At just 22, Tabby Besley is set to be honoured by the Queen for her work for the LGBTI community. Besley is the only Kiwi to be awarded the inaugural Queen’s Young Leader award, a new honour awarded to 60 young people around the world recognised for their Commonwealth values.

As the National Coordinator of InsideOUT, formerly called the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) Network Aotearoa, Besley advocates for LGBTI rights. She was instrumental in lobbying for the marriage equality law, which was enacted in 2013.

The former Nayland College student has been chosen in recognition of her work ensuring young people diverse genders and sexual orientation get the support they need in school. She will be receiving her award at the Buckingham Palace in June from the Queen, and will be undertaking a year-long online leadership development course by Cambridge University. This includes a one-week stay in the UK. Also, Besley and the other recipients will receive personalised one-on-one mentorship from a leader in their chosen field.

“The Advisory Panel took many elements into account when selecting winners, including the quality of the potential winner’s project, the impact and sustainability of the project in their community, and how the project reflected the values of the Commonwealth Charter – in Tabby’s case, that is the implacable opposition to discrimination based on violence, sexuality and gender,” Commonwealth Youth New Zealand Executive Director Aaron Harpe, a member of The Queen’s Young Leaders Advisory Panel that selected the winners, said.

“I am thrilled to see that Tabby’s clear vision, determination, and passion in advocating for LGBTI rights in New Zealand has been rightly recognised at the highest level by the Head of the Commonwealth, The Queen.”

Besley now lives in Wellington. She said it was her time at Nayland that became a turning point in her life. She was a member and eventually the leader of the school’s NAGS or Nayland Alliance of Gay and Straights, and had realised she was gay.

“Every young person has a right to be safe in school and that’s not a reality,” she told the Nelson Mail, adding that she has gone on to help other schools to set up LGBTI friendly groups.

Apart from her Young Leader award, Besley is also a contender for Young New Zealander of the Year 2015. She is up against 18-year-old Lorde.