This blog was written by guest writer, Charles Beaton
I have worked as HotDoc’s Finance Manager for just over two years. I’m proud to work for a company genuinely devoted to making patient’s lives better. I’m also proud to be an activist for the LGBTI movement and positively impact the health and wellbeing of the LGBTI community through the advancement of equal rights.
Recently, I was asked a question at a rally, as to when I realised it was important to stand up for those in the LGBTI community. This was a difficult question to answer after hearing so many brave people tell their own stories. I said, ‘The moment you realise your twin brother considered ending his life because he hated he was gay is the moment you realise you need to stand up and make change
To give you some context, I grew up in country Victoria with my identical twin brother Lachlan.
In a lot of ways Lachlan was more than a brother to me. He was also my best friend. As young boys we did everything together. We played football together, we had the same friends, we did the same subjects in school. We were given all the same opportunities and our relationship became very close. Throughout our childhood and into our adult years Lachlan seemed content with what he had. Little did I know the secret he held onto. A secret that was tearing him apart.
When Lachlan was 27 he summoned the courage to come out to me as a gay man. At the time, he couldn’t even say the words “I’m gay”. He simply told me that he had a partner and it was another man. I was shocked. I barely knew anyone who was gay. I just remember going home in tears that night and struggling to sleep – wondering what sort of pain my twin brother had been through and what was ahead of him.
While I was totally supportive of Lachlan, I still failed to ask many questions and support him adequately. This was 10 years ago when there were very few people in the general public talking about these issues openly. How would I know what to talk about or ask? I had no idea what it meant to be gay.
I now know that the mental health issues associated with hiding your sexuality can be disastrous. Lachlan would come home every night wishing he wasn’t the person he was born to be. He would hope and pray that one day he would wake up and suddenly not be gay. What a horrible thought to think that one person can hate themselves so much for being the person they were born into this world being.
During this period Lachlan abused alcohol and developed severe depression. He even went as far as to consider ending his life. He had the full support of his family and friends throughout this period but this only went so far as to reduce the burden. He still believed being gay was somehow wrong.
Reflecting on what my brother went through makes me appreciate just how important it is that the RACGP, as the major representative body of GPs across Australia, recently abandoned its neutral position on same-sex marriage in support of the ‘Yes’ Marriage Equality vote.
In its new position statement, the RACGP acknowledged the polarisation of communities and the significant distress a public vote on Marriage Equality has caused LGBTI members and patients. They noted that GPs are trusted to treat all LGBTI patients with the utmost respect and dignity, regardless of their personal or religious beliefs. They also identified that Marriage Equality is a human rights issue.
What a proud day for the GP community! At HotDoc we certainly appreciated the stance the RACGP took and were encouraged by the fact that they weren’t taking a passive stance on such an important issue.
The fact that LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia makes the debate as much about mental health as it is about equality. 20% of trans-Australians and 15% percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians report current suicidal thoughts.
Same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14 times higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. Sadly, the average age of the first suicide attempt is 16 years. This is often before they even come out.
GPs are crucial in curbing these devastating health outcomes. By taking a proactive stance on Marriage Equality, the RACGP are not only providing good leadership to their members, but making it clear that patients will be accepted for who they are.
So this brings me to the topic of Marriage Equality. Why is it important for same sex marriage to be legalised? Marriage Equality certainly won’t fix the inequality that the LGBTI community are faced with on a daily basis, but it will make a difference. Those in the LGBTI community wake up every day wondering why they aren’t seen as equal in the eyes of the law and the community. They wake up every day feeling like second-class citizens.
I have friends in same-sex relationships with kids, multiple children and they’re amazing parents who don’t have the ability to sign their own child’s permission slip at school. They are left wondering what will happen if their partner is in a serious accident and they can’t legally take control of their affairs. This is why same-sex marriage needs to happen. We need to take away this inequality and this is something we can do easily. And whilst there are many aspects to the inequality faced by those in the LGBTI community, this is one we can fix.
The Marriage Equality debate has made me realise that past attitudes of homophobia are still very much commonplace and that many young people still feel isolated and alone because they are made to feel different.
Providing an equal and inclusive community makes such a difference. My own twin brother has come a long way since his early struggles. With the help and support of friends he has been able to strive to live the life he always wanted. And while there has been a lot of negativity around the Marriage Equality Debate, there has been an enormous amount of positives too. Record breaking rallies, rainbow street parties and family fun days, people speaking up who are usually tight lipped, just to name a few.
The equality that we are about to achieve together will make a big difference to the lives of those young people who are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into this world. We are all the same. We don’t choose our sexuality or gender, so let’s ride the positivity coming out of this debate, because if there’s one thing I know, it is that Australia is a much better place when we are all treated equal.