A specific youth-focused gender diverse group is helping young people break down barriers and face issues of stigma together for people across the region.
Gender Diverse Group Facilitators Felix Sy (he/they) and Jackie Manners (she/her)
Run through the Child and Youth Mental Health Service, the monthly support group for trans and gender diverse youths encourages them to share experiences with likeminded peers, adding to a number of LGBT support groups across the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.
“I was very aware of the research that shows trans and gender diverse youth in Australia have alarmingly higher rates of clinically significant depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality compared to the general youth population,” says Jackie Manners (she/her), Clinical Psychologist for the Child and Youth Mental Health Service.
“It became clear to me over time that the young people themselves were cut off from each other. They kept telling me they wanted to meet people facing the same issues they were facing. They wanted a place to where they could validate their experiences and grow social connections”.
Felix Sy (he/they) co-facilitates the group with Jackie and brings a real-life perspective as a transgender man who has experience in accessing mental health services as a young person.
“In this group we encourage young people to connect with others with similar experiences, make new friends, and express themselves in a safe and inclusive environment. In each meeting, I help setup fun activities, and enable discussions that allow young people to share their experiences of gender diversity,” says Felix.
“From my own experience in high school, you feel as though you are the only person in the world who is experiencing the challenges that being trans or gender diverse comes with. At the time, I had not met anybody else who was trans or gender diverse, nor did I know how it was possible to meet others who were like me,” he added.
Felix says the group has helped members with feelings of isolation and highlights how creating space for acceptance can help address issues of stigma and discrimination.
“The group has created an empowering space where young people’s trans identities and gender diversity are proudly expressed and celebrated. From when I began facilitating nearly a year ago, I have personally witnessed positive changes over time in the confidence and self-esteem of some of the young people who attend…which sincerely warms my heart,” says Felix.
This article was prepared for Wear it Purple Daywhich was founded in response to a surge of young people who took their lives because of bullying, harassment, and a lack of acceptance of their gender identity.
The Day has grown to show others across the globe that there is hope, that there are people who love and accept them and that they have the right to be proud of who they are.
Visit the Child and Youth Mental Health Service for more information. For support and referral, contact the Mental Health Line 1800 011 511.