As Australians head to the polls during an election campaign fraught with transphobia, a recent survey shows that a considerable number of LGBTIQ+ people and allies are undecided on who to support – but are clear on the issues that matter to them. Queer editor Brandon Bear reports.
Thirty-one years ago, on 17 May, 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from their International Classification of Diseases. The community now commemorates this day with the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, more commonly known as IDAHOBIT.
This year in Australia, IDAHOBIT could not be timelier, falling during the 2022 federal election campaign and less than a week before the country decides on the make-up of the next federal parliament.
In the lead-up to this decision, national advocacy group Equality Australia has released the results of a wide ranging survey that sought to learn more about the intentions and priorities of voters from across the sexuality and gender diversity spectrum.
The results send a clear message to politicians – who will spend IDAHOBIT politicking in electorates around the nation – that issues important to these communities can and will influence votes.
Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia clarifies the key messages in the report with a simple mantra: “This election, candidates cannot afford to take LGBTIQ+ voters for granted.”
For many members of LGBTIQ+ communities, this election has been incredibly difficult, with open attacks on the trans community shared by sitting senators and hopeful candidates, which have been supported by the leader of the current government.
These attacks have proved costly for the government, with polls conducted early in the election period indicating that debate critical of the LGBTIQ+ community can cost twice as many votes as it secures.
“After a series of divisive debates focused on the lives of LGBTIQ+ people, many of our community have become sceptical of the political parties and are yet to make up their mind about who they’ll vote for,” says Brown.
She notes that the survey results send a clear message to all who wish to represent their communities at a federal level.
“This election, parties and candidates must act to address issues of concern to LGBTIQ+ people if they are to win back the support of the voters they’ve lost and to build support amongst those that are undecided,” she says.
The survey provides a detailed look at the voting intentions of LGBTIQ+ people, of which Equality Australia estimates there are approximately 850,000 who are of voting age and eligibility. Using a sample of 5,578 LGBTIQ+ people living in Australia, the report estimates that a third of LGBTIQ+ voters are currently undecided or considering changing their vote in the current election.
The four biggest issues for LGBTIQ+ voters are the environment and climate, issues about sexuality and gender diversity, healthcare and cost of living.
Importantly, for politicians hoping to win the votes of LGBTIQ+ people in their electorates, the survey made clear that issues of importance for these communities turn into real votes. More than 90% of LGBTIQ+ respondents say LGBTIQ+ issues are important in determining their vote. This proportion is even higher for voters who are undecided.
Of the results, Brown says: “This survey demonstrates that our community are deeply disappointed that federal law still allows religious schools to expel, fire or otherwise discriminate against students or staff because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that we are still subjected to harmful conversion practices that seek to change who we are.”
The survey recognises that the needs and priorities of the LGBTIQ+ community are far from homogenous, yet different parts of the broad range of communities stand in solidarity with each other when considering how these issues may impact their vote. For example, issues of importance to the trans community, such as access to gender affirming healthcare, and issues important to intersex people and communities, were supported widely by all respondents.
Brown sees in this data a clear indication that “the wider LGBTIQ+ community stands with intersex people who are still subject to unnecessary medical procedures to change their sex characteristics without their personal consent. The LGBTIQ+ community also stands with trans and gender diverse people in their efforts to remove barriers to accessing gender affirming care.”
An interesting finding of the survey is that allies of the community are also taking LGBTIQ+ issues into consideration at the polling booth. The survey found that 74.9% of non-LGBTIQ+ respondents said these issues were important or very important to them, with especially strong support for removing religious exemptions in anti-discrimination laws and ending conversion practices and medical intervention on intersex people without personal consent.
LGBTIQ+ issues were ranked as the third most important federal issue by ally respondents.
Despite the advances in legislative and social environments for LGBTIQ+ people in Australia, it is clear that members of these communities are still being used for political point scoring – however it seems that the tide of public opinion is turning away from politicians who seek to dog whistle and demean people of diverse sexualities and genders.
Equality Australia is calling for candidates and campaigns to heed the survey results.
“Enough is enough,” asserts Brown. “The political parties that wish to form government this coming election must commit to governing for all Australians, and to ensuring that every person in Australia can live their life, with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, or whom they love.”
Brandon Bear is the queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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