The first nationwide rainbow youth survey has found that Māori participants face added disparities, including those in state care.
The Identify survey collected responses from 4,787 rainbow youth between the ages of 14 and 26 to assess what environments help them thrive and what challenges they face.
The survey found that one in 10 participants had involvement with Oranga Tamariki, but the proportion of Māori participants in state care was twice as high as that of Pākehā.
Green MP, takatāpui [LGBTQIA+] advocate and research member Elizabeth Kerekere says takatāpui participants had placed a lot of value on culture and whānau, in which upliftment had a detrimental impact on their mental health.
“Whether you’re Māori or Pasifika, when whānau breaks down, your connection to your culture breaks down,” Kerekere told the Herald.
“Those things are a core part of who we are as people and our sense of belonging.
“This is so important because of their incredibly high risk of depression, self-harm and suicide.”
She said more work needs to be done with care arrangements for rainbow people, especially takatāpui.
The report also found that one in six participants felt unsafe at their school, polytechnic or university, and that one in eight moved towns or cities to feel safer as a rainbow young person.
Survey lead and University of Auckland lecturer John Fenaughty says a high proportion of participants consequentially experienced homelessness and exclusion from whānau because of their rainbow identity.
Kerekere says prejudices takatāpui face in particular can be traced back to the ongoing impact colonisation has had on Aotearoa.
“Colonialism brought its homophobia and, more recently, its transphobia into our lives, and what it’s tried to do is make that seem normal.
“But love and acceptance are what’s normal in our culture,” she says.
The report has made several recommendations for resolving the inequities afflicting rainbow communities based on research and participant contributions.
Fenaughty says he would like to see better access to mental health care for rainbow youth.
“Many of those young people that aren’t accessing health care were still enrolled in schools, polytechs and universities, where they have access to either free or subsidised health care services.
“What that suggests to me is, we need significantly more effort in ensuring that health care services are competently working with rainbow young people.”
Kerekere says they have also advocated for a ministry of rainbow communities that can work and provide advice across Government.
“It’s that intersectional thing that says, ‘We will show you how this weaves through what you’re doing, but we’ll also monitor that progress is being made.’
“These young people reflect the lives of our ancestors, and it’s our role as elders to make sure that they’re looked after while they explore and determine themselves using the names, pronouns and identities they choose.”
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air