Trigger warning: discussion of depression, suicide, self harm, homophobia, and transphobia.
If you’re in Australia and not full of blistering rage about the inquiry into the Safe Schools Coalition, you’ve possibly been pointedly ignoring all of the news. Although, seeing as a lot of last week involved Australian mainstream media defending blackface, I really don’t blame you.
For the uninitiated, the Safe Schools Coalition (SSC) is an organisation that provides resources and support to help develop a positive classroom environment for LGBTQIAA students. Most of the bullying of young LGBTQIAA people happens at school, and the idea behind the SSC is that a safe school is a better school.
The Australian government, after pressuring from some pretty disgusting conservative elements, has decided to launch an inquiry into this group as it might be “promoting a political agenda”. The SSC receives $8 million in public funding, which pales when compared to the $244 million the school chaplaincy program receives, both over four years. Chaplaincy is almost definitely promoting an agenda.
Had the SSC existed when I went to high school, it would quite genuinely have changed my life. When I first came out to my closest friend, she told me I was disgusting and abnormal, and to stay away from normal people. Being terrified to come out to anyone else because of that reaction meant it was a pressure point for me until I graduated school, and contributed substantially to my mental health issues.
Conservative politicians in Australia have described telling teenagers – 13 and 14 year olds – that heterosexual isn’t the only or best identity as akin to paedophile grooming. When you consider that the suicide, depression, and self harm rates for LGBTQIAA people are many times that of the general population (and there’s been a spike in demand for mental health support for young people since this whole ride has started), allowing politicians to make these kind of comments without clear and strong response is being reckless with our children’s health. The Prime Minister’s response was soft and insufficient.
People are feeling comfortable to spout offensive vitriol at all angles. An article in The Australian puts “non binary gender identity” in scare quotes. It’s suggested that the SSC program akin to sex education – which it’s quite clearly not.
The discussions about same sex marriage are also bringing homophobes out of the woodwork like the worst kinds of termites. And it’s hurting incredible vulnerable people.
It’s just like Christmas In July, except it’s Homophobia In February and it’s not whimsical or fun.
– Rebecca Shaw, in this rather excellent piece
I don’t know what kind of internal acrobatics these politicians, commentators, and “Australians” do to justify this vitriol. All I can tell you for certain is that I tried to kill myself twice when I was fifteen, and a lot of that was to do with feeling abnormal and ‘wrong’ for being attracted to girls.
We need to do better by our vulnerable kids that are still working out their sexuality and gender. We need to do better by those that know for sure they’re gay as heck or trans or non binary or bisexual or asexual or different in any way, regardless of whether they’re out to everyone, just one friend, or nobody at all. And, damn it, we need to do better by the LGBTQIAA people that just exist every day in Australia and put up with a constant stream of absolute garbage.
I don’t think it’s too much to want to live in a country where the people in power don’t imply my existence is inherently wrong. To have marrying someone I love independent from their gender. I don’t like feeling that by simply existing, I am an affront.
Children and adolescents like it even less.
If you or someone you know being negatively affected by this, help or information can be obtained at Lifeline 131 114, beyondblue 1300 224 636, and the Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.