Coming out at 50 is no less terrifying than coming out as a teenager, says a Tauranga woman offering help and advice to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.
With the support of Toi Ohomai, Kat Clark has established a Rainbow Corner in the library at the institute of technology's Windermere campus where people can go for help and advice regarding sexuality and gender.
“I created a Rainbow network group at Toi Ohomai and we were kind of put away in the back of a classroom,” she says.
“I wanted a way to reach more students. The Rainbow Corner is more visible, therefore more students are likely to use it.”
Kat is studying social work with the University of Waikato and partnered with Rainbow Youth in 2014 to set up the Tauranga Pryde LGBTI youth group.
“Because Toi Ohomai has a lot of older students, I was finding they were coming to me for mentoring advice, rather than looking for somewhere to meet up and make friends. They were coming to me saying: ‘I need help, I don't know what to do. I've left my husband, I think I'm gay'.
“I always say it doesn't matter what age you are – you could be 50 and coming out – you're still experiencing the same emotions as someone who is 14 and coming out.
“I think older people get forgotten about, but it must be as terrifying for them as when I came out years ago.”
Kat says the Rainbow Corner is a friendly and safe environment surrounded by supportive Toi Ohomai staff.
“Fliers are available for students to take away and read, along with some giveaways. There is a question box – students can anonymously fill out a form and someone will get back to them with answers or ongoing support.
“All I want to do is create a comfortable environment for all LGBTI students, where they can feel accepted, be proud of who they are and get the support that they need.”
Kat will also be running an LGBTI information stall at Toi Ohomai's upcoming Orientation Week.