This Group Gave Me a Family

An evaluation of the impact of social support groups on the health and well being of same sex attract young people.

Click for Full PDF Version: This Group Gave Me a Family

Lynne Hillier
Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society
La Trobe University

This project set out to document the advantages and disadvantages for same sex attracted young people belonging to a group specifically set out to support them. Young people from social support groups filled out surveys at four time points over one year.

The findings of this report indicate that social support groups are invaluable in the health benefits they provide. This is not to say however that the continuous open group model is the best one to follow. A different model that is less resource intensive may achieve the same results. For example, groups that run for six weeks several times a year may result in similar health benefits to one that runs all year. Regardless of the model, this report recommends that until homophobia is abolished from our schools and communities these groups are a very effective way to ameliorate its damaging health impacts.

Writing Themselves In 3

Click for Full PDF Version: Writing Themselves In 3

Lynne Hillier, Tiffany Jones, Marisa Monagle, Naomi Overton, Luke Gahan, Jennifer Blackman and Anne Mitchell.

The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people.

This is the third of the Writing Themselves In national reports which have been conducted six years apart since 1998. In 2010, a total of 3134 same sex attracted and gender questioning young people participated in Writing Themselves In 3, almost double the number in 2004 and more than four times that of 1998. The participants, who were ages between 14 and 21, same from all states and territories of Australia, from remote, rural and urban areas and from a range of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.


Safety in our Schools

Strategies for responding to homophobia

Click for Full PDF Version: Responding to Homophobia

Debbie Ollis, Anne Mitchell, Jan Watson, Lynne Hillier and Jenny Walsh
Australia Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society
La Trobe University

Australia research about young people has found that schools can be very unsafe for students who are, or perceived to be, gay, lesbian, or bisexual

Research has also found that many teachers are reluctant to address issues to do with homosexuality, especially in relation to students. Like the rest of the community, school staff have a range of beliefs and concerns about homosexuality. Unlike the rest of the community, teachers work with many young people from diverse backgrounds representing different values, religious beliefs, and family expectations.

When it comes to violence and harassment, individual or public beliefs and concerns about homosexuality are not the central issue. Rather, the issues that some young people are experiencing persecution at school, feel frightened about attending school, and feel unable to get support.

This booklet provides a summary of issues to help make schools safer for gay, lesbian and bisexual students and staff, so that they can participate and achieve in the full range of school programs and activities.


Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Click for Full PDF Version: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Sue Dyson, Anne Mitchell, Anthony Smith, Gary Dowsett, Marian Pitts and Lynne Hillier

This project was commissioned to establish whether agencies and services collective qualitative or quantitative data that might demonstrate links between suicidal behaviours and issues of sexuality for young people. Funding was received for the project under the Victorian Department of Human Services, Gay and Lesbian Youth Suicide Data Research Project. The work was carried out by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and La Trobe University.

There has been some controversy between mainstream researchers and those who focus on same-sex attracted young people, about whether there are links between sexual orientation and suicidal behaviours. Mainstream researchers maintain there is inadequate evidence to substantiate an independent link between suicide risk and sexual orientation, while worker advocates and researchers of sexuality issues assert that same-sex attracted young people are underrepresented in mainstream research, and cite more qualitative and anecdotal evidence of a connection.


Beyond ‘That’s so Gay’

Daniel Witthaus

Beyond Thats so GayThe Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’ tour left Geelong late February 2010. The 38-week national challenging homophobia tour of regional, rural and remote Australia has now come to its conclusion, again in Geelong in November 2010.

On the tour Daniel Witthaus chose to stay one week, or close to it, in most locations so that he could make the most of “referrals” for interviews (ie: whilst interviewing one person, they might recommend someone else in town who Daniel might have a ‘cuppa’ with).

The Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’ Tour aimed to repeat and expand on the Australian Human Rights Commissions Outlink Project (1999-2000)


Click on the links below to view Daniel Witthaus’ summary series of his work:

‘That’s so gay’ introduction

One for the hand

One for the heart

One for the head

Understanding Christianity & Sexuality

By Sandra Turnbull

1) Where within the religious texts does the idea of homosexuality appear and when were they introduced into the texts?
There are several passages of scripture which have been coined in the last 40 years or so as the “clobber passages.” These scriptures have historically been used to condemn homosexuals. They are Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:24-26, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.

The word “homosexual” is in the English bible in many instances at this time. The fact is, that word was coined by a Hungarian physician named Karoly Maria Benkert in 1869. The word homosexual gradually came to be the term used by scholars in the medical and social sciences to refer to people of same-sex orientation. Therefore, some form of the term homosexual in the biblical text is only a Twentieth Century inclusion. The term was never used by English Bible translators until 1946 when the Greek words arsenokoitai and malakoi were translated into English as homosexuals.

Many have argued that the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis 19 was the beginning of God’s wrath against homosexuals because of the destruction of these cities. However, in Luke 10:10-12 we see Jesus speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah in terms of the sin of inhospitality. Also, the Judges 19 story of a concubine being raped and killed by a similar mob in Benjamin is never described as a crime against heterosexuals. Yet, some well meaning Christians have tried to use the Genesis 19 story as proof of God’s judgment of homosexuals for some reason. Similarly, other places in the Hebrew text where Sodom and Gomorrah is mentioned such as Ezekiel 16:49-50 does not mention homosexuality. In the Greek text such as in Jude 6-7 where mention of “strange flesh” is provided, it is a condemnation of the fallen angels who had sexual relations with human women according to Genesis 6:1-4 and not anything to do with homosexuals. In 2 Peter 2:4-8 we have mention of the same event. Therefore, we should probably take the words of Jesus to heart and understand that Genesis 19 has nothing to do with human sexuality and certainly not homosexuality.

How did the Jewish people read Genesis 19?

The story was initially never seen as a condemnation of homosexuality by the Hebrew people. In fact, the Talmudic references to homosexuality never refer to Genesis 19. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later that damaging interpretations began to surface in Jewish writings like the Pseudepigrapha, which never became part of the Hebrew canon, and the Apocrypha, that is only recognized by the Roman

Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church. These Jewish writings were created from approximately 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. ending around the time of the New Testament period. In much of these writings, when the sexual activities of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are addressed, the Jewish writers seem to condemn excesses that are both heterosexual and homosexual in nature.

2) What were the reasons behind the terms for homosexuality being introduced?
There are two Greek words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 which Biblical scholars have had great difficulty in understanding. The first Greek word is “arsenokoitai” which is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and in 1 Timothy 1:10. This word is translated in the New International Version of the Bible as “homosexual offender” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and as “pervert” in 1 Timothy 1:10. As you can see by these two translations of the same word, Biblical scholars have struggled to understand the meaning of “arsenokoitai.”

The second Greek word is “malakoi” which is only used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9. This word is translated in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as “male prostitute” in the New International Version of the Bible while this same word is translated as “fine” or “soft” wherever else it is found in the New Testament.

The Greek word arsenokoitai is believed to be coined by the apostle Paul. This Greek word is not used elsewhere in the Bible and it is also not found in any other literature prior to being used in Paul’s writings. Arsenokoitai is two Greek words put together. The word arsen means man or male and the word koite means bed. Although arsenokoitai has baffled Biblical scholars who have translated it in various ways, it is now believed by many scholars to be related to the Levitical passages. I agree with this.

The Greek translation of the Old Testament is called the Septuagint. It would have been well known to the whole Jewish community and to the apostle Paul who preached in Greek during his missionary journeys. During the third and second centuries B.C., the entire Hebrew Bible was translated into the Greek language. Therefore, it is no surprise that the apostle Paul coined the term arsenokoitai as a derivative of the Septuagint’s Greek translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. The Septuagint translates Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 as follows:

Leviticus 18:22 “kai meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gynaikos”

Leviticus 20:13 “kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gynaikos…”

Both of the above phrases are Greek translation of the phrase “male who lies with a male as with a woman.” As you can see, the two Greek words arsen and koite are closely placed together especially in the Leviticus 20:13 verse. Therefore, it seems that the etymology of the word arsenokoitai is rooted in the pagan idolatrous practices referred to in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

So, does Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 provide a condemnation of homosexuality? I believe not. The study on these two identical passages with the exception that Leviticus 20:13 provides a penalty for the “abomination” points to something altogether different. For example, chapter 18 of Leviticus is addressed to Hebrew males and it describes every type of sexual encounter that is prohibited. When you get to verse 21 there is mention of the pagan god Molech. Also, in verses 1-5 God is instructing Moses to tell the people to not live like the Egyptians where they have been and like the Canaanites where they are going. The key to understanding these verses is to understand the pagan religious rites of the Egyptians and the Canaanites. These people were involved in the worship of Baal, Molech, and many goddesses. The worship practices of these fertility cult religions demanded the offering of seed or semen to the god or goddess in order to receive the blessing of the god or goddess. In other words, these religions were sexual in nature. The priest or prostitute at the pagan temple would receive the “seed” in the form often of sexual intercourse. These male priests and male prostitutes were set apart for the pagan god or pagan goddess and they were often castrated males and most of them dressed as female. Thus, the prohibition for Hebrew males in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to have sexual encounters with a “male as with a woman” is God’s way of saying, do not go and offer your seed to these priests and prostitutes. God made plain that these two verses out of all of the others was so awful because it was considered idolatry. Thus, the word “abomination” or “detestable” which in the Hebrew is “To`ebah” or an idol or an idolatrous practice.

I see therefore that arsenokoitai is referring to a male worshiper in a pagan religious cult. Paul used this word in order to tell the Greek speaking Gentiles that if they were participating in these idolatrous practices, then they were not living according to sound doctrine nor would they inherit the kingdom of God. Paul’s usage of arsenokoitai, which refers to male worshipers lying with a male as with a woman, is understood in light of the sexual practices associated with the cult of Aphrodite. Apparently, Aphrodite was another name for Cybele, the Syrian goddess. This deity was both male and female and so was depicted with a bearded face and full breasts. The cult taught that worshipers must hide their sex. Therefore, males came in female clothing and females in the clothes of males. It appeased the goddess if worshipers physically effaced their sex and it seems that hermaphrodites congregated in Aphrodite’s temple in large numbers. It did not matter whether the goddess was known as Aphrodite, Cybele, Astarte or Ishtar, because all of her worshipers engaged in errotic beatings, sadomasochism, same-sex orgies and for the males, castration. These practices were commonplace in all of the temples dedicated to this goddess along the sea coasts where the apostle Paul traveled as a missionary.

Later on, the word arsenokotai seems to have taken on other meanings. Remember, it was the apostle Paul who coined this word. Yet, during the next two to three hundred years its usage in various non-biblical writings indicate that it evolved into a description for people who exploited others for sexual purposes. It seems that arsenokoitai evolved in usage from a description of the male worshiper who paid for sex with prostitutes in the temple to those who paid for sex with prostitutes outside of the cultic worship experience.

Therefore, it seems that the term arsenokotai that the apostle Paul used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 eventually came to describe the individual who would sexually exploit another, whether male or female. Author, Robin Scroggs, in her book entitled the New Testament And Homosexuality also indicates that in 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul has placed arsenokoitai purposefully right in the middle between the Greek word “pornos” sometimes translated as adulterer and the Greek word “andropodistes” meaning slave trader or kidnapper. She suggests that perhaps Paul is referring to male prostitutes in pornos, and then males who lie with prostitutes in arsenokoites, and finally in dealers who procure the prostitutes in andropodistes. It is all very possible. Therefore, it is clear that each of the vice lists provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 mention people who are exploiting others or doing wrong to others.

Suffice it to say, the Greek word arsenokoitai should not be linked to homosexuality as it currently is in the New International Version of the Bible where arsenokoitai is translated as homosexual offender.

The second Greek word “malakoi” is only used by Paul in one of the clobber passages. The New International Version of the Bible has translated malakoi in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as “male prostitute” whereas the King James Version uses “effeminate.” By the Twentieth Century some translators of the Bible began to link malakoi with arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6:9. It is thought that the term malakoi is a reference to an effeminate male prostitute or one who serves as the male receptive partner while arsenokoitai must refer to the males who would frequent the effeminate male prostitutes.

The actual word malakoi is found elsewhere in the New Testament and is used quite frequently in extra-biblical writings of the New Testament era. The basic meaning of malakos is soft or fine and in a moral sense it indicates moral weakness as in one who lacks self control. Author, John Boswell, in his book entitled, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality states that the term malakos is not associated with homosexual acts but rather has a long history of meaning masturbation.

Martti Nissinen in his book entitled Homoeroticism In The Biblical World states as well that malakos stresses femininity while adding that “a homosexual connotation may come from effeminacy, because the man who submits to the passive sexual role takes the position of a woman and represents moral values associated with women- mostly in a negative sense.” [i] This understanding seems to agree with Boswell who is adamant that malakos is not related to homosexual orientation since heterosexual males were called this term by ancient writers. [ii] Therefore, it seems that malakos was at times used to refer to males who were effeminate, whether heterosexual or homosexual. And, the term apparently was also used at times to mean males who took the passive sexual role, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

3) How are the original understandings of homosexuality in Christian different or the same in the modern world? What are some modern interpretations of the texts and how do people come to these conclusions?
I see that the “clobber passages” are all linked by the issue of idolatry. The very word “To`ebah” or “abomination” in the Hebrew text that has caused so much confusion and condemnation of homosexuals for many years is in fact a word that makes clear only that God hates idolatry. The idolatry that was taking place in the Old Testament with the nations surrounding the Hebrew nation was called fertility cult religions. These religions were very sexual in nature. God hated this misuse of worship. This same type of worship was also evident during the time of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. He encountered people in the churches who had this past and others who were still involved and enticed into this type of worship. Romans 1:24-27 is set in the context of the Apostle Paul’s polemic against idolatry and the practices involved in this type of worship which was common knowledge for the first century reader of the book of Romans.

Yet, to try to apply these ancient texts to modern day homosexuals is not good theology. Many gays and lesbians today are Christians and love Christ Jesus as their personal Saviour. Yet, they have been ostracized from the Church at large because of the misuse of these scriptural passages. Furthermore, the human sciences and social sciences also inform us that human sexuality is varied. There is a spectrum of sexuality and so the Church must embrace all of God’s creation.

Today many scholars believe that Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:11-12 are in fact comments about homosexuals. Eunuchs who were born from their mothers wombs as such are a description of homosexuals. Also, the story of Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel and the story of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth are same gender love stories where covenants are formed between persons of the same sex and love is shared.

4) How can someone find a balance between their faith and their sexuality?
I believe that first and foremost one must be educated on the scriptural passages and their correct applications. God is a God who has created human kind to be diverse. As David the psalmist said in Psalm 139, God has formed us in the womb of our mothers and we are wonderfully and fearfully made. We are knit together and

God saw and was involved in this process of human formation. Therefore, we can know that God embraces all of human sexuality and all of God’s people. To find this acceptance and love of God from the scriptures for evangelical Christians is a must.

I encourage GLBTI Christians to find an inclusive church to attend and participate in so that they can be a part of the Body of Christ and in a way that their own gifts are affirmed as well.

It is possible for a GLBTI Christian to find a balance between their faith and sexuality. To err on only emphasizing their sexuality and forget the spiritual component of their lives, is a tragedy and not God’s purpose at all.

Neither of these terms used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 or 1 Timothy 1:10 point to a person of same-sex orientation nor do they condemn homosexuality. In fact, arsenokoitai especially is related to heterosexual males who originally participated in sexual relations in fertility cults and later to males who exploited males and females sexually without the fertility cult aspect. The term malakos also cannot be used to condemn homosexuality since it refers to males who were effeminate in general and also to males who engaged in sex as the passive partner, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

More information about Rev. Turnbull can be found at

Peers Outsmarting Homophobia

Lynne Hillier
Description: Brochure of information about the myths regarding sexuality, youths’ personal experiences and how they overcome them.

Click to Download Full Version of the POSH Brochure

Keywords: POSH misunderstandings school education religion fear

a POSH production: Peers OutSmarting Homophobia
Today there are many beliefs and assumptions about same sex attraction and same sex attracted people and sadly, the best known of them are very negative and harmful. These negative beliefs were invented many years ago by the church, (homosexuality is a sin) psychiatry & psychology (homosexuality is an illness) and by the law (homosexuality is a crime) and they were used to stop people from having same sex sexual encounters and from feeling good about themselves.

Late last century it was realised that psychiatry, psychology and the law were wrong about homosexuality. In 1973, psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The laws have been changed in all Australian states and territories to include homosexuality as part of the many legal ways of being sexual and many states have removed the discriminatory laws against same sex couples. Despite this the negative beliefs are still common in our culture. Some parts of the Christian church have also realised that they were wrong and the Uniting Church now ordains homosexual men and women. Many of the remaining Christian churches are divided and going through a process of change. Other religions have produced negative beliefs about homosexuality but we have restricted this booklet to Christianity because it is the dominant religion in Australia.

Over the last eight years, we have collected autobiographical stories from over 2000 same sex attracted young Australians. What they have told us is that homophobic beliefs are often used as a form of abuse by other people and this causes a lot of hurt. However, these beliefs are especially a problem when young people believe in them or ‘wear’ them themselves. As Adrian said: When so many people tell you how disgusting you are you start to feel disgusting – but you don’t have to. In this booklet we use examples of the ways that same sex attracted young people turn these harmful, negative, assumptions upside down and create positive ones. Young people outsmart homophobia by changing, ignoring, resisting and faulting these beliefs and finding new more positive ones to ‘wear’.

But if you have other beautiful, warm soft and silky clothes to wear you’ll feel good when you wear them. If you have found other beliefs or strategies to outsmart. We’ve divided the beliefs into five overall sections based on the negative beliefs and ways to outsmart them.

Homosexuality is a sin
Homosexuality is a mental illness
Homosexuality is unnatural
Homosexuality is a phase
Homosexuals live lonely miserable lives

We’ve also included a background to the beliefs and some useful links.

If you have ways of outsmarting homophobia that you’d like to tell us about please email us at and visit our website at

What we are presenting here for you are examples of the many ways same sex attracted young people outsmart homophobia with new positive beliefs that feel great to wear. Have a look at them, try them out and think about creating new ones.

It’s like your clothes. If the only clothes you have to wear are dirty, itchy and smelly, you’ll feel miserable when you wear them.

Concept and content developed by:
Lynne Hillier
Anne Mitchell
Nicole Besley
Andrew Lavin

Design and layout:
Alina Turner

Angela Bailey

Young Gay & Lesbians Around Moreland (YGLAM)

My Friend is Gay

my friend is gay… a peer group support resource
Click for Full PDF Version: My Friend is Gay
This booklet was produced by the Pride & Diversity Project with funds provided by the Monash School Focused Youth Service.
Resource Development Worbrer: Andrea Anquillano
Updated by: Liz Alexander
Design: Savanah Design

© Copyright owner: Monash Youth & Family Services
Copyright permission is granted for the distribution, duplication and reprinting of this booklet, in whole or part, with acknowledgement to the source.

Much appreciation is given to the following people and organisations for their contributions to the development of this publication.
Liz Alexander – Family Planning Victoria & MYFS
Anne Bigeni – South Oakleigh Secondary College, SWC
Emily Burrows – Deakin University, Health Promotion student
Shlom Eshel – Monash Youth & Family Services
Karla Fitzpatrick – School Focused Youth Service
Fee Harrison – Monash Youth & Family Services
Adele Morice – Avila College, SWC
Dr Maria Palotta-Chiarolli – Deakin University, Senior Lecturer, School of Health Science
Asvin Phorugngam – Victorian AIDS Council, Health Educator
Angela Poignee – Monash University, Student Council
Anne Taylor – Monash Youth Council
Pride & Diversity Reference Group
School Focused Youth Service Reference Group

About Monash Youth & Family Services
MYFS is a team with a vision, committed to enhancing the quality of people’s lives and applying the principles of care, responsiveness, continuity and sensitivity. MYFS aims to develop and implement programs that encourage individuals and families to reach their full potential and increase their physical, social, intellectual and emotional well-being. The MYFS team is visionary, progressive and committed towards social justice, equality and empowering families and young people to make informed decisions about their own lives. The team is passionate about professional work practices and ethical standards.

Monash Youth & Family Services is open
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm
14 Bogong Avenue, Glen Waverley, Vic 3150
Telephone 9561 7359, Facsimile 9562 1955, Email

Contact Monash Youth & Family Services for more information regarding:

• Youth Services • ACTIVATE • Rave Page • Monash Youth Council • School based programs • Young Mum’s Group • Drug & Alcohol Project • School holiday programs • School Focused Youth Service • Pride & Diversity Outreach Project • Family Counsellih2g • Family Violence Program

About Pride & Diversity
The Pride & Diversity Project was initially funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. The City of Monash continues to fund this project that provides a service to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people in the City of Monash. Pride & Diversity focuses on enhancing the quality of life for same-sex attracted and transgender young people.

The Project provides a co-ordinated and responsive service for same sex attracted and transgender young people, including:

  • A social support group for 14 – 21 year olds who identify as gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, intersex or unsure.
  • Individual support for young people and families.
  • Coordination and collaboration amongst support services to improve access opportunities for same-sex attracted young people
  • Training, education and resources to school staff and community agencies

If you are interested in being part of the group or require additional information about the project, please call or email Monash Youth & Family Services on: Telephone 03 9561 7359


Why write this booklet?
The Project identified that young people often seek support from their friends before they seek support from an adult or professional. A 1998 Australian research report, Writing Themselves In (Hillier et al), documented that friends of same-sex attracted young people are usually the first to find out about their friends’ sexual identity. There is currently little to no positive resources available for peers of young people who are same-sex attracted. The purpose of this resource is to educate and inform young people about sexual identity and diversity.

My Friend Is Gay was originally conceptualised with young people in mind. However, people from all ages and backgrounds can utilise this booklet and learn about understanding and empathising with a same-sex attracted young person. It is a supportive tool that can be used by:

  • Friends of same-sex attracted young people.
  • Siblings of same-sex attracted young people.
  • Parents of same-sex attracted young people.
  • Same-sex attracted young people.
  • Teachers.
  • Students.
  • Professionals.

What do you mean you’re gay?!
Your friend is simply saying that they have the capacity to be romantically attracted to and/or sexually involved with a person of the same-sex. Your friend’s primary emotional and sexual attraction is towards people of the same sex. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or same-sex attracted is not as uncommon or as unusual as you may believe. The world is diverse; races, cultures and religions are varied and so is human sexuality. Sexuality is an aspect of a person’s identity – just like their taste in music, their favourite subjects and eye colour.

1 Equity Standards Branch, Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy Support Materials, Department of Education, Tasmania, Australia (2000)

Growing up, forming an identity, being you…
Everyone should be allowed to be who they are. Adolescence is a time many people spend questioning who they are, where they’ve come from and who they want to be. It is a time that can be challenging and confusing. Part of growing up includes the development of your identity. In this time, some people explore their sexual attractions. Some people are attracted to boys, some to girls and some to both. People who are attracted to people of the opposite sex may find accepting, exploring and expressing their identity easy. But it can be more difficult for someone attracted to the same-sex.

Gay people are everywhere!
Most people, at some stage in their lives, will know a person who isn’t heterosexual. And it isn’t until we really know that person that we realise that they are just like everyone else. They have their own issues they deal with, their own values and experiences, and they have their own ambitions and dreams. For those people who don’t think they know anyone who is attracted to the same-sex, they probably just don’t realise it; same-sex attracted people are in all parts of our society. They have all sorts of jobs, have different kinds of families and are different ages. Same-sex attracted people are usually quite different to the characters we see on TV and on film.

It’s not always easy being gay…
Some people find it hard to accept that gay and bisexual people exist and may do or say things to try to make them feel bad or strange. This unfairness can make life tough for same-sex attracted people.

Those unkind actions and words are forms of homophobia.
Homophobia is similar to racism, sexism and any other form of prejudice. No one likes to be treated badly because of who they are. Homophobia divides people, creates confusion and spreads hatred. Being same-sex attracted can be quite difficult especially when confronted by ignorance and fear from people and communities. Hopefully, over time people will begin to understand and accept that gay and bi people are just as valuable as straight people.

The following can make non-heterosexual peoples’ lives difficult:

Any action, attitude, or behaviour that limits same-sex attracted people because of their sexuality. (e.g. preventing a same-sex attracted person from bringing their partner to social functions.)

The assumption that heterosexuality is the only norm and that non-heterosexuality is ‘alternative’ and inferior. (e.g. presuming that guys have girlfriends.)

Generalising that all people belonging to a particular group have certain characteristics. (e.g. thinking that gay men are effeminate (girlie), and lesbians are butch (manly).2

The attitudes expressed towards people belonging to a particular group based on stereotyped beliefs.3 (e.g. not choosing a gay man for your sports team, because ‘he’s a sissy’.)

The behaviours expressed towards people belonging to a particular group based on stereotyped beliefs.4 (e.g. telling a same-sex attracted woman that she is not invited to a party because you think people will be uncomfortable.)

The unfair treatment of people; getting in the way of opportunities, giving people an unfavourable status. (e.g. teaching safe sexual practices for heterosexuals, but not for same-sex partners.)

Not recognising existence. (e.g. not realising that people you meet may not be heterosexual.)

2 Brase, G Stereotyping Prejudice and Discriminatbrn Definition,.
Department of Psychology, University of North Florida, Florida, USA (2000)
3 ibid
4 ibid

Not everyone is gay… or straight
Assuming that everyone we know and meet is ‘straight’ is an example of heterosexism. People’s mums, dads, sisters, and uncles all have sexual identities and they’re not necessarily heterosexual. Heterosexuality is common, but not the only norm.

Here are a few words used by people to identify themselves:

A person whose primary emotional and sexual attraction is towards people of the same sex. This term often refers only to males, but women use it as well.

A person whose primary emotional and sexual attraction is towards people of the opposite sex.

A woman whose primary emotional and sexual attraction is towards other women.

A person who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of both sexes.

A person who identifies their gender as being different to their physical sex.

A term used that covers a range of sexual and gender identities (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender).

Finding out your friend is gay
Finding out your friend, peer or sibling is non-heterosexual can be a very confronting experience. A number of questions may pop into your mind, like:
In the seconds after your friend ‘comes out’ to you, all you have to understand is that your friend may need and want you around for support. They are sharing with you personal information that they are probably hoping you will be able to accept.
What do I do?
What do I say?
Are they a different person now that I know?
Will my friend crack onto me?
Do I understand?
Will people think I’m gay because my friend is gay?

Finding out your friend is gay… from someone else
Rumours are often untrue or completely misinterpreted. Finding things out from someone else makes it hard to know the truth.

If you do find out that someone you know is same-sex attracted but they didn’t tell you themselves, you don’t have to immediately think it’s right or wrong. In fact, it shouldn’t matter. Just be open and be ready to accept and care for the person – whatever their sexual identity is.

You may want to talk to them and let them know that you are accepting of same-sex attracted people. Be careful not to ‘yank them out of the closet’; your friend may not be ready to come out, may not want to come out, or may not be gay.

The act of coming out
Coming out means different things to different people. It usually has to do with being more aware about same-sex attractions – which often leads to being open with others about sexual identity. People can be ‘out’ in some parts of their lives but not others, whilst some people choose not to come out and others just don’t.

Coming out of the closet is a very courageous task. Your friend may have felt a great deal of anxiety before coming out to you. However, not everyone will need to ‘come out’. Some people don’t feel the need to tell people about their attractions and are happy to keep it to themselves. People come out for all sorts of reasons. Some come out for the freedom to be who they are; others come out so that their family and friends know who they are completely.

“The closet is an awful place to die”

Before you can support your friend…<
Before you can help your friend, you will first need to figure out a few things for yourself and the person you’re helping.

About you:
• How much do you really know about sexuality?
• What do you know about same-sex attracted people, and where did your knowledge come from?
• How would you feel if you thought everyone else in the world was different from you?
• What if you felt you couldn’t talk to anyone else about who you are?

About your friend:
• What kind of support do they already have?
• How do they feel about the discovery of their sexual identity?
• Are they likely to be bullied at school?
• Are they likely to be safe and happy in their home?
• What other issues does your friend need to deal with?

Understanding your friend
Before coming out, many same-sex attracted people would have had feelings of being different. At the early stages of questioning their sexuality, they may have been confused. It is common for a same-sex attracted person’s confusion to be guided by society’s homophobia. Confusion is often the result of not understanding why they are seen as inferior, and less to do with their actual attractions.

‘Coming out ’
Coming out is a process that is ongoing and can often be very stressful. People come out as a way of accepting and being open about their sexuality. It can help build self-esteem if they are supported, but if they are rejected or neglected it can have damaging effects.

Isolation & loneliness
Because same-sex attracted people are a minority, they can feel like there’s no-one else like them; or perhaps they know there are other gay people, but not in their lives. This may lead to feelings of loneliness.

Fear of rejection
Most people fear rejection; but for same-sex attracted young people, rejection can come from many people. They may face rejection from their families, friends, and communities. Often, when a person is rejected, they can begin to dislike who they are. This may lead to a lack of confidence and little or no self-worth.

Your friend may feel like no one loves them or no one could ever love them. It may be a good idea to show your friend that they are loved and supported.

Cultural background
Australia has a multicultural and diverse society. Your friend’s upbringing may be very different to your own. They may have a different ethnic background or religious belief. They may be part of communities that will not acknowledge or tolerate sexual diversity. Unsupportive cultural bonds can increase their fear of rejection and feelings of being unloved. While in every cultural group there are likely to be some members who view homosexuality in negative ways, it is just as likely that there will be other members who are positive and supportive.

Supporting your friend
Different friends have different purposes at different times of our lives. But ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’. Being a comforting and supportive person when your friend feels lost, confused, hurt and alone can be difficult.

Also, not all same-sex attracted people feel they need support. They may feel confident and secure about who they are. Your friend may have just wanted to stop hiding their true self from you. There are no special rules to know or guidelines to follow when being a friend. But remember, your friend thinks highly enough of you to come out to you, so maybe a good start would be telling them “thank you” for the trust. If a friend does need a supportive person around, sometimes just listening is all that you may need to do.

*Some tips
• Show your friend some appreciation for being honest with you; they may have had to muster up a lot of courage before telling you. • Respect your friend’s confidentiality. They may not be ready to tell others right away and may want to tell people in their own way.
• Show your friend that you still care about them. Be the same friend you have always been. Often, the biggest fear for people coming out is that their friends and family will reject them. If you are uneasy, tell your friend; but don’t let it destroy your friendship.
• You don’t have to be too serious. Some humour may ease the tension you may both be feeling.
• Ask any questions you may have, but be prepared that your friend may not have all the answers. You can save some questions for later or you can find some of the answers yourself.
• Your friend may have a partner. Include your friend’s partner in plans as much as you would with any other friend.
• Be prepared to assist your friend if needed. They may have lost the support of other friends and family, and your time and friendship will be even more precious to them. This may include traditional “family” times like Christmas and Australia Day.
• Offer and be available to support your friend in telling others.
• Don’t allow your friend to become isolated. Let them know about organisations and places where they can safely meet other same-sex attracted young people.

*What makes people happy?

• Feeling that they are safe and secure at home, school and when out with friends.
• Being able to talk truthfully with significant people in their life – friends, siblings, parents or teachers.
• Feeling that they are loved, cared for and respected by people they also care about.
• The opportunity to learn new things and also make mistakes.

Will they want me to be their boyfriend/ girlfriend?
Same-sex attracted people are not attracted to everyone of the same sex and do not want to have romantic or sexual relationships with everyone of the same sex. Just like everyone else, finding someone to have a relationship with would depend on the characteristics that make that individual attractive. If your friend does develop a crush on you, take it as a compliment – you have attractive characteristics!

Don’t worry that your friend may be attracted or has feelings you can’t return, you work through that with communication and honesty. It’s the same if someone of the opposite sex has feelings for you that you don’t share. Either way, it’s probably not worth losing a friend over.

Telling your friend that you only want a friendship
If someone of the opposite sex asked you out and you didn’t want to develop a relationship, you wouldn’t take the offer. It is the same situation here. It’s not because you look gay or because they think you’re gay, it’s probably because you are a sweet, genuine and kind person… that’s not such a bad thing!
Just in case:
“I care about you as I always have – As a friend.”

Gay people make me uncomfortable
At least you’re honest with yourself on this one! Unfortunately you are probably not the only person who is uncomfortable around gay, lesbian and bisexual people. People often fear or dislike what they don’t understand. Some people rely on what other people say, but people aren’t always right.

People believed that the world was flat and it isn’t; people also believed homosexuality was a psychiatric disorder, and that is also untrue.

Remembering that diversity is a common part of our society and that diversity encompasses gender, ethnicity and sexuality will help you be more accepting and understanding of your friend’s issues. Homophobia, like all other prejudices, is harmful. It has caused a great deal of unhappiness and promoted discrimination. For someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or same-sex attracted; homophobia can be their greatest enemy – and the enemy of their families and loved ones.

In day-to-day life, the following are examples of homophobic behaviours and attitudes many of us are guilty of:

• thinking you can ‘spot one’
• using words like ‘poof’, ‘dyke’, ‘fag’, ‘gay’, ‘lezzo’ etc as an insult
• thinking that a same-sex attracted friend is trying to ‘pick you up’, if they are friendly towards you
• not being supportive of a same-sex attracted friend when they break up with their partner
• making unnecessary or rude comments about, or feeling repulsed by public displays of affection between same-sex partners
• feeling that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are too outspoken about civil rights
• assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual
• assuming that a lesbian is just a woman who couldn’t find a man or that a lesbian is a woman who wants to be a man
• assuming that a gay man is just a man who couldn’t find a woman or that a gay man is a man who wants to be a woman
• assuming bisexual people are confused or want to ‘play the field’
• not confronting a homophobic remark for fear of being identified with or as same-sex attracted

Rights & Laws
In Victoria it is against the law to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The law also says that an unwelcome action of a sexual nature that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person is called sexual harassment. This means that making jokes and rude comments about someone’s sexuality is a form of sexual harassment.

What you can do about discrimination: • You can confront a person making a comment and tell them how it doesn’t make you or your friend feel good.
• Talk to a teacher, counsellor or trusted adult to make a formal complaint.
• But if all else fails;
You can contact Equal Opportunity Commission

9281 7100
The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission is responsible for
eliminating discrimination in Victoria.

Young people & schools

Schools have a legal duty to make sure that all students are protected from discrimination, harassment and bullying. All schools should have rules and policies to make sure students and staff are safe.

If your friend is having trouble at school because of bullying or harassment, talk to someone you can trust such as a teacher or school counsellor. You can also try one of the services listed in the ‘helpful contacts’ page later on.

Bullying & harassment
*There are many ways that someone can be bullied:
Verbal – name calling, put downs, threats
Physical – punching, tripping, kicking, shoving, or having your belongings stolen or damaged
Social – being left out, ignored or have rumours spread about them
Psychological – dirty looks, stalking

*Someone who is bullied may feel: • Alone • Sad • Depressed • Angry • Scared • Confused • Unloved * From ReachOut! website ( Bullying: What is bullying?

*Why do people bully?
There are lots of different reasons people bully. Some reasons include: • They might get power from bullying others.
• Because they are scared, so they try to scare others to hide their feelings.
• Because they are unhappy and take it out on others.
• Because they are being bullied themselves.

*If your friend is being bullied:
Talk to them
It is a good idea to talk to your friend to find out what is going on with them. Try to remember that your friend may be very sensitive about the situation and may be scared. They may not open up straight away. They may even cry or get angry – don’t take it personally. Just be patient and let them know you are their friend.

Let them know you care
Help them feel good about themselves. If your friend is being bullied their confidence may be low and they may feel lonely. It helps to let them know that you care about them. It can often help to point out all the great things they have to offer to help them to feel good about themselves.

Include the person into your activities:
Making a special effort to include your friend into your group’s activities may help increase the person’s confidence.

Stick up for them
If you see someone being bullied it may be helpful to stick up for them. Take care and make sure you don’t make the situation worse or put yourself in danger.

Speak to someone
Letting someone else know about the situation may help you to solve the problem. Try talking to a teacher, counsellor or another adult. It may also be helpful to involve your friend in this process. Together you can go and talk to someone about the situation.

When you can do no more
It is important and useful to know when your friend needs a professional. As a good friend, you will also need to be aware of when it’s time to ask for professional help. There is only so much you can know and do, so if your friend is unhappy and in need of professional support – know who’s out there.

Examples of professional support:
• School counsellor
• Youth workers
• A trusted teacher
• Telephone Help Lines
• Doctor
• School nurse

Warning signals
The following are some warning signals that may indicate that your friend needs a professional:

The word ‘depression’ is often used to describe the feelings of sadness which all of us experience at some stage of our lives. However, depression is more intense and lasts longer than the unhappiness experienced in daily life. The time which depression lasts varies from weeks to years.

Talk of suicide
It may seem like they’re joking, but you don’t really know that. Suicide is not something that you can laugh off – the help of a professional may help your friend find ways of dealing with their issues in a different way. A friend’s suicidal thoughts or behaviours are not something you are expected to deal with.

If your friend is hurting him or herself on purpose, it could mean that they are trying to cover up some of their emotional pains with physical ones. If this is the case, maybe you can ask your friend about it – and suggest that they talk to a counsellor or teacher.

Low self esteem
When someone doesn’t feel good about who they are, it can lead to other unsafe behaviours. So if your friend seems to think poorly of him or herself, compliment them on some of their positive traits to let them start feeling better. Some sporting activities or games are also a good way of making a person feel better about themselves, as it produces chemicals which make the body happy and healthy. Again, seeing a professional could also be worthwhile.

Issues at home

If your friend is troubled in their home life, is saying negative things about their family or never seems to want to go home, it might be a good idea to get them to talk to someone about those issues. Perhaps they have an unstable home life because their family is unaccepting, the environment is unhealthy or they may be receiving some verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Talking to a professional can help them to sort out stuff at home.

Drug and/or alcohol misuse
Some people turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their problems. It may seem effective for them in the short term, but in the long run it can be very harmful. After all, you don’t put a band-aid on a broken arm! Encourage them to see a professional for advice and assistance.

“The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.”

Myths & stereotypes

To have a clearer understanding of sexual diversity, we need to look at some of the myths about same-sex attracted people. Myths and stereotypes can be very damaging; they form prejudices that lead to discrimination.

Let ’s look at 10 common myths:

Myth #1

People choose to be same-sex attracted. People can choose behaviour, but not attraction. We love who we love, because we do. There is no choice.

Myth #2

You can easily tell if a person is same-sex attracted Assuming that gay men are effeminate (girlie) and lesbians are masculine (manly) is a prejudice that is incorrect. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are diverse in their appearances and their behaviours- and they look like everyone else! Some people may reflect stereotypes, but many do not. An effeminate man, is not always a gay man; we all express our gender in different ways.

Myth #3

Same-sex attracted people have certain jobs“Gay men become hairdressers and lesbians are truck drivers.” This is not usually the case. One famous Australian lesbian is a doctor (Dr. Kerryn Phelps), and very famous gay man was a rugby league hero (Ian Roberts). There are same-sex attracted people in every occupation imaginable – unfortunately not everyone can be open about who they are in their workplace.

Myth #4

Same-sex attracted people can turn straight people gay
If sexuality is contagious, then why isn’t everyone heterosexual? This belief is simply not true. You are who you are, and no one can ‘turn’ you. Many same-sex attracted people have said that to have relationships with the opposite sex feels unnatural to them. This shows that you can not simply turn gay or straight.

Myth #5

Same-Sex-Attracted People are Mentally Ill Same-sex attraction and homosexuality are not mental illnesses. The American Psychiatric Association reported that being same-sex attracted is no weirder than being left-handed.

Myth #6

Same-sex partners can’t have long-term relationships The idea that same-sex-attracted people are unable to commit or maintain a long-term relationship is not true. Many same-sex couples (and these are the people who are less visible to the public eye) maintain close and committed relationships which last many years. A person’s search for their ‘one true love’ is as difficult for a same-sex attracted person as it is for an opposite-sex attracted person.

Myth #7

Bisexuals have to choose: either gay or straight
Bisexual people are emotionally and/or physically attracted to both men and women and it is unlikely that they are confused or unsure whether they are gay or straight. Bisexual individuals are simply attracted to both sexes and should not be pushed to ‘pick a team’.

Myth #8

Gay men are HIV positive or can easily infect others with AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
Today, most people know this is not true. AIDS is not a ‘gay disease’. Most of the people in the world who have AIDS are heterosexual.

Myth #9

Gays and lesbians were sexually abused as children

People have many different experiences as they grow up. Unfortunately, some people (gay and straight) are sexually abused, but it doesn’t mean these people turn out gay. A lot of same-sex attracted people had very healthy and happy childhoods.

Myth #10

Lesbians Hate Men
Although lesbians predominantly don’t want romantic or sexual relationships with men, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends. It’s just the same with straight people – just because they don’t want romantic or sexual relationships with members of the same gender, it doesn’t mean they hate or dislike people of the same gender.

Things same-sex attracted young people want to say
Same-sex attracted young people were asked what they wanted heterosexuals to know about them.

These were some of their responses: “Just because I’m your friend, it doesn’t mean I’m straight. Just because you’re my friend, it doesn’t mean you’re gay.”
“If I’m sad sometimes, don’t worry. It’s not because I’m lonely, it’s because I can’t understand some people’s selfishness. ”
“Yes, I’m a lesbian. No I don’t want every girl. I just want my girl. ”
“I can’t tolerate tolerance- but I will accept acceptance.”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your ignorance will hinder you for life.”

“How dare you presume I’m heterosexual!”
“Just because I’m gay, doesn’t mean I’m perving on you.”
“I can understand why a person would have a problem with what I’m wearing, or what I sometimes say. But having a problem with who I love? Well at least I’m not spreading hate.”
“If you have a problem with gays and lesbians, just remember: it’s your problem.”
“I’m more than just gay. I’m someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s student, someone’s hero. I could even be your friend.”
“If I can’t love a girl, just because I’m a girl … isn’t that sexism?”

Useful contacts & networks
You can use these resources for yourself, to learn more about diversity or you can help a friend by guiding them toward some fantastic books, movies or people. On top of the information provided here, there is still A HEAP more out there. Some stuff might even be better, so give them a go too!

Peter – by Sarah Walker
Annie on my Mind – by Nancy Garden
What are Ya? – by Jenny Pausacker
Two Weeks With the Queen – by Morris Gleitzman
Hide & Seek – by Jenny Pausacker
Dare, Truth or Promise – by Jenny Pausacker
Rubyfruit Jungle – by Rita Mae Brown
Inside Out – by Erin Shale
Holding The Man – by Timothy Conigrave
Am I Blue? – by Marion Dane Bauer
Cody – by Keith Hale
Curious Wine – by Katherine Forrest
Reflections of Rock Lobster – by Aaron Fricke

Get Real (1999) – Starring Ben Silverstone
The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love (1995) – Starring Laurel Holloman
Kissing Jessica Stein (2002) – Starring Jennifer Westfeldt
Beautiful Thing (1996) – Starring Glenn Barry
Chasing Amy (1997) – Starring Ben Affleck
If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) – Starring Ellen DeGeneres
Broken Hearts Club (2000) – Starring Dean Cain
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) – Starring Natasha Lyonne
The Sum of Us (1995) – Starring Russell Crowe
The Birdcage (1996) – Starring Robin Williams
In & Out (1997) – Starring Kevin Klein
Love and Other Catastrophes (1997) – Starring Frances O’Conner
Mambo Italiano (2003) – Starring Luke Kirby
Kinsey (2004) – Starring Liam Neeson
Saving Face (2004) – Starring Joan Chen
Transamerica (2006) – Starring Felicity Huffman
Food of Love (2006) – Starring Juliet Stevenson
The Trip (2005) – Starring Steve Braun

My friend isn’t gay
Just because a friend or someone else close isn’t same-sex attracted (that you know of) it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know about sexual diversity.

By taking the time now to learn about diversity, you can maybe help someone in the future, and assist in educating others.

Just remember, who you love is not as important as how you love.