The idea for InsideOUT first came about in 2010 as a friend and I planned to run a workshop at Q-Youth’s ‘Uber Happiness Hui’ on queer straight alliances. I was in my last year at high-school, volunteering for Q-Youth and part of that was supporting the other schools in Nelson to set up queer straight alliances. I said to my friend ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a national organisation to support these groups setting up all over NZ?’. Similar to the way SADD – Students Against Drunk Driving and Amnesty International work. It was just a little dream then and 18 year-old me had no idea that it would and could become a reality.
The following year I was lucky enough to be working part-time for Q-Youth after finishing school and my colleague Seb Stewart received a Vodafone World of Difference award. Having two employees gave us the flexibility to do some work nationally, like coordinating Pink Shirt Day and sending a bunch of letters to John Key about homophobic bullying. Blake Skjellerup, NZ’s Olympian Speed Skater and an out gay man, was coming to Nelson and was going to work with us and support Pink Shirt Day and speak in school assemblies as part of our regional Pride Week. At some point along the way I told Seb about my dream for a national organisation focused on supporting young people in schools, continuing the work we had started in Nelson. His response was an enthusiastic one – let’s do it! Seb and Blake quickly organised a national tour of schools where they spoke in assemblies about homophobia, under the name of QSA Network Aotearoa – the queer straight alliance network. A speedy website and flyer was created and off they went. Our organisation was born!
After the tour we discussed ways we could create this organisation, but in the end Seb decided the next step on his journey was to move to Melbourne. I had planned to move to Wellington and I decided to take the idea of QSA Network Aotearoa with me and see if I could make it happen.
After that I worked to find the people who would be our founding trustees, developed a trust deed and in September we officially became a charitable trust. During that time we were kindly umbrella-ed by ITANZ – Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand – with the support of Mani Mitchell, one of our first executive advisors. With the support of ITANZ we received funding to run our first national hui – Hui Putahi – where young people from all over NZ came together that July to learn about QSAs. We began outreach work to areas with less support, including Whanganui, Palmerston North and South Auckland.
We made our first appearances at Out in the Square and Big Gay Out, trying to fundraise through selling old clothes, tea-cup candles and balloon animals! We didn’t make much money, but we were excited to let the community know we were there. We began delivering professional development training on sexuality and gender and responding to requests all over NZ asking for support in setting up QSAs. We ran our next hui, PatchwerQ, in collaboration with School’s Out and it was pretty awesome.
In 2014 we ran the Day of Silence for the first time as a national campaign in NZ, continued outreach work to Whanganui and did a whole lot more. Over the course of the year we continued to discuss what it was we really wanted to be and do – which resulted in deciding to change our name to InsideOUT and letting everyone know that there are lots of ways we can make our schools and communities safer! We’re passionate about setting up queer straight alliances but they aren’t the only way and we know that. In October we received funding to employ a part time National Coordinator, a massive milestone for us.
It’s been a long journey to get to this point, but we are so excited to be here and hope that 2015 will be full of new projects, relationships and the start of a solid foundation for InsideOUT. Our work would not be possible without all the incredible people who have volunteered their time over the last few years to get us up and running and I am forever grateful for that!