LGBTIQ Australians feel abandoned and betrayed but there is hope

OPINION: Rodney Croome, spokesperson for just.equal

The latest large-scale research of the LGBTIQ community has returned some profoundly disturbing results.

The research, commissioned by just.equal, surveyed almost 4,500 people across all demographics in late August and early September.

It showed LGBTIQ Australians are at a very low ebb, despite marriage equality.

Over 80% of us feel worse now than during the marriage postal survey.

“Twice as many of us feel that Australia is more unaccepting now than felt it was unaccepting before marriage equality.”

Some 63% feel targeted, 67% feel angry, and 78% feel disrespected.

The survey clearly shows why.


Abandoned and betrayed


Almost 70% of respondents believe the primary aim of those pushing for more religious protections is to take rights away from LGBTIQ people.

85% believe the media is biased against transgender people and 90% feel trans people are suffering as a result.

We feel that we have been abandoned and betrayed by our political leaders, with 71% of us wanting moderate Liberals to do much more to protect our rights, almost 60% wanting much more action from Labor, one third wanting both the Greens and LGBTIQ advocacy groups to do better.

We feel like politicians who jumped on the marriage bandwagon have walked away. For example, 88% of LGBTIQ people agree that politicians are less interested in equality for transgender and gender diverse people than they were in achieving marriage equality.

As MPs turn away from LGBTIQ inclusion, LGBTIQ people are more firmly in support of this ideal than ever before.

92% of us don’t believe other people should be able to say whatever they want about us in the name of religion while a whopping 98% oppose discrimination against us by religious schools, hospitals and welfare agencies.

The just.equal survey of allies, plus recent research by YouGov on behalf of PFLAG, shows non-LGBTIQ Australians also share the views of LGBTIQ people and are sick of hatred and discrimination in the name of religion.

Clearly, there is a widening chasm between, on the one hand, the rising expectations of LGBTIQ people and strong support we have among non-LGBTIQ Australians, and on the other hand the backpedalling cowardice of our political leaders.

My money is on this chasm being the ultimate cause of our deepening angst.


Inspiration and purpose


As you might expect, the survey shows there was a post-marriage equality bump, with 88% of respondents saying they felt positive or very positive after marriage equality was passed.

But that positivity has now completely evaporated.

If the goal of the religious right is to take the shine off marriage equality, and to punish LGBTIQ people for achieving that reform, they are succeeding.

I can’t find words to describe how deeply depressing these results are for me.

I gave a decade of my life to marriage equality believing it would dispel prejudice and discrimination and bring joy and inclusion.

It feels for all the world like LGBTIQ Australians have travelled in a giant circle back to the point we were in 2004 when same-sex marriages were originally banned: a Liberal Government is on the offensive, Labor is silent and complicit, the general public is confused and divided, LGBTIQ advocates are cautious and afraid, and ordinary LGBTIQ people are being thrown under the bus.

Like 2019, 2004 was, in some respects, a reflexive backlash to improving attitudes to LGBTIQ people.

But 2019 and 2004 share something more than that: both mark the start of something ugly that will take years to overcome.

The same-sex marriage ban was the foundation upon which the federal government built a wall of discrimination against same-sex relationships.

It clamped down on government departments recognising same-sex relationships. It overruled the ACT’s attempts to pass civil unions. It tried to stop LGBTIQ Australians from marrying overseas. It undermined same-sex parenting by trying to ban IVF access.

We will see the same from the contemporary movement that says it’s about “religious freedom” but is actually about religious privilege.

Whether or not it succeeds in pushing through the current Religious Discrimination Bill, it will continue to push against LGBTIQ discrimination protections at a state and federal level for years to come.

This daunting challenge calls for a stronger and more defiant response from LGBTIQ Australians.

In 2004, the challenge of the same-sex marriage ban summoned forth a motley bunch of people, some who had been involved in LGBTIQ advocacy, some who hadn’t, none who were part of established organisations.

They formed groups like Equal Love, Community Activists Against Homophobia, Equal Marriage Rights Australia and Australian Marriage Equality.

From their optimism and energy sprang a movement that went on to win the hearts and minds of Australians years before the postal survey.

My hope is that the current religious privilege challenge will summon forth the same new, young, passionate leaders ready to defend the gains we have made and build on them.

It is these leaders-to-come who will rescue the LGBTIQ community from the funk it is now in and give us the inspiration and purpose we need to defeat the attacks we face.

Rodney Croome