. [00:23:09] But the whole idea there was that some sub some, at times, like the gene, sort of the gender of people turning up to groups can fluctuate, so can Evan flow between male identified and female identified. And at one point, when Id the older over 18, group was becoming very male dominated. So we thought well to help create a bit of safety and make, you know, the younger women feel comfortable, they're coming back in, and so you know, we will have a girl focus group, so at times, we can just, when that happens, it doesn't sort of, we don't lose that sort of the female energy from the organization. So that's exciting. [00:23:53] And I think that's all of the groups [00:23:56] that groups can appear. Out of the blue groups are devised by young people, we don't think of them, the young people will say what they want, and they develop the group. And they have posters, they have a website, they have their Facebook page, every group has a Facebook group on it, and they have members who join that. So this is all social media, sort of realm to the groups as well as the actual live group. And then it's all being put on to curious.org.nz, which is the National hub for queer youth website. And, and then it gets, you know, they've got, you know, their posters, and they just liaise with me or the facilitators of the groups telling me what they want to do and what they need. And the groups that meet regionally tend to meet in cafes. So they tend to be smaller, and just conversational bank. So that's why we maintain lots of, you know, the groups that made at the same time there can be up to 30 to 40 people between that group in the larger group, and some of the members will attend three or four groups. So they're busy, they have a busy social schedule, so that, you know, there's a lot of communication required, very vibrant part of the organization. [00:25:13] And kind of, I guess, quick communities are really, really diverse. And sometimes it's they can be tensions, I guess, between gaming and these one woman or says people who says queer people and trans people, how some of the ways or others tensions either apparent with the young people here? And was it just an older peace thing? And if there are, how those teachings that were for? [00:25:40] Do you see that at all, [00:25:42] we see that in the sense that people are coming to our center who are younger, and they might not have explored or understood any of those issues, they may not identify as lesbian or gay, they might be bisexual, they might have questions around their religious beliefs. All these things get discussed within the groups, and you'll hear them having vibrant, energetic debates out here. And you'll hear the trends, like for trans youth, for instance, who are involved in the wider groups, they'll tell other young people that they've been transphobic. And the discussions between the lesbian and gay male cultures, though, you know, you'll hear sort of statements like, you know, that are putting down say, the young gay males putting down lesbians, because it's kind of, you know, something that happens, and the other younger women will be like, you know, shut up, that's, you know, you just, it's not cool. And, and we don't, we don't let young people if we're in the office at times, we don't let young people come in here, flapping about how they've been out the night before and got really wasted, or making. If they say something offensive, and nobody else is saying anything, we stand up and say, you know, hey, you know, that's kind of offensive, not in a bullish way, not in a mean way, just really clear about when you talk with respect in the space. And that's all about So the way we maintain that is this space here. Everyone must respect each other. Any group time, everyone must respect each other. If there's a problem, and somebody's being homophobic and say, a facilitator can't deal with it, or the group can't deal with it themselves, they can come to me, and they'll come to a staff member. And then we will say to that person in a really nice way, take them away from the group say, hey, look, what you're saying is really nice. And it might make someone feel sad. And usually, that's fine. Yeah. The other issue that can come up, though, that's probably more of a problem is people in relationships within the groups. So, you know, our facilitators are trained to deal with it. Yeah. [00:27:47] And for the large part, there seems to be a culture, we're just kind of Converse. And that's where a lot of understanding comes from. [00:27:56] Yeah, and I mean, I guess sort of lumped into that. And the previous question. I mean, there are events and things that happen sometimes, like we had no, not that long ago, the intergenerational forum at the Charlotte Museum, which was so awesome, because it wasn't just that, you know, there were these two sort of parallel age groups, but there was all these different, you know, people, you know, the lesbians and gay guys, and trans and all these people coming together, for one purpose, instead of going to split it up into little groups. But everyone was talking, everyone was sharing your ideas, and everyone was fading into this one thing. And it was so cool, because everyone brought a different strength in a different idea. And it was such a great day. And so there are things like that happen, where people do get to come together, and they do get exposure to one another's thoughts and opinions. You know, and I think, you know, you get to sort of see the strength that comes out of that. So there's really cool things that happen as well. Yeah. [00:28:52] What were some of the big things that came out of the, I guess, younger people could take away older people could have taken away from that space that she space, [00:29:01] I think that there was probably one of the things that came out was need to communicate and talk, I think that that's probably something that's Personally, I believe, this [00:29:13] age or across diverse kind of, [00:29:16] I think both groups, I think that's it. I mean, it was really highlighted, because it was an intergenerational thing, it was really highlighted, you know, between age, but I think that applies to sort of all areas that, you know, that needs to communicate, you know, where we've come from, you know, our history, to communicate, you know, how we feel, and how we're affected as we travel through to each other. Because I think sometimes we forget that, you know, within our community, and that was really awesome, just sort of saying, I think it was a bit of a reminder, you know, that, that we are all in it together. And it's really cool what we can achieve together. [00:29:51] Because sometimes if it is a stereotype or an assumption that young people are, you know, they just want to party and they're not really interested in history, or they're not interested in the stories of older people, as it is, it's something that, as you know, you see there, or were young people really interested in just haven't had a whole lot of opportunities to have young kids or [00:30:11] that that was one of the things that came up and was talked about. And I mean, I think that, you know, there is that generational thing of, of young people, maybe potentially not seeking it as much. But then there was also highlighted the fact that I think that that information wasn't passed down in the same way that it might have been by the generation before, you know, there wasn't that emphasis to really talk about it and to go out, and, you know, particularly things like something that came up was with HIV and AIDS that, you know, when it first emerged, and the people that it really had hard, they would go out into the clubs, and they would tell the young people, you know, make sure that you know, you're, you know, and it was, but it was really verbal, and it was really there and it was really in your face. And that's, that's sort of waned a bit, we've become quite sort of poster and media orientated now, but you lose that, that effect of actually having someone walk up and be like, make sure that you know, this is really important. And so I think it was just that sort of, I don't know, I guess, verbal, kind of, I don't know, the language kind of disintegrated a bit. But it's coming back, I think, I think there's an awareness that it needs to be there. [00:31:19] I think from an older person's perspective, I noticed that the older people kind of didn't realize that the younger people still had the same issues. And it was a real chicken for them. Many of those people that were at the intergenerational forum, came back to the center, and they started integrating into the center, like, many people in the community felt that rainbow youth was just a youth orientated space. And us getting reaching out to those wider communities has helped them to understand what we're actually doing here. Yes, this is this space, but they are really desperate to interact with everyone. So at the intergenerational forum, I saw one of our young members, for instance, caught up with, you know, a very strong, very politically motivated member of our community, and absolutely besotted in, in wanting to gather the knowledge from them, which is so powerful. And I was really amazed to see that, and I, you know, and I thought, Oh, this is something we must nurture for young people, like, as an organization, we must focus on building the gap, building bridges between the age age gaps. And for instance, now we've got a project, which we're doing with a couple of our members who are trans, so that they're doing Vox pop sort of videos, from people within the trans community. So that, you know, that gives them a chance to interact and work with our people in the trans community, you know, those sorts of things, I think, have come from us doing that project. [00:33:01] And has been, and it's been a leading example. And [00:33:06] that's where sometimes I also think it highlighted that in our community, we don't support organizations that are building our history, historical information. So the charlotte, charlotte Museum, for instance, is not supported enough. And and I think that was another element where the young people felt that they could be involved in something like that. So it's very fascinating to see all that come to fruition. And I think the outcome will be it'll be really interesting. The great thing will be that the next big day out, all the young people who go past go, I look, there's a shelf Museum, and they'll know what that is. That's, that is a really positive outcome. [00:33:47] So if I am a person is not just a young queer person, how, how would I find you? Remember, you are just drop in on? [00:33:58] Well, I mean, we have sorts of, I mean, different ways. I mean, you know, the, the internet, a lot of people find us there's a lot of, I think word of mouth, you know, a lot of people I think typically after dancing with stars, people saw rainbow youth, and it became, you know, sort of nationally known. And so I think, you know, that names out there now, and it's really floating around. I mean, we have resources that are out there as well, and schools for young people to use, but I think, you know, predominantly, you know, I think most people just Google, you know, and I mean, we're on the internet, we've got an awesome website with heaps of information. And that's how a lot of people access us. Well, you can just drop them. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah, that's what the dropping scenes is all about, you know, and we do have a lot of people that will pass and just come in and, you know, be like, I need some information on this or I just want to hang out or I need some help with my CV, [00:34:50] you know, some officers Monday to Friday, or, [00:34:55] yeah, we're open from 10 to six usually. [00:35:01] Welcome. Thank you very much, both of you for having young about rainbow used to us.

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