On Saturday night as part of Wellington Pride Festival we hosted our very first youth ball. It was a beautiful success and something that wouldn’t have been able to happen without the amazing support of all the volunteers. Rather than just saying it was great and that 150 young people attended, I want to highlight a few key points I’ve learned from the whole experience.
-Young LGBTQIA+ people exist, and they exist in the hundreds. You can deny it all you want and you can try and say youth have enough support but that is just not the case.
-I have worked with a number of the young people who attended the ball over the last couple of years through InsideOUT, and Saturday night was the first time I have seen a lot of them really happy and able to let loose. I saw young people smile, who to be really honest I had never seen smile before. It was so heartwarming and a strong reminder of why these events are so important.
-Safe spaces for young people are vital to keeping our young people alive. These young people often don’t have anywhere else to go. For some of them this was the first time they really got to be themselves, and for others this was one of the few times they could be themselves and be accepted.
-Throughout the whole experience I learned that you have to fight and yell to get your voice heard. I shouldn’t have had to yell to get a space for youth to be highlighted in Pride, but I did, and I didn’t stop till an hour before the ball started.
Personal shout out to the handful of people who I vented to and debriefed to, and who helped support me. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have survived. Yelling at people to give youth some space is an exhausting job, but someone’s got to do it. Like the wise Tina from Bob’s Burgers once said, “I’m no hero, I put my bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.”