Sixteen per cent of young people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (GLBTIQ) have attempted suicide and 33 per cent have harmed themselves as a result of widespread homophobic and transphobic harassment and violence in Australian society.
The statistics are included in a new report from the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre and the University of Western Sydney.
More than 1000 young people aged 16–27 participated in the national research study, with almost two-thirds reporting homophobic or transphobic harassment or violence across different aspects of their lives, including in schools, families, the workplace, the streets and other public sites such as sporting events.
The research also found:
- Homophobia and/or transphobia has a serious impact on many young people’s educational experiences, with some changing schools multiple times and others dropping out of school altogether.
- Young people frequently witness other students who “come out” at school being bullied and this results in many students keeping their sexual diversity or transgender status a secret, and this has ongoing implications for these young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Sexuality education in schools does not respond to the needs or experiences of young GLBTIQ people, exposing them to a range of social and health risks.
- Rejection by families can lead to homelessness, economic instability and/or destitution for some young people, particularly in families of different cultural or religious affiliations.
- Growing up in rural and/or isolated communities exacerbates some young people’s feelings of being alone, with access to support services often limited or non-existent in these areas.
High-profile Australians from the GLBTIQ community, including former High Court judge Michael Kirby, actor Magda Szubanski and comedian Tom Ballard, lent their support at the launch of the report.
Magda Szubanski said: “People often ask if things are especially tough for young LGBTIQ people — the answer is YES. And here we have the study that proves it. Now let’s just hope that adults do something to improve these dreadful statistics and the lives of our young people.”
Lead researcher Professor Kerry Robinson of the University of Western Sydney said: “For many people we spoke to, while peers were most frequently the source of homophobia and transphobia, it was the homophobia and transphobia perpetrated by some teachers that had the most profound impact on their lives”.
“This research clearly demonstrates the need for greater community education, training of educators, doctors and health professionals about the health and wellbeing issues facing young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse,” she said.
The report can be accessed via the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre website.
Mel Smith is the Officer attached to GLBTI issues.