Cards for Same-Sex Marriage

It’d be nice if we didn’t feel the need to make these cards. And maybe that’s why they’re a bit late coming to you. We were in denial that they were necessary. But they are.

I’m ashamed and saddened to admit this. I used to hurl the word “gay” around as an insult. I did it for a really long time. Well past my years in the school yard. Statistics was gay. Home and Away was gay. My outfit was gay. When I burnt the chicken dinner, it was gay. The term had become synonymous with being crap, lame and shithouse. And I regrettably used this term a lot.

And this must have been incredibly awful for anyone around me who was actually gay or suspecting they were.

It had become such a part of my lexicon that it took me a really long time and a very concerted effort to break the habit. But I had to. Here I was, using the word ‘gay’ to insult things or people, implying that I thought there was something wrong with being anything other than heterosexual. I didn’t. But it definitely wasn’t sounding that way. To point out the bleeding obvious, the use of this term in this way has the capacity to completely undermine the confidence of LGBTI people, chipping away at their psyche and reinforcing the nonsense that they are “different” in an inferior, unnatural way. It can make them feel like outsiders.

For a long time, my repurposing of the word as an insult persisted in keeping the LGBTI community separate and different. How hurtful is that?

On a larger scale, I'm feeling much the same way again.

I am ashamed and saddened that our Government has had us engage in a non-binding statistical survey on same-sex marriage. An ‘issue’ that is about equality, discrimination, human rights and inclusion for a vulnerable minority and marginalised group.

I can’t quite believe that we are in this place. That as a country we are conducting a survey, on whether we think one group of people should be able to marry each other, like the rest of us can. Are we so intolerant of this group of people that the only way to decide that they can have equal rights under the law is to do a survey on whether it’s the right thing to do?

But I'm even more been devastated by what it’s become. The homophobia. The harmful stereotyping. The hatred. The ‘freedom of speech’ and the right to a ‘respectful debate’ where all sides ‘have a voice’, has been downright sickening. How must this group of people feel?

Probably, fucking horrendous. Maybe inferior? Separate? Different? And not included?

Again.

When we feel that we are included and recognised we are rewarded with a range of health benefits. These include stronger mental health, social cohesion, increased sense of security, improved resilience, increased access to health care and public health benefits. When we are part of a group that experiences social exclusion and/or abuse (e.g., homophobia) we are more likely to experience addiction, self-harm, psychological distress, mental illness, suicide attempts and feeling unsafe.

I’ve quoted these statistics before, but they’re important. So here they are again.

Our Australian LGBTI+ community is already experiencing health effects that are DIRECTLY related to discrimination and exclusion. These include:

  • People who identify as LGBTI have the HIGHEST rates of suicidality of any population in Australia1.
  • 7% of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians report current suicidal ideation (thoughts)2.
  • Same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14 times higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers3.
  • The average age of a first suicide attempt is 16 years – often before ‘coming out’4.
  • Many LGBTI people who attempt suicide have not disclosed their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status to others, or to only very few people5.
  • At least 24.4% of gay, lesbian and bisexual Australians met the criteria for a major depressive episode in 2005, compared with 6.8% of the general population6.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians are twice as likely to have a high-very high level of psychological distress as their heterosexual peers (18.2% v 9.2%), making them particularly vulnerable to mental health problems7.
  • More than twice as many homesexual/bisexual Australians experience anxiety disorder as heterosexual people (31% vs 14%)8.

And just to reiterate - research shows us that discrimination and exclusion are the key CAUSAL factors of LGBTI+ mental ill-health and suicidality9. That is, the elevated risk of mental ill-health and suicidality among LGBTI people is not due to their sexuality, sex or gender identity in and of themselves. It’s due to discrimination and exclusion as a key determinant to health10. Exposure to and fear of discrimination and isolation can directly impact on people’s mental health, causing stress, psychological distress and suicidality.

AND this is research undertaken BEFORE a vote was undertaken asking us to justify their existence.

Last year, a survey of 1657 Irish LGBTI people was undertaken to investigate the social and psychological impacts of the Irish same-sex marriage referendum by researchers at the University of Queensland and Victoria University. Despite, the same sex marriage debate being ‘won’, the results of the survey were not great.

Nearly three quarters of those surveyed said that the ‘No’ campaign had a highly detrimental impact on themselves, on young LGBTI people and the children of LGBTI people. The survey found 75.5% of participants often or always felt angry when exposed to campaign messages, and two-thirds felt anxious or distress. Younger LGBTI people scored lower on psychological wellbeing compared with older people, including feeling anxious and afraid. Distress was particularly experienced in relation to hearing negative views expressed by family members, friends and colleagues, and seeing posters and television advertisements negatively portraying LGBTI people and their families as deficient or not positive and safe for children.

And unfortunately, UQ’s researcher Sharon Dane concluded that the respondents’ answers to the qualitative questions suggested that the impact of the no campaign was “more than a fleeting experience or something that could be simply undone through a win for marriage equality.”

That’s the thing. We can’t un-see or un-hear the things that are happening right now. They are going to stick with all of us. And they hurt. They are powerful.

I’m so sorry you have to go through this rainbow friends. We love you. We hope you are protecting yourselves and each other.

We’re here for you. Always.

You can find all our cards to support loved ones through the marriage equality debate here

Support, information and resources for the LGBTI+ community and their allies during the marriage equality debate can be found through the following services:

  1. Rosenstreich, G. (2013) LGBTI People Mental Health and Suicide. Revised 2nd Edition. National LGBTI Health Alliance. Sydney
  1. Pitts, M. et al. (2009). Private Lives: A report on the wellbeing of GLBTI Australians. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. LaTrobe University: Melbourne.
  2. Rosenstreich, G. (2013) LGBTI People Mental Health and Suicide. Revised 2nd Edition. National LGBTI Health Alliance. Sydney
  3. Nicholas, J. and J. Howard (1998) Better Dead Than Gay? Depression, Suicide Ideation and Attempt Among a Sample of Gay and Straight-Identified Males Aged 18-24. Youth Studies Australia, 17(4): 28-33.
  4. Dyson, S et al. (2003) Don’t ask, don’t tell. Report of the same-sex attracted youth suicide data collection project. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, LaTrobe University. Melbourne.
  5. Pitts, M. et al. (2009). Private Lives: A report on the wellbeing of GLBTI Australians. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. LaTrobe University: Melbourne.
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Unpublished data from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing provided to Queensland Association of Healthy Communities in 2010.
  7. Leonard, W. et al. (2012). Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. LaTrobe University: Melbourne.
  8. Rosenstreich, G. et al. (2011) Primary Health Care and Equity: the case of LGBTI Australians Australian Journal of Primary Health, 17(4): 302-308

 

 



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