'These events are vital': LGBTI+ issues focus of conference
GROWING up on the Sunshine Coast was not the smoothest of experiences for media personality Benjamin Law.
"It was not exactly the best place for a non-confident swimmer from a migrant background... and really gay," Mr Law said.
The author and activist spoke about his experiences to a crowd of about 150 people at the Rainbow Connections conference at the Empire Theatre on Saturday.
The conference looked at topics such as transgender rights, challenging homophobia, support of the LGBTI+ community, LGBTI+ issues in rural areas and mental health.
It featured a range of high-profile guests such as Mr Law, transgender activist Georgie Stone and her mum Rebekah Robertson, Nevo Zisin and Daniel Witthaus.
"If I had gone to something like this (growing up on the Sunshine Coast) it wouldn't have only changed my thinking about myself but it would have changed my life," Mr Law said.
"To know there were people openly speaking about their sexuality and gender, that it wasn't a source of shame, that would have been revolutionary to me growing up.
"I hope this shows (members of the LGBTI+ community in Toowoomba) they aren't alone and there are support networks, people and resources available to them."
Georgie Stone, who travelled from Melbourne to speak at the event, said perceptions around the LGBTI+ community were changing for the better in regional Australia.
"It's happening more and more in regional areas... I think it's brilliant," she said.
"Connection is everything though, especially in regional areas where it is so difficult for people in the queer community to connect and find each other."
Lifeline CEO Derek Tuffield, who was one of the main organisers of the event, said he hoped this event would help show Toowoomba is a welcoming area for the LGBTI+ community.
"We still have a long way to go, but these events are vital," he said.