being gay in australia

 

In many ways the Australian gay scene is similar to the scene in many other western countries, and it is usually fairly easy for visitors to understand Oz ways - the language is another story altogether, but "g'day mate" starts to sound natural after a while!

If you are new to Australia, read on for some tips on being gay, the Australian gay scene, the law and HIV/AIDS in Australia. Also see the venue guide for information on the gay venues in Australia.

Being Gay

Australia today is a diverse multi-cultural society with many fairly well-accepted non-traditional lifestyles, including gay ones. However Australia's British/Christian background has meant a long hard fight to overcome some of the strong religious or legal obstacles to being gay here. Blatant homophobia, harassment or violence against gays used to be fairly common, but as with most other western countries the situation has improved considerably in recent years. Most levels of government in most states now actively act against discrimination based on sexual orientation to at least some extent. Violence and discrimination are not unknown however, and opposition from the extreme religious and political/social fringes is still common even to such broadly popular gay events as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Despite the fairly high level of tolerance or acceptance, many gays are still closeted because of family attitudes or for religious reasons, or for fear of discrimination at work or in their community. and many feel isolated because support groups and social events are not evenly distributed, particularly in country areas. The more anonymous lifestyles of the bigger cities are an acceptable escape for some, while others take up the struggle of creating acceptance and support for gays in their local area.

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Stereotypes still abound in Australia, and the typical Aussie "bloke" and his "mates" may still shout "poofter" at some "fuckin' queers", but the "fuckin' queers" are probably just as tied up in their butch or bitch or whatever roles as the "real blokes" are in theirs. To keep breaking down the stereotypes, positive gay role models are increasingly common, with openly gay politicians, teachers, and characters in TV shows - which is not to say that other gays in politics, education or the arts don't have a hard time, like England and the US Australia has its share of those outed and/or ousted in the line of duty.

So all in all it is mixed a bag, but for most a great place to be gay - either permanently or as a visitor!

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The Gay Scene in Australia

Sydney and Melbourne both offer a diverse collection of gay bars, discos, restaurants and saunas as well as sex shops and other "sex on premises" venues and cruising spots and beats. The major organised gay events tend to be concentrated thee as well, such as Mardi Gras and the major dance parties and events like the Sleaze Ball, Pride, and Mid-Summa. But the smaller capitals cities and even some country centres have well-established and thriving gay scenes as well.

Social and support networks also provide an alternative for those wanting to get away from the pressure, noise, drinking or emphasis on sex/youth/beauty in the bar and club scene.

Commercial sex services are also available in most areas, with escort services, brothels and massage services listed in the local phone books, the gay press and tourist publications in most large cities and tourist areas.

It is not unknown for gays to be attacked or verbally abused by homophobic types in areas known to be frequented by gays - either parks or beats, or sometimes in areas with many gay venues, particularly late at night/early in the morning. Be cautious if walking alone in areas you do not know, but if you have any problems report them to the police - see the special numbers in the gay groups listings.

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The Law

This information is correct to the best of my knowledge, but as with anything to do with the law, you should check the details with someone who is expert on the laws of your country and Australia.

Gay sex has been decriminalised in all states and territories in Australia. The legal age of consent for male/male sex is 18 in QLD, 17 in SA and TAS and 16 in all other states. For female/female sex their is either no law or the legal age is 16. The legal age for possession or viewing of X-Rated material in all states is 18.

Prostitution has been legalised in most states and territories but in most areas soliciting for sex in public places is still illegal. Licensed brothels are not allowed to operate in some areas, e.g. near schools and hospitals, etc.

Sexual assault, rape, or (consensual or forced) sex with anyone under the legal age carries heavy penalties including jail terms (and deportation for visitors) and while the gender of the participants is not necessarily a factor in the law (though it may be in its enforcement), the age difference between the participants will usually result in harsher penalties the greater it is. Many countries also now prosecute their nationals for child sex offences regardless of the country in which these offences are committed so tourists may be arrested or jailed at home if not arrested in Australia.

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HIV and AIDS in Australia

The rate of new infections with HIV in Australia has been falling in recent years, thanks largely to the enormous amount of time and money that has been spent on promoting AIDS awareness and safe sex practices by government health departments and AIDS charities and groups. AIDS however is still a problem in Australia and standard precautions are required. Condoms and water based lubricants are available at "sex on premises" venues and at pharmacies (drugstores) nationwide.

Sex workers in licensed premises are required to have a regular HIV tests, but this in not necessarily always done. Freelancers face no such requirement and may not respond to the assistance and advice offered by helper organisations. They may also be at even higher risk because of drug use.

The obvious answer is to always use a condom and practice safe sex every time, regardless of who your partner is or what he says his previous sexual experience has been.

For a list of AIDS related social and support groups and health services, see the Gay Groups page. For a list of sites with more information on HIV/AIDS in Australia, see the Australian Gay Links page.

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page lasted updated 22 Jan 2010

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