“What does equality mean to you?” from the voices of queer youth and allies.
Louis Hanson

4 Sep 2017 - 1:28 PM  UPDATED 4 Sep 2017 - 1:28 PM

In regards to the debates surrounding our nation over the past few months, it has been easy to forget that these conversations have real, human faces, with real consequences for thousands of young Australians. 

With hate, comes love; these recent debates have undoubtedly seen an influx in queer youth using their voices to promote change. For every LGBTQIA+ young Australian who is fortunate enough to voice their opinion, though, there are many silenced youths who wish they could.

Young voices are powerful; we are the voice of a new generation, united by the need to be our authentic selves and to love how we please. With this in mind, we asked eight young LGBTQIA+ Australians what equality means to them. Here’s what they said.

Adam, 25

Conservationist / professional loudmouth

In what ways will equality benefit your life? 

I feel like I wouldn’t have to constantly debate my validity as a person, or have to wonder if disclosing my trans status is the difference between getting that job or not, or having to think about selling a kidney to fund my surgery.

How important is equality, especially when considering our younger Australian generations?

As a parent, I don’t want my son to grow up in a world where he feels ostracised because his mum (who loves and cares about him, like every other mum) just happens to be a man. I want him to flourish in a world that celebrates diversity; where you are validated, supported, loved and afforded equal opportunity no matter who you are. Gay, bi, straight, cis or trans.

Ebony, 21

Filmmaking Student and actor

In what ways will equality benefit your life?

There is a big part of myself that has been repressed and diluted purely for the comfort of the majority. All the years of repressing my sexuality and self-expression to be compatible with society has definitely made a dint in my mental health. Achieving equality would bring me a huge sense of acceptance and value in the world, knowing that I am viewed just as normal and just as precious as everybody else.

It doesn’t really affect me while I’m living in the fabulous bubble of queers that I’m surrounded with, but I can’t help but notice the filtered version of myself that is present in situations where equality isn’t. I would freely be myself knowing that society acknowledges our community now. 

How important is equality, especially when considering our younger Australian generations?

Growing up can be hard enough as it is let alone with society telling you you’re abnormal, less worthy and unaccepted. I think about the younger generations a lot and how the decisions of our world now will impact them. Equality is just such an obvious, necessary progression but somehow it’s so difficult for some people to understand. The younger generations deserve to live in a world without fear of acceptance and injustice; they deserve the freedom to love without judgment. 

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Gustavo, 26


What issues are most pressing to you at the moment?

Before we try and combat heteronormative, cisgender ideologies, we really need to deal with the issues within our own community first. Speaking as a gay male, I believe that there is a social hierarchy and rampant judgement that many gay men adhere to. Within our own community, we have created certain stereotypes that some believe are more desirable than others based on self-identification, aesthetics and social standing. This needs to stop. Diversity is beautiful and imperative for communities to thrive and create change. As a human race, our strengths lie in our differences not similarities.

In what ways will equality benefit your life?

It will mean that my brothers and sisters in our community will be able to self-identify, safely and freely, without backlash. We will be able to be our unique, individual selves without becoming victims of physical, emotional or verbal attacks by bigoted individuals.

How important is equality, especially when considering our younger Australian generations?

It is so important that the younger generation grow up in a country that does not vilify those based on who they love, how they identify or the lifestyle they want to live. We have to generate real traction with our current leaders and make them realise how much future generations will be affected by their decisions. It will be a celebration for us when we are finally granted basic human rights and can say that we were on the right side of history. We can be the change we want to see.

Alice, 20


What does achieving equality mean to you?

Achieving equality means a move towards more progressive community standards. This will result in better mental health, more self-acceptance amongst LGBTQIA+ Australians, as well as lowered suicide rates of young LGBTQIA+ youth. The recent events surrounding our rights have taught me that we are unbreakable, and that our existence is revolutionary. I think young voices are extremely influential, and very important in the fight for equality.

What further steps need to be taken until we achieve equality?

Marriage equality is very important, but we also need to address access to justice and resources for LGBTQ+ youth, particularly POC and Indigenous peoples. Marriage equality, for me, is the tip of the iceberg.

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Jemma, 23

Actor, advocate, creator of What is Love?

In what ways will equality benefit your life?

Equality will mean peace of mind. There’d be no fear of public harassment. There’d be no more worrying about the community. There’d be no anxiety over discussing my authentic self. Eradicating that message, by legalising marriage, may just be the beginning, but it will be the first major step in putting this oppression behind us since homosexuality was legalised. We will finally have the opportunity to move on with ours lives, start to heal and progress as a community. And go to a lot of queer weddings.

What have the recent events surrounding LGBTQI+ rights taught you about our community?

It would be so easy to cower away given the intensity of our opponents but instead, we are doing all we can to turn a horrible situation into a beacon of light and support. I’d be lying if I said the news wasn’t affecting me- some days it’s downright debilitating. I worry deeply about how it’s affecting the community, especially those still closeted or coming to terms with themselves. But as we say — love always wins. There are few things I am prouder of than being a part of a community that stands purely for love. The greatest gift I’ve received from being a part of the community is endless empathy. It’s the strongest sense of unity you could ever know.

Damon, 20

Retail worker and advocate

What does equality mean to you?

For me, equality is about feeling accepted, and feeling as though I have a voice in this community. Since a young age, I had always been bullied, and was always was confused as to why; I always seemed to feel as though I was being burnt for just being me. This damaged me quite a bit but, in growing up and moving on, I found strength.

I want to be able to help other individuals out there who are struggling with similar experiences. I salute everyone who has a voice, and I believe, myself, that I will keep using my voice to educate people on why this is so important.

How important is equality, especially when considering our younger Australian generations?

We need to teach younger Australians that love is love, and that people can be whoever they want to be. There are no limitations, and everyone is beautiful, no matter whom you are. We need to spread this love so that the younger generation knows the same. Being raised with values of equality affects one’s growth so much, because it helps to eradicate stigma and oppression. We are going to look back in 10 years and think, “how were two people, of the ‘same sex’, not allowed to celebrate their love?” or “how could people think of someone as being ‘too gay’?”

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Samiya, 23

Makeup artist

How do you feel about the current political climate?

I cannot live comfortably knowing that LGBTQIA+ relationships aren’t seen or deemed legitimate. In a world full of hate, love should not only be encouraged, but also championed. Changing the marriage act is a pathway to address not only discrimination within the language of the law, but also how the law is used to marginalise this community. 

What does equality mean to you?

It means addressing the effects of not being seen on the same level as others in society; we should be addressing the mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and suicide, that stem from lack of equal treatment under the law. It also means recognising that families come in different shapes and sizes. We need to move past this narrow view of what normal looks like, because there is no such thing.

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Kristen (Drag King Persona — Justin Teliqure), 29

Dancer, Drag King, relief teacher, and barista

In what ways will equality benefit your life?

It means that I no longer have to pick and choose who I come out to, or lie about introducing my partner as my friend based on circumstances.

As a woman of colour, I already feel the racial divide in Australia. Being a coloured, Jewish, lesbian woman, as well, who is also a drag king, I feel discriminated against most of the time. Society needs to stop labelling everything and everyone. If we don’t have full equality then we, as people, are not really equal. We all bleed red. We are all human.

What have the recent events surrounding LGBTQI+ rights taught you about our community?

We may be beaten, pushed around, bullied or hurt… but we will always get back up, come together and fight. We cannot be broken. My community and I will continue to live our lives and will not ask for permission to do so. No matter what, we will survive.

We have long way to go before young, queer Australians feel unapologetically comfortable to express their true, authentic selves without judgement. However, if one thing is now certain, it is that young Australians are the voices that unite difference; we demand change, we are positive, and we are strong.

Many of these participants are also from What Is Love? , the all-inclusive documentary series featuring a diverse cast of LGBTQIA+ Australians as they share their thoughts and experiences. Channels like this are aiming to teach, show support, and highlight the strength of the LGBTQIA+ Australian experience.

We have so much to be proud of. The conversation ensues.

Louis Hanson has also written for the Guardian, the Huffington Post and Archer, among others, is a student at the University of Melbourne, and an LGBTQI, mental health advocate. Website: louishanson.com and Instagram: @louishanson. ‘

'What Is Love?’: YouTube channel