An essay into the social effects of sexuality in queer youth
Most if not all Australians are affected by issues surrounding sexuality. This is especially true for young people because as we grow, we come to terms with who we are and what we want to be. Being GLBTQIA (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) is something that affects a growing percentage of people. For youth, the impact it can cause on individual teens is it can create great confusion about various issues surrounding ‘coming out’ and the questioning of identity as a whole. Some issues impacting on young GLBTQIA (queer) people include: discrimination (being verbally or physically abused), mental and general health issues, rejection (from family and friends)leading to loss of support and/or losing of financial support as well as accommodation issues, and the last of these is discretion (Youth Central 2012). The way that these issues are managed will influence how the person will respond to ‘coming out’. The community’s attitudes towards this issue is that we seem to be split; some are basing their reasoning on holy documents such as the Bible and the Quran and others on ignorance towards those that are different to themselves. The ACT territory government ideology and policy on this particular issue is that there is the ACT Human Rights Act, which argues equality before the law regardless of sexuality and that we have this freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. The views are various from professionals within society and often dictated by the organisation for which they work for. The question I pose, and for the purpose of this essay is: how does a young queer individual live in a society that can be overtly discriminating while coming to terms with their place in the world and their identity?
The issue and its current impact on young people
The issues about sexuality, identified in the previous paragraph, all interlink and have similar themes. Such as:
• Discrimination, which can take a few forms; the main form it takes is verbal and physical abuse. “A 2008 study of 390 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Victorians found that nearly one in seven reported living in fear of homophobic violence (Better Health Channel, 2012).” ‘Gay bashing’ is something that has been around for quiet sometime and is at the back of most queer individual’s minds. Whilst gay and lesbian individuals are as all sorted as the rest of the population, their shared experience of discrimination creates common health issues. Among same sex attracted young individuals, violence and discrimination are very common; whether it be from members of their own family or of their school including both from teachers and other students. “A 2010 study of 3134 young Australians found that 61 per cent had suffered verbal abuse because of their sexuality, 18 per cent suffered physical assault and 69 per cent suffered other forms of homophobia such as exclusion, rumours and graffiti (Better Health Channel, 2012).” “Australian society generally regards heterosexuality as the most acceptable sexual orientation, which means that gay men, lesbians and bisexual people may be marginalised and discriminated against.”
It is also reported by the Better Health Channel that queer individuals have higher rates of mental health disorders than the rest of the population. They also have higher rates of obesity, smoking and unsafe alcohol and drug use, and are more likely to self-harm (Better Health Channel, 2012).
• Rejection is an enormous issue for young queer men and women because they have an inherent fear that people will reject them for being themselves. Young people seek acceptance and this is mainly the fear behind not coming out. Loss of support for the individual is a legitimate fear. Friends and family are important to young people and the maintaining of relationships for individuals can be a major factor in not coming out. The outcome of rejection can be getting kicked out of the family home (or shared accommodation) or losing financial support from parents is a major factor that influences in coming out in today’s society. (Better Health Channel, 2012).
• In the most part humans are social creatures. Within western society we tend to separate our public and private selves, partitioning ourselves so as to go through life as smoothly as possible. We try to keep our personal information confidential and most of us, gay or straight, expect discretion about our sexual identity and when it comes to individuals then breaching the confidence of that relationship, it will cause havoc for the individual in question. (Better Health Channel, 2012).
Community attitudes towards this issue
As a whole, the community is in support of those who identify themselves queer. We have many shows on television at the moment that shows this acceptance. These shows include ‘Modern Family’, ‘Brothers and Sisters’, ‘Family Guy’, and ‘The Simpsons’. Other sources of media, more specifically social media, have responded to the issue and it is in a very positive way. The “It Gets Better” project is a campaign that was started up by Dan Savage, an American columnist, as a response to a number of suicides in America due to teenagers being bullied for their sexuality. It seeks to promote a positive view on one self, concerning sexuality, and it also seeks to remind teenagers around the world that they are not alone and that it will get better.
But there are some within the community that do not support this view point. This opposition is often shown within the Christian Church.
Throughout history, society has been influenced by the teachings of the Church, more specifically the Catholic Church. It has always been taught that homosexuality is not natural and sinful in nature. The reason why this is the case is because biblically there is condemnation of the lifestyle and the act of having sexual relations with someone of the same sex, a position of the Christian Church.
In saying that, some of the Christian Church supports homosexuality, specifically the Anglican Church, and so there is a lot of conflict within the Christian Church as a whole due to the differing opinions.
The following are viewpoints of individuals concerning this issue of sexuality. In an article, which was published online by the Sunshine Coast Daily, the view point of Archbishop Mark Coleridge on the issue of homosexuality is, "any discrimination of homosexual people of any kind is unacceptable." Further investigation of this quote will display that the Catholic Church is in total support of the individual but not the acts that they are committing. However Hayden Sennitt has a different view on it all. He is an individual that works for Sydney’s Liberty ministries, a ministry that helps those that have unwanted homosexual feelings, he states that it is a lifestyle that is “soul destroying”. From this we can extract that he feels that the homosexual lifestyle is something that is poison and destructive for the soul and should be stayed away from. Anthony Venn-Brown however, is one of differing opinion. He is someone that has come to terms with his homosexual tendencies and accepted them alongside his belief in God. He states the following, “Before you invest the time, money, emotional energy and possibly years of your life trying to go from gay to straight, ask the ex-gay leaders what guarantee they can give you that it will work…but the gay never actually goes away…ask yourself what would be the best way to spend your life, time, money and emotional energy…..rejecting yourself or accepting yourself. Obviously loving yourself is far healthier emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, than self-loathing. Like 1,000’s of others today, I finally discovered I can live a wonderfully rewarding, moral life as an openly gay man and …still have my faith.” From this we can take that regardless of sexuality we shouldn’t be afraid to accept faith into our lives, regardless of what the wider church believes, alongside ones sexual preference.
Federal and territory government ideology and policy on the issue
As mentioned previously the territory already has established anti-discrimination legislation. The most notable can be the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief and also the section pertaining to recognition and equality before the law of the ACT Human Rights Act 2004. These sections refer to the whole community (which includes queer individuals) having the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and also the recognition of equality before the law. These sections include the following points:
• The freedom to have or adopt a religion and to demonstrate that set of beliefs in worship, observance, practice and teaching either as an individual or a part of a community in public and in private.
• No one should be forced in any way that would limit their freedom to adopt a religion, adherence, practice or teaching.
• Everyone has the right to enjoy their own human rights without distinction or discrimination of any kind.
• Everyone is equal before the law and is entitled to the equal protection of the law without any type of discrimination. Furthermore, everyone has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination on any grounds including discrimination based on the sexuality of the individual.
The Discrimination Act 1991 says that it is unlawful for an individual, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a person or group of people on grounds of their sexuality amongst other things.
Views of the professionals in the field on the issue
The views of the Australian Community Workers Association is that the professional practitioner in the field of welfare and community work is concerned with promoting the worth and wellbeing of all individuals. This is regardless of their racial origin, gender identification, age, social status or other individual or group differences. The professional behaviour and practice of the welfare and community worker are aimed at maximizing the human potential and worth of all persons. (Australian Community Workers Association Inc, 2012)
In answering the question posed earlier, how does a young queer individual live in a society that can be overtly discriminating while coming to terms with their place in the world and their identity? We have clearly observed throughout this essay, that the queer individual faces a lot of confusion and opposition when it comes to ‘coming out’. But the majority of society is on their side in regards to social media and law. Even though discrimination is still prevalent within today’s society, especially within the church, we are striving for a society that makes its mission to be as accepting of everyone as much as possible, regardless of their sexual preference.
1. Better Health Channel, Gay and Lesbian issues – discrimination | Better Health Channel, viewed 04 of April 2012 <http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Gay_and_lesbian_issues_discrimination?open>
2. Gay and Lesbian Info, Coming Out & Teenage Sexuality – Youth Central, viewed 04 of April 2012, <http://www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/Health+%26+Relationships/Sexuality+%26+relationships/Same-Sex+attraction/>
3. ANU, viewed 26 of April 2012, <http://acthra.anu.edu.au/>
4. Australian Community Workers Association Inc. Viewed 10 of May 2012. <http://www.acwa.org.au/content/code-ethics>