Being young and queer can be tough, and it can be even tougher if you come from a non-Western background.

Having to deal with homophobia as well as racism can often be too much for many young people to bear.

Some of the challenges faced by queer youth from ethnic communities will be tackled at next week’s Spectrum Cultural Ideas Youth Festival at Sydney University, which is being held as part of Youth Week 2005.

The festival was organised by the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW and will look at cross-cultural issues facing young people today.

A lot of the time -˜coming out’ is a very Western concept. It’s often very different to a lot of the ethnic experiences or migrant experiences, said Rathana Chea, one of the festival organisers.

Some young people find themselves in a situation where they’re not only fighting their ethnic community for acceptance but also the queer community, Chea said.

One of the two workshops with a specific queer focus is by ACON’s Asian Project officer John Wang, who will be looking at cross-cultural prejudices and will discuss his own experiences facing racism and coming out as a gay man.

The other queer workshop will deal more with mental health and is by David Moutou from GLYSSN, a social group for queer youth in St George and Sutherland.

Moutou, who has experience working with queer Arabic, Macedonian, Oceanic and Chinese youth, will focus on concepts of empowerment and the importance of finding a peer support network.

Peer support plays an integral role in helping young people deal with issues of homophobia and racism. Which is what this festival is really all about, Chea said.

The festival is being held from 13 to 14 April. Go to www.eccnsw.org.au/spectrum for more information.

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