Young same-sex attracted people are more likely to drink and take drugs than their straight peers, and almost half have been abused because of their sexuality, a nationwide survey has found.
Despite this, more than three quarters of the 1,750 people aged 14-21 surveyed said they felt good or great about their sexuality, and 95 percent had come out to at least one person.
The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University conducted the survey as a follow-up to a similar one in 1998.
Results also showed more young people felt good about their sexuality in 2004 than in 1998, and more had received a positive response when they had come out to someone.
Author of Writing Themselves In Again: 6 Years On, Lynne Hillier, told Sydney Star Observer young same-sex attracted people were more likely to drink alcohol, to smoke tobacco, to use marijuana and party drugs and were more likely to have injected drugs.
Among those who had been verbally abused, drug use was higher and, in cases of physical abuse, higher still. The percentage of young people who had been victims of abuse had remained steady, with most respondents reporting violence at schools.
I think we’re at the crossroads now, Hillier said. Young people are feeling better about themselves, they’re feeling safer, but they’re still experiencing homophobia and violence, especially at school.
Hillier called for a zero tolerance policy in all Australian schools.
Hillier said young people were approaching a range of professional people, family members and friends when coming out, and receiving a better response when they did: about 75 percent received a positive response, compared to 65 percent in 1998.
It’s still worrying, Hillier said, considering young people never tell anyone unless they’re confident they’re going to get a positive response. It means that they’re getting knocked back a quarter of the time.
The percentage of young people who reported feeling good or great about their same-sex attraction rose from 60 to 76 percent and the percentage of respondents who reported feeling pretty bad or really bad fell from 10 to five percent.
Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Julie McConnell said the research’s positive results reflected society’s growing acceptance of sexual diversity.
It is positive to hear that more and more young people are happy with their sexuality and feel confident that they can be open about who they are, McConnell said.
Fellow Lobby co-convenor David Scamell said the Lobby supported a zero tolerance approach to homophobic violence in schools.
Meantime, the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group has called for a summit for educators and students to reduce the number of violent incidents against students perceived to be gay or lesbian.
Tasmania needs a road map for reducing and eliminating homophobic bullying in schools and we believe a summit of all stakeholders focused on practical outcomes is the best way to develop it, Jen Van Achteren said.