Investigating experiences of growing up queer in Australia

| 27 Mar 2015

In the context of well-documented threats to the mental health and well-being of sexual and gender minority young people, a newly funded Australian Research Council Discovery Project will shortly be commencing work.

Professor Peter Aggleton, together with co-investigators from Monash University, the University of Western Australia, and Deakin University, will study the experiences of two different generations of gender and sexual minority youth growing up in Australia, and the sources of support found most useful. Fieldwork will take place in two sites (one urban and one rural) in each of NSW, Western Australia and Victoria, shedding light on well-being and sexual citizenship in a rapidly changing social world.

Something like one in four young people in Australia is likely to experience serious mental health difficulties, disrupting education, relationships and work, and young people from gender and sexual minorities are especially prone to anxiety, depression and, in the worst case, suicide. Many of these problems are attributable to rejection at home, in school, and in the community.

That said, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people successfully navigate the challenges of adolescence and attain similar levels of health and well-being as their heterosexual peers, despite the stigma and discrimination encountered. Central to the success of such transitions is entry into ‘sexual citizenship’, whereby individuals come to understand themselves as having equality before the law, as trustworthy, as deserving of respect, and as having the right to ‘belong’ – by participating in a range of practices including work and study, building families, cultural production and interpretation, and contributing to social networks and national cultures through volunteering and other forms of service. But what is it that supports young people in this process, and what are their interests and needs? This is the focus of a major new research project funded by the Australian Research Council.

The project will incorporate policy analysis, historical, archival, textual and online research together with individual interviews and focus groups conducted with two different generations of gender and sexual minority youth: those of the 1970s generation, who were between 16-25 years old in 1995, and their counterparts twenty years later aged 16-25 years growing up today.

The project team consists of UNSW Scientia Professor Peter Aggleton (CSRH), Associate Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen (Monash University)Associate Professor Rob Cover (University of Western Australia) and Dr Daniel Marshall (Deakin University).

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