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Marriage equality isn’t the end of the fight for LGBTI rights in Australia

Marriage equality isn’t the end of the fight for LGBTI rights in Australia

Rally for marriage equality in Sydney

You may have heard that Australia just became the 26th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

I campaigned for almost the entire 13 years of the debate and then watched how the postal survey on the issue broke the hearts of my LGBTIQ community. So I was very happy the Australian Parliament finally voted in favor of making marriage equality happen.

Australians from all walks of life campaigned tirelessly during the two months of the postal survey to make sure the ‘yes’ side won. While it was an exhausting process – and we’re all a little bit tired from celebrating hard – it is not the time to down our tools.

There is a lot more that needs to be done in the LGBTIQ space to make on the path to full equality. Multiple pieces of legislation still need to be changed in Australia and its states to protect LGBTIQ rights.

Let’s look at just some of those now:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ communities

Often overlooked when it comes to inclusion and discussions about the LGBTIQ community, much more needs to be done to acknowledge the needs of Australia’s First Nations LGBTI people.

Firstly, they’re here, they’re queer and they are fabulous. The Indigenous LGBTIQ scene is thriving and I strongly recommend people support queer artists, writers and drag queens. I’ve been to some of their parties and trust me, they’re fun.

But on a more serious note the mental health outcomes of Australia’s LGBTIQ Indigenous population is seriously concerning. While there’s no official data on suicide, anecdotal and comparative evidence from Indigenous Americans suggests the rate is alarmingly high. There are some groups and activists working to make a difference in this space, but greater inclusion in national suicide prevention strategies is the most important way to reduce the number of suicides.

The rate of new HIV cases and STIs – especially syphilis – has grown massively in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Increased access to testing and prevention is needed to bring these numbers down.

Sister girls, brother boys and trans Indigenous people often have difficulty accessing hormone treatment and medical services in remote communities.

And of course, there’s always racism. Aboriginal queer people face a lot of racism from within the LGBTIQ community, which is something that we can all work together to change and to make our Indigenous family feel more accepted.

Intersex rights

Marriage equality is great for intersex Australian because it now means the law will allow all people regardless of their sex characteristics. Intersex members of society are people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that fall outside of societal norms. They are also some of the most misunderstood of the LGBTI community.

But the mental health, educational, financial and employment outcomes for intersex people are among some of the worst in the entire LGBTIQ spectrum. One of the key reasons for these outcomes stems from ignorance about intersex people and discrimination.

Oii Australia and New Zealand released the Darlington Statement earlier this year listing what it deems are the priorities for improving the lives and rights of the intersex community.

One of the most pressing issues is ending the forced medical interventions, including surgical and hormonal interventions, that alter the sex characteristics of infants and children without personal consent. These interventions on children without their consent can have long lasting negative impacts on them as adults.

Forced medical interventions on intersex children must be stopped immediately.

Trans and gender diverse folk

Often the first to get vilified in any debate about LGBTIQ people, it is time to show more love to our trans and gender diverse community members.

The rights of trans people vary from state to state in Australia, but some states still require people to undergo gender affirmation surgery in order to be officially recognized in their true gender.

Trans people are also left behind in health care settings, especially sexual health. A recent study revealed that trans and gender diverse (TGD) communities were ‘neglected’ when it comes to HIV prevention.

There’s also the rest of the world to worry about

Australia may still have lots of laws to change, but it’s still a relatively safe place to live as an LGBTIQ person and as proven in the struggle for marriage equality, we will get there.

But hopefully Australian activists, advocates and organizations might now have more time free to help other LGBTIQ people around the world.

In many countries it is still illegal to be gay and in some, even punishable by death. Many countries do not have anti-discrimination laws in place and Australians can work to help make things better for other LGBTIQ people around the world.

Long road ahead

The issues I’ve highlighted are only a few, there’s still hundreds more pages of legislation that need to be changed to improve the lives of LGBTIQ people in Australia.

Lawmakers need to make changes to rainbow families’ rights, ending gay conversion therapy, adoption, ending religious bodies’ ability to discriminate against people based on sexuality, anti-discrimination legislation, protecting LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees, and more.