Happy Birthday Rainbow Youth

Dear Rainbow Youth,

I remember the first time I met you. I was on a trip up from Dunedin, and my friend invited me to a trans guy meet-up that was being held at your drop-in centre on K Rd. I had been running a queer and trans youth group in Dunedin for the last six months, and I had been wishing for a drop-in centre down there.

I remember walking past the door several times before I went in. I remember being equal parts terrified and in awe of the place; it could be a safe place for people like me to hang out, a place that’s boldly queer, a place to belong.

It was odd for me to feel so nervous since I was doing youth work at the time, and fairly out about my gender and sexuality in Dunedin. But it was the kind of terrified that you feel when you know you need something, and you’re scared it wasn’t going to be what you wanted to be.

What if I went in and you thought I wasn’t a trans enough?

What if you had a problem with me liking boys, girls and people in between?

It seems weird to be worried that an organization that hinges on being inclusive of gender and sexuality wouldn’t *actually* be inclusive… but sometimes they’re not.

I sat in the corner for most of the meeting just sitting in silence, staring wildly at a room full of trans guys. I’d met two others beforehand, there were at least ten there.


In one room.

At the same time.

I moved up to Auckland three years later. You’d grown a little bit, but I’d grown a lot. I came up to complete a Masters in creative writing, drawing comics about different queer and trans people in New Zealand. I spent most of the year hanging out at the centre watching other terrified queer and trans people come through the door and stare wildly and silently from the corner.

Rainbow Youth, you’re a pretty amazing organization. You work in a really difficult area, and one that isn’t always recognized as important. You work long hours, on a really tiny budget, and a lot of the time it’s really thankless work.

So I just wanted to say thanks.

Thanks for letting me know that there’s no such thing as ‘trans enough’, that I could like whoever I wanted, and for letting me sit in the corner and not say anything.

Thanks for doing those tedious jobs, like folding rainbow ribbons to sell. I love seeing people wearing them, it helps me remember I’m not alone, it helps me to remember to be bold.

Thanks for being young. For keeping me up to date with the ever changing language about queer and trans communities. For reminding me that adults don’t always know best. For helping me to remember that getting things wrong is just as important as getting things right.

Thanks for being around for 25 years (happy birthday by the way!). It can’t have always been easy to do. I’ve heard stories about the Auckland Star waging war against you. I know all about the fighting that can happen in communities like ours, where we scramble with so much need and next to no resources. I’ve watched how hard you’ve worked, and how hard you continue to work.

So yeah, thankyou.

– Sam

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Rainbow Youth

  1. Awesome letter, Sam. And to Rainbow Youth, thank you very much for supporting Ben, your youngest member at that time – 6 years old, also, and for letting him know it was OK to live his life true to himself.

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