Phone app will aid teens

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET and MICHELLE ROBIN­SON

TAINE Polk­inghorne knows first­hand how dif­fi­cult ‘‘ com­ing out’’ can be.

‘‘For years I had this feel­ing, like oth­ers in my sit­u­a­tion, of not be­ing quite like the other girls and boys,’’ he ex­plains.

Through a per­sonal ex­plo­ration, the 23-year-old who was born as a girl, de­cided to be­gin iden­ti­fy­ing as a trans­man about two years ago.

‘‘It was an evo­lu­tion of find­ing things out and read­ing lots of books and talk­ing to other trans­peo­ple,’’ the in­ner-city res­i­dent says.

But teenagers strug­gling with their sex­u­al­ity will soon have a more pri­vate way to seek help.

Rain­bow Youth is poised to re­lease a new mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion that will al­low young­sters to pose ques­tions anony­mously from the pri­vacy of their own phone.

‘‘Ba­si­cally the app al­lows a plat­form that is fun, safe and in­ter­ac­tive for young peo­ple who are queer, trans or ques­tion­ing and might need sup­port,’’ Mr Polk­inghorne says.

‘‘I was ner­vous and scared when I was com­ing out and find­ing out new things about my­self. Hav­ing some­thing that I could have con­trolled what I looked at ab­so­lutely would have helped.’’

Rain­bow Youth gen­eral man­ager Dun­can Matthews says the app utilises a tool which is in­creas­ingly com­mon – smart­phones.

‘‘The phone is just a re­ally per­sonal thing,’’he says.

‘‘You might only have one com­puter in the lounge, or at school you may not feel com­fort­able look­ing up in­for­ma­tion when you are ques­tion­ing your sex­u­al­ity or gen­der.’’

Mr Matthews says the app will in­clude a fun ed­u­ca­tional quiz for users to fill out, pro­vid­ing them with in­for­ma­tion on safe sex and men­tal health.

Peo­ple can also ask ques­tions anony­mously.

Users will re­ceive no­ti­fi­ca­tions about up­com­ing Rain­bow Youth sup­port events and de­tails for drop-in cen­tres where they can seek ad­vice.

And for those feel­ing bold about their new iden­tity, there is the op­tion of cel­e­brat­ing with a rain­bow photo fil­ter for their Face­book or Twit­ter pro­files.

Rain­bow Youth, New Zealand’s sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion for les­bian, gay, bi-sex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) young­sters, won the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate the app with $12,000 fund­ing from busi­ness net­work or­gan­i­sa­tion the Lo­cal­ist.

The first phase of the free app is ex­pected to be ready for down­load later this year.

Rain­bow Youth con­nects with an es­ti­mated 35,000 peo­ple through its web­site, via so­cial me­dia or on curi ous.org.nz – an ini­tia­tive with the NZ Aids Foun­da­tion which pro­motes safe sex.

Each year Rain­bow Youth re­ceives 500 first time emails, phone calls and faceto-face chats with peo­ple seek­ing sup­port for a queer or trans-sex­ual young adults and teens.

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Con­nected: Taine Polk­inghorne started iden­ti­fy­ing as a trans-man about two years ago and says the im­pend­ing Rain­bow Youth mo­bile app would have been help­ful dur­ing his voy­age of self-dis­cov­ery.

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