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Sexuality, health and well-being, 2004

Writing themselves in again: 6 years on, is the second national report on the sexuality, health and well-being of same sex attracted young Australians, and is the follow-up report to a similar study conducted in 1998 by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University, Melbourne.
The 2004 study, which surveyed almost 1,750 same sex attracted (SSA) young people aged between 14 and 21, shows:

Sexual attraction and identity
  • In 2004 both young men and young women were more likely to be attracted exclusively to the same sex and to identify as gay, homosexual or lesbian than in 1998.
  • In 2004, as in 1998, fewer young women than young men were likely to identify as gay, homosexual or lesbian than young men.
  • There was a shift towards more positive feelings about their sexuality with 76% feeling great or good in 2004 compared with 60% in 1998.
  • Sexual behaviour
  • SSA young people were more likely to be sexually active earlier than their heterosexual peers and they were more likely to be having sex in line with their feelings of attraction than in the 1998 study.
  • There was a relatively high rate of condom use (65% reported usage at the last sexual encounter), though young women's rate of condom use was lower.
  • Rates of diagnosed STIs were 5 times higher than those for heterosexual young people, with 10% having been diagnosed with a sexually transmissable infection (STI).
  • 11% of the young women had been pregnant, 10% of the 15- to 18-year-olds.
Homophobia and discrimination
  • 38% had experienced unfair treatment on the basis of their sexuality.
  • 44% reported verbal abuse and 16% reported physical assault because of their sexuality, figures that are largely unchanged from 1998.
Drug and alcohol use
  • In 2004 the use of all drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, party drugs and heroin was down on reported use in 1998.
  • Percentages of young people injecting drugs had dropped from 11% in 1998 to 4% in 2004.
  • In 1998 and 2004 young women were more likely to have used marijuana and tobacco and to have injected drugs than were the young men.
Writing themselves in again: 6 years on, full report
[viewed 25/01/2007].

Source: La Trobe University, Schoolyards a battleground for same sex attracted young people, 25 May 2005 [viewed 25/01/2007].

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Sexuality, health and well-being, 1998

Some findings from Writing themselves in (Hillier et al 1998; Hillier et al 1999), a national report on the sexuality, health and well-being of 750 same sex attracted young Australians:

Personal safety:
Nearly one-third of participants believed they had been unfairly treated or discriminated against because of their sexuality. Same sex attracted youth are exposed to extreme levels of verbal/physical abuse:

46% had been verbally abused
13% had been physically abused
69% of the abuse happened at school; 47% in the street
10% of this sample were abused by friends; 3% abused by teachers
14% reported feeling unsafe or very unsafe at school

Issues around health:
Higher drug use: same sex attracted young people in this study were 3–4 times more likely to report having injected drugs:

7% of males and 14% of females had injected drugs
5% drank alcohol daily; 46% weekly
27% had used party drugs; 7% weekly
8% smoked marijuana daily; 21% weekly
7% had used heroin

Sexual health:
64% of participants were sexually active – these young people often had sex with both sexes – protection levels were lower than for their heterosexual counterparts.

The 1997 national schools data (Smith, Lindsay & Rosenthal 1999) revealed:

  • higher levels of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) among sexually active youth who were same sex attracted
  • same sex attracted boys were 10 times more likely and same sex attracted girls four times more likely to have an STI than their heterosexual counterparts.

Suicide risks:
A national study by Jonathan Nicholas and John Howard presented at the Suicide Prevention Australia national conference revealed the following figures around suicide attempts:

Gay male: 20.8% had attempted suicide
Heterosexual male: 5.4%
Bi/undecided male: 29.4%
Lesbian female: 28%
Heterosexual female: 8.3%
Bi/undecided female: 34.9%

The study included same sex attracted young men and women up to 30 years of age with an average age of 21. It also documented when the first suicide attempt occurred.

For gay males, this was on average:

5.7 years after becoming sexually interested in men
3.5 years after self identifying as gay
0.4 years before another person found out they were gay
0.3 years before they had their first same gender sexual experience.

For lesbians, this was on average:

1.9 years after becoming sexually interested in women
0.2 years after self identifying as same sex attracted
0.8 years before another person found out they were lesbian
2 years before they had had their first same gender experience.

Emotional well-being:
'Considering the overwhelming hardships same sex attracted youth are facing, the fact remains that over half surveyed felt positive about their sexuality. This highlights that there is nothing intrinsically negative about being attracted to people of the same sex, rather it is society's attitudes towards homosexuality that lead to many negative experiences.
Of the young people surveyed:

10% felt bad or really bad about their sexual orientation
60% felt great or pretty good about their sexual orientation
30% felt okay

Often people felt good about themselves, while at the same time feeling bad about other people's attitudes.'

Source: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS).

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Youth perpetrators of violence against gays and lesbians in NSW, 1990.

Percent of perpetrators of anti-gay violence in NSW under 25 years of age: 83%
... less than 20 years of age: 43%
Percent of perpetrators who were male: 94%
.... strangers to the victim: 93%

In a report examining hate crimes against gay and lesbian people, the author cites two studies into such crimes in NSW which reveal that many of the perpetrators are young men.

Source: Cox, G. 1990, The Streetwatch Report: A study into violence against lesbians and gay men, Gay and Lesbians Rights Lobby, Sydney. Quoted in Mason, G. 1993, Violence against lesbians and gay men, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, p.4. Available online at: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/vpt/vpt2.html [viewed 25/01/2007].

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