A 15-YEAR-OLD Sunshine Coast boy has spoken about how important today’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) is for him and other LGBTI teens.

Sam Bouzanquet, who founded Queensland’s first recognised LGBTI high school group, said IDAHOT is a chance to show his appreciation for the activism which has made his life as a young, gay man a little easier and, in turn, to try to help other gay teens less fortunate than him. He believes initiatives like IDAHOT are important in providing education and changing hearts and minds.

“I know I have been extremely lucky, compared to previous generations of gays,” he said.

“26 years ago, before the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, I would have been considered mentally ill.

“IDAHOT helps us take action and engage in dialogue with the media, policy makers and the wider community. It gives us a day each year to focus our attention on the violence, discrimination and repression LGBTIQ people experience, and to help the wider community understand the people involved.”

Sam acknowledges his experience as a gay teen has been easier than most but is aware not all LGBTI adolescents are privileged enough to have the same experience.

“I have never been beaten-up or even really hassled for being gay. I have a loving family who have always been supportive of me and my sexuality. I was encouraged to come out at 14-years-old as I had known who I was from nine… I know, that some teenagers are not nearly as lucky as I am,” he said.

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“Some may suffer from their parents rejecting them, or trying to change them, or not loving them for who they are. While others may also be bullied, put down or even physically abused.

“IDAHOT is a day where the LGBTIQ community and its supporters are recognised, and we’re reminded it’s okay to be gay. If you’re being bullied, put down or even physically abused because of your sexuality, let me say right here and now, ‘that is not acceptable any more’.

Sam said if you’re out there confused, worried or scared about what people will think, rest assured that you are not alone.

“As a young gay man, I believe this day is needed for all of our LGBTIQ youth,” he said.

To find out more about IDAHOT or to find an event in your area, visit the official website here.

If you have experienced bullying or need someone to talk to, beyondblue offers LGBTI services and counselling, you can visit their website or call 1300 22 4636.

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