No one left behind – tackling social exclusion in LGBT communities

No one left behind – tackling social exclusion in LGBT communities

By Josh Bradlow

This year’s Pride month comes at a critical point in our journey towards lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) equality.

In recent decades, we’ve made significant progress in many areas. Equal marriage is now a reality for many. Same-sex couples can adopt, and LGBT role models are more visible than ever on our screens, in our newspapers and in our workplaces

But while progress has been made, we know that many LGBT people still face harassment, discrimination and prejudice simply for being themselves.

The biphobic and homophobic attack against two women on a London bus earlier this month is a stark reminder that we cannot be complacent in the fight for equality. Trans communities also continue to face a relentless onslaught of anti-trans coverage in the media and online. We know that our work cannot stop until every LGBT person is accepted for who they are, wherever they live, learn, work, play sport and pray.

Stonewall is Britain’s largest organisation campaigning for LGBT equality. Through our state-of-the-nation LGBT in Britain research series with YouGov, we know that many LGBT people continue to face multiple barriers to participating fully in our society. Nowhere is this clearer than in our research into LGBT people’s experiences of homelessness, and poor mental health.

Having a safe and stable home is crucial for all of us. But nearly one in five LGBT people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives – with trans people, LGBT disabled people and socio-economically disadvantaged LGBT people at particular risk.

The situation is particularly tough for many LGBT young people. Research by the Albert Kennedy Trust, who work to support homeless LGBT young people, estimates that a quarter of the youth homeless population is LGBT. Of those, the majority had experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence. And when accessing homelessness support services, many respondents said that providers often lack understanding of their specific needs – which can lead to discriminatory treatment.

It is essential that homelessness services monitor the sexual orientation and gender identity of their service users to ensure they can understand the needs and experiences of LGBT homeless people. It’s also vital that all staff receive training on meeting the needs of LGBT service users.

At the same time, growing up in a society that still doesn’t fully accept LGBT people – from bullying at school, to workplace discrimination, to harassment on the street -can also have a profound impact on many LGBT people’s health and wellbeing.

Rates of poor mental health are incredibly high within the LGBT community. Stonewall’s School Report (2017), with the University of Cambridge looked into the experiences of over 3,700 LGBT people and found that nearly half of trans young people have tried to take their own life, as have one in five lesbian, gay and bi young people who aren’t trans. Within this group, LGBT young people who are disabled, or who are eligible for free school meals, are at particular risk.

Among adults, our LGBT in Britain series found that half of LGBT people said they’d experienced depression in the last year – with Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people, trans people and LGBT disabled people experiencing particularly high rates of poor mental health.

While a growing number of mental health services are meeting the needs of LGBT people, many LGBT people continue to face barriers to accessing support, with experiences of discrimination remaining commonplace.

For these services too, monitoring sexual orientation and gender identity, and providing staff with high-quality training on LGBT inclusion, is essential in meeting the needs of the community.

But while the challenges are great, we know that there are growing efforts to address them. As part of the Government’s 2018 LGBT Action Plan, new research is being undertaken into the needs and experiences of LGBT homeless people – research that will be essential in helping us to understand how national and local Government can help meet these needs.

And through our Diversity Champions programme, we now work with over 50 national and local health and social care organisations across the country, including mental health services, to help them provide inclusive support to LGBT patients and service users.

But we need to do more. We need to reach deeper into our communities. We need to provide better support on the ground to the most vulnerable people in our communities. And we need to tackle these challenges at their root, too, to ensure that every young person is supported to reach their full potential.

Pride is a time for celebration. But it’s also a time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how much further we have to go. Now is the time for us to come together, to renew our efforts to bring forward the day when true equality for LGBT people is a reality.

Our work will not be done until every single LGBT person, everywhere, is free to be themselves.

This article was written for The Vision Project by Josh Bradlow. Josh is the Policy Manager of Stonewall, Europe's largest LGBT rights organisation.

DHI has invited the author to write the above article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies or otherwise of DHI.

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