Lately I’ve been wondering whether growing up as a same-sex attracted young person in the -˜80s is any different to today.
In my role as a Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer, I attended two events run for same-sex attracted young people. One was a dance party in Melbourne and the other a social get together in Geelong.  What both events had in common was they provided the opportunity for same-sex attracted young people to socialise in an alcohol and drug free environment.
They also provide a safe space for young people where they can talk freely about their sexual identity and discuss common experiences.
Why is this important? For all people, feeling connected to, or part of, the community is extremely important.
Numerous studies link experiencing a sense of belonging to one’s community as directly related to how one feels about themselves, their identity and their self worth. For same-sex attracted young people the fear of disclosing their sexual identity can lead to feelings of isolation and being disconnected from friends, family and the broader community. This can have a profound effect on their physical and mental health and can cause them to engage in risk taking behaviours.
As a result they tend to feel less safe and suffer from higher levels of anger and depression, disruption at school, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, self harm and suicide attempts.
Why is this a concern for Victoria Police? Policing is not just about locking up the bad guy. It also involves being proactive and referring them to appropriate services.
Police try to prevent incidents through education, support, assistance and visibility. It is important for police to be at these events so same-sex attracted young people know they can talk to us if they are experiencing harassment or victimisation.
In my GLLO role, attending events run specifically for same-sex attracted young people has made me realise how important they are. If we can provide appropriate support services and safe spaces we are giving them a chance to feel like they are not isolated.
Just walking into a room filled with like minded gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people can provide that sense of belonging we all need. Walking into these spaces you can’t help but be caught up in the excitement, hope and smiles of young people somewhere they belong.
Minus 18 and GASP are just two examples of agencies that provide a much needed service. I can only wish that there were similar spaces for me in the -˜80s.

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