LGBT+ Communities and Developing Inclusive Services

The Including You – download here – Guide explains, when planning for effective community engagement, government staff need to understand the challenges faced by client groups.

This helps to ensure programs and services are appropriate and address the diverse needs of clients. In providing information on the challenges of LGBTIQ communities, as well as specific information on the main LGBTIQ sub-population groups, this section aims to provide an understanding of the social and legal environment experienced by LGBTIQ Australians.

An understanding of LGBTIQ communities and populations can also be developed through open and inclusive interaction with the target groups, as highlighted in this guide’s engagement practices.

Underlying concepts

When working with LGBTIQ people and subpopulations, it is important to understand key concepts and the commonalities and unique experiences of these populations. These terms are explained more fully below.

Biological sex and gender identity

The terms ‘biological sex’ and ‘gender’ are often thought to be interchangeable; however, this is not strictly the case. ‘Biological sex’ is an anatomical descriptor that relates to a person’s genitals, chromosomes, hormones and other physical and reproductive traits. The term intersex refers to people who are born with physical, hormonal or genetic features that are:

  • (a) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or
  • (b) a combination of female and male; or
  • (c) neither female nor male

‘Gender’ or ‘gender identity’ is defined by a person’s own identification as male, female, or other identity and relates to legal status, social interaction, public persona, cultural position and psychology.

Gender identity is closely related to the concept of gender roles; being the sets of social and behavioural norms that are considered appropriate for individuals of a particular gender.

The gender of a person may be reflected in the:

  • pronouns they use to describe themselves, for example him/he/his or her/she/hers
  • styles of dress and other forms of presentation, such as hairstyle, footwear, makeup, fragrance, voice, jewellery
  • position and/or role adopted within a family, community, social setting and culture.

Common challenges within LGBTIQ communities. Many LBGTIQ people in Australia lead safe, healthy, active and socially engaged lives; however, they can also experience marginalisation, stigma, discrimination and social exclusion.

This can lead to negative health and wellbeing outcomes. LGBTIQ people face particular challenges arising from homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism and this can impact on their involvement in the community and access and use of services.

Common challenges for LGBTIQ people in Australia, as compared to heterosexual population groups, include:

  • stigma and discrimination
  • higher rates of harassment, abuse and hate crimes
  • higher rates of self-harm and suicide
  • higher rates of alcohol consumption, smoking of tobacco and illicit drug use
  • high incidences of isolation and feelings of disconnection from local community
  • high rates of mental health issues including stress, depression and anxiety
  • delayed access to support services or information due to previous negative experiences with institutions and fear of further discrimination.

In recognition of these challenges, agencies can conduct specific engagement activities with LGBTIQ communities, as well as ensuring that general engagement activities are delivered in safe and welcoming environments that seek to involve LGBTIQ people. It is also critical that agencies are aware of the range of issues faced by LGBTIQ people so that services are appropriately developed and delivered.

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