Combating homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersex exclusion


It is safe to say that in the lead up to, and since the Australian Government’s decision to hold a postal survey on marriage equality, LGBTIQ+ people have been thrust into the spotlight more than ever before. More specifically, there has been heightened discussion, both good and bad, about our rights, on television, social media, and over many a coffee with family and friends. To state the obvious, the topic overall has been well covered.

One thing that hasn’t been well covered though, is what constitutes as oppression given Australia’s current political climate. Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersex exclusion are often categorised by the general population as a thing of the past. As if, the fact that LGBTIQ+ people are not physically or verbally assaulted to the extent they were in the past, somehow means everything is equal and just. Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

Oppression is generally defined as “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power”. Marginalised groups of people can experience oppression based on things such as, but not limited to, gender, sex, sexuality, race, ability, and class, where the more powerful group can benefit or in no way be effected within the same system, because of their privilege.

Oppression can be split into four distinct categories. These categories are; interpersonal, institutional, ideological and internalised.


Interpersonal oppression occurs in the way people play violence out on each other. This may include physical violence and name calling. In an LGBTIQ+ context this might look like someone using derogatory or offensive names against someone (including making jokes), or physically attacking someone who they perceive to be LGBTIQ+. Often, the oppressor has internalised so many negative messages about LGBTIQ+ people, they think their behaviour is quite normal, and that they have a right to treat people this way. There is currently a lot of interpersonal homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersex exclusionary oppression happening in Australia in the form of hateful speech and the spreading of misinformation.


Whilst ideological oppression isn’t as direct or overt as interpersonal oppression, it is a lot more constant, and can therefore still very seriously affect someone’s mental health. At its very core, ideological oppression focuses on “othering”, and the idea that one group is better than another within a particular culture. This can be elaborated on in many ways.  For example, the “dominant group” may see themselves as more capable, more deserving, superior and normal, and see opposite qualities for other groups such as worthless, stupid and weird. What this might look like in a marriage equality context, is people thinking that LGBTIQ+ couples are not real couples, that they don’t deserve to get married, or that they have a right to hand down judgement on LGBTIQ+ couples in the first place.


The idea that one group is better than another is very much ingrained in the institutions that exist within society. Institutions can include laws, the legal system, the education system, the health system, hiring policies, political power and more. A well-known example of institutional LGBTIQ+ oppression is that, for a certain period of time, LGBTIQ+ people could be diagnosed with a mental illness within Australia (and many other parts of the world) just for being LGBTIQ+. What this looks like in an Australian marriage equality context, is the government not making marriage equality law, by default, despite it already being law not to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people in the first place. It is important to note that institutional oppression does not have to be intentional to be considered oppression. For example, forcing an expensive non-binding public vote on marriage equality was never intended to be oppressive to LGBTIQ+ people, however it is still a homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and intersex exclusionary approach.


This is often the most difficult to identify given the internal nature of its existence. It occurs due to the prevalence of interpersonal, ideological and institutional oppression combined. An LGBTIQ+ individual being called names or being physically attacked (interpersonal oppression), being generally excluded or not feeling welcome within their culture/s (ideological oppression) and being told by the government they do not have the right to marry the person they love (institutional oppression), can be internalised, causing someone to have extreme hate and unacceptance for themselves. This can cause extreme mental health issues for that individual, and can sometimes cause someone to display hate towards other LGBTIQ+ people as well.

It is important to note that due intersectionality, people can face more than one form of oppression at any one time (e.g. a trans woman of colour may face racism, transphobia, and sexism). It is also important to note each of the four I’s of oppression do not exist independently of the others. Therefore, any attempt to dismantle homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersex exclusion should challenge all four I’s to result in change.

So how do we combat homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersex exclusion and support LGBTIQ+ people?

  1. Call people out – If you hear offensive language or uneducated ideas, call people out and start a conversation. Combatting ignorance and educating people is important.
  2. Practise inclusive language – People will generally see you are trying and appreciate your effort. If you make a mistake, apologise and move on. It’s important to use inclusive language regardless of the presence of LGBTIQ+ people (and so long as it is safe to do so)
  3. Ask – Get input from LGBTIQ+ people on issues and topics that relate to us. Keep in mind though that you should not rely on us all the time. As much as some of us love to talk about LGBTIQ+ issues, it is not our responsibility to educate you. You need to educate yourselves as well.
  4. Talk about it – Make LGBTIQ+ issues a part of your everyday conversation. Keep in mind though, there is a lot of negative talk happening now around the postal survey, so it’s important to also talk about a) positive topics and b) things other than the postal survey.
  5. Show/tell people how much you love and support them, regardless of their sex, sexuality or gender
  6. Don’t make assumptions
  7. Get politically active
  8. Let LGBTIQ+ people speak for themselves – if you have a platform, hand over the microphone

Stevie Lane

Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

Lifeline: 13 11 14


QLife: and
QLife are a counselling and referral service for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people.

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