Prompted by two separate events involving the Australian sporting world, Senator Penny Wong reminded the Australian public that ‘homophobia is never acceptable’ in her recent speech to the Senate. Australian champion swimmer, Ian Thorpe’s struggle with his sexuality and publically coming out as gay, served as a reminder of the difficulty many young people face negotiating their sexuality and/or gender diversity in heteronormative or homophobic environments. Senator Wong referred to a recent report authored by University of Western Sydney researchers, ‘Growing up Queer’ (Robinson, Bansel, Denson, Ovenden, Davies, 2014) which was a collaboration with Twenty10 incorporating the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service NSW and the Young and Well CRC. The report is an investigation into the experiences of young people who identify as gender and sexuality diverse across a broad range of issues such as identity, health and wellbeing, education, technology, and access to services.
Senator Wong drew attention to the ‘sad statistics’ from the research findings that almost two thirds of young people had experienced overt homophobia or transphobia, 64% had been verbally abused, 18% had been physically abused, and 32% had experienced other forms of prejudice and hatred. 41% of young people had thought about self-harm, 42% had thought about suicide, 33% had harmed themselves, and 16% had attempted suicide.
Comments from AFL commentator, Brian Taylor, whose recent homophobic slur broadcast about a player’s hand wave to the crowd during Channel Seven’s Saturday Night Footy panel show, serve as testimony to the everyday homophobia Senator Wong was speaking against both on the sporting field, across the education, health and other public sectors.
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