Homophobia and Transphobia Linked to Mental Health Issues For Many ‘Growing Up Queer’

The Young and Well CRC, with partners the University of Western Sydney and Twenty10, releases ‘Growing Up Queer: Issues Facing Young Australians Who are Gender Variant and Sexuality Diverse’.

A new study has found that 16% of young people who identify as Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Intersex or Queer (LGBTIQ) have attempted suicide and 33% have harmed themselves as a result of widespread homophobic and transphobic harassment and violence in Australian society.

More than 1000 young people aged between 16–27 years of age 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.

Homophobia and transphobia are terms used to describe bullying, hostility and discrimination against people based on sexuality diversity and gender variance. 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 LGBTIQ 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.

Young and Well CRC CEO Associate Professor Jane Burns said: “The findings of this study overwhelmingly highlight the serious impact of homophobia and transphobia, particularly when you consider that 42% of those surveyed had thought about self-harm and/or suicide.

“This research suggests that LGBTIQ young people are around six times more likely to consider taking their own life than their heterosexual peers, reflecting similar findings in other research in this area.

“While there are a small number of fantastic community organisations providing support and guidance to young people identifying as LGBTIQ, such as Twenty10 incorporating the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service NSW, much more needs to be done by way of education and training so that this dire impact on the mental health and wellbeing of these young people can be eliminated.

“Technology has a huge part to play here: the research shows 85% of young people used the internet to explore their sexual or gender identity on sites like Minus18, Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube, and 78% of young people felt accepted, 66% felt they could find others like themselves, 60% felt safe and 57% could feel proud of their sexuality in that space,” A/Prof Burns said.

High profile Australians from the LGBTIQ community, including former High Court Judge the Hon. Michael Kirby, actor Magda Szubanski and comedian Tom Ballard, lent their support.

“These statistics are shocking and need to be known and acted upon urgently by parents, education and sporting authorities, and churches. They also have serious economic consequences for Australia,” the Hon. Michael Kirby said.

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.”

Former triple j breakfast host Tom Ballard agreed: “Being a teenager can be hard enough, but these added factors of homophobia and transphobia for LGBTIQ youth can make it extra-super-sucky. We all have an obligation to confront the ignorance and bullying indicated in this research, and we’ve also got to remember to send messages of love and support to kids out there to help them get through to the other side.”

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.

Brett Paradise, Executive Director of Twenty10 incorporating GLCS NSW, praised the research: “Our experience working directly with young people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities frequently highlights the negative impact of transphobia and homophobia has on their wellbeing, and this research has provided some well overdue evidence.’

This research report is part of a larger suite of resources, including five discrete short documentary-style video clips titled Growing Up Queer, which address issues of identity, family relationships, homophobia/transphobia, and sex education. These resources have been developed in collaboration with young participants involved in the research, including the development of a play script/scenario, based on research findings, to be used as an interactive professional development resource for those working with young people. The play will be piloted later this year.

‘Growing Up Queer: Issues Facing Young Australians Who Are Gender Variant and Sexuality Diverse’ can be downloaded here.

06/10/2015 to 07/10/2015
Australian Internet Governance Forum
07/10/2015 to 09/10/2015
41st International Mental Health Nursing Conference
08/10/2015 to 10/10/2015
3rd International Youth Mental Health Conference 2015
26/10/2015 to 28/10/2015
7th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium
27/10/2015 to 29/10/2015
Effective Programme Evaluation
06/11/2015 to 07/11/2015
Positive Schools Singapore 2015
11/11/2015 to 13/11/2015
Youth Health Conference 2015
Risk and Resilience: A forum on improving the wellbeing of children, young people and families
21st Century Learning: 8th Annual Conference
SmartHealth: 7th International Workshop on Technologies for Health and Wellbeing
Posted: 6 February, 2014

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