For year 11 student Elliot George, finding a group of peers who had shared experiences was crucial in fighting feelings of isolation.
Elliot found “family” in the Whatever group – a group for young people who identify as LGBTIQ+ – and encouraged other young people who may feel isolated on the journey to discovering themselves to talk to someone about it.
“I started out feeling like I was all alone and I talked to someone about it and it gave me connections and places like this and now I feel like they’re my family,” Elliot said.
The Whatever group will be apart of this year’s Gippsland Pride Formal, and Elliot encouraged young people who identified as LGBTIQ+, or young people who were allies of that community, to attend and celebrate pride in their identity.
Whatever group project worker Chantelle Chitty said young LGBTIQ+ people were a “relatively isolated cohort” and the group, as well as events like the Pride Formal, provided an important space for them to find a supportive community.
“They get together and form social connections and talk about some of the issues that are relevant to people in that community,” Ms Chitty said.
“Sometimes we’ll have fun and go watch a movie together, or something like that.”
Headspace youth community engagement work Kristi Lowrie said events like the gala were important for young people because they provided a safe, discrimination-free space to be themselves.
“It’s good to be able to celebrate diversity as individuals in a space where they are safe and empowered to do that as well” Ms Lowrie said.
The gala was not held last year, however, Ms Lowrie said it would be bigger and better than ever this year.
“We’ll have drag queen performances, hip hop interactive dance classes, photo booth, face painting and free pizza,” she said.
There will also be prizes for best-dressed and there will be free buses from Sale and Warragul.
“Our Pride Formal will also be a drug, alcohol and smoke-free event, as we want to show young people they can have fun and socialise without using a substance,” Ms Lowrie said.
RSVPs are esential. Register your attendance by Wednesday, July 17 at bit.ly/prideformal2019.