Homosexual abuse still at work: NSW survey


Homosexual abuse still at work: NSW survey

1/2004 Workplaces and educational institutions remain sources of abuse for gay men and lesbians, according to recent NSW research.


Get unlimited access to all of our content.



Workplaces and educational institutions remain sources of abuse for gay men and lesbians, according to recent NSW research. 

Some 13% of the homosexuals surveyed identified at or near their place of work or study as locations of their most recent abuse in the past 12 months.

More lesbians (20%) than gay men (9%) identified work or study as problematic, according to the NSW Attorney General’s report on homophobic hostilities and violence against gay men and lesbians in NSW.

The findings are part of a research project covering the daily living experiences of homosexuals. It was conducted in partnership with NSW Government agencies, local government and lesbian and gay community organisations.

In the forward of the report, The NSW Attorney General Bob Debus said that while there was growing community acceptance of homosexuality, homophobic abuse was still a problem.

‘The descriptions of homophobic abuse and violence provided by the focus groups suggest a depth and complexity that has not, until now, been well documented. For instance, the ‘trade-off’ between openness and safety facing many lesbians and gay men underlies many decisions made in daily living.’

Some 600 people responded to a postal and internet survey, while other respondents participated in eight focus groups.

Half the participants were gay; 42% were lesbians; and 6% were bisexual.

Three quarters of respondents were in paid employment; 72% held managerial and professional positions; 14% clerical/service/sales positions; 8% were trades people or manual workers; while 5% described their occupation as ‘other’ and included health care workers.

Students made up 11% of the sample.

Recent abuse

Examples of recent abuse at or near work or study included defamation, discrimination and social exclusion. Health and community workers said abuse from clients was problem.

The research highlighted first hand experiences:

‘There is just generally a lot of anti-gay/lesbian rhetoric where I work in common places like the lunchroom that I find very offensive.’

‘I was repeatedly the subject of both professional slander and personal/sexual vilification from colleagues in the workplace….’

‘At tech groups of young men frequently yell ‘Lesbian! Dyke!’ as I walk between lunch and classroom.’

 ‘I am concerned about the unacceptable high level of homophobia being played out every single day my son attends high school. He hasn’t decided his sexuality yet. He is only twelve. But because he has long hair he is constantly labelled as a ‘poofter’ or a ‘faggot’…it starts so young and the schools are doing nothing about this…’

The report also described the negative treatment metered out by some co-workers to gay men and lesbians who were over 50 and in senior work roles. 

‘Their sexuality had been revealed or been ‘thrown at’ them in the course of unrelated workplace discussions or disagreements.’


Such treatment affected thoughts of job advancement. ‘Among other things, considerations about likely abuse and harassment affected the jobs or positions that lesbians and gay men chose to apply for.


‘One woman, on the other hand, described herself as very strong and assertive in her mainstream workplace; she felt that she owed this to the younger gays and lesbians coming along behind her.’

Physical injury

Four of the 28 incidents of recent abuse where participants reported suffering physical injury occurred at or near the respondent’s place of work or study.

Knowing the perpetrator

Regardless of the type of abuse or where the abuse took place, ‘The percentage of respondents who knew (or knew of) the perpetrator(s) was lower among those with university education and those in professional/managerial occupations than for the respondents overall.

‘Among those who suffered physical injury, nearly half knew the perpetrator(s) either personally or by sight etc. Five identified the perpetrator as a fellow student, three as a casual acquaintance, one as a neighbour and one as a client.’

Some 3% of participants identified their co-workers as the perpetrator; 3% identified a client, customer or patient; and 4% said the perpetrator was a fellow student from their own or another school.

But overall, most (76%) did not know their perpetrator.

Effects of abuse

Generally, worry, stress and anxiety affected 50% of the survey respondents.

Depression, feeling bad about their own sexuality, souring relationships and friendships, and reduced ability to socialise was also noted by respondents.

See the report: 'You shouldn't have to hide to be safe' - A report on Homophobic Hostilities and Violence Against Gay Men and Lesbians in NSW.



Post details