International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - Hansard

The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia [IDAHOT] will be recognised around the world on 17 and 18 May. It has been just over a decade since this day was recognised as a way of drawing the attention of politicians, policy-makers, opinion leaders, the media and the public to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] people around the world. The day carries an important significance for many, being the anniversary of the World Health Organization's decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, which was recent as 1990. IDAHOT is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 countries where LGBTI people still face prosecution from their governments.

Celebratory IDAHOT events is important and provides opportunities to unite people in support of the lives and relationships of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia has been described as a global celebration of sexual and gender diversity. New South Wales has come a long way since the first Mardi Gras march of 1978. In that march, when LGBTI people first expressed a desire for equal recognition of their relationships, they were met with violence from authorities, condemnation from the press and retribution from family and colleagues. The names and addresses of those arrested during the original march were published for all to see. Many lost their jobs and many faced hostility from people they used to call friends, but the 78ers who joined the first Mardi Gras group fought on and in 1984 the Wran Labor Government decriminalised same-sex relationships in this State.

It would be many more years before the social and legal discrimination experienced by LGBTI people began to fade. The ending of their sexuality as a crime was an essential step in advancing equal rights for LGBTI people. In this place members have passed laws to recognise same-sex relationships, extend de facto rights to same-sex couples, protect LGBTI people through anti-discrimination laws and ensure that same-sex parents have equal access and protection to parenting in New South Wales. A number of people have had a particular impact to LGBTI policy in New South Wales. Gay and lesbian members of Parliament have been icons, ambassadors, figureheads—and targets. They have borne the brunt of hurtful words but achieved much in their time in this place.

I recognise Paul O'Grady—who many of us consider a friend—as the first openly gay member of this Parliament. Paul was known for fighting discrimination. He fought against discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians in the Defence Force, against the exclusion of transgender people from our discrimination laws and the exclusion of sexuality from anti-vilification laws. He campaigned for three years for his partner to receive the same access to travel and other benefits that the spouses of other members of Parliament were entitled to. He spoke out against gay bashings and campaigned against the homosexual advance defence—the "gay panic" defence.

I  recognise and welcome back Penny Sharpe as the first lesbian to serve in the New South Wales Parliament and as someone who continues to campaign for equality for all people in New South Wales. I also recognise Helen Westwood for her efforts on the same-sex adoption legislation; Bruce Notley-Smith, for his efforts in expunging historic gay sex convictions; Alex Greenwich, for his ongoing efforts in campaigning for marriage equality; and Don Harwin for his consistent support for gay and lesbian relationships.

In New South Wales an important part of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia is the Wear It Purple movement. Like many other campaigns, the adoption of a colour to symbolise support for the cause is a useful tool to increase recognition and support. On 17 and 18 May we will see people in workplaces, schools and community groups wearing purple to publicly show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Although Parliament will not be sitting on 17 or 18 May this year, I will be wearing purple and I call on fellow members to show their support, wherever they are that day.

The International Day Against Homophobia added the explicit mention of transphobia to recognise the frequent and unique discrimination experienced by transgender people in this State and around the world. Transgender and other gender diverse people continue to experience health and social outcomes far below their straight gendered peers. While much has been improved for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in New South Wales in recent years, there are still many social barriers for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex [LGBTI] people to overcome and the health and social outcomes for LGBTI people remain below their straight peers in a number of areas.

Health and social outcomes for transgender people continue to be especially poor, with 90 per cent of transgender people experiencing some form of discrimination, from violence and verbal abuse to harassment over the gender listed on Government documents; 60 per cent of transgender men and half of transgender women report experiencing depression; and up to half of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once in their life. LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicide of any population in Australia. LGBTI people who are Aboriginal, refugees, or live in rural or remote communities have a particularly high risk of suicide. The average age of suicide attempts is 16 years. Almost 40 per cent of LGBTI young people describe their school as homophobic or very homophobic. Only 20 per cent describe their school as supportive.

The experience of LGBTI people around the globe continues to be highly variable. A number of countries have embraced legal and social reform to increase the social inclusion of LGBTI people, but in a number of nations a hostile legal system poses a serious challenge to the wellbeing of gender and sexually diverse people. The member for Blue Mountains mentioned that homosexual acts are still illegal in 78 countries. The death penalty can be applied in 11 of those countries. In our region, homosexual acts are outlawed in Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and parts of Indonesia. There is still much to do in New South Wales to ensure that LGBTI people have the same opportunities for work, love and happiness. Hilary Clinton has been receiving attention recently so I will end with a quote from her:

        Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.