"When Hunter came out, I didn't really know anything about being transgender. When I was growing up, you were a girl or a boy. It really did challenge everything I'd ever known.

"We were on the way to the doctor when Hunter broke down and said he wanted to be a boy. There was a point there where we thought we were going to lose him. I had to really work through it so I could see him the way he wanted to be seen.

"I was worried about telling other people, I worried it was my fault. I was scared for him. At the time I felt like I was losing my daughter, I just couldn't see that I was gaining a wonderful son."

These are Rotorua mother Dee Smith's words as she narrates a new documentary-style video that launched on social media this month, and has played on TVNZ 1, TVNZ 2 and Three.


When we talk, love wins. We’re proud to support those who support our rainbow community. #thankstoyou OUTLineNZ (Nationwide) 🌈

Posted by Spark on Thursday, 31 January 2019

The video was created by Spark and OUTLine, a charity that offers a free, confidential support line to the LGBTQIA+ community and their friends and family.

The recent government inquiry into mental health and addiction showed rainbow communities have significantly poorer mental health and are at much higher risk of distress, addiction, and suicide.

The video encourages New Zealanders to ask for help.

OUTLine chief executive Alexander Stevens II said the Smiths' video gave "the right message, at just the right time" when it launched alongside Pride 2019.

Hunter Smith told the Rotorua Daily Post this week that the feedback so far had been "amazing".

He wasn't nervous about the wide exposure.

"I live by my own rules, I don't get hung up about what other people say, and when I see negative comments I kind of just have a laugh when I read them. But yeah I'm not afraid to be who I am, so why not share it with everyone and try help other people at the same time."

Dee was initially worried about fronting the video, but said the end result had been "unbelievable".


"I realised you know, this is us, and if people can't accept us, don't talk to us ... We've since had people private message us and say they are going through the same thing and didn't know where to turn."

Hunter and Dee answered the Facebook casting call when one of Hunter's former teachers at Western Heights High School sent it to him.

"I just tagged Mum not thinking much of it ... and then the next thing you know she's already trying to sort it out."

Spark's social media leader Frith Wilson-Hughes said the team was "in awe of their [the Smiths'] courage".

Hunter starting thinking about transformation at age 18, when he lived with another transgender person in Auckland.

He tried to push aside the thoughts, but felt depressed and moved home.

"Then I ended up just letting it out."

It was a shock for Dee.

"I always thought 'I was a tomboy, so that's what he is' but no he's not, he's my boy. Once my husband and I thought about things and realised it was not about us, it was about him, it all just fell into place ...

"I made sure he went to doctor's appointments and got the help he needed and I was always there, even if he just needed to talk or if I just had to lie there and hug him, that's all I did."

Rotovegas Youth Health. Photo / File
Rotovegas Youth Health. Photo / File

Hunter has been on testosterone for 21 months now.

He and Dee agree that support got him through the tough times.

Dee said if you couldn't talk to family, there was other help out there.

"Obviously, there's the OUTLine number. In Rotorua, we've got Rotovegas Youth Health. They're really good. They really helped Hunter through all his stuff."

The pair also recommended Facebook support groups for parents and transgender people in New Zealand.

Tia Smith, in Rotorua. Photo / File
Tia Smith, in Rotorua. Photo / File

BayPride Rotorua spokeswoman Tia Smith said OUTLine's LGBTQIA+ specific services had "a better understanding of the feelings and space someone might be in".

She said being part of BayPride Rotorua was another way for people in the rainbow community to share and talk.

"We are a bold and confident group and look to spark courage in those that are afraid."

OUTLine support
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