Tuning in last week to the JOY94.9, 3AW simulcast focusing on homophobia and queer youth was well worth the effort.
Those involved should be congratulated for the initiative and for coming up with an effective way of opening the discussion to a new audience.
The show was broadcast against the backdrop of a cold and bleak Melbourne day and callers reflected the sombre mood of the weather.
Even now, it’s hard to forget the sound of the stifled sobs of one caller, Melissa, who bravely told the world her 12-year-old gay son had attempted suicide for a second time.
She was distraught and fortunately was referred to on-call child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.
What’s most difficult is that although Melissa and her son are not alone in their anguish, often it feels like the LGBTI community’s calls for help fall on deaf ears.
The most recent research — La Trobe’s Writing Themselves In 3 report — shows 61 percent of same-sex attracted or gender-questioning young people in Australia experience verbal homophobic abuse. A further 18 percent experience physical homophobic abuse, and 26 percent other forms of homophobia. Up to 80 percent of this abuse occurs in schools.
We can (and do) repeat the figures about bullying and self-harm until we’re blue in the face, but sometimes the honest and heart-wrenching tale of a mother at her wits’ end speaks louder.
That is why last week’s broadcast had an impact.
It was a clever move by both stations because it released the issue from the confines of the margins.
But no matter how persuasive the stories and facts and figures are, it seems there are some people out there determined not to believe there’s a problem.
Some of these people, according to a story in The Sunday Age this week, run Victoria.
The newspaper reported that Premier Ted Baillieu is facing internal opposition to plans to reinstate a Health Department LGBTI ministerial advisory committee.
That the establishment of any expert committee designed to improve the health of marginalised Victorians would be outwardly opposed is astounding.
An unnamed senior MP was quoted as saying he or she no longer saw any evidence of ‘poofter bashing’ or discrimination so the committee would be a waste of time.
I suggest this individual needs to be sharply pushed in the direction of a growing bulk of research which proves otherwise.
Let’s hope the views of this and other MPs don’t derail its already long-overdue re-establishment.
Baillieu needs to call this opposition out for what it is — outright prejudice.