Despite widespread support in Australia for the legalization of same-sex marriage, the message that it’s ok for people to be gay isn’t getting across to teenage boys according to new research.
Australia’s national depression initiative BeyondBlue surveyed more than 300 14-to-17-year-old males and found that one in five still said they found it difficult to treat same-sex attracted people the same as everybody else.
Six in ten said they had personally witnessed people being bullied because of their sexuality and four in ten said they had seen homophobic bullying via social media.
One in four said that using terms like ‘homo,’ ‘dyke’ or ‘confused’ to describe gays and lesbians were ‘not really that bad’ and a similar number said that it was alright to call something they didn’t like ‘gay.’
Four in ten of the boys the researchers spoke to said they felt anxious or uncomfortable about being around gay people and a similar number said they would have a problem with someone in their friendship circle being gay or lesbian.
BeyondBlue released the research to coincide with their relaunch of their ‘Stop. Think. Respect: Left Hand’ campaign which intends to spread the message that bullying someone because they are gay is as stupid as bullying someone for being left handed.
‘It wasn’t long ago that left-handed people were routinely discriminated against, told there was something wrong with them and forced to write with their right-hand,’ BeyindBlue CEO Georgie Harman said in relaunching the campaign, ‘Thankfully that no longer happens.’
‘Sadly, the same can’t be said for the discrimination faced by LGBTI people, who are still made to feel like crap just for being themselves. Research shows young males hold more homophobic attitudes than the general public and this latest study shows that, no matter what other gains have been made for LGBTI people, homophobia remains common among teenage boys.
‘This is particularly concerning given young LGBTI people are already three to six times more likely to be distressed than their straight peers. If we want to reduce their distress, we must reduce the discrimination they face. We know that high levels of distress have a strong link to depression, anxiety and suicide.’
BeyondBlue first developed the Stop. Think. Respect: Left Hand campaign in 2012 but Harman says it is important that the next cohort of teenage boys in Australia hear its message.
To that end BeyondBlue have launched the hashtag #StopThinkRespect and will be screening a video in cinemas which dramatizes what it would be like for a left handed person to be bullied like too may LGBTI people still are.
You can watch it in the video below