Culture

Surprise! The Postal Survey Was As Harmful As LGBTIQ+ People Said It Would Be

Assaults against LGBTIQ+ people doubled after the postal survey was announced.

LGBTIQ+ Australians have made it very clear that the postal survey on marriage equality was an extraordinarily harmful experience. Now, we’re starting to get the numbers to back those stories up, and yep, they’re grim.

The preliminary findings of a new survey by the Australia Institute and the National LGBTI Health Alliance reveal that the number of verbal and physical assaults experienced by LGBTIQ+ people have more than doubled since the postal survey was announced.

The proportion of LGBTIQ+ people experiencing anxiety, depression or stress increased by more than a third compared to six months before the survey, and almost 80 percent said they found the debate considerably or extremely stressful.

The survey showed that many LGBTIQ+ people responded to this with great resilience, deepening their engagement with LGBTIQ+ events and organisations. Worryingly, though, the survey also revealed people being driven to much more negative coping strategies, including strategically avoiding situations, hiding their feelings, and pretending to be okay.

Almost 70 percent of LGBTIQ+ people surveyed said that they “avoided being with people in general” as a coping mechanism during the postal survey, and more than 80 percent said they kept their feelings from others at least some of the time. Around half of LGBTIQ+ respondents said the resources they needed to help them cope with the debate were only slightly, or not at all available to them.

The Coping with the Marriage Equality Debate Study was jointly conducted by the Australia Institute and the National LGBTI Health Alliance. More than 9,500 people participated in the survey, and 75 percent of respondents were LGBTIQ+.

The findings released today are only preliminary — the survey also asked a number of other free-response questions where people could talk about their postal survey experience in more depth, which will take time to process due to the high volume of responses. These early findings confirm what the LGBTQI+ community has been saying for months though: this survey was really, really harmful to an already-vulnerable group.

As Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director at the Australia Institute, put it, “a sixty-two, thirty-eight result is an overwhelmingly positive result politically, but this debate has taken a real toll on the LGBTIQ+ community.”

The survey’s findings are in stark contrast to platitudes offered by Malcolm Turnbull, who has repeatedly said that he enjoyed the postal survey, and that he believed it ultimately provided “positive affirmation” to LGBTIQ+ Australians.

“The public debate over the equality of our bodies, relations and feelings has been exhausting and frequently painful,” Rebecca Reynolds, the Executive Director of the National LGBTI Health Alliance said. “These aspects of who we are should never have been the subject of public discussion.”

You can read more about the preliminary findings of the study here.