Let’s face it, New Zealand’s sex ed is generally pretty terrible when it comes to gender and sexuality. I don’t think the word ‘lesbian’ was mentioned once in my health class at an all-girls school. There was no acknowledgement that a lot of young people are not cisgender or straight. The glaring lack of open education for queer and gender diverse young people makes the work done by RainbowYOUTH all the more important.
I talked to Toni Duder, Communications Manager of RainbowYOUTH, about the organisation’s involvement in The REAL Sex Talk and how we can improve sex ed for young people around New Zealand.
Tell me about your involvement with RainbowYOUTH.
I’ve been at RainbowYOUTH for 5 years now. I started off writing content for the website, and slowly built the role into what it is now - Communications Manager. I mostly handle our external comms, branding, promotion, and resource development. I love my role at RY, no day is the same. Seeing the organization grow has been an incredible experience.
How has RainbowYOUTH been involved in The REAL Sex Talk?
We were approached by Villainesse to consult on the scripts for each episode alongside Family Planning and Rape Prevention Education. What was great is the team was really open to including issues around sexuality and gender diversity throughout the whole series, not just in the sexuality and gender episodes.
Are you guys happy with how the series is going? Is there anything more you would like to see included?
I’m really happy to see the reception to TRST and think it’s a really important resource for our rangatahi (and let’s be honest - adults too! I sure learnt a few things).
One thing that I reckon could be explored more in the future is what sexuality looks like for differently abled people and the specific stuff that comes up around that.
So much of our sex ed is focused on straight, penetrative sex and nothing else. Did you notice the gaps when you were at school? Is there anything else that you feel was missing from sex ed?
Oh yeah, when I was at school the education was really not great at all. I remember boys and girls were separated and told about ‘male’ puberty and ‘female’ puberty.
Heterosexuality was given as a default and… Yeah, it was just a bit of a mess. I actually learnt so much more through the ’sealed sections’ in Dolly magazine. Me and my friends would always get together and read those. At school, there was a definite lack of diversity and general openness about the complexities of sexuality, sex, and gender identity.
Where did you go for information about being LGBTQI as a teenager?
The internet. I actually went to boarding school, so I only had non-censored internet during the school holidays on the family computer. Wish I’d known to delete my google search history though – blaming ‘lesbian chat room’ searches on my little step brother wasn’t exactly believable!
In an ideal world, what would queer-friendly sex ed look like?
I think we need to begin with the assumptions that mainstream sex education makes about students (i.e. that by default they are straight, cis-gender, and not intersex). If we do away with that, and accept that sexuality, gender, and bodies come in many different forms and that there’s no ‘right’ way to have sex, it will automatically make sex-ed more accessible for a more diverse range of students.
We need to approach the subject in a way that centres consent, healthy relationships and sexual health - and that makes an effort to include queer, gender diverse and intersex issues every step of the way, rather than adding them as an after-thought.
That “it’s not gay” pie ad was fantastic, did you have any involvement with that?
Yeah, that came about due to us being one of the charity partners of the MediaWorks Foundation. We were incredibly lucky to have the backing and resources of MediaWorks and Y&R to make that ad and we’re stoked with it.
It really put RainbowYOUTH on the map in the mainstream media, and in a way that follows the tradition of iconic ads in Aotearoa. We wanted to create a message that demonstrated how allies could help educate others about queer and gender diverse issues and help one another do better. The ad’s success is a testament to the accessibility of its humour I think. It’s the start of a conversation.
Were you disappointed that the census didn't collect info about LGBTQI people? Do you believe that RY’s job is made more difficult by omissions like that?
Yep, gutted. Not being able to definitively map out the demographics of our community makes it even harder to tailor our services and apply for funding. Our funding is mostly grants based, and funders are really moving to models where they want to see the need painted in really concrete terms.
We know there’s a need, but having doors closed on us, like with the census, just makes things so much harder in this competitive funding climate. That’s why donations make such an impact. Even if it’s $5 - a recurring donation helps us do our mahi without worrying so much about when the next grant will come through.
How can people get involved with RainbowYOUTH?
If you’re a queer / gender diverse / intersex person (or questioning) between the ages of 13 - 27, you can get in touch with us through our website and check out our services. If you’re wanting to volunteer we have great opportunities, such as facilitating one of our peer-support groups or becoming a drop-in centre intern. You could also fundraise for RY using our rainbow ribbons and of course, cash donations are always welcome too! All of these opportunities are available via our website.Support Villainesse