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    Information and resources for Tasmanian parents and families of young people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Sexuality Diverse and Gender Diverse.

     Linking Tasmanians with local LGBTI-inclusive services, support and information.

     

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    In families

    Some facts and figures

    • Studies of Tasmanian secondary schools reveal that between 8 and 11% of young people are same-sex attracted.
    • These young people are 3-5 times more likely to seriously consider suicide than their heterosexual peers.
    • Out of fear of parental rejection most same-sex attracted young people come out to friends or teachers before they come out to parents.
    • Three quarters of same-sex attracted young people experience homophobic bullying and about half of young people who experience this bullying turn to parents for help
    • 20-25% of same-sex couples care for children



    How homophobia hurts families

    The heightened isolation, fear and discrimination experienced by young same-sex attracted people puts them at much greater risk of conflict with those around them, early school leaving, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. All these risk factors take a heavy toll on the families of these young people. 

    Children being raised by same-sex couples can also experience homophobia from the peers and from other adults in their lives. All young people should enjoy equal respect and opportunity regardless of the sexuality of their parents. 



    How can I stop homophobia in, or towards, my family?

    • Challenge derogatory or demeaning statements
    • Point out the harm prejudice causes
    • Highlight how other families with gay members have successfully accepted these members
    • Highlight religious traditions that are accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people
    • Don't expect change to happen over night, be patient with and show respect to those with different views
    • Talk within your family about the prejudice directed towards it and draw strength from each other
    • If homophobia occurs within an institutional context like a school see below for what you can do



    Gay and lesbian people in families 

    Gay and lesbian children 
    If the family is the first place they experience incidents of homophobia in their lives, then gay and lesbian people will fear rejection from their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. 

    Gay and lesbian parents 
    When people accept their own homosexual orientation while they're in a heterosexual relationship and, on top of that, they have children, they may have to cope with rejection from their children, grandchildren, family and their circle of friends. 

    Same-sex couples as parents 
    Same-sex parenting is now a reality. For example, female couples give birth to children, both male couples and female couples adopt children or raise the children born during their heterosexual relationships earlier in life. The children of these couples have the right to develop without having to be victims of homophobia just because they have two mummies or two dads. 

    Family and marriage 
    Marriage for same-sex couples is not available in Australia, although Tasmania does legally recognise same sex relationships through our Relationships Act. Marriage for same-sex couples is, however, a reality in Canada, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Equality for same-sex couples in these countries has not undermined marriage as some people predicted. 



    You and your gay child 
    When a child enters the world, society presumes that he or she will grow up to be heterosexual. However, this will not be the case for at least one person out of ten. 

    Although it's more common for people to become aware of their sexual orientation when they're in their teens, for others it may occur much later. Regardless of when this discovery occurs, it is absolutely essential to keep healthy relations with the family intact. By the time children become more aware of their sexuality and sexual attractions they are also aware of society's general negative attitudes towards homosexuality and will be aware of their own family's views. Whether a child grows up to be heterosexual or homosexual it is important to tell children right from the start that no matter what their sexual orientation may be, it does not change the love you have towards them. 

    Unfortunately, in some families homophobia is often considered an acceptable prejudice. Kids (and a lot of adults) still use "fag" and "homo" to put down people they dislike or consider odd or effeminate. Jokes about being gay are still regular elements of mainstream television and movies. Homophobia is wrongly rationalised as a "family values" prejudice. 

    In an era when few people consider it appropriate to make a racial slur in public and ethnic bigotry has all but banished from the media, it is an indictment on our society that are anti-gay comments and stereotypes still thrive. 

    Love is the foundation of parents' bonds with their children. Children remain the same even after their parents have discovered their child's sexual orientation. Why should it be any other way? Parents will find a way to reconcile their personal values with their child's well-being. It helps to become informed about different aspects of what is going on for your child and for you, such as the stages of disclosure, shock and denial through to acceptance, which is common for both children and parents. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is a great place to start looking for some answers, our local contact in Tasmania is: Els - 62342372 or email: pflagtas@yahoo.com.au 



    What you can do if your child is experiencing homophobic bullying 
    74% of same-sex attracted young people experience anti-gay harassment at school. So do many more who are not gay. First, take pride in your child's trust. Only half the young people who experience anti-gay harassment feel safe going to their families for help. 

    Your child trusts you so make sure their trust is not misplaced. Then, support your child:

    • Listen. If you ask questions, try to make them supportive, not blaming, questions.
    • Make sure your child knows that you love and believe in them, no matter how you may feel about his or her possibly being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (or someone thinking s/he is)
    • Do not blame him or her for what happened or think he or she "deserved" what happened, no one ever deserves abuse.
    • Show that you are upset that it happened - but angry not at your child, just at the offenders and those who let them think it was OK.
    • Assure them you will do what you can to make sure school (or wherever the harassment occurred) is a safe place for him or her.


    You may want to gather information and support for yourself:

    • Call a trusted school counsellor, nurse, teacher, administrator or social worker.
    • Contact another parent. Try PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays: Contact Els - 62342372 or email: pflagtas@yahoo.com.au
    • Contact an advocate. Working It Out can act as a support and advocate in approaching the school.
    • Contact a local community resource, such as a gay-friendly minister or counselling agency. For information about support in your area, see the Working It Out website 'Contacts and Links' page.
    • Find a book. There are now many books available written by and for parents. Search the web, check your local library, ask PFLAG or come in to organisations such as Working It out, The Hobart Women's Health Centre or TasCAHRD who all lend books to the public.


    Next, if the problem is confined to a specific classroom, you may want to talk with your child's teacher:

    • Explain what happened and what makes you think the harassment or violence was bias-based.
    • Explain that you want the teacher's help to ensure your child's emotional and physical safety at school and in transit.


    Discuss with the teacher:

    • how the investigation will be handled and how your child's safety might be considered in that process.
    • what the possible disciplinary outcomes are, if the offender(s) is/are identified, and whether that is consistent with the way other forms of malicious harassment are generally handled.
    • what the teacher will do to stop the harassment from continuing … by the same offender(s) or any others.
    • what the teacher will do to reduce the chances of retribution against your child for speaking up and what to do if there is retribution despite his/her best efforts.
    • what the teacher will do to avoid a recurrence of the harassment … against your child or anyone else's child next term or next year.
    • Send the teacher a letter thanking him/her for meeting with you and spelling out your understanding of what was agreed upon. Keep a copy of the letter.


    If meeting with the teacher doesn't stop the abuse, or if it is happening in the halls and on the playground rather than in a single classroom, you may want to go through exactly the same steps with your principal, and if that doesn't solve the problem, with a representative from the Department of Education. 

    Check what complaints procedures exist with your individual school and with in the department. Keep track of all the events, including dates, times, and witnesses to each act of harassment and each meeting with school and Departmental representatives. 

    Do not hesitate to involve the police if your child is the victim of a crime. If, for example, his or her belongings were damaged or stolen or your child was threatened or physically injured because the offender thought she or he was gay or lesbian. 

    Tasmania has specifically trained Police Liaison Officers who are there to provide assistance, information, and reassurance on matters affecting you in terms of sexuality or gender identity and the Tasmanian Police Service. It is your right to ask for one of these officers to assist you. 

    Remember, in an emergency or for any matter requiring urgent police assistance you should always call 000 or the number of your local police station. 

    It is always wise to get the incident number from the officer and ask how to get a copy of the police report. Get the officer's name and badge number. 

    Some people also decide to take the issue further if not satisfied with the outcome. You can get legal advice from the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) call 6224 3556 or go to www.tglrg.org 

    Or talk to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission about lodging a complaint, www.antidiscrimination.tas.gov.au 

    The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is also another source of legal information; contact: www.hreoc.gov.au 

    The bottom line is your child deserves a safe education no matter what his or her race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical or mental abilities. You obviously agree or you wouldn't have read this far. Your child is lucky to have you for a parent. Together, you can help your school become a safe place. 


    Adapted from The Safe Schools Coalition: www.safeschoolscoalition.org