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beyondblue calls on Australians to lift their game

Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex people has to stop

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO says research shows around one-third of Australians discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex (GLBTI) people and it’s time it stopped.

“As a nation, we should be very concerned that the actions of so many Australians are contributing to significant levels of depression and anxiety – and even suicide - amongst GLBTI people. It’s essential that people who continue to discriminate realise their actions are causing real harm.”

Ms Carnell said:
1/ Over 40% of GLBT Australians have had to hide their sexuality or gender identity in public for fear of violence or discrimination. (Private Lives 2)
2/ Same-sex attracted people are twice as likely (31.5%) to experience anxiety than the heterosexual population (14.1%) – and three times as likely to experience depression (19.2%) compared to the heterosexual population (6%). (ABS)

“This is why beyondblue, with the Movember Foundation, has committed $3 million to reduce discrimination and promote better mental health outcomes for people in the GLBTI community.

“$1.5 million has been allocated to develop a national awareness and anti-discrimination media campaign which will be launched in a few months,” she says.

To ensure the campaign accurately reflects the experiences of GLBTI people, beyondblue recently conducted an online community consultation, In My Shoes, which reinforced other research showing that discrimination against GLBTI people is widespread and contributes to higher rates of anxiety and depression, than in the wider community.

Chairman of beyondblue The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC says beyondblue has gathered the research and is working collaboratively with GLBTI community leaders to develop the campaign.

“We know that gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex people experience discrimination, but I am particularly concerned about the wellbeing of young GLBTI people at school who report exceptionally high levels of psychological distress.

“The In My Shoes consultation confirmed that discrimination, bullying and harassment are particularly damaging during school years. Exposure to negative attitudes and derogatory comments are hurtful and can inhibit the development of a young person’s positive self-image.

We don’t want people to feel they have to hide their sexuality or gender identity because they fear violence or discrimination.

“Things need to change. We want everyone in Australia to ask themselves if their attitudes, behaviour or the words they use could be discriminatory and contribute to very serious mental health problems for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or intersex people,” he said.

The In My Shoes online community consultation found that actual or anticipated discrimination can contribute to anxiety and depression in many ways, including:

1/ Verbal and physical abuse from strangers, colleagues and family members is encountered often with no warning.

2/ The threat of discrimination and physical violence from heterosexual men is of great concern for many gay men.

3/ Views that sexuality or gender is a choice can promote negative self-image, conflict and lack of self acceptance.

4/ Bisexual people often feel judged because their sexuality is seen as a choice rather than part of who they are.

5/ Lesbian mothers face discrimination for their sexuality and for being a non-heterosexual parent – from neighbours, local community etc – and their children can be subjected to taunts.

6/ Transgender and transsexual people experience discrimination stemming from ignorance, misunderstanding, stereotypes and stigma. They can be rejected by friends and family members and commonly people use the wrong pronoun or use the person’s former name.

7/ ‘Coming out’ is sometimes delayed or rejected due to anxiety or anticipation of discrimination especially among people who have grown up in religious communities or families.

8/ Families (from whom people usually expect safety and support) can be a source of discrimination which can be directed at the individual or the broader GLBTI population. In some families, GLBTI people are treated differently from other family members e.g. not being offered a double bed with a partner or not having partners invited to family events.

9/ Laws which treat GLBTI Australians differently are marginalising and imply they are of less value – e.g. marriage and adoption laws, and for transgender people, restrictions on getting a passport or birth certificate that affirms their gender.

10/ At work, GLBTI people often have to be guarded about the personal information they share.

Position Statement

Today, beyondblue also releases a position statement – Depression and Anxiety in
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex populations.

Kate Carnell says: “The position statement beyondblue has released today, in consultation with GLBTI community leaders, has drawn together the best available research and information which will form the basis of beyondblue’s advocacy in this area.”

Position Statement Overview - beyondblue celebrates diversity and promotes social inclusion and equal opportunity in its programs, research and resources. beyondblue believes that no one should be excluded or discriminated against because of their gender, sex or sexuality. Everyone has a right to access safe health care services that affirms every individual’s personal identity. Beyondblue recognises that same sex attraction, sex and gender diversity are within the usual range of human sexual orientation and characteristics.

Position Statement stats and facts:

1/ The large majority of Australians do not hold homophobic beliefs or attitudes, but a large minority (about 35%) do.

2/ Same-sex attracted (SSA) women are more likely than heterosexual women to experience depression during their lifetime.

3/ SSA men are much more likely to report an experience of depression in the last 12 months than heterosexual men.

4/ Both-sex attracted people have significantly higher incidence of mental illness than homosexual or heterosexual people.

5/ High rates of depression (50-60%) were found in an Australian survey of trans people.

6/ The most common place for young people to face homophobic abuse and discrimination is at school.

To read a summary of In My Shoes or to find out more about the beyondblue/ GLBTI Reference Group, beyondblue-funded GLBTI research and programs, go to www.beyondblue.org.au/glbti