I remember being about 15 years old and chatting online, using IRC and ICQ, to talk to random people in chat rooms, asking all sorts of questions: What is Mardi Gras like? What’s it like to be gay? Do your parents know?

I wanted answers for all these questions, and as the night went on the questioning continued and often got a little more personal. The information that I got back was helpful, but I didn’t know any of these people, and I didn’t have a clue who they were or where they were from.

These days I feel I am much more informed, I have learnt things firsthand and I know a lot of the answers to the questions I was once asking. I suppose there are some things you just have to experience for yourself.

Sometimes you just need a bit of a push start and across Western Sydney there are groups for GLBT young people that help to give you that push.

At first the idea of going to a group can be daunting, especially if you imagine it to mean sitting in a circle saying your name and being told what to do (Fat Fighters from Little Britain comes to mind).

These groups are nothing like that, they are a fun way of talking to other people of similar ages, and most importantly they’re places where you can just hang out and be yourself. There are groups in the Campbelltown, Bankstown, Penrith and Mount Druitt areas.

Fun & Esteem and Ins & Out are youth projects that are run at ACON and there are always young people in the groups who travel into the city to participate. After all, sometimes it is easier to get from St Marys to Central than it is to get from St Marys to Macarthur.

If you have heard of these groups before and have been waiting for the right time to come, or if you have never heard of any of these groups and want more information, then my contact details are listed below and I am more than happy to talk to you about what they are like.

People are coming out left, right and centre after Mardi Gras, so why not find out what’s in your area?

If you want any information about groups, services, organisations or community events taking place in western Sydney, you can contact Matt Vaughan at ACON on 9206 2064 or [email protected]

Matt Vaughan is the Community Development and Liaison Officer for the ACON Western Sydney Community Development Team.

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