Gay vilification is rife in Victoria’s rural and regional areas, according to a report into the lives and experiences of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people living in the bush.
Entitled Not So Gay In The Bush: Coming Out In Regional Rural Victoria, the report said queer people faced difficult and stressful times living in regional and rural areas where an atmosphere of non-acceptance and vilification was rife.
The report, which was released this week, stems from research by University of Ballarat School of Business academics Dr Lorene Gottschalk and Dr Janice Newton.
The researchers found queer country residents faced high levels of homophobia from their own families, the wider community, schools, health professionals and workplaces.
In Victoria, homosexuality is still considered a minority experience, Dr Gottschalk said.
This has serious consequences for how lesbians and gay men can live out their lives.
Although the majority are accepting of their sexuality and happy to be lesbian or gay, they nevertheless live curtailed lives with a blanket around a central dimension of their lives.
Their minority status, and as a marginalised group, means that in every aspect of their lives they have to be mindful of inadvertently revealing their sexuality.
The researchers used information from almost 130 queer rural Victorians ranging in age from 17 to 59.
Lesbians were more likely to have come out in a major city while most men came out in regional areas.
Just over half those taking part in the research had good feelings about their sexuality. However, those on the brink of coming out experienced high levels of stress and anxiety.
The researchers also found:
>> around 37 percent of young men were abused or physically assaulted by school bullies because of their sexuality;
>> men were less likely than women to come out to their parents;
>> parents accepted their children’s sexuality as long as the children acted straight in public;
>> most lesbians and gay men were aware of negative community attitudes, with 54.3 percent of gay men and 38 percent of lesbians leaving their communities because of homophobia;
>> most respondents had rare or no contact with religious institutions; and
>> the majority of people came out in the workplace with some people suffering in the workplace as a consequence.
Dr Gottschalk said the report would be used by the Department of Human Services to provide services for queer people living outside metropolitan Melbourne.
The report was well received by the Department of Human Services, Dr Gottschalk said.
We are hopeful that the findings will contribute to policy in the region and benefit the lesbians and gay men living there.