My name’s Shelley Argent and I’m the mother of a 30 year old gay male.
I’m President of a support group called PFLAG – which stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays, and is a peer support group for parents who are struggling to understand their child’s or son’s or daughter’s sexual diversity.
In 2006 I received an OAM for my work in the gay community for encouraging understanding and acceptance.
And I’ve also written quite a few booklets – one was for young people who are questioning their sexuality and another one called “Sexuality Is Not A Choice”. That was written for parents who are struggling to understand their child’s sexual diversity and it also hopefully hastens to encourage their understanding and acceptance.
Also too, in 2006, I wrote a
information package that was sent to all the school-based health nurses around
So that’s basically me, and I would like to say that I’m very glad today to be giving my opinion, and PFLAG’s opinion, on equality regarding age of consent.
OK. Could you share with us that opinion?
Well what I’ll do first, if you like, is I’ll just read the general statement that PFLAG parents put out and that is that we believe that the equality regarding age of consent is discriminatory here in
Same sex attracted youth are having underage sex – whether we like to think they are or not – and the problem is it’s without the benefit of legally accessing information to keep them safe.
Health workers also, it’s another issue for them, because health workers are unsure about the legalities and the repercussions regarding providing safe sex information to these young people.
Under-age gay youth are hesitant also to seek the information and have sexual health checks – which is very important, we all know – because of fear of embarrassment. And also too, there’s the issue that if they did get an STI or have some health problem, there’s the fear that they may have to disclose the partner’s name. And then again that has more repercussions because then that person, if they’re over the age of 18 could then be charged with having sex with a minor. And so because the young person doesn’t want to implicate their older partner, if he is older, it puts the young person in a very dangerous position.
Also too, regarding sexual predators and the exploitation of gay youth - with all the research I’ve done over the years, I have found absolutely no proof to suggest that sexual predators are an issue regarding gay youth if the age of consent was lowered.
Equality regarding age of consent also – we believe doesn’t mean that gay youth will become more promiscuous. We believe that it means that they will feel more confident to access reliable information before engaging in a sexual act.
Also too, research shows that if young people are informed properly regarding safe sex activity, they don’t necessarily have sex at an earlier age. Very often they have it later. And also too, if they do have it a young age, which a lot of kids are these days, they have the information and so they do engage in safe sex practices – which keeps them, again, safe.
We also believe that equality regarding the age of consent neither encourages nor promotes homosexuality. And research shows that homosexuality poses no threat to society. We believe that this law, as it presently stands, is not protecting our gay youth and it’s actually endangering their lives.
As a parent who, when my son did “come out” at quite an early age, I – like an awful lot of PFLAG parents – were quite fearful about the issue of safe sex, and HIV and things. And I didn’t have the benefit of even having the child under 18 have the safe sex practices. And I think this is a real issue for a lot of people these days. The parents, they’re all fearful – because as a parent, we don’t know about safe sex with homosexuality, because we’re not homosexuals. So we can’t give our children that information. So they need to be able to go somewhere who can give them that information, keep them safe, and not have the fear that they themselves will get into trouble by providing our young people with safe sex information.
Excellent. So do you also see that it’s important that parents, we would expect, would want to see all their children being equally protected and supported – not just their heterosexual children?
That’s right. No. I mean equality isn’t just for some of our children, it’s for all of our children – and it should be across the board. And we all know that safe sex is a very important thing for everybody, regardless of your age. And also too these days young people, whether they’re straight or gay, are engaging in sexual practices at an earlier age – and our heterosexual young people, they do have the benefit of safe sex education or relationship education, because it’s there in the high schools all the time. But our homosexual or same sex attracted youth, they don’t have that benefit. They’re getting very little information and most of it is negative. And again a lot of the same sex young people, they’ve got low self-esteem because they’re hearing all the time that to be gay or lesbian is bad. And so again, if you’ve low self-esteem you’re not going to look after yourself like you would if you had confidence and you’re not going to have the same respect for your self.
(end of interview)