National Coming Out Day: Support still needed for LGBTIQ people

On today’s National Coming Out Day, a legal expert says that more protection is needed for LGBTIQ people against discrimination and harm.

Professor Paula Gerber of the Monash University Faculty of Law said that legal protection from discrimination is only “one piece of the jigsaw puzzle”. 

“We also need to raise awareness and change attitudes,” said Professor Gerber.

“Some people might think that now same-sex couples can marry, there is no longer any need for a National Coming Out Day. 

“But young LGBTIQ people today continue to suffer significant mental health problems because of the discrimination and vilification they still experience. 

“Sometimes this is even sanctioned by law, for example, in religious schools.”

Earlier this year, a lesbian teacher at a Baptist college in New South Wales was allegedly fired for becoming engaged to her partner.

Religious schools are still legally permitted to discriminate against LGBTIQ students and staff.

The controversial federal religious discrimination bill would allow organisations to discriminate based on religious beliefs against LGBTIQ people, as well as other marginalised groups including women, disabled people, and First Nations people.

Overseas, an American woman is suing her former workplace over allegedly being victimised and forced into leaving her job after she came out as gay. 

Coming out in the face of homophobia and transphobia remains a challenge, and young people living with their families during COVID-19 lockdowns have been urged to consider postponing coming out until a time when they are safe and can access support.

“COVID-19 makes National Coming Out Day more important than ever,” said Professor Gerber. 

“Connection to community and peer support have been found to have an important protective effect for LGBTIQ people, who are at higher risk of suicide and self-harm.

“Restrictions and lockdowns, which are necessary public health measures, increase the isolation of LGBTIQ people, sometimes in homes with family members who are not accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“There is a lot more Australia can do to increase respect for LGBTIQ people, including more protection for children in same-sex families, allowing donor siblings to find and know each other, raising education and awareness about bisexuality, and banning gender normalising surgery on intersex children.”

Schools are increasingly introducing programs to encourage diversity and acceptance and support LGBTIQ young people in coming out. 

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