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Today is Pink Shirt Day, the beginning of Youth Week, and transgender organisation Gender Minorities Aotearoa is announcing big plans for sustainable support services.

”We all know that transgender, takataapui, and other gender minorities face disproportionate bullying and discrimination,” National Coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi says, ”so this year we are announcing the opening of our first Gender Centre and op shop combo.”

”The Gender Centre will be a place where transgender and intersex people can come for information, resources, and a supportive social environment,” says Wi-Hongi, ”where folks can relax and feel supported, normal, safe, and comfortable; free from harassment, bullying, and judgement.

”The op shop will mean we can fund the Gender Centre sustainably, as well as providing a way to easily connect – everyone knows how to use an op shop and no one is afraid to be seen entering one,” says Wi-Hongi, who previously spent 3 years successfully co-running the Opportunity for Animals franchise and setting up the Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary in Otaki.

Wi-Hongi says the gender centre, which is set to open this summer, will help to address the widespread need for information and support with things like whanau relationships, changing identity documents, using the healthcare system, employment and housing issues, issues around partner and sexual violence, and accessing other services.

Gender Minorities Aotearoa also offers information, consultation, and sensitivity training to service providers and wider communities. ”We are committed to providing culturally appropriate and diverse education for whanau, friends, and wider communities to understand the needs of transgender and intersex people,” says Wi-Hongi, ”as well as advocating for rights and social change.”

With over 3 years experience offering a similar wrap around service to sex workers at New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective, Wi-Hongi says they are well versed in realistic approaches to support and empowerment.

”We are so excited to offer a cross cultural and transgender led wrap around service to all transgender and intersex people. We are starting in Wellington, but our 5 year plan includes opening two more branches, and our 10 year plan looks at a much wider reach.”

Gender Minorities Aotearoa is seeking donations of clothing, footwear, accessories, and small household appliances, which can be dropped off at 128 Abel Smith Street Wellington between 6pm and 8pm on weekdays, or any time on weekends.

”It’s a fantastic way for everyone to be part of this important historic moment, and the enormous support we are receiving is really heart warming. The kindness and community spirit is overwhelming. We are truly grateful for your messages of support and your donations – thank you all so much.”

Scoop article here.