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What young LGBTI people need

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

National News

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) was celebrated on 17 May, recognising the right of all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) identifying people to live in safe and happy environments.

Sadly, young LGBTI people are at particularly high risk of experiencing homophobic, transphobic or biphobic discrimination. Research even shows that LGBTI young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

This year, IDAHOT’s focus was on LGBTI youth and spreading the message that what young LGBTI people really need is to be protected from discrimination of all kinds. Discrimination can be overt, like name-calling, or subtle, like being excluded from activities.

Be an ally!

The best way to show your support for LGBTI young people is to be an ally. This means speaking up and standing up for the rights of LGBTI people.

A recent study on homophobia in sport found that 71 per cent of young people felt that sports teams were not a safe place for LGBTI youth. The study is proof that bullying and discrimination happen in many parts of society. Being an ally on and off the field is a great way of tackling this.

Another way to be an ally is to recognise heteronormativity in the social institutions we take for granted. Heteronormativity is the belief that all people fall into two distinct genders and that heterosexuality is the only 'normal' sexual orientation. Many social institutions reinforce this belief and often marginalise people who do not identify as heterosexual.

It is useful to know what heteronormativity looks like. Some examples could be: (having only male and female toilets, portraying families in the media as a mum, dad and kids, having only male and female gender identities on forms, assuming a woman who sees a doctor is after contraception, eg: is in a heterosexual relationship…)

Some commonly used words and phrases can make an LGBTI person feel uncomfortable or put down. Here are some easy alternatives to replace those taken for granted terms and actions that are really not okay. 

Common Terms/Actions  Try these instead
Husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend Partner, spouse, significant other
Assuming that because someone looks male/female that they identify as such and use the pronouns associated with male (he, his) or female (she, her)  Ask them: “what’s your preferred pronoun?” Also, if you hear others using the wrong pronouns for someone you know, speak up and correct them.
“That’s gay!” “That’s shitty!” “That sucks!”
Asking a transgender/gender diverse person what their genitalia is like. Don’t ask. If they are comfortable telling you, they’ll do it in their own way and in their own time, without being prompted – just like anyone else.
Asking who is the male and who is the female in a gay/lesbian relationship  Remember that all relationships have different dynamics – and many don’t adhere to common heterosexual definitions of being in a couple. All relationships are defined by the people that are involved, rather than genders or sexual orientations.
“Oh you’re *insert term here*? My friend’s second cousin was *insert term here* too!” Remember that everyone is different. People from the Rainbow community may share identities, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be similar in any other way. Try: “Oh you’re *insert term here*? That’s great! I’m cool with that!”

Ban ki Moon is an ally – become one too 

Check out this great video created by the United Nations Human Rights office.

It celebrates the contributions LGBTI people make in the world, in families, in the workplace and in society.

The take-away message is again, be an ally - it is the most effective way of reducing the discrimination that many LGBTI people experience.

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