Youth walk with pride

QUEER ADVOCATE: Duncan Matthews will lead a group of gay youths in the Auckland Pride Parade.
QUEER ADVOCATE: Duncan Matthews will lead a group of gay youths in the Auckland Pride Parade.

Lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex - regardless of sexual identification, we are all the same.

And next Saturday's pride parade is one occasion to celebrate the diverse rainbow community.

Rainbow Youth is just one of the 40 groups that will be marching in the annual parade along Ponsonby Rd.

The organisation provides support, information, advocacy and education for young, gay people and their families.

Rainbow Youth general manager Duncan Matthews says the parade is not about shouting "we are gay" from the rooftops, but more to get the group and its services noticed.

"Marching in the parade will get us a bit of publicity so that other people who are unsure or hiding who they are know they are not alone, not the only gay in the village, and that there is a huge number of people, just like them, here waiting to support them and build friendships with," he says.

"It's OK to be gay."

The West Harbour resident started working at Rainbow Youth in 2009 and has been in his current position for five months.

He, a group of 50 youths, and their placards will make their presence known at the parade.

"It's not just the gay or lesbian stereotypes we see on television," Mr Matthews says.

"You don't have to dress expensively and drive a Prius to be gay, or have short hair and a cat to be a lesbian.

"There is a whole range of people within the rainbow community, just like in the rest of society."

Rainbow Youth, which is primarily funded by trusts such as Lotteries, ASB Community Trust and the Raye Freedman Trust, supports young people between 13 and 27 years old.

Its Karangahape Rd office acts as a drop-in centre where gay people can relax, meet others and access any necessary resources.

"If anybody is questioning or concerned, we are there. Our main focus is making sure a young person is OK. That's our primary goal," Mr Matthews says.

Rainbow Youth also holds a youth group every second Saturday at Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson.

Gay people between 13 and 27 years old can drop in and participate in numerous activities, including screen printing and board games.

The Auckland Pride Parade is on February 22 from 7pm on Ponsonby Rd.

The next youth group is on February 22 - and every fortnight thereafter - from 3pm.

See for more details.

Western Leader