Study uncovers 'shocking' homophobia 

Todd Fernando spent years "terrified" of coming out.								      Photo: PAT SCALA
Todd Fernando spent years "terrified" of coming out. Photo: PAT SCALA

ONE in three people who grow up gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex have self-harmed, while more than one in 10 have attempted suicide, a new report suggests.

The Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre surveyed 1032 people aged 16-27 for its Growing Up Queer report, released on Friday.

Almost two thirds of respondents reported homophobic or transphobic discrimination or violence, often coming from teachers, bosses and parents.

The study's lead author, the University of Western Sydney's Kerry Robinson, said she was taken aback by the extent of homophobia and transphobia.

"This can have huge implications when it comes to going to school, getting into the workforce, and for young people's economic security," Dr Robinson said.

Forty-two per cent of respondents said they had thought of suicide or self harm and 16 per cent had attempted suicide.

Dr Robinson said the statistics demonstrated "the absolute despair that some of those young people experience".

Eighty-five per cent of those surveyed said they used the internet to explore their sexuality and 78 per cent reported feeling accepted online.

But Young and Well CRC chief executive Jane Burns said she was concerned that young people felt harassed in so many different settings: in the home, at school, in the workforce and in extra-curricular activities.

"That's despite all the efforts around reducing discrimination and homophobia," Dr Burns said.

Todd Fernando, a gay Aboriginal man who grew up Condobolin, Wellington and Dubbo, said he spent years "terrified" of coming out.

He was bullied at school and afraid his Christian family would not accept him.

"Throughout my teenage years I was quite depressed and confused about who I was," Mr Fernando, who now attends university in Melbourne, said.

"It was a scary time."

Mr Fernando joked that the sexual education he received in school was "straightforward" - focused on straight people having sex to reproduce.

Material on having safe gay sex could be hard to come by in country areas, he said.

His message for young people struggling with their sexual or gender identity: "Just know that you're not alone."


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