SOUTH Australia Labor Senator Penny Wong has used her speech in the Senate today to address the issue of homophobia in Australia.

Wong, who is an out lesbian and marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade this year, presented her speech as a matter of public interest in light of Ian Thorpe’s coming out and Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor’s homophobic comments over the weekend.

In her eight-minute speech, Wong said that while she was proud of Thorpe’s coming out, Taylor’s comments in which he called an AFL player a “big poofter” on television raised concerns.

“Homophobia is never acceptable,” she said.

“The fact is, we still hear homophobic slurs and insults bandied around as if they’re acceptable, harmless, just a bit of a laugh. Well, it isn’t a laugh to young people growing up, trying to figure out who they are.”

Wong went on to say how comments like this could risk making sexuality and gender-questioning youth feel isolated or fear rejection from their peers and family.

The senator spoke about the Growing Up Queer report, which highlights the disproportionate rates of mental issues among LGBTI youth, and the preliminary results of the Out in the Fields survey that were released today, revealing how 85 per cent of gay, lesbian and bisexual people have experienced some form of homophobia.

Wong also praised the efforts of Unley High School in Adelaide for their anti-homophobia efforts and leadership, and expressed her sympathy for Thorpe and the inner conflict he had to overcome before he came out.

“It is terribly sad that Ian Thorpe was worried that Australians would not accept him, as their sporting champion, to be gay,” she said.

“Terribly sad that he worried Australia would not celebrate his extraordinary achievements, as our representative, if he were gay.

“And it is as sad that everyday in Australia people are made to feel confused, conflicted and even guilty over their identity.

“Thoughtless comments like Brian Taylor’s only contribute to the environment where people feel like this.”



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