Wear it Purple Day - Purple Panel event

Rainbow young people share their lived experiences.

Date published: 11 Oct 2021

Author: Lucy Hose

Focus on people Healthshare NSW News

Rainbow young people working at eHealth NSW and HealthShare NSW came together on Friday, 27 August 2021, to share their personal stories and experiences for the Wear it Purple Day - Purple Panel event.

HealthShare NSW’s Millennial Minds, young professionals network and the GLIDE+ community (Guiding LGBTIQ+ Inclusion, Diversity and Equality) joined forces to host a special virtual event that had a theme of love, acceptance and starting a conversation at its core.

Christian O'Connor, Chair of GLIDE+ and Records Services Business Partner, kicked off the session as one of the co-hosts for the day. Christian explained the background to Wear it Purple Day and shared relevant statistics from the LGBTIQ+ community, for example, how rainbow young people aged 16-17 are five times more likely to have experienced suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months.

Christian’s co-host Sarah Swarbrick, part of the Millennial Minds network and Manager Business Performance, shared her reasons about why supporting rainbow young people is important to her.

“There is a really strong connection between GLIDE+, Millennial Minds and our diversity strategy. I’m a manager, a peer and a friend to people in the rainbow community and I want to help create an environment where people feel inclusion and belonging,” said Sarah.

Louella Dent, Statewide Training Officer, spoke about her first kiss, being outed, her magic moments during life and how labels can affect a person. “When I was 16 years old I was outed,” shared Louella.

“This term and what happened to me caused me a lot of pain and confusion. I remember hearing ‘Louella is a Lesbian’, even though I’d never said these words myself. I wasn’t sure what I defined myself as and felt confused by the need to be defined at all.”

Louella explained that boxes and labels can really make a negative impact on young people, especially when they are still trying to figure out who they are. Louella came out again seven years later on her terms, telling friends and family that she loved people, and was accepted and empowered in doing this. Louella encouraged all participants to, “be your true authentic self, be brave, and be ready for magic”.

Sean Darby-Linfitt, Project Officer, Business Performance followed Louella with a conversation on intersectionality. Sean is mixed race and came from a very religious family, at first he tried to fit into stereotypes in order to be accepted.

'Intersectionality' refers to the ways in which different aspects of a person's identity can expose them to overlapping forms of discrimination and marginalisation. Aspects of intersectionality include race, migration status, religion, age, gender identity and sexuality. Attitudes, systems, beliefs and stigmas can all combine and lead to increased social isolation and less effective services for people that need them.

Sean shared that he it wasn’t until he went to university where he met his best friend and role model that he was able to share his true authentic self. Sean talked about the importance of positive role models and how they can assist on the “journey of self-acceptance” and assist with building up your self-worth.

“This is why role models and allies in work and life are some important to rainbow colleagues, friends and family. People need to know they are supported,” said Sean.

George Schneider, Operational Training Lead, Service Delivery discussed the transition many young people go through when they leave formal education to join the workforce. George volunteers for Out for Australia where he works as a mentor.

George explained that many young people ask; “Is the workplace safe?, is it safe to come out?, and if I do will my job be safe?”. Another area people often query is dressing for work “so their gay isn’t showing”.

Last year saw a 2% decrease in people feeling comfortable in the workplace, which now means 25% of LGBTIQ+ people aren’t comfortable coming out at work.

“Many young people constantly self-edit and they spend so much of their cognitive resources on worrying about their appearance, that they can’t actually connect and perform in an authentic way at work,” said George.

“This is why the actions of senior leaders are so important as visibly queer leaders and allies being visibly supportive is crucial to make staff feel safe to bring their whole selves to work.”

Lastly we heard from Chris Tanasoff, Executive Assistant, Strategic Procurement. Chris shared how it wasn’t until he moved from NSW to WA after school that he finally felt OK to be his authentic self.

Chris spoke about his two families; his genetic family and his ‘chosen’ family. Over the years this has been made up of supportive work colleagues and friends who have supported him and built him up. Chris described his chosen family as “Christmas lights… the bright pops of colour separated by the long wires of time in my life” of who he wouldn’t be here without.

Key session takeaways:

How can we be better allies and start a conversation with a colleague / rainbow person?

  • Don’t be afraid, you might be nervous, but often young people don’t share the same fear
  • Watch some queer/rainbow TV shows, e.g. “What’s it like” on ABC and educate yourself
  • Have a look at what local community groups and organisations are doing – e.g. local rainbow events and fair days that you can go along to
  • It’s ok to be unsure, don’t let that hold you back, it’s the effort and intention that counts
  • Not starting a conversation increases the isolation and barriers, it’s almost worse than making a mistake, so just go for it
  • Be mindful of the situation, e.g. a group setting might not be the best time to talk
  • be non-judgmental in how you ask a question and how you listen and respond
  • Everyone is different, people feel things differently so be open to learn something new with each conversation you have.

What about pronouns?

  • When you introduce yourself, include your pronouns
  • Add them to your email signature
  • Don’t be afraid, the intention and effort is appreciated
  • Listen to others and be open to change your culture of assumption
  • If you get it wrong, apologise and correct yourself.

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