This report looks at the disadvantages of the Gay and Lesbian groups and subgroups in Australian and worldwide society. It aims to present a positive point of view on the group and dispel many of the myths surrounding it. Issues that will be addressed include a definition, brief history, stereotypes surrounding gays and lesbians, difficulties faced and recommendations that could be put into effect to rectify the disadvantages.
The Merriam-Webster states the adjective definition of gays and lesbians as “Of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex” and the noun definition as “A homosexual person and especially a male” and this is generally accepted among the gay and lesbian community. This definition is a non-biased description based on facts, however, many people in the non-gay and lesbian community share a different opinion and hold great prejudice against gays and lesbians.
1.1 From the dawn of mankind – Pro-homosexuality
Gays and lesbians have not always been excluded from society and research has shown that, although the term homosexual was not widely used until 1892 (Merriam-Webster dictionary), evidence of homosexual behaviour has been present since the dawn of mankind. Mankind created many works of art (pottery, cave paintings, etc) that display evidence of an appreciation of homosexual eroticism. In the year 509BC, for example, the Roman Republic was founded and homosexuality was widespread and legalised, much like it was in Greece.
1.2 Homosexuality is criminalised – 13th Century
However, approximately 1500 years later, between the years 1250 and 1300AD homosexual activity drastically changed from being completely legalized and even accepted to such extreme measures as to incur the death penalty on ‘offenders’.
1.3 Decriminalisation of homosexuality – 18th Century
Homosexual criminalisation began to decrease by the 18th and 19th centuries, with many countries either decriminalising homosexuality, or else imposing far less severe punishments for those found guilty of its practice.
1.4 20th Century – the psychiatry of homosexuality
By the time of the 20th century, homosexuality began to be deemed as a psychiatric disorder and for many years it remained this way. These studies were later found to be flawed and unreliable and in 1973, homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in the United Kingdom. In 1986, all references to homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder were removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.
1.5 20th Century to modern times
Despite this, much prejudice still remained and campaigns for gay rights began during the 20th century. Despite much of this prejudiced attitude disappearing towards the latter half of this century, prejudiced and anti-gay mania was still present, even to this day. Although steps are being made to improve attitudes towards homosexuals, for example, welfare systems (such as Centrelink in Australia) are recognising same sex couples as being a legitimate relationship worthy of welfare payments. Despite these positive changes, there are still many countries where it is illegal from Africa to Oceania with punishments ranging from fines to severe punishments such as death.
2.1 Labels and stereotypes associated with gay men (Gays)
The most prevalent stereotype associated with gay men (more commonly known as Gays) surrounds the belief that they are immoral, have substance abuse problems and have trouble staying in committed relationships. Although these stereotypes may not always be false, they are not isolated solely to homosexuals and are just as common, if not more so in heterosexual individuals.
2.1.1 A brief look at gay men stereotypes
· Gay men are often labelled as being overtly effeminate or being labelled as “pansy”.
· Gay men are viewed as promiscuous and not wanting a long term relationship.
· Gay men are viewed as more susceptible to HIV+/AIDS.
· Gay men are often suspected of being paedophiles.
While some gay men do cross dress and act feminine, the overwhelming majority of gay men are indistinguishable from heterosexual men. Similarly, the most common misconception is that gay men are more susceptible to being HIV Positive or have AIDS. Research has shown that the risk for sexual transmission of AIDS “through unprotected anal intercourse is greater than the risk from vaginal intercourse or oral sex.” (Wikipedia, 2010). This could be the primary factor in homosexual men been labelled as the primary carriers of the HIV virus due to the method of sexual intercourse.
2.2 Labels and stereotypes associated with gay women (Lesbians)
Lesbians are commonly stereotyped as always seeking butch/femme relationships, being loud, obnoxious, and overweight and having short hair. Again, all are traits that are also commonly observed in heterosexual women.
2.2.1 A brief look at gay female stereotypes
· Gay women are often seen as “butch, and manly”.
· Gay women are often presumed as bi-sexual.
· Gay women can be viewed as aggressive and unapproachable
· A lot of people think lesbians only wear pants, trousers and “manly” outfits.
2.2.2 Derogatory labels given to gay men and women
Gays and lesbians are, perhaps, the most common recipients of difficulties among wider societies. Many have had to endure hardships and have even been discriminated against. Such hardships include:
Verbal and physical abuse from people who don’t/can’t accept the lifestyle of homosexuals, with many homosexuals either been victim to verbal assaults (i.e. having insults hurled at them, name calling, etc) or in extreme, but not uncommon, cases – actual physical assault. These kinds of physical abuse are often referred to colloquially as “gay bashings”. The older generation and most religious organisations are vehemently opposed to homosexuality. The older generation, perhaps, fear change, whilst religious organisations claim that to love a man as one would love a woman is a sin and unforgivable.
3.2.1 Personal Discrimination
Some people feel uncomfortable about being near a gay person, fearing that their “gayness” is a contagious disease.
3.2.2 Professional Discrimination
In the workplace, a person’s sexuality can be used against them as a result, the individual may be looked over for a job opportunity. Corporate bodies feel that a gay person in a high-ranking position would not look good for their image.
3.3 Legal/Human Rights
Access to certain services, such as welfare payments are not always governed to gay couples and tend to only look at the rights of heterosexual couples. However, as of July 1 2009, Australia’s welfare office, Centrelink, announced that they would be providing the same level of service to same-sex couples as they previously gave to heterosexual couples.
4 Consequences of the disadvantage on gay individuals
As a result of these disadvantages and poor treatment, abuse, assaults, etc. many gay and lesbian people (particularly youth) develop an increased risk of getting mental disorders such as anxiety and Depression. It can also lead to increased incidences of suicides and attempted suicides, and a withdrawn, repressed and introverted personality which differs from their normal behaviour. This leads to the individual losing the desire to enjoy their life to its fullest and can even lead them to suicide.
5 Impacts of the disadvantaged group on society
The continuation of these consequences can lead to whole societies beginning by discriminating against same sex couples. This can lead to extreme cases of discrimination to the point of a society that thrives on injustice, hate and indifference shunning any and all people who are different. This would ultimately lead to the collapse of the society as many communities rely on income from sources such as import/export, tourism, etc.
Awareness is a major factor that would contribute to the improvement of homosexual to heterosexual relations. Encouraged participation in pro-gay events such as Mardi Gras, Rainbow Day and the recent Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD) Spirit Day where people were encouraged to wear something purple in honour of the many youth that had committed suicide as a result of anti-gay abuse would help raise awareness of homosexuality and help people to understand homosexuality better.
6.2 Support Groups
Support groups should be more accessible for gays and lesbians, with particular focus on youth who are just coming into a realization of their sexuality. Youth are particularly vulnerable and having a range of support available to them will help to drastically improve opinions and decrease suicide rates.
6.3 School Counselling Services
Increased free and confidential school counselling options is another option that would help gay youths.
6.4 Legal/Human Rights Services
Organisations that deal with human rights and legal rights need to be more accommodating to same sex couples. In the interviews that were conducted, the majority of the interviewees mentioned that legal rights were a major factor that needed attention, specifically when it came to wills and medical issues if someone dies.
Many of the interviewees also stated that they felt they would be held back from admitting their sexuality in the workplace, citing that bullying was a real concern and that stricter discipline policies needed to be enforced for them to feel comfortable “coming out of the closet”.
Through research and interviews conducted it became clear that the most pressing issues surrounding same sex relationships was in equal rights both in the workplace and in their personal lives. In a country that is so open and welcoming, it became apparent that there was also a lot of hypocrisy going on ‘behind the scenes’.
Homosexuals are ordinary people just like heterosexuals, and they just wish to be treated the same way as ordinary people and not have their sexual orientation called into question as a judgment against their character.
Long gone are the days of sexual ambiguity, but so, too, are the days of harsh penalties (namely execution). If Australia’s culture is a multi-cultural one, then it can be a multi-sexual one as well. By following the recommendations in this article, homosexual to heterosexual relations can improve and homosexual people can be welcomed into this society.
In the Bible it may say "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." (Leviticus 18:22), but this article says that mankind and womankind should lie with whomever they want be they male or female.
· Australian Marriage Equality (2010 Federal Election), 2010, Marriage Equality Matters, viewed 13 October 2010
· Centrelink, 2009, 1 July historic reforms for gay and lesbian Australians, viewed 13 October 2010
· Clarke V., Ellis S., Peel E., Riggs D. 2010 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans And Queer Psychology: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Great Britain
· Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, 2010 Wear Purple on October 20 for Spirit Day viewed 13 October 2010
· Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2010 Homosexual, viewed 01 October 2010
· Robinson, B.A. 2008 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Homosexuality in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) – Leviticus 18:22, viewed 22 October 2010
· Wikipedia, 2010 AIDS viewed 22 October 2010
· Wikipedia, 2010 Homosexuality viewed 13 October 2010