Steven* is a fourteen year old boy living on the Gold Coast. Since coming out as gay last year, he has suffered tireless bullying at school and feelings of isolation. He says he often feels “worthless” and has been told so by others.
“I feel like I’m not worth anybody’s time,” says Steven. “I’m glad I have somewhere to go each week to be with people who like me,” he says, referring to Qspace, a group for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) teens. Qspace is part of the Expanded Horizons program, which supports sexually and gender diverse youth, as well as young people from refugee or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds on the Gold Coast.
Sadly, Steven’s situation is not unique. Many young teens struggling with their sexual orientation and gender identity are ostracised by peers. This is the reason why Expanded Horizons, part of Wesley Mission Brisbane’s Youth Services, was founded – to give young people a safe place to socialise and access resources.
The Expanded Horizons Program is funded as part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy to support sexually and gender diverse youth. Studies have shown that LGBT young people are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, due to experiences of discrimination and homophobia.
Qspace was formed in 2009 as a “drop in” service for LGBT youth to provide counselling, resources and information. The group aims to support health outcomes for their clients through group work and individual case management.
Jamie*, a 15 year old transgender boy, says he gains a lot of information from the group. “I first realised my gender identity after coming here. I’d come along as a guy as I thought it would be cool. And then I realised actually, this is me – major moment for me. My transition has been kind of backwards as I started ‘passing’ [dressing as the preferred gender and being seen as that publicly] before I even really knew what transgender was.”
“Qspace is a really helpful resource for information. It also provides a social outlet and allows me to meet other LGBT individuals and LGBT-friendly people,” says Jamie.
“I used to be very shy and nervous around people. I’m a lot more confident now – after being a guy for a while it’s like a whole weight lifted off my shoulders because I’m finally me.”
Expanded Horizons ran a three day camping trip at Boonah last month, which Coordinator Glen Wallwork said offered “lots of challenges and a chance to enjoy adventure-based learning.” The group also took part in the Gold Coast Gay Day on May12, where some of the young people used the skills they developed on camp to perform on stage.
For more information about Qspace, please visit www.qspace.net.au
*names have been changed.
International research has found links between sexuality, gender identity and mental illnesses such as depression. The higher rates of mental health issues as well as increased drug and alcohol consumption are a result of experiences of discrimination, bullying, isolation and homophobia.
64% of young LGBT males and 23% of young LGBT females reported thinking about or attempting suicide.
Belonging to a group significantly improves how young people feel about their sexuality or gender identity and ultimately themselves despite the ongoing experiences of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination.