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I am here today as a women in the LGBTIQ community.

In the time I have I want to sum up some of the issues in our community and I need you to
know that there are many more ongoing complex issues, many of which relate to societal
norms and gender norms that I wont be able to touch on, and are equally important.
It would also be amiss for me to not stand back and celebrate the achievements of all women,
who have fought to pave out the opportunities I now benefit from, as today is about both
celebrating the extraordinary strength of women, and highlighting the issues women still
face.
I came out when I was 12 years old. At the time I didn't realise that coming out doesn't just
happen once, it happens every day of your life, from every new person you meet, every new
workplace, to every retail store sales person that sees you with your partner and wants to
know if you're best friends, sisters or cousins. I remember so clearly what it felt like to
wonder what people would think and if they'd feel differently about my character. I remember
the humiliation I felt over some of the responses I received in coming out. I was asked time
and time again, how could I know that I wanted to date women if I'd never dated men? We
still live in a society where heteronormativity is pushed upon us, and bisexual women are
presumed to be confused or promiscuous, even amongst the LGBTIQ community. I was
fortunate to be able to express my identity as a teenager without facing many of the issues
LBTQ women still face all over the world. My path hasn't been travelled without bumps in
the road, and I haven't always been confident to stand up at the worst of times. I am here
today to say that I will not settle on being tolerated, and I will not settle for any women being
'just' tolerated.
As of July 2015, 72 countries around the world have laws that criminalize homosexuality.
For some of us it's hard to imagine that if you're over 19 today, homosexuality was still
criminalised in your life time in Australia. Tasmania was the last Australian state to
decriminalise same-sex sexual activity in 1997. In Victoria, consensual same sex activity
carried the death penalty until 1949. Although many of these laws related to sodomy, the
sentiment that was projected to and by the public was that homosexuality is wrong in all
forms. Another reflection of these laws shows the low priority that has been given to same
sex female relationships throughout our history.
QLD and SA still allow for gay panic defence laws to be used to justify an assault or even
murder. We're yet to see equality in many areas such as adoption, surrogacy and marriage in
most states. We need to progress birth certificate reforms and changes to interventions in the
law for transgender, gender diverse and intersex people. Religious exemptions from antidiscrimination laws affect many people that access or work in schools and health services.
LBTQ women experience rape, physical violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence at
higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts. A US report in 2014 recorded American
bisexual women experience these types of violence at a rate as high as 61%. LBTQ women
are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression, and attempt suicide.
The past 12 months have seen progress and deterioration in many areas that affect women. In
the LGBTIQ community in Australia we have faced recent calls to suspend antidiscrimination laws for the duration of a proposed marriage plebiscite which would
be enormously harmful for LGBTIQ youth, and harmful for children of LGBTIQ families.

We've also faced calls for the anti-bullying program Safe Schools to be terminated, and our
harsh asylum seeker policies see Australia sending LGBTIQ refugees to places where
homosexuality is criminalised.
On the other hand, some of the recent progress we've seen has included the appointment of
Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, Rowena Allen in July 2015. Last month the Health
Complaints Bill 2016 was introduced in state parliament to crack down on dangerous
practitioners. The proposed laws will also crack down on 'conversion therapy' which attempts
to covert gay, transgender or gender diverse people through medical or therapeutic means.
This still happens in Victoria, often robbing the dignity from our LGBTIQ youth. We know
that every professional health body in Australia is opposed to conversion therapy including
the Australian Psychological Society. We hope that this bill will send the message that same
sex attraction and gender identity should not be treated as though it is a choice.
On top of removing discriminatory laws and changing other laws to factor in the needs of
LGBTIQ people where we are currently missing, we need to put foundations in place such as
education in schools and for health service providers to ensure we tackle the homophobia and
misconceptions these systemic issues have left us with.
My hope is that future generations of LBTQ women won't need to feel unsafe or ashamed,
that they will be given the same opportunities as their heterosexual and male counterparts,
and that someday there will be no need for a coming out story.