Homophobia still rampant, survey finds

Eighty-four per cent of Victorian gays and lesbians have experienced discrimination or abuse ranging from insults hurled from a car to severe beatings, according to a new survey.

The incidence of bashings has fallen compared with results of a similar survey five years ago (from 19 per cent to 7 per cent of respondents). But verbal abuse during assaults makes it clear most attacks are motivated by homophobia, says the report, Enough is Enough, published by the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

The report, based on a survey of 929 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, is to be launched today by State Attorney-General Rob Hulls. Of those reporting discrimination or abuse, most had experienced it in relation to assault or harassment in a public place (79 per cent), followed by employment (48 per cent), education (31 per cent), provision of goods or services (28 per cent), medical treatment (27 per cent), police/law enforcement (20 per cent) and parenting (16 per cent).

Eleven per cent of men and 6per cent of women said they had been bashed because of their sexual orientation. Sixty-three per cent had been verbally abused in a public place and 25per cent threatened with assault.

By contrast, the report said Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys have found that fewer than 2 per cent of Victorians have been bashed or threatened in public.

One woman reported being attacked by a neighbor who found out she was a lesbian and another was set on outside a gay pub by a group of men who thought she was a gay male; when they found out she was a woman, they continued the assault on the grounds that she was “too butch”.

In the workplace the most common complaint was harassment (38 per cent), followed by being pressured out of a job (16 per cent).

One man said his fellow workers organised a gang bashing after he told them he was gay, while a woman wrote that “A fellow employee attempted to rape me to `change your mind about being a lesbian”‘.

The report found complaints about discrimination from medical providers had risen but complaints about police had fallen nearly 40 per cent, which it attributed to a review of police practices after the controversial 1994 raid on the Tasty nightclub.

Some discrimination related to the fact that same-sex partners are not automatically recognised as next of kin: one woman told the survey she was charged with “impersonating a family member” at the Coroner’s Court after her partner committed suicide.

A co-convenor of the lobby, Kenton Miller, said the report made a mockery of recent claims by the RSL that gay people do not face discrimination.

The lobby called on the government to outlaw discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, to extend the legal definition of “de facto” to same-sex couples and to legislate against hate language.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hulls said the government was looking at the issues and would discuss proposed changes to the Equal Opportunities Act with the independents over the winter recess. Anti-vilification legislation was also being drawn up.

First published in The Age.