Q&A: Accepting diversity

Q: "I’m interested in how older people who hold fixed views on sex and sexuality can develop and demonstrate acceptance."

mother and daughter cooking
Simply telling them they are wrong won’t get us very far.
Thanks for your question – it’s always good to encourage more acceptance of diversity. But before we grab our superhero costumes and go flying off to fight homophobia and transphobia, it might be helpful to stop and think about why older people might think this way in the first place, you know? 

Sure some folks can be pretty vocal about not accepting people who aren’t like them, including anyone who’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,  intersex, queer or questioning (LGBTIQ). 
But things were super different when people from older generations, like our parents and grandparents, were growing up. There were no gay or trans* characters on television shows, movies, or celebrities like Ellen, Laverne Cox, Frank Ocean, RuPaul, or Chaz Bono. 

If they did know anything about LGBTIQ, it was that it was a sin, an illness and a crime! Yup, ‘homosexuality’ was illegal in most of Australia until the 1980s (and as late as 1997 in some states). Same-sex attraction (SSA) and transgender were listed as mental illnesses until the 1970s for SSA, and 2013 for gender diversity! And let’s not forget that most Churches considered same-sex attraction to be a sin, although many have updated their views since. 

So, it’s pretty easy to see why some older people aren’t more accepting of LGBTIQ. After all, anyone has the right to disapprove of LGBTIQ people if they want. But there is a big difference between having that belief and acting on it. After all, it’s totally illegal in this country to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. 

Our elders are pretty awesome and deserve our respect as people who’ve been around a lot longer than we have. Simply telling them they are wrong won’t get us very far. Engaging them in conversations, encouraging reading, respectfully asking people about their views can help to open our minds as well as theirs.  Some of them may even surprise you with their acceptance – just look at some of the amazing parents and grandparents who are members of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and other organisations

Good luck with everything, and keep modelling inclusion and acceptance.

Questions are answered by Twenty10 incorporating GLCS NSW. They are an excellent community non-profit that supports and works with people, communities and families of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities. They run a whole host of programs including a mentoring program for young people as well as social support, counselling, housing, providing information, referrals, support and advocacy on issues facing LGBTIQ people including young people.

Got a question? Swing it our way.

Last reviewed: 13 March, 2014
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