Some people have said young LGBTIQ individuals are not experiencing the same level of discrimination as their ‘older’ brothers and sisters.
Changes in social attitudes toward homosexuality, anti-discrimination law and greater visibility of the LGBTIQ community have undeniably created a more welcoming and positive environment to young people.
If young people do have it easy, why are we seeing an increasing rate of youth suicide amongst same-sex attracted youth? Why is it we still hear about young people struggling to accept their sexuality, fearing discrimination
and alienation? And why is it that some of us tend to judge same-sex attracted LGBTIQ youth as spoilt Gen Y instead of providing support for them?
The issue of discrimination on the basis of sexuality is not limited to age. It can be argued that, even now, social and cultural anxieties surrounding same-sex attraction persist. We still hear homophobic comments and phrases such as ‘That’s so gay’ that reaffirm the pre-existing notion of homosexuality as wrong, disgusting and unacceptable.
Such negative attitudes can have damaging effects on youth, as expressions of hatred tend to be louder and have lasting effects that can drown messages of acceptance and celebration.
As a collective, we may feel more accepted. As individuals, however, there is still fear of being harassed, bullied and attacked based on our sexuality. And this fear exists across generations, young and old.
Is it fair for us to say to young people, “Stop whinging! You guys have it easy these days”?
The argument stands: as long as there is homophobia, then it won’t matter how old you are. We are still exposed to intolerance, injustice and discrimination.
Yes, there has been a lot of progress, and society is constantly changing. However, this privilege is not universal. We often forget there are places where homosexuality is a crime. Furthermore, the great rural/urban divide often suggests that youth in rural areas may not receive the same support as those in inner-city areas.
Do they have it easy? Maybe the phrase should be, it is easier these days, but it is still not easy given the persistence of homophobic doctrines to promote heterosexuality as the ultimate form of human desire.
Youth still struggle to accept their sexuality, just like they did a few decades ago. Indeed, many individuals, irrespective of age, still find it difficult to embrace their sexuality. Maybe the focus should not be on who has it easy, but why words of hatred continue to persist, even today.
Young & Gay is a six-week workshop for same-sex attracted men under 26. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 9865 6700.
By Budi Sudarto
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre