For families and friends
Many young people explore and question their sexuality and what gender they identify with. It is normal for them to do so.
If a young person has confided in you, ask them how you can support them.
It is against the law to try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Someone’s sexual orientation is the inherent way that person experiences emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to other people. This could be towards people of a different gender, the same gender, more than one gender, or none.
This is different for everyone and there are lots of ways to describe sexuality – as well as gender. The physical features that someone was born with do not necessarily determine their sexual orientation.
Young people exploring, questioning, and affirming their sexual orientation can experience a range of stressful experiences. Families and friends can have a major impact on their wellbeing.
Young people with families that fully support their sexual orientation have better overall health, mental health, higher self-esteem, and are more likely to believe they will have a good life as an adult.
Gender identity is different to sexual orientation. Gender identity is someone’s personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither.
The physical features that someone was born with do not necessarily define their gender.
There are numerous identities within the gender spectrum, including male, female, a mixture of both, no gender, a fluid gender, or another gender.
Families can have a major impact on the wellbeing of trans and gender diverse young people.
Trans and gender diverse young people with families that fully accept their gender identity have better overall physical and mental health, higher self-esteem, and are more likely to believe they will have a good life as a gender diverse adult.
What are change or suppression practices?
To fall under the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 (the Act) definition of a change or suppression practice, the conduct must include three elements. It must be:
- directed at an individual
- because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
- undertaken with the intention to change or induce that person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Change and suppression practices cause harm
There is strong evidence in the Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice research report that these practices can lead to long-term mental health issues and in the most tragic of cases, suicide.
Survivors of practices speak about the ongoing harm and trauma caused by these experiences. Recovery can take many years. Survivors can suffer ongoing problems with mental health, relationships, sexuality, sexual function, and spirituality.
Survivors experience grief at the loss of relationships with family, friends, and communities who did not accept them as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual or gender diverse. They suffer financial impacts from:
- the costs of conversion practices
- delayed or impaired education and employment.
Survivors also grieve the collateral damage experienced by family, friends and peers associated with their change and suppression efforts.
There is nothing wrong with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual or gender diverse. Change and suppression practices delay people from being able to fully enjoy being who they are.
How are people held responsible for conducting these practices?
Parents, and others, will not be criminally prosecuted (will not be charged with an offence) for having general conversations with their children about their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Act does not include provisions for removing children from their parents.
All change or suppression practices are prohibited.
All practices can be reported to the Commission and we will work with the reporter to determine the most appropriate response.
If someone engages in a change or suppression practice, they could:
- be involved in a facilitation process to reach an agreement between the people involved
- receive targeted education
- be subject to further investigation (for serious or systemic contraventions of the Act).
This law is not about stopping people from being a parent, or practising or enjoying their faith, it is about preventing harm – and these practices are harmful.
In some cases, engaging in a change or suppression practices is a criminal offence.
It may be a criminal offence for a person to:
- engage in a change or suppression practice that causes injury or serious injury
- injury: physical injury or harm to mental health, whether temporary or permanent
- serious injury: an injury (including the cumulative effect of more than one injury) that endangers life or is substantial and protracted
- take a person outside Victoria for a change or suppression practice that causes injury
- advertise a change or suppression practice.
Elements of the offence would need to be established beyond a reasonable doubt, including:
- that the conduct was engaged in intentionally
- the severity of the injury
- the fact that the injury was caused by the change or suppression practice
- the person’s negligence (carelessness) as to whether engaging in the change or suppression practice would cause injury.
This means the evidence needs to show there is no other reasonable explanation.
These criminal offences are overseen by Victoria Police. The Commission may also bring proceedings for the offence of advertising a change or suppression practice.
Anyone can report a change or suppression practice to the Commission. We can provide support to victims of criminal offences to voluntarily report these to Victoria Police.
Reporting to Victoria Police could result in a criminal investigation and criminal charges.
What is allowed?
Parents and carers can have general conversations with children in their care who are exploring their sexuality and gender identity.
It is completely legal – and encouraged – to undertake activities that support or affirm someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including:
- providing acceptance, support or understanding of a person – or referring them to a person more suited to do this
- facilitating a person’s coping skills to be their authentic self, or explore or develop their identity
- facilitating social support for the individual
- assisting a person to express their gender identity
- assisting a person who is undergoing a gender transition helping a person access peer support
- assisting a person who is considering undergoing a gender transition.
To support affirmation, you can:
- centre the person in the conversation and decision-making
- listen rather than instructing or advising
- have an openness to them exploring their sexuality or gender identity without a view on who they should be
- suggest affirming peer support (find details for support organisations).
Peer support can come in the form of:
- a faith group that supports LGBTQA+ people practicing your faith
- support for people transitioning
- a group for parents who have a child who is LGBTQA+.
Therapeutic (medical and psychological) treatment – in line with professional and ethical standards – that is necessary (in the health service provider’s reasonable professional judgement) is also allowed. This includes:
- providing a health service
- complying with the legal or professional obligations of the health service provider.
Common questions from families and friends
We are here to help if you have any questions about change and suppression practices.
Call us: 1300 292 153 (weekdays 10am–3pm)
Email us: email@example.com
Rainbow Door is a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family, and friends.
Contact: 1800 729 367 or 0480 017 246 (SMS) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council is a national body that advocates for the rights of multicultural and multifaith LGBTIQ individuals and communities and provides referrals to existing services, community groups and agencies.
eheadspace provides information and support about mental health and wellbeing to young people 12 – 25 and their families and friends.
Contact: 1800 650 890
Transcend Australia works with parents, carers and their children to support, affirm and celebrate trans, gender diverse and non-binary children.
See our ‘Have you experienced a change or suppression practice?’ page for a full list of affirming faith organisations, LGBTIQ, crisis and mental health support services.
Information on this page is intended as a guide only. It is not a substitute for legal advice.