It’s time for our voices to be heard
Ever thought that in 2013 you’d be reading statements calling transgender people ‘perverts’, comparing people with HIV to being eaten alive by piranha fish because ‘chosen lifestyles carry certain probable consequences’, or supporting continued discrimination against LGBTI people in aged care because ‘it could be embarrassing and awkward for other existing residents’? These are quotes from submissions made to the draft anti-discrimination law currently under consideration by a Senate committee. These are the forces that are mobilising against LGBTI equality that we will be combating in the months ahead.
We have much to gain from these reforms. For the first time in Australia’s history, we have a chance to protect LGBTI people from discrimination on the basis of ‘Sexual Orientation’, ‘Gender Identity’ and ‘Intersex status’ at a national level. The draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill also contains a range of improvements that make our anti-discrimination laws fairer and more accessible for all Australians. It is vitally important for LGBTI people and their supporters to let the federal parliament know they support the Bill.
By the time you are reading this, the Senate committee will have closed the public submission process and my hope is that many submissions will have been made in favour of change, in favour of equality, and in favour of bringing Australian law into line with contemporary attitudes and international human rights law. At the time of writing, however, the Senate committee has been swamped with a number of submissions like those quoted above that should come with a mental health warning for LGBTI people.
So how can you help? It’s simple – we want to hear from you. A small coalition of LGBTI groups are working together to collect stories and case studies from our community to present as evidence before the Senate inquiry hearings taking place on January 23 and 24. It’s important for the committee to hear the real life experiences of LGBTI people and the discrimination, harassment and abuse that impact on their lives and cause significant harm.
So whether you have been harassed at work or on the street, treated differently because you have a same-sex partner, refused healthcare as an intersex person, or feared mistreatment when entering aged care, we want to hear from you. If you work with same sex attracted and gender questioning youth, rainbow families or sex workers, tell us more about why protections from discrimination are so vital for these vulnerable groups.
Given the debate about the religious exceptions in the Bill, we are particularly interested to hear about experiences with faith-based organisations. We hope that many of these organisations do not discriminate in practice, but we won’t know unless we hear about real life experiences from people like you.
So, please, visit vglrl.org.au to find out more about how to make your voice heard – your rights depend on it.