La Trobe researchers improving the lives of the LGBTIQ community

La Trobe researchers improving the lives of the LGBTIQ community

Lots of Australians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ). Sadly according to the Australian Human Rights Commission many members of this community continue to suffer from discrimination in their everyday lives in Australia.

Through several different projects, La Trobe researchers are raising awareness of some of the central issues faced by the LGBTIQ community. Here, we explore these initiatives and look at how they may improve the lives of the LGBTIQ community by increasing knowledge of the issues.

Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society

Our Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) is a centre that focuses on social research into issues surrounding health, sexuality, and human relationships. The researchers here strive to develop the world’s understanding of the lived experience of gender and sexuality.

Ongoing projects at ARCSHS cover topics including sexual health; sexuality in the sports arena; a LGBTIQ-inclusive accreditation program for organisations; LGBTIQ-focused aged care training; and guidelines on support services for trans and intersex people. Learn more about the centre’s current research projects.

Psychological distress and drug use among LGBTQ Australians

In April 2015, La Trobe researchers William Leonard, Anthony Lyons and Emily Bariola’s report ‘A Closer Look at Private Lives 2’ was released. The report revealed strong links between psychological distress experienced by LGBTQ Australians and drug use, and the need for support in this area.

Lead researcher William Leonard said:

‘What these findings suggest is that to improve LGBTQ Australians’ mental health, there needs to be a framework which promotes LGBTQ social inclusion and participation in all areas of society and social life and interventions that fight heterosexist discrimination, and value and affirm LGBTQ people.’

Research by La Trobe’s William Leonard explores experiences of heterosexist discrimination, drug use, LGBT and mainstream community engagement, and health service use.

Family violence

When we discuss family violence, we most often talk about it within a frame of cisgender and heterosexuality – as something that men do to their female partners. National policy also deals with family violence in this way.

La Trobe researcher Philomena Horsley is working to raise awareness of the problem of LGBTIQ family and sexual violence. In an article on The Conversation, she and co-author Bianca Fileborn explore violence in sexually diverse relationships.

Because support services are often geared towards helping heterosexual women there can be barriers for those seeking help, and sometimes the very invisibility of the problem means that people aren’t even aware that they need to seek help. This is despite the fact that the rate of intimate partner homicide is the same in opposite sex and same sex relationships. This research seeks to fill in these gaps in knowledge and services.

Fileborn and Horsley argue:

‘In order to fully understand, address and, ultimately, prevent sexual and family violence, we need to recognise and better understand these factors. They need to become central to our understandings of, and responses to, this violence, rather than remaining at the margins.’

Dementia and ageing

In 2008, Dr Catherine Barrett was part of a group who published the results of a study of the experiences of LGBTIQ people in aged care. The project, entitled ‘My People’, revealed the discrimination and ignorance faced by LGBTIQ people receiving aged care services in Victoria.

Many seniors felt forced to hide their sexuality, due to fear of retribution, harassment and ridicule. The inability to be their true selves often led to loneliness and depression.

Director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and La Trobe Associate Professor Anne Mitchell said:

‘This is qualitative and pioneering research that confirms anecdotal reports of the frightening consequences of being old and gay in Australia if you are dependent on aged care – discrimination, isolation, fear, sub-standard care, and abuse. It also identifies the solution: education of carers and providers to recognise the unique needs of GLTBI seniors, and the provision of GLBTI-friendly facilities and services to ensure they are met.’

In 2015, Dr Barrett released a follow up report ‘Still Gay’, which was undertaken in partnership with Alzheimer’s Australia. This report revealed that LGBTIQ people living with dementia often avoid or delay seeking health services due to fear of discrimination.

Barrett says:

‘On top of dealing with a dementia diagnosis, LGBT people often have the double whammy of fearing ignorance and stigma from professionals dealing with their care and negative attitudes from their families.’

Hoping for a better future

Equal access to services, freedom from discrimination – these are fundamental rights. By bringing to light the discrimination that LGBTIQ people experience, researchers from La Trobe hope to encourage a future world where the human rights of this community are unquestioned.

Learn more about La Trobe’s vibrant LGBTIQ community and how we celebrate and support staff and students.