Queer Mental Health Weekend has been held at the Servo Food Truck Bar in Port Kembla to raise awareness and show support to the local queer community.

The event, hosted by Queer Fusion and Arthouse Café, connects the local LGBTI+ community with the aim of openly discussing mental and physical health.

Organiser Ashley Fisher said that while things are improving for the queer community in relation to inclusion in society, accessing health care can open the LGBTI+ community to unwarranted scrutiny about their lifestyle.

“What we found is it can be difficult to find a health care provider that understands what it is like to be queer,” Mr Fisher said.

Data surrounding LGBTI+ health is difficult to assess, as many surveys on health data in Australia do not include issues that impact the queer community or do not give an option to identify as queer.

Research conducted by the  Black Dog Institute states that queer couples living in areas with higher rates of acceptance of queer people report better health outcomes.

Drag queen and queer rights advocate Miss Roxee Horror said it was important to hold events like the Queer Mental Health Weekend, to introduce the queer community of the Illawarra to appropriate and inclusive mental health services.

“I do feel the queer community does get lost, because every time you hear about the queer community it is about pushing to be ourselves, so we don’t get time to push for mental health rights,” Ms Horror said.

Identity, sexuality, inclusion and acceptance are just some of the issues faced by the LGBTI+ community.

Ms Horror admits that she has battled with her own mental health issues, which is why she continues to be a part of these events, to show support and encourage conversations amongst the community.

“If people like myself don’t come out and do these events, people might think that it’s not okay, and it is okay to talk about it,” Ms Horror said.

R U OK? and Mental Health Month are part of broader initiatives focused on helping people navigate their own mental health and the mental health of others.

A variety of events have been held across the Illawarra, to coincide with Mental Health Month.

Chelsey Sanderson came out to her friends and family as a transgender woman when she was 24, having spent her entire life feeling like she wearing a ‘poorly fitted T-shirt’. Now living her life as a woman, she is confident about the future.

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