Resilience, Covid-19 and the resurrected “Special Religious Rights” law

OPINION

When I saw in OUTinPerth that the ridiculous ‘Special Religious Rights Laws’ were back on the agenda, I thought to myself, “Here we go again” and reminded me of the need for LGBTI people to work on, and reinforce, our own resilience.

This is apart from taking whatever steps we can, like writing to and lobbying politicians. But it’s not just the Religious Discrimination proposed laws, that can negatively impact our mental health. In recent days I’ve also seen opposition to outlawing the ‘noxious weed’ of ‘conversion therapy’.

I see reinforcing resilience as a way to reduce the impact of the sorts of things that will be said and done in the name of “religious freedom”. As well as coping better with the “COVID-19” moving feast and other stressors for LGBTIQA+ people.

Resilience has been described as “the quality of being able to survive and thrive in the face of adversity”. I’ve recently been re-reading articles and books about this, particularly in the context of LGBTI people.

Serendipitously an email came from the American Psychological Association about an “…issue of Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity [that] highlights crucial research regarding the disproportional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marginalized communities”.

This disproportionate impact relates to the idea that LGBTI people have additional stressors in their respective lives, like (to quote one of the articles) “…external stressors (e.g., sexual orientation or gender identity-based harassment, rejection, prejudice or violence), and proximal, or internal stressors (e.g., internalized heterosexism/biphobia/transphobia, identity concealment, fears of rejection, or discrimination; Meyer, 1995; 2003) These stressors are linked to heightened distress and negatively impact the overall health and wellness of LGBTQ individuals.”

One article  “Previous resilience has taught me that I can survive anything”: LGBTQ resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic’ reminded me of how I have read about (and regularly suggest to LGBTI clients) the importance of involvement with one’s own community. Whether that be peers of young people or the trans, or elder community as the case may be.

In the context of the ‘resurrected’ proposals for a ‘Special Religious Rights Law’, although not a lawyer, I can’t see how it could be possible to not override the Tasmanian “Gold Standard” rights, which does not give any “special rights” to religious groups.

I’m reminded of a long-term client of mine who has said in other contexts that “you can’t polish a turd”. I’ve said before how I feel these proposed laws belong in the rubbish bin of history.

The most recent census showed that “Almost 40 per cent (38.9 per cent) of Australia’s population reported having no religion in the 2021 Census…” (to quote the ABS). It therefore seems strange to this writer that those who identified as Christian, i.e. 43.9% of the population should keep ‘special rights’ to discriminate against the rest of us. It makes as much sense to me as men deciding on women’s reproductive rights.

You might wonder what can be done to seek to increase resilience either at an individual or community level? A few options (in no particular order) include;

  1. Maintain your commitment and involvement with community-based organisations, whether they be sporting, social or political groups apart from gaining mutual support from others who may have had similar experiences.
  2. Do whatever you feel comfortable with in terms of opposition to these “Special Religious Rights” proposed laws. Related to this, it should be remembered that community activism was a large part of the passing of marriage equality, as well as further back the response to HIV/AIDS and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
  3. If you are into reading books, it might be worth reading books like A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-Being by Ellen D. B. Riggle and Sharon Rostovsky. Or Bulletproof faith: a spiritual survival guide for gay and lesbian Christians by Candace Chellew-Hodge.
  4. If you feel you are not coping too well, consider getting professional help from a qualified Mental Health professional (which can be subsidised from Medicare) for both in-person and Telehealth consultations. Or for short term (LGBTI specific) assistance there is help available from Q-Life (qlife.org.au).

So, the bottom line, you can take steps to deal with the stressors in your life, whether it be concerns about proposed “Religious Freedom” laws, the impact of COVID-19 or LGBTI specific stressors, it’s up to you to take the first steps.

Colin Longworth

Colin Longworth is a registered Psychologist in private practice and a long-term volunteer with Living Proud and its predecessor organisations.


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