Gay & Lesbian Australia
Australia might be the country that gave us Priscilla Queen of the Desert as well as being home to world’s largest celebration of gay life and culture, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but there are still a few things gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning people should know. This article deals with acceptance of homosexuality in Australia, the law, the gay scene, and HIV.
Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians in Australia
Being open about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in Australia is becoming much easier, but it is still not as tolerated as in the big cities of western Europe, Canada or the northern US.
While you are afforded every protection under law, you may still find active discrimination in the community. As you’d find anywhere in the world, or in any crowd, it’s best to judge your audience.
That said, more openly gay people are taking on prominent positions or achieving public greatness in Australia, and this is helping to change things. We have openly gay prominent journalists like David Marr and sports stars like Ian Roberts and Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham.
In 2007 a major poll showed 71 per cent of Australians thought same-sex partners should have the same legal rights as de facto heterosexual couples. What’s more, about 57 per cent of people supported same-sex marriage. Four years later, that figure was up to 62 per cent.
The Legalities of Being Gay in Australia
Homosexuality has been decriminalised in all Australian states and territories and you have the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of your sexuality both at work and in the community.
It is often said that gay people in Australia have “equality short of marriage” and this is largely true. The laws are slightly different in each of the Australian States. Western Australia’s laws go further than most, offering gay couples the right to access IVF and adoption. The Salt Shakers website has a good state-by-state run down.
The Gay Scene in Australia
The Australian gay community is famous for putting on the world’s biggest and most famous celebration of gay life, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. There’s no doubt it is a massive event – attracting people from all over the world – but there is more to the gay community than that.
Firstly, not all the gays are in Sydney. Every city has a gay cultural presence on some level. The communities in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth are quite strong in their own right – although all suffer the drain of young people to Sydney.
That’s not to say all ‘scenes’ are big. Somewhere like Perth, servicing a State of 2.3 million people, has just one gay pub and one gay nightclub (the oldest in the southern hemisphere), for instance.
Most cities have some kind of festival to celebrate gay culture, including a variety of events beyond the traditional parade.
More importantly, most states have support networks (on some level) for gay youth, gay seniors, gay families, gay parents, friends and parents of gays, victims of gay domestic violence and dealing with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The gay publishing industry is also quite strong, with most states having their own gay paper. Online, a good place to keep across gay news and issues, find support services, and link in with the gay community generally is SameSame.
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