Labour's two high profile gay MPs have opened up about their quest to help New Zealand's rainbow community – including greater support for youngsters coming out and calls for a New Zealand-based gender reassignment surgery team.

Louisa Wall and Tamati Coffey will co-host the Auckland Pride Gala - a preview showcase at Q Theatre on February 2, and one of the big events opening the upcoming Pride festival that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex culture.

The festival runs until February 18 and features everything from singing and dancing, drag queens, art, health and safety talks, a dog show and of course the annual Pride Parade.

Labour MP Louisa Wall wants to see better support for the Rainbow Community. Photo / supplied
Labour MP Louisa Wall wants to see better support for the Rainbow Community. Photo / supplied

This year the popular parade along Ponsonby Rd in Auckland will aim for peace, love and unity at a time of escalating global unrest.

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Coffey and Wall say the event is essential to celebrate the LGBTIQ community but is also an important way of raising awareness of the work still to be done.

Both Coffey and Wall want to use their time in Government to see an increase in mental health support in the community and fewer suicides.

Tamati Coffey would like to see Rainbow Youth given support to go nationwide. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Tamati Coffey would like to see Rainbow Youth given support to go nationwide. Photo / Mark Mitchell

They also want to see a gender reassignment surgeon operating in New Zealand and better support for LGBTQI and their families.

Coffey acknowledged a lot had changed from his teenage years where he would sit "right next to the TV to watch Queer Nation with the volume on low" so as not to wake his parents.

The former television host turned politician knew he was gay from a young age but said there was little support so it was a "tough and very lonely journey".

There were no gay role models and no support for Coffey or his family when he came out - he said this had improved but he wants more to be done.

"In terms of support for our young people the government can play a much bigger role.

"We need a health professional into every school. At the moment it's good luck if your school has one and tough luck if it doesn't."

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Coffey wanted young people coming out to feel better supported.

"I hope that what we are doing, by being out and being proud, that young people don't feel like the battle is so hard that they can't live through it," he said.

Well-known drag queen Miss Ribena is a regular at the Pride festival. Photo / Doug Sherring
Well-known drag queen Miss Ribena is a regular at the Pride festival. Photo / Doug Sherring

He wanted to see Auckland-based advocacy and support group Rainbow Youth empowered to become a national resource.

"There is nothing like Rainbow Youth in the regions. It would be a positive thing for Rainbow Youth to be an online national resource.

"Something like a Rainbow Youth group where you can get information and have guest speakers. We need to know how we can support gay people in say, Invercargill.

Both Wall and Coffey also want to do more for the transgender and intersex communities.

Wall said the two groups were hampered by a lack of surgical expertise in New Zealand to perform complex gender reassignment surgery.

She wanted to see intersex babies - those born with sexual anatomy and chromosomes that don't fit within the typical definition of male or female - left to decide what gender they identify with.

Wall said that to lower the number of suicides, the government needed to address the issues those at risk face.

"With our LGBT youth we know from youth surveys that they are three times more likely to self-harm. If you are trans you are four times."

Wall said there was "a lot of unmet need" for gender reassignment surgery.

There is currently about 100 people who meet the criteria for gender reassignment surgery each year but there is no one in New Zealand qualified to perform it.

"There has been an argument that for the past few years we should have been identifying a surgeon and paying for them to do an internship overseas," Wall said.

"The surgical association have written to the minister and they had found someone but the ministry was unwilling to meet that need.

"We want to achieve that."

Wall said trans people not able to live as their chosen gender became depressed and were more likely to have drug and alcohol issues.

"This adds to our suicide statistics. We have to address the issues."

Wall said New Zealand was a relatively progressive country but we still had a long way to go to address all the issues faced by the LGBTIQ community.

She noted there were still 76 countries where being LGBT is criminal and in 13 of those countries the punishment is death.

"That is why we need pride events so all societies see these pride parades and know that 'who I am is normal' even if it is not normal in their family or church group.

"The government has a responsibility, and I have a responsibility as a member of the LGBT community that's why it is important to do this every year."

Helplines

Rainbow Youth: Weekdays on (09) 376 4155, email info@ry.org.nz or more information online at https://www.ry.org.nz/
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.