The Blackstone Society’s Queer Portfolio, headed by inaugural Queer Officer Dale Atkinson, aims to provide support and guidance to queer-identifying (LGBTI) students in the Law School. The Blackstone Society is committed to fostering a friendly and discrimination-free environment on campus, where students can feel comfortable with who they are and what they identify as.
The Blackstone Society understands that the experience of some queer students can be different to that of their heterosexual counterparts, and as a result we have a Queer Officer to act as a point of contact and to help navigate any issues that may arise. In an environment where small pressures can build if not properly dealt with, it is important to know that there are support networks in place for LGBTI students.
In addition, the Queer Portfolio engages the Law School in current questions of social and legal justice pertaining to the queer-identifying community. The Queer Portfolio will host a number of forums and other events throughout the year to raise awareness and increase understanding of these issues throughout the Law School.
If you are struggling in any way, or would like to accustom yourself with LGBTI services on offer from either the Blackstone Society or other networks and organisations, we encourage you to contact the Queer Officer, Dale Atkinson, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or in person. Dale is keen to help where he can, or at least point you in the right direction! Any communications with Dale will of course remain confidential.
See further below for a full list of other LGBTI services and supporting organisations available in Western Australia.
LGBTI HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Law students are more likely than other students to experience psychological distress (Skead & Rogers, 2015). Unfortunately, LGBTI students also have significantly poorer mental health than other Australians (National LGBTI Health Alliance, 2013). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual Australians are twice as likely to have high psychological stress than their heterosexual peers, with LGB identifying 16-24 year olds being placed in the 'most at risk' category. Of those who identify as intersex or transsexual, young people are in the 'most at risk' of psychological stress category (National LGBTI Health Alliance, 2013).
A common variable that increases susceptibility of depression and anxiety for all law students is a lack of 'belongingness' (Skead & Rogers, 2015), when people are in an environment they do not feel comfortable being in, where they feel they do not belong. It is therefore important for queer students to accept each other, and for queer allies to promote a welcoming environment and recognise the issues specific to members of the queer student community, so that queer students feel supported rather than isolated when experiencing difficulties.
Although the issue of 'belongingness' is common to all young people generally, this variable is even more prevalent in the LGBTI community. 'Coming out' not only to friends and family, but to peers and colleagues too, can be extremely daunting. Many choose not to come out to family and colleagues, some not even to their friends, which makes it even more difficult to be their true selves and to feel that they belong. Some do not come out in certain circumstances where they believe they will be discriminated against, such as in the employment context. Additionally, those who do come out are more likely than other Australians to fall out with their families, further increasing the feeling of not belonging.
Blackstone recognises the issues that LGBTI students face and endeavours to increase student and faculty awareness of these issues through the Queer Portfolio and its events. If you are interested in learning more about mental health in the LGBTI and student communities, here are some excellent resources:
See also Skead & Rogers, 2015.
what does 'lgbti' or 'queer' mean?
LESBIAN - Women who feel romantically, emotionally, and sexually attracted to other women
GAY - Men who feel romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction to other men
BISEXUAL - Feeling romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction to both males and females
TRANS - An umbrella term for all who feel that they are outside the boundaries of biological sex and culturally determined gender expression; may include transsexuals, crossdressers, Two-Spirit people, drag performers, etc, and people who do not identify with their biological sex
INTERSEX - Having some degree of ambiguity in regard to primary sex characteristics (genitalia) or being born with predominantly male or female genitalia that medical professionals deem to be physiologically ‘incorrect,’ usually addressed through medically unnecessary surgery during infancy
QUEER is sometimes used as an overarching term for LGBTI:
Formerly an exclusively derogatory term for all LGBT people; now proudly used by some as an umbrella term for the entire LGBTI community; also used by those who see their own gender identity, sexual identity, and/or sexual orientation as not fitting the widely recognized pattern of straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning
lgbti Organisations and services
Living Proud is Western Australia’s main LGBTI community service and has been running its services for almost 40 years. Living Proud focuses on providing essential services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans* and intersex communities, including our peer counselling phone line, health and wellbeing initiatives and community capacity building. Living Proud also offer a number of training options for professionals including the Opening Closets Mental Health training and other half and full-day workplace training in order to improve accessibility for LGBTI people. (For more information and Living Proud Resources, visit http://www.livingproud.org.au/)
General and administrative enquires
Ph: (08) 9486 9855
QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people. QLife provides a nation-wide, early intervention, peer supported telephone and web based services to diverse people of all ages experiencing poor mental health, psychological distress, social isolation, discrimination, experiences of being misgendered and/or other social determinants that impact on their health and wellbeing. QLife helps callers with a range of issues relating to sexuality and gender, including coming out, as well as more general issues, such as relationship problems. This service is often the first point of contact for people who are coming out, but it is available to anyone, no matter how they identify. The service is confidential and staffed by trained peer volunteers.
Free Call 1800 184 527: The QLife line operates daily from 3pm to 12am, 365 days a year
For online chat and support go to www.qlife.org.au.
BeyondBlue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. BeyondBlue focuses heavily on mental health issues facing LGBTI people in particular. No matter what the issue you face, if you simply want someone to talk to and especially if your need is urgent, call BeyondBlue’s 24/7 phone line service on 1300 22 4636, or head to https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support to chat online.
UWA Queer Department
The Queer Department provides support, advice, and fun for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer students at UWA. Through regular social activities, notices, and activism the department aims to promote the visibility of LGBTI students on campus and raise community awareness. The Queer Department frequently gets together to run movie nights, lunches, games nights, and discussion events. All students are welcome to attend events, meet like minded people, and hang out in the Queer Department room. The room is a safe space where students are welcome to take a break between classes, socialise, have a tea or coffee, and take advantages of resources like our DVD and book library, fridge, microwave, and kettle.
UWA Equity & Diversity
UWA Equity & Diversity provides strategic advice to management and the University Executive on opportunities to address barriers to equity and inclusion in the workplace and campus community. Equity & Diversity advocates and works for a University community that is aware and informed, tolerant of diversity, and intellectually and emotionally comfortable with difference, and support staff and students in the development of sexual, gender and cultural competence.
Equity & Diveristy provide a further list of other organisations that help support LGBTI people at http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/equity/sexualities/ally/lbgti-resources.
ALLY at UWA
Since its inception in 2002, the ALLY program has recruited many staff and student Allies across campus, making a significant contribution to an inclusive culture at UWA. The 2001 UWA 'Rainbow Report' found that 35.2 per cent of UWA student respondents did not say anything when others made derogatory remarks about gay people and 10 per cent knew someone who had damaged the property of a gay person. Thus the ALLY Program was implemented to promote awareness and visibility around sexual and gender diversity, making the UWA community safer and more affirming for LBGTI staff and students. ALLY acts as a conduit for cultural change, facilitating UWA's commitment to leadership in this area.
For more information about ALLY, to sign up as an ALLY, or register for ALLY training, visit http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/equity/sexualities/ally.
UWA BTW (Bi the Way) is a new social group for bisexual (and other identities under that umbrella) staff and students started up by long-standing members of the ALLY program.
Out for Australia
Out for Australia is an organisation that seeks to support and mentor young professionals as they navigate their way through the early stages of their career. Out for Australia aims to bring the community together, to offer a supportive and nurturing environment for which people can network, build relationships and assist each other in their professional journeys. Its mission is to provide visible role models, mentors, and other support to aspiring LGBTI professionals and to strengthen the sense of community among professionals and students. Out for Australia runs a program where LGBTI students can sign up for an LGBTI professional mentor:
Visit http://www.outforaustralia.org/#!mentoring-program/c21kz for more details.
Thank you to Nathan Kearns for helping Blackstone and the Queer Portfolio put together our Queer Portfolio webpage.