A media call while returning to Sydney from the Central Coast shook up my day. Until that point, I was oblivious to events surrounding the coming out of Rebel Wilson. I had seen her social media post and was happy for her and her partner Ramona Agruma. My wife and I wished them well.
Surely not, I said when the journalist told me an ultimatum of sorts was given to Rebel Wilson by Andrew Hornery from the Herald. I took a few minutes to Google it. Hornery has since .
Coming out is an incredibly personal journey, and it should never be forced onto anyone. The Australian Press Council has clear guidelines – reference to a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or sex characteristics should be relevant to a story and in the public interest. It requires consent if disclosing a person’s sexual orientation is part of the story.
Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and other sexuality, gender and bodily diverse (LGBTIQ+) people in Australia live happy and healthy lives despite significant health disparities. High rates of poorer mental health and suicide remind us that it is not all rainbows and glitter. Our lives need to be treated with dignity and respect.
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia provides national co-ordination for – a national teleweb service providing anonymous LGBTIQ+ peer support and referral for people wanting to talk about issues such as sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.
Consistently, around 10 per cent of calls to QLife are about coming out, both sexual orientation and gender. We saw a spike in calls about coming out last month of up to 14 per cent. This may be linked to recent negative commentary about trans women in sport and trans young people.
The consistent 10 per cent of calls tells us that coming out still requires support and understanding. People need to be prepared to come out and do so on their own terms.
Coming out, in and of itself, does not protect wellbeing and mental health, according to – the largest Australian survey of LGBTIQ+ young people. For young people in unsupportive environments, it may be a risk. Support at the time of disclosure provides protection, particularly if it comes from family members. Forty-one per cent of calls to QLife about coming out are also about family support.
We live in interesting times. Many young people live with diverse sexualities and genders as a matter of course. At the same time, being a member of one or more LGBTIQ+ communities means you will experience stigma and discrimination. Those experiences are costly to mental health and wellbeing.
The narrative about Rebel Wilson’s experience will impact on all of us in some way, even the most resilient. A broader conversation is needed about reporting of people’s gender, sexual orientation and sex characteristics. The recent media coverage of trans women in sport demonstrates how unrelenting media coverage can be, even when the harms are known.
states that: Publications must take reasonable steps to avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is in sufficiently in the public interest.
Disclosure of one’s gender, sexual orientation and/or sex characteristics is an individual’s story to tell that should never be compromised in the public interest.
We need visible role models across all LGBTIQ+ communities. They reinforce that we exist and affirm our humanity. Elliot Page, for example, has been instrumental in giving visibility to trans men. Everyone needs to choose when, where and how they make such personal information public.
June is Pride month, a great time to come out if you are ready. I hope that Rebel Wilson was ready. She is now part of an incredible community of communities, and we welcome her with open arms.
I have been with my wife for 15 years and I came out many years ago when I was 19. I am grateful to be who I am, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope Rebel Wilson is too.
Nicky Bath is Chief Executive Officer of LGBTIQ+ Health Australia
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