The CEO of Australia’s national youth mental health foundation, headspace, has warned of the impact of Margaret Court’s anti-gay comments on young LGBTI Australians and their families.

In a statement on the headspace website about the ongoing controversy, Chris Tanti (pictured) said that the organisation sees first-hand the effect that such comments have on the community.

“I’m troubled when I hear that our centres and our online counsellors are seeing young people who are struggling with their sexuality – but not because they are ashamed to be who they are,” he said.

“They are feeling the pressure to pretend to be someone else; they don’t want to disappoint their parents and friends; they think they will get bullied or isolated; they are worried about being different.

“It beggars belief that in this day and age sexuality is still such a controversial issue. But then I read comments from people such as Court and I realise that we really haven’t come that far at all.”

Tanti said he would suggest to Court that if she was so concerned about young people, that she understand the impact her words have on those very same generation she says she’s trying to protect.

“The continued scorn and humiliation being heaped on young people is having a devastating effect on their lives. As is being told by our churches, politicians and sections of the community that while it’s okay to be gay, you’re actually not quite as equal as everybody else, or having Court say that Martina Navratilova is not a good role model for girls because she is a lesbian,” he said.

“Here is a reality that Court and others are either ignorant of or don’t feel is important: Young GLBTI people in Australia are three to four times more likely to take their own lives. That is a disgraceful statistic in a supposedly progressive society.”

Tanti identified a number of other high profile athletes who have chosen to back headspace’s work with LGBTI youth, including three AFL footballers – Bob Murphy, Dan Jackson and Nick Duigan – who worked with the organisation to stand up for the rights of young LGBTI people on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).

“We need to hear the voices of people who understand that while it’s reasonable for someone to have a personal view on an issue, it’s not acceptable if that view perpetuates bigotry, inequality, fear and violence. This is about human rights,” he said.

“She is only a great tennis player, which doesn’t excuse her from using and abusing that position in a sports mad culture like our own to do more harm to a young population that is arguably the most at risk in our community.

“Rainbow flags at Margaret Court Stadium – drape the whole tennis centre I say.”

You can read Tanti’s full post here.

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