QUEENSLAND’S only specialist support program for transgender young people is set to close this month due to lack of funding.
Jelly Beans is a social support group for transgender and gender variant people aged under 24. The service is run by Open Doors Youth Service, a support and advocacy group for LGBT youth in Brisbane.
“We never thought it would be as big as what it is,” said Tyrone Shandiman, the chair of Open Doors.
Jelly Beans relies on private funding, and has received only $1500 in donations this year. Shandiman said the organisation is seeking government funding for Jelly Beans.
With more people identifying as transgender, and often at an earlier age, the few services available for young trans people are crucial.
“It would be heartbreaking if we are no longer able to offer a service designed specifically to meet the urgent support needs of transgender young people,” Tyrone said.
“Unfortunately, many young people who access Jelly Beans still face social exclusion and prejudices, which puts them at a higher risk of poor mental health, homelessness, and suicide.”
Jelly Beans helps young people going through a major life change, to navigate family issues, deal with mental health, and provides referrals to other specialist services.
Tyrone said the service is at capacity, and closing Jelly Beans is the only option if ongoing funding is not secured.
Open Doors’ general manager Pam Barker said the service can’t cope with the growing demand to meet the specific complex needs of transgender young people.
Grace Grace, state member for Brisbane Central, said the Department of Communities will meet with Open Doors to discuss funding.
“It provides an invaluable service in my electorate by giving support to young transgender people and young people questioning their gender identity,” Grace said.
Kirsten Lovejoy from the Queensland Greens said the closure of Jelly Beans would likely lead to an increase in the risk of suicide for young trans people.
“It’s time that its value is recognised more formally with funding to match,” Lovejoy said.
Until funding can be secured, Open Doors is holding a fundraising drive to save Jelly Beans. Visit givenow.com.au/saveourjellybean to donate.