8 November 2018
On Thursday 8 November, YWCA Canberra is hosting a prom for young people across Canberra aged 12-25 who identify as LGBTQIA+ and their Allies.
Now in its third year, the LGBTQIA+ & Allies Prom is an opportunity for young people to experience a formal style event and express their identity in a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment. This free event will be held at the Ainslie Football Club and is strictly drug and alcohol-free.
Tell us about your role at A Gender Agenda – what’s currently on your radar?
I’m the Deputy Director at A Gender Agenda (AGA), and I also coordinate our training and education programs. AGA started as a grassroots organisation in 2005, and has since grown into a small but integral part of ACT’s community sector – providing advocacy, training, education and social support for the intersex, trans and gender diverse community (if you’re not sure what any of those words mean then it would be great to talk).
I’m brand spanking new in the role and while I grew up in Canberra I’ve only just returned after an 18 year hiatus. So while I’m pretty intimate with the streets and scenery, I’ve got a lot to learn about the sector and community that I’m working with – and that’s an interesting and exciting space to be in. I guess for that reason relationships are the main thing on my radar at the moment. Of course, building rapport and trust with AGA’s members is a big part of that, but I’m also looking outward to the wider community. I’m keen to find untapped opportunities out there for partnerships and collaborations, which I believe will ultimately drive better outcomes for our people outside of the lovely, safe space we’re so lucky to have here at AGA House.
Why did you want to support the LGBTQIA+ & Allies Prom again this year?
If there’s anything we can take from the current debate around ‘religious freedoms’ it is that some schools are still not the type of places where our young people can live and learn with complete freedom and dignity. Unfortunately that means that school events, like formals and proms, also fall short in providing safe and celebratory spaces for LGBTQIA+ young people. Until the day comes that our fundamental human rights are no longer up for public debate, and we can move through the world without the threat of harassment and discrimination, events like the LGBTQIA+ and Allies Prom will be absolutely vital. And while the need for such events still exists, the AGA team and I will stand by them 100%.
Also, it’s a great excuse to get your glad rags on!
Why do you think it’s particularly important that we ensure young people are aware of the range of services that are available here in the ACT?
I think having knowledge of local services is a key part of building strong health literacy and help-seeking skills: knowing what’s in the community to keep you healthy and where to turn if things get a bit rough.
On the flipside, I’d also encourage services to continuously build their awareness of the range of young people that might need to come into their spaces. Unfortunately, the research tells us that intersex, transgender and gender diverse young people often avoid vital services for fear of mistreatment, and will often assume a service isn’t safe unless there are clear and visible signs of support. So while we always encourage our young people to reach out to a range of services, we also have to do a lot of work to ensure that services are well equipped to provide appropriate and affirmative support when they rock up.
My sense is that things are pretty good here in Canberra, but there’s always room for improvement, and we’re always happy to help out!
What can allies do to ensure Canberra is an inclusive community for LGBTQIA+ young people?
I think good allyship is ultimately about connection. Reach out to people that are different to yourself, build relationships and don’t make assumptions about what other people might need without really engaging with their stories. I think relationships and storytelling are at the heart of social change, and if we’re always striving to really see people, and to really connect with their stories, then we’re bound to be a better allies.
What advice would you give to LGBTQIA+ activists?
The same advice that I often give myself (which I also totally stole from someone whose name I can’t remember): if you have to make a choice between being kind and being right, always choose kindness.
If you would like any further information or need help with registration, please contact YWCA Canberra Youth Programs Team Leader, Ciara Duggan, at Ciara.Duggan@ywca-canberra.org.au