"IT IS OK to be different" is the message of a new service to support young gay, lesbian and gender diverse people to be launched by Kogarah Neighbourhood Centre and Arncliffe Community Centre.
Young people in St George who are questioning their sexuality or gender have had no local support services since June last year, when funding for the Glisten service in Hurstville was wound up by the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District.
Co-ordinator of the the Arncliffe Community Centre Josie Vendramini said a safe place where young people could discuss sexuality or gender issues was greatly needed in the area.
"It will be a space that is all about tolerance and acceptance," Ms Vendramini said. "I think the message we really want to get out there is that it is OK to be gay."
Kogarah Neighbourhood Centre co-ordinator Danielle Finlay, who will manage the service, said there had been harassment and homophobia in St George.
Ms Vendramini said for young people in St George homosexuality was often a source of shame.
"It is so secret in this area. I've had some young people come to me, one boy in particular whose name was Mohammad, who was terrified. He couldn't even say the words 'gay' or 'lesbian' ."
St George police crime prevention officer Ray Kerridge said a police representative would attend one of service's meetings to advise young people on safety and how to get in touch with police if they experienced violence or harassment.
"We have gay and lesbian liaison officers who deal particularly with these sorts of issues," Senior Constable Kerridge said.
"But all police officers are aware of them and can help to connect people with the different agencies."
The new space will give young people the opportunity to chat with Ms Finlay about any questions on their sexuality or gender, as well as meet other young people who are experiencing similar problems.
It will also provide a place where young people can organise events or other activities of interest to them in a supportive environment.
The service opens at 4pm at the Kogarah Neighbourhood Centre, 90 Railway Parade, Kogarah on September 13. It is open to all young people under 25. No booking or RSVP is required.