Article by Alan Wakefield
Twenty-two-year-old Tabby is no stranger to stigma, discrimination or mental distress. Since coming out as bisexual in her teens, the Wellingtonian has seen a lot of stereotyping and myths around bisexuality.
Being faced with bullying and discrimination can make you believe who you are is wrong, which can lead to anxiety, depression, self-harm and more, Tabby says.
Tabby was lucky to have a supportive school and an accepting family, but she was still bullied.
Most discrimination comes from a lack of understanding, so Tabby advocates for education and awareness.
“Shaming people doesn’t work, it makes them defensive, but giving them the information they need to make their own choices about their behaviour can be a really powerful way to encourage change,” she says.
Finding support and standing out
Tabby’s school, Nayland College, was the first in Australasia that she knows of to have a queer straight alliance (QSA).
“I think having a peer support group in my school sent a really powerful message that it was okay to be who I was, that my school accepted and celebrated my identity,” she says.
Tabby became passionate about the QSA and later became student leader of the group.
After helping set up Q-Youth, a community group and drop-in centre in Nelson and QSA groups at the other schools, Tabby was inspired to start InsideOUT. InsideOUT wants to make all Kiwi schools safer for students of diverse sexualities and genders.
In June 2015, Tabby went to London to attend the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders Awards.
She was recognised as an exceptional leader for her work to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex and queer young people feel supported at school. Tabby is one of 60 young people internationally, and the only Kiwi, to get this award.
“This award is really special because the efforts of young people in the rainbow community are very rarely recognised, yet there are so many working to make a difference. The visibility of this award means a lot.”
What you can do about stigma and discrimination
- Report discrimination to you principal, employer or the Human Rights Commission.
- Know your rights and that it’s not okay to be treated like that.
- Stand up for others and explain why discrimination isn’t okay – don’t be a passive bystander.
- Connect with a support group or other people who have been through the same thing.