Research projects

No need to straighten up: Discrimination, depression, anxiety and older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians

Principal researchers

Catherine Barrett1
Carolyn Whyte1
William Leonard1
Jude Comfort2

Institution

1Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
2Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research, Curtin University

Funding

$28,912

Award type

beyondblue grant

Project completion year

2014

Project brief

This study was conducted in response to a growing body of research linking higher rates of depression, anxiety and related disorders among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians to their experiences of homophobic and transphobic discrimination.

beyondblue sought the perspectives of older LGBTI people to inform community education programs to challenge homophobia and transphobia. Many older LGBTI Australians have lived through a time when disclosure could result in imprisonment, forced medical interventions and ‘cures’, or loss of employment, family and friends. For many, their only protection against heterosexist violence and prejudice was to make themselves invisible, to publicly deny their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to pass as ‘heterosexual’.

Key recommendations

Policy: to ensure the development of LGBTI-inclusive service, including mental health and aged and community care, it is also important that:

1. The Standards and Guidelines for Residential Aged Care are revised to include the needs of LGBTI residents.

2. The Community Care Common Standards are revised to make explicit reference to the needs of older LGBTI people receiving home care and services.

3. Policies informing the development of mental health services in Australia are revised and include strategies that address the mental health needs of older LGBTI people and the development of LGBTI-inclusive mental health services.

Education: education should be delivered in a systematic manner to all mental health and aged and community care staff and be updated regularly. It should:

1. Include an understanding of the complex and layered histories of older LGBTI people and how this effects or shapes their sense of identity and health and wellbeing

2. Include information on the institutionalised nature of discrimination experienced by older LGBTI people and the pressure on older LGBTI people to ‘Straighten up’

3. Include information on the needs of older LGBTI people’s partners and carers

4. Address the beliefs and values of mental health and aged and community care workers

5. Stress that the goal of LGBTI-inclusive practice is to provide safe, valuing and respectful services, whether or not LGBTI clients disclose their sexuality or gender identity; and

6. Not treat older LGBTI people as a homogenous group.

Service provision: it is important that mental health and aged and community care service providers:

1. Understand that the onus of responsibility for developing LGBTI-inclusive services rests with the organisation and not with the individual LGBTI client; and

2. Familiarise themselves with the current National Standards for LGBTI inclusive practice developed by Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria as a guide to developing an LGBTI-inclusive service.

Research: further research is required to enable:

1. A more detailed exploration of the richness and diversity of older LGBTI people’s lives

2. Exploration of the impact of differences within the LGBTI community on the mental health and wellbeing of older LGBTI people including differences in location (rural, regional and metropolitan), socio-economic status and religious and cultural affiliation; and

3. Greater engagement with older transgender people who are underrepresented in this and other ethnographic and population-based surveys of LGBTI health and wellbeing

4. Document the needs of older intersex people.

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