Ryvre Thompson first got involved with the LGBT+ community when he was around 16-years-old, as a member of RainbowYOUTH’s peer support group GQ. It didn’t take him long to take on a facilitator role in the group, before then joining the organisation’s Executive Board.
Now the Board Secretary, the 21-year-old volunteers his time while working part-time as a community support worker and studying at the University of Auckland towards a degree in nursing.
Growing up in a very loving and accepting family regardless of the pathways he takes in life, Ryvre says he has been lucky.
“Bullying was not common in my school, and if someone was being picked on it was likely there was someone else there, standing up for them; this meant that I was fortunate enough not to experience any homophobia or transphobia growing up.
“However, when I reached high school I went through a long battle with mental illnesses – anxiety and depression – at a time where I was also trying to find my identity (who I was in general as a person) and trying to deal with and explore my queer identity too, this was a really confusing and difficult time.”
He says these are experiences that many young LGBT+ people can probably relate to and it was during this time that he found RainbowYOUTH while searching the internet for a queer social support group. He wanted to be able to connect with like-minded people and explore that part of himself in a safe and supportive space.
Now as a volunteer, he is able to give back to the organisation which helped him a lot as a young person growing up in a society where most people don’t identify under the rainbow spectrum.
“RainbowYOUTH helped me to connect with others, and accept myself,” he says.
“Staying connected, for anyone, is an essential part of maintaining a healthy well-being. Growing up as a young queer person it is common to feel isolated and different, especially when the opinions of those around you are not supportive, or are uneducated.”
He says young people coming to terms with their identity often have a lack of support and face social stigma. There’s also a lack of education and information available to them and those around them. These barriers are coupled with poor, or little representation of the communities within the media.
“Having a safe place like RY where young queer people can come to and know that they will be safe and accepted, and where they can connect with and socialise with others who may be having similar experiences is essential in reducing that feeling of isolation that one may experience, and in giving them the opportunity to be themselves.”
The RainbowYOUTH centre provides a comfortable and safe space for any queer-identifying people to relax, socialise, and just hang out.
“The warm environment and bubbly, friendly staff make it feel like a second home,” says Ryvre. “I love being part of that and being able to see first-hand how the organisation grows and flourishes.”
Over the past few years, Ryvre has grown the confidence to be himself, and let go of those burdening thoughts, which he says kept him stuck in one spot, and not moving forward.
“Volunteering my time with organisations like RainbowYOUTH has had a huge positive impact on me as well, improving my confidence and giving me purpose. My hopes are to be a part of the process in fostering a community where no one needs to feel ashamed to be themselves or express their identities.”
Ryvre hopes that the future will bring with it acceptance and normality of the LGBT+ communities both in New Zealand and worldwide. A change that will see the suicide and abuse rates decreasing and kindness and respect for all people a reality.
He also hopes to continue working alongside RainbowYOUTH, and in healthcare – helping people become the best they can be.
A passionate and dedicated young person, doing great things in his community, we have no doubt that we’ll see big things from Ryvre in the future.