This 1998 report is about young people who are attracted to their own sex. The need for accurate baseline figures about young people of non-heterosexual orientation has developed as part of a general concern about the spread of the HIV virus into the adolescent population and a specific concern around these young people’s emotional well-being. In the past three years, Australian adolescent research conducted by the National Centre in HIV Social Research, La Trobe University, has revealed that a significant minority of young people are not unequivocally heterosexual, with numbers ranging between 8 and 11% in recent research.
Research which specifically targets this population has, until now, been conducted retrospectively and/or with people who identify as gay or lesbian recruited through gay and lesbian youth groups or the gay press. As researchers we know little about young people at pre-identity or pre-disclosure stages because their need for anonymity means they cannot be contacted through the usual channels.
The young people represented in this project were accessed through an advertising campaign in National magazines, via radio and the Internet. A survey was available on a website and from the Centre for the Study of Sexually Transmissible Diseases. Surveys were also inserted in the gay and street press.
These surveys sought information regarding sexual feelings and experiences as well as sexual and drug-taking practices in regard to STDs (including HIV) and related diseases. The source and adequacy of sexual health information for this group and their levels of support and experiences of abuse and discrimination were also elicited. The survey also charted young people’s perceptions of their quality of life and emotional well-being. In addition, participants were also asked to write stories about their experiences, including when they first knew about their sexual feelings, their relationships with family and friends, and their hopes for the future.