Two of Tauranga's biggest transgender and rainbow community groups - Gender Dynamix and Rainbow Youth - are moving into the same building to boost the range of support services they offer.
Rainbow Youth is a youth-run organisation that provides a safe space for LGBTQI rangatahi. Both groups are vital to the communities they serve. Gender Dynamix supports trans people with a range of services including peer support, counselling and a variety of groups that people can join.
"When I was a trans person living in Tauranga there was no real support for adults and the organisation was born out of that," said Gender Dynamics Co-Founder Julie Linde.
"Our trans young people also needed a different type of support from what maybe Rainbow Youth provided because trans people's needs are sometimes really specific in terms of medical interventions and/or psychological interventions that may not always be needed for someone who's part of the LGBTQI community."
Rainbow Youth regional co-ordinator Ben Black says Rainbow Youth's focus is more broad, to support young people who find themselves within the rainbow community.
"It could start at any stage because it's a very personal journey," he said. "A lot of the time it's when they come out or they could need support with their identity or just being who they are. Families might need support with how they can better support their child as well."
The issues the groups face are similar and can be wide-ranging.
"We've got homophobia, transphobia but then there's also real practical things like housing," said Linde. "Young people may be kicked out of home for coming out, or adults may lose their flat. We'll provide a wrap-around service of support for those people and their whānau."
By joining forces in a shared space, Linde says these issues will be tackled head on.
"People will benefit from us coming together because the problems that the rainbow community faces in our area and nationally is too big for one organisation to solve. By collaborating we can put more resources into and get more support for the people who need it. We will collaborate on certain things and being in the same space makes that a lot easier."
Black likens it to a "rainbow hub" based in the Bay of Plenty.
"We go out to the wider community and help educate through different resources and we also provide institutional support for organisations making spaces more inclusive and also on an individual and whānau level."
Those attending the grand opening said it is a smart move.
"For so long there's been quite a big divide between parents saying you can go to one group or the other. Now it's in one building so we don't miss anything at all," said Tauranga Resident, Miles Benjiman.
Ashton Te Paa, of Greerton, said "It's great that they've come together in one building as it creates more opportunity for us to meet up and talk and have a safe space to be ourselves."
Mount Maunganui resident Taongahuru Kopa said it's a great space to have for the LGBT community. "It's a real privilege to live in a city where we have these resources available to us. I think it's a really safe space to be in Tauranga being queer or trans."
Ultimately, the goal is to be accepted.
"It's slowly getting better but there are still a lot of challenges that we face," said Black.
Linde says the goal is to promote acceptance within our society.
"Societies that have high levels of diversity and acceptance are really healthy societies. They thrive, there are more job opportunities and overall, the people in those societies are a lot happier and healthier."
The new "rainbow hub" is now open and can be found in Tauranga's Historic Village.
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