Support group ‘welcoming’

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An informative group designed to support Upper Clutha’s LGBTQA+ community is gaining traction.

The group, called Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (Saga), which is offered through Kahu Youth, was launched a year ago, following a similar concept in Queenstown.

Saga’s Wanaka-based group has seven members, each at varying levels of their LGBTQA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, and other sexual orientations like pansexual) journey.

Youth worker Richard Elvey said the aim of the group was to offer support and provide a network for people living in Wanaka.

“There’s an awful lot of pressure in the community to remain hidden.”

For Luci Mcdougall (17), the group meant she could socialise with Upper Clutha’s LGBTQA+ community, while also making new friends, after she moved to the area from Auckland.

“The first person that I met when I moved down to Wanaka, who was a local, was a part of the group. He is a close friend and once we got talking about pride he insisted I came to a meeting and I was more than thrilled to join.”

Luci said the group was full of amazing, young and unique individuals.

“It’s a chance for us to all hang out, talk about things within pride openly, create projects and fundraisers and, ultimately, express yourself without judgement.”

Luci is pansexual, which means her “love interest is not excluded by anyone”, she said.

“However, I have many friends that relate to different areas of the community and, therefore, pride has been a massive part of my life.”

Luci has gained a lot of support through the group.

“It isn’t a place where we only get supported about our relationship, social or gender issues, but they support me through any issue that I face,” she said.

“It has refreshed my opinions and choices in life and has pushed me to express myself in so many other ways.

“It’s really awesome to see so many young people so passionate about topics, and so engaged in making a difference in the community.”

Luci, who was part of an LGBTQA+ group in Auckland, said without the Wanaka group, it would feel like a part of her life was missing.

“When I came down [from Auckland] I was determined that if there wasn’t a group already, I would create one.”

She encouraged anyone who wanted support from the group to join.

“It may seem scary at first, but everyone is welcoming and supportive of each other.”

The group meets each Wednesday from 3.30pm to 5pm.

To find out more email kahu.youth@xtra.co.nz