Talking Out - Volume 5 October 2005

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group
6224 3556
Gay and Lesbian Community Centre
0500808 031
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
6234 2372
Hobart Women’s Health Centre
6231 3212
Sexual Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services
1800675 859
Tasmanian Council on AIDS, Hepatitis and Related Diseases (TasCAHRD)
6234 1242
Information and Support Line
1800005 900
Working It Out
63344013, 64323643, 62311200
The Gay Men's Health Program at TasCAHRD (Tasmanian Council on AIDS, Hepatitis, and
Related Diseases) is a state wide service operating out of offices at 319 Liverpool Street
Hobart. The program provides HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) prevention
information and resources to gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM). National
and state resources are provided to a range of organisations across Tasmania to promote the
acceptance of sexual diversity, as well as resources that deal with issues such as homophobia,
safer sex, relationships, gender, sexuality and coming out. The program also offers telephone,
email or face to face advocacy and support for gay men and MSM dealing with issues relating
to sexuality, relationships, and identity. The program can provide referrals for gay men and
other MSM's in need of supportive health services such as gay friendly GP's, counsellors and
Venue outreach is another part of the program that provides safer sex resources (condoms
and lube), and information on HIV/ AIDS, Hepatitis and STI's. The program provides free safer
sex packs that can be easily put into a pocket and taken home. Cost price condoms and lube
are also available for purchase at the TasCAHRD office. We also provide harm reduction
information on alcohol and party drugs such as amphetamines and other psychostimulants.
Book Review
‘When Our Children
Come Out’
p. 2
Tips for Teachers
p. 3
Duty of Care and
p. 4
My Friend is Gay - a
peer support resource
p. 5
Research Review
Writing Themselves
In Again; 6 Years On
Australian Education
p. 7
Contact Numbers for
Advice and Assistance
p. 8
p. 8
We liaise and work in partnership with other GLBTI organisations such as Working It Out, the
Gay & Lesbian Community Centre, the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group and other
allied health services like Sexual Health Service and Lifeline.
No. 5
October 2005
As a teacher, supporting gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender students,
you might have found that at some time, the students want to talk with
you about coming out to their parents.
When we have something on our mind, we often want to share it with
someone else, especially people close to us. However, sometimes we
don't ask ourselves how to go about ensuring that the other person
receives our information in the best possible way. It was late at night,
when I was in bed, tired after a long day, when my son stood before
me and said: "Mum, I think I might be gay". Needless to say, I did not
have much sleep! So the student needs to choose a good time to tell
his parents.
* Ask the student what they think their parents' reaction might be
on hearing that their son or daughter is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or
transgender. Most parents, given time, accept their offspring's different
sexual orientation. However, some parents react negatively.
* A very small number of parents might withhold financial support. In
that case, have the students thought through the financial implications
- should they wait until they are financially independent?
* Check the students' motive. Is it because they love their parents, and
want to reduce emotional distance? Make clear students should never
come out in anger.
*I mentioned the question of timing. Are parents dealing with other major
issues, and under stress? Or are things relatively quiet at home, allowing
parents some space to think through the new information?
* Inform students that they might need to be patient and be prepared
to answer many questions. Once told, parents need time and help
from their child to accept the fact that he or she is not heterosexual.
Students will need to be prepared to allow them expression of a range
of emotions, which can include grief, anger and guilt. Parents can go
through a recognizable grieving period lasting from six months to two
* Check that students have sufficient emotional support from outside
the family, while in the process of coming out to parents. Not only are
students often still working on some of their own unresolved issues in
relation to their sexuality, they now also have to deal with the reaction of
parents and perhaps that of other family members.
* Encourage students to give their parents information on parent
support networks. PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians
and Gays) exists to support parents by phone, email or direct contact.
PFLAG also has printed information specifically aimed at family
members. See the contact numbers in this issue of Talking Out, Els
For more information about the Gay Men's Health Program please contact the Gay Men's
Health Coordinator on Phone: (03) 6234 1242, Fax: (03) 6234 1630 or email [email protected]
Page 8
p. 5
McIntosh, PFLAG Tasmania
Department of Education
School Education Division
This bulletin may be downloaded from
‘When Our Children Come Out’
Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (Finch Publishing, 2005)
How we support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) young people through the
coming out process can have a profound effect on their lives. What do you do if a child
comes out to you? As a parent or teacher, what is your reaction, and how does it make you
feel? Most importantly, what can you do to support them?
‘When Our Children Come Out’ is a valuable guide for all those who are or will be affected
by a young person coming out. “This work includes first-hand accounts from families, schools
and communities across different socio-economic levels, diverse regions and many cultural
backgrounds. It also provides vital suggestions and advice for those at the coalface of this
issue - parents of young people who need to come out, high-school teachers and community
leaders - as well as effective responses and strategies for dealing with homophobia in any
environment.” (From Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli’s web page)
The situations and ways in which young people choose to come out in these pages are as
diverse as the young people themselves. They vary from the mundane to the extreme, the
comic to the tragic, from across the dinner table to appearing on television with a hand-held
sign at the front of the Mardi Gras Parade. They are tales of apprehension, sadness, joy and
liberation, and as such, provide a moving document of the experiences of young people, their
families and communities.
The true value of “When Our Children Come Out’ lies not in its accounts of love and
determination however, but in the strategies it offers us as individuals and communities, for
helping our young people to make this journey the celebration it should be. It offers basic
advice and information for dealing with homophobia in all the areas of a young person’s life,
from the lounge room to the classroom, and out on to the streets.
Most importantly, it recognises that the safety, health and wellbeing of GLBT young people is
a buck that most definitely stops with us, the adults in their world. More than ever, teachers
and parents are realising the responsibility they have in GLBT young peoples lives. This is a
book that helps us turn that responsibility into reality.
Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli is a Senior Lecturer at Deakin University. She is also a writer, researcher
and consultant in the issues of cultural diversity, gender diversity, and sexual diversity, HIV/
AIDS, and social diversity in health and education. See Dr Pallotta-Chiarolli’s web page for
details on other publications useful for school communities, including:
‘Girl’s talk - Young women speak their hearts and minds’ (Finch Publishing) A unique
collection of over 150 contributions by young women across Australia, and;
‘So What’s A Boy? Addressing issues of Masculinity and Schooling’ with Wayne Martino
(Open University Press).
Enquiries, feedback or contributions to the Editor:
PEO Inclusive Practice
GPO Box 919, Hobart 7001
(03) 6233 5402
(03) 6233 6982
Page 2
schools were attempting to hide rather than deal with problems of homophobic bullying.
The report recommends organisational leadership and suggests strongly worded letters from
Departments of Education advising that homophobic abuse and bullying are illegal and that
schools must honour responsibilities to students through policy and action.
"Actively addressing homophobia wherever it occurs, recognising it, naming it and reacting
with zero tolerance is the most salient challenge arising out of this report…No individual
teacher should feel uncertainty about how or when to act on this issue or feel unsure about
whether or not they have institutional support for their actions," (p.84).
While some schools are making a difference, implementing anti-bullying programs and the
like, the report found that some negative peer group attitudes and resulting bad behaviours
continued, one student noting:
"The fact that homophobia is 'illegal' in schools means SQUAT! The second the teacher's
back is turned all hell breaks loose. Until awareness and education is spread, and attitudes
change, youth suicide statistics will soar and homophobia will continue to linger," -Dean,
Encouragingly, evidence from 14-17 year age group indicates those students were more
likely to receive anti-homophobia and sexuality awareness education at school, indicating a
progression in curriculum since the 1998 report recommended change.
Nearly 75% of the young people surveyed had used the internet as a way of finding information
about or to discuss their sexuality, with 80% claiming sex education at school was 'useless' or
'fairly useless' and 20% rating it as useful.
The report also found that sexual identification among respondents was more fluid than
anticipated, with people tending to err away from 'locking in' sexuality labels such as gay,
straight or lesbian. This change was seen to indicate a diversification of understanding about
their sexuality, and negotiations by young people of the meaning of stereotypes often linked
to such labels. Of interest to primary educators was the fact that more than one-third of
respondents realised their sexual difference before puberty.
"My first sexual feelings for other males first appeared around age six, and grew stronger
throughout primary school (particularly when I wanted to marry my friend Andrew)," Angus, 18 years.
You can view the report or request a printed copy online at:
Baden Phillips, Counsellor and Educator, Working It Out (03) 62227688 Mobile 0438346122
Email: [email protected] Website:
The Australian Education Union's Branch Council passed the Policy on Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual and Transgender People, in November 2003. The Policy covers issues such as;
homophobia and heterosexism, employment issues, GLBT issues in education (including
VET), sex education as well as teacher health and welfare and the role of the AEU.
A newly established GLBT Consultative Committee of AEU members has been established
Page 7
to implement key aspects of the Policy. If you would like to be part of the
Consultative Committee, please contact Roz Madsen, AEU Women's Officer on
Duty of Care and Disclosure
There has been some confusion expressed by teachers around responding to student disclosures of same
sex attraction. This article provides some discussion in relation to a teacher's duty of care and legislation
related to disclosure of same sex attraction. Several legislative and policy documents are relevant when
considering this issue. Firstly, there is the question of privacy and confidentiality. All government agencies must comply with the new State PIPs legialation (Personal Information Protection Act 2004). The Act
includes a set of principles which instruct on the collection, recording and management of personal information. It clarifies that confidentiality should only be breached when duty of care over rides it; otherwise
information is disclosed with consent.
Duty of care in the school context, is a common law concept that refers to the responsibility of providing
students with the adequate level of protection against harm, according to standards set by the law and
community at large. Teachers have 'a duty to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which could
expose students to reasonably foreseeable risk of injury' (Legal issues for schools, 2005) The DoE Legal
unit provides legal advice to staff ([email protected]).
The State of Tasmania as a whole responds to two Acts addressing discrimination. The Anti-discrimination
Act (Tas) 1998 and the Disability Discrimination Act (Cth) 1992. Both Acts inform us that it is an offence
to discriminate on the grounds of a real or perceived attribute, including sexuality. The Anti-discrimination
and Anti -harassment Policy and Support materials (see
discrimination/policy.htm) outlines Departmental policy, recognises diversity within the school community
and clearly states levels of responsibility for all staff when pursuing this principle. As well as an overview
of anti-harassment, it provides specific information on challenging homophobia, racism, sexism etc. The
Policy states:
Schools and colleges will have in place practices, which are designed to ensure that all staff and students are protected from discrimination and harassment, and that claims of discrimination and harassment are dealt with speedily and constructively
Schools should clearly act in line with this policy. The premise is always to consider what is in the best interest of the child and their safety. If a student's safety is at risk from abuse, suicide or injury then all staff have
a responsibility to act to protect them, and guidelines are provided with regard to the appropriate response.
However, in relation to disclosures of information - if a student tells a staff member personal information then
that should remain confidential unless it threatens the safety of the child.
The Children, Young Person and their Families Act 1997 legally requires members of certain professions
(including teachers) to report suspected abuse and neglect of children and young people (up to the age of
17) Information related to a students perceived risk is mandated to be reported to CPAARS (DHHS). In relation to consensual sexual activity, the Tasmanian Criminal code, specifies the legal age differences including
homosexual activity (see website.
In summary, it is against Departmental policy and good practice for any school to require a teacher to report
students who are same-sex attracted to the principal or support services, unless there are concerns about
their safety or wellbeing. Whilst being same sex attracted can place many young people high on risk factor
scales for self-harm and suicide, it is not of itself a causal indicator. Clearly, notification of concerns to support staff should be done in a supportive way and information shared on a 'need to know' basis. It's about
safety and wellbeing within a supportive school community!
My Friend is Gay ...
a peer support resource
There are currently little to no positive resources available in Australia for peers of young people
who are same sex attracted (SSA). As we are all aware, research demonstrates that same sex
attracted young people seeking support will more often than not come out to their friends before
coming out to an adult (parent, teacher, professional).
My Friend is Gay, produced by the City of Monash, Youth & Families Services (Victoria), is a
well presented, easy to ready, 44 page peer support resource with a purpose to educate and
inform young people about sexual identity and diversity.
Whilst originally designed with young people in mind, people of all ages and backgrounds can
utilize this resource. It is a supportive tool that can be used by just about anyone - same sex
attracted young people, friends and family members (siblings, parents, carers, grandparents).
It is also an excellent resource for schools - the booklet can be used for class discussions or
sessions addressing diversity, sexuality and relationships.
This is an exceptional resource I encourage you to source a few copies via [email protected] or by phone on 9561 7359 (ask for Melissa). Did I mention that they are free?
Jonathan Paré
Manager - Education, Health Promotion & Workforce Development
Family Planning Tasmania (FPT)
Writing Themselves In Again; 6 Years On
Latrobe University- Melbourne
A national study has found school continues to be the most dangerous place for same sex
attracted young people (SSAY) Link:
74% of homophobic abuse reported occurred in the classroom or school yard, among 14 to
17-year-olds that figure rose to 89%.
Six years after the first report of its kind the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and
Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University has released its follow up report on the experiences
of SSAY.
Writing Themselves In Again; 6 Years On surveyed 1749 young people aged 14-21, a sample
size more than double the 750 contributing to the 1998 report.
Rates of verbal (44% 2004; 46% in 1998) and physical (15% 2004; 13% 1998) abuse were
similar, with more young men experiencing both types of abuse than young women (verbal
m=46%, f=43%; physical m=19%, f=9%).
Helen Barrett
Acting PEO Supportive School Communities
School Education Division
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Page 5
Tips for Teachers
An increased number reported unfair treatment on basis of sexuality, the figures rising to 39%
(29% in 1998).
A shift in self-esteem was noted, with 76% of respondents feeling 'great' or 'good' about their
sexuality (60% in 1998), and an increased number (95%) of people had spoken to someone
else about their sexuality (82% in 1998).
However changes in self acceptance were not exclusive of experiences of homophobia. The
percentage of young people reporting being bullied increased from 69% in 1998 to 74%,
comprised of 80% young men and 48% young women. The data captures the often extreme
nature of the violence associated with such attacks.
What Can a Teacher Do To Make a Difference to the School Climate?
Establish tolerance and non-harassment as a group norm, including non-harassment
of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people
„ Be prepared to respond to homophobic slurs just as you would to racist or sexist slurs
Focus on challenging the negative opinions rather than the person
Don't expect to win an encounter. The aim is to get information across.
Avoid debating religious arguments. If a person has strongly held views it may be more
productive to discuss sexuality issues in terms of how the person is feeling rather than
debating ideas.
You can still be supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual people even if you feel uncomfortable
discussing sexual issues. Familiarise yourself with a few reference books, pamphlets and
groups or refer to colleagues/counsellors who do feel comfortable discussing sexuality.
Include sexual orientation and gender identity issues in discussion of human rights and
Always assume that at least 10% of the people you're working with are gay lesbian or
bisexual and that others will have gay, lesbian or bisexual friends or family
Openly express your support of gay, lesbian and bisexual people
Have appropriate resources on display and available. Where possible, ensure that the
environment in which you are working has a range of posters, pamphlets with positive
images including people of diverse sexual orientations. If none of these posters are
available then develop them, with your students
Include different family forms in any discussion on family and community. It is very
reassuring for young people to know that they are not abnormal because they do not
conform to a notion of normalcy that is, in any case, inaccurate. When corresponding with
caregivers don't address mail to Mr and Mrs X unless you know this to be accurate
Ensure the development of library resources, both fiction and non fiction
"Usual names such as Dyke, butch bitch etc. and sometimes comments from guys in terms
of needing a good root, to be raped straight…" -Rena, 21 years.
"My bed at boarding school was pissed on. I was subjected to other guys pretending to have
sex with me. Broomsticks were inserted in my anus." -Hugh, 21 years.
Homophobia against boys was found to be expressed in "overtly aggressive ways and [to
be] more easily recognisable as abuse" whereas girls were more prone to become subject to
"whispers and exclusions".
Links between physical and verbal abuse were also correlated to drug use, with those
experiencing physical abuse most likely to partake in a range of Alcohol and Other Drugs,
although numbers were down since the 1998 survey.
The emotional impact of homophobic abuse on students was measured, with 35% indicating
they had thought about, or succeeded in, harming themselves. The report found no substantial
differences between the experiences of abuse, disclosure, safety at school, self harm, drug
use, contact with support organisations for SSAY from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
backgrounds. Differences were highlighted however within home and family, with CALD young
people less likely to feel safe at home (77% vs 86% general population) or to discuss sexuality
issues with parents.
"When so many people tell you how disgusting you are, you start to feel disgusting… When
it got particularly bad, I used to scratch patterns in my face until it bled, out of disgust for
myself," - Aiden, 18
"I tried to kill myself because I was so badly teased at school for being a lesbian," - Claudia,
The report says improved policies, practices and programs designed to support SSAY have made
a difference, but that these supports were often located outside of the school environment.
"Support from others acts as a protection from the negative health outcomes of homophobic
abuse, with those who have support feeling better about their sexuality," (p. 67).
An increase in support from teachers and student welfare coordinators was indicated, although
the report cautions this sometimes had more to do with the skills and attitudes of particular
staff members, and was not necessarily indicative of a successful whole-of-school approach.
Accounts of students being removed from class when they were bullied indicated that some
Page 6
From Liggins.S, Wille A., Hawthorne, S. & Rampton,L. 1994. Affirming Diversity. Auckland
Education Unit, Family Planning New Zealand p23-4 One of the most effective ways that
teachers can make a difference is by educating themselves on the issues surrounding sexual
and gender difference and diversity.
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