BY ALEX EUGENE
Around a hundred activists gathered outside the Sydney News Corp office last week to blow the whistle on the Daily Telegraph’s latest faux pas.
The paper ran a front page infographic blasting young people as having “only themselves to blame” for their illnesses- including being same-sex attracted.
After social media exploded condemning the move, the newspaper issued what Greens MP Jenny Leong described as a “half apology”, citing an editorial mistake caused by being thrown together “minutes before deadline”.
James Breko Brechney from the DIY Rainbow Group, who helped organise the rally said “We didn’t get an official response from the Telegraph, but everyone was polite moving in and out of the building while we were chalking and speeches were being delivered.”
The problem with News Corp glossing over this as a “whoopsie” moment, waving it off as a drop in the ocean amid their Murdoch agenda of more important things to do, is that it belittles the very real damage it could have caused in that short moment.
We’ve known for a long time that LGBTIQ people are much more susceptible to depression, suicide and a range of other health dangers – three times more likely than their hetero-normative counterparts. The National LGBTI Health Alliance has conducted significant research that shows these frightening statistics are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTI.
It comes as no surprise then, that the Australian Human Rights Commission reports that almost half of all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people hide their sexual orientation or gender identity in public, for fear of violence or discrimination. In fact, young people aged 16 to 24 years are most likely to hide their sexuality or gender identity.
In this homophobic climate, when a statewide newspaper is then delivered to thousands of doorsteps framing same sex attraction as an illness, who knows how many relationships, families and friendships are going to see it as the final straw?
Media and news are there to start conversations. But if it triggers the wrong conversation, if it delivers a front-page announcement that it’s ok to discriminate against a quarter of our young people, the real backlash is likely to be worse than some rainbow chalk drawings on a footpath.
There might be a young man who won’t speak to his parents for the next ten years because of this. There might be a young woman who has moved out of home because she can’t bear the isolation any more.
The impact on people’s lives is real.
“The young people [the Telegraph] have bullied and vilified in this situation don’t need this kind of damage done to their well being, and that’s the health concern that we should be worried about,” said Jenny Leong, Greens MP for Newtown who attended and spoke at the rally.
“They need to realise the damage that this kind of stuff put in print does to our young LGBTIQ people. It has real life impacts, especially for people living in regional and rural areas, or living with families that don’t accept the diversity of our community. It’s not just a way to sell newspapers,” she said.
The latest figures show that at least 61% of LGBTI young people have experienced verbal homophobic abuse- so adding a printed version of that is NOT ok.