Bridging the gap . . . North Otago Youth Centre manager Amanda Acheson says education is the key to understanding.

Building a bridge.

That is what it means to educate oneself on Rainbow terms, North Otago Youth Centre manager Amanda Acheson says.

Learning the right terms was the “first step” to say “I’m trying to understand you”, Mrs Acheson said.

“Sexuality and gender is complex – it’s really complex, actually.”

Some people thought the rainbow community was just adding letters to “LGBTQIA+”, but those letters honoured the fact that there was more to it than being gay or lesbian.

For some naysayers, their attitude was derived from a fear of difference or wanting going back to what was simple, she said.

“But I don’t think the world is simple,” she said.

“Our young people today are growing up in a culture where it is encouraged to ask questions about their identity like, ‘Who are we?’, ‘Where do we fit?’, ‘Why are we here?’.

“These fundamental questions about existence, significance, belonging and connection in our world are complicated, but they open the dialogue for rich and life-giving korero, which we are privileged to be invited to journey with them, if we are courageous enough.”

As a counsellor, Mrs Acheson had seen the shame, fear, and mental anguish that arose when someone hid their authentic self.

But she also saw a growing part of the community that was accepting and loving towards queer people.

“That part of our community is getting bigger.”

There was also a part of the community that feared this represented the loss of the “moral values of society”.

“If we can approach humans as humans and love them regardless of a label and without judgement, that coming out of the closet will lead to less mental illness, scars and shame,” she said.

“Ultimately, relationships where we can have conversations with those we seek to understand more will help move our understanding about what it is to be human.”

Understanding Rainbow terms:

  • Sexual orientation: the pattern to which you are emotionally physically or sexually attracted.
  • Gender identity: an internal understanding of who you are, i.e. male, female, or other.
  • Transgender: an umbrella term which is used when the sex someone is assigned at birth does not fully reflect the sense of internal gender identity.
  • Cisgender: a person whose gender is the same as the sex recorded at their birth.
  • Intersex: a person born with ambiguous sexual characteristics and biological sex is undetermined at birth.
  • Non binary: someone who does not identify as male or female, or whose gender is fluid between the two.
  • Queer: a reclaimed umbrella term encompassing all identities and expressions outside the heterosexual, monogamous and gender normative majority.
  • Asexual: a person who experiences no sexual attraction to other people, and/or no desire for sexual activity.
  • Bisexual: a person who experiences romantic attraction and/or sexual attraction towards people of more than one gender.