When Tabby Besley came out at 15, she was lucky enough to have the support of a queer-straight alliance at her school – possibly the first such group in Australasia. She then set up a regional group, and then took nationwide.
“Queer and trans young people are five times more likely than heterosexual young people to commit suicide, which is such a massive statistic.”
While there have been improvements, even in her lifetime, she points to the Auckland University Youth12 reports as a suggestion that much more needs to be done.
“You can see that in the last ten years throughout their surveys, the situation for bullying and depression and suicidality hasn’t really changed for our community. Which is absolutely shocking, so we really need the government and community agencies to get behind our work and support it.”
This week, Tabby was named as one of the 60 inaugural winners of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. Commonwealth Youth New Zealand Executive Director, Aaron Hape, said the judges took many elements into account when selecting winners. They included the quality of the potential winner’s project, the impact and sustainability of the project in their community, and how the project reflected the values of the Commonwealth Charter. “In Tabby’s case, that is the implacable opposition to discrimination based on violence, sexuality, and gender.”
You can see that in the last ten years throughout their surveys, the situation for bullying and depression and suicidality hasn’t really changed for our community
“I am thrilled to see that Tabby’s clear vision, determination, and passion in advocating for LGBTI rights in New Zealand has been rightly recognised at the highest level by the Head of the Commonwealth, the Queen.”
As a Queen's Young Leader Tabby will take a year-long online leadership course developed by Cambridge University and receive one-on-one mentoring.
Tabby’s hoping the recognition will mean more visibility for the work that she does, and for the organisation she coordinates, InsideOut. It should be a basic right, she says, for people to feel safe at school, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality. And that’s not always the case.
For now though, she’s more focussed on what to wear when she meets the Queen? Does she have to wear a big hat, how does one actually curtsey, and what colour she should dye her distinctive hair. “Maybe pink. Pink is quite standard for me.”
You can hear more from Tabby Besley when On The Dial returns next week.