What does the acronym ‘LGBT’ stand for?

L (Lesbian), G (Gay), B (Bisexual) and T (Transgender).

LGBT people, as members of a social minority group, are suffering from various forms of socioeconomic and cultural injustice. The lacks of social recognition has an effect on the capacity of LGBT people to fully access and enjoy their rights as citizens. They are more likely to experience intolerance, discrimination, harassment, and the threat of violence due to their sexual orientation, than those that identify themselves as heterosexual.

This is due to homophobia (the fear or hatred of homosexuality). They are discriminated against in the labour market, in schools and in hospitals, mistreated and disowned by their own families. They are singled out for physical attack – beaten, sexually assaulted, tortured and killed. Some of the factors that may reinforce homophobia on a larger scale are moral, religious, and political beliefs of a dominant group. In some countries, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by fines, imprisonment, life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Fast Facts on LGBTI

Rejection often starts at home.

  • 50 % of LGBT teens experience a negative reaction from their parents when they come out.
  • 30 % experience physical abuse.
  • 26 % are kicked out of their homes. In fact, LGBT children comprise
  • 40 % of all homeless youth are LGBTI children, and family rejection is the primary cause.
  • LGBT adults who report family rejection are 6 times more likely to be depressed, 3 times more likely to use illegal drugs and 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than non-rejected young adults.

Bullying of LGBT children is common in schools, as well.

  • 85% are verbally bullied during the course of a school year.
  • 40% report physical bullying as this harassment often turns violent
  • 19 % report being physically assaulted at school because of sexual orientation.
  • 30 % of LGBT children miss school because they feel unsafe because of bullying.
  • Bullying because of sexual orientation results in increased depression, and an almost six-fold increased risk for suicide attempts.

Clinical Psychology & LGBTI

The attitude of psychology as a profession toward homosexuality changed several decades ago. Early versions of the DSM listed homosexuality as a mental disorder. LGBTI persons argue that that their sexual orientation is a natural part of themselves. Apart from society’s homophobia, their orientation causes them no discomfort. In addition, there is little evidence that psychotherapy can lead to a homosexual person becoming a heterosexual person. Therefore, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of recognised psychological disorders.

South Africa’s Constitution & LGBTI Rights

South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution 1 was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and South Africa was the fifth country in the world, and the first in Africa, to legalise same-sex marriage.

The rights of LGBTI South Africans are clearly stated in Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights, Section 9(3): “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

Likewise, in Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights 9(3):

“No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3).”

The Psychological Impact of LGBT Discrimination

LGBT people face considerable levels of stigmatization, discrimination and harassment in their daily lives. The majorities of LGBT people learn to cope with this, particularly when they have the support of family and friends, and participate with LGBT organizations and social networks. However, a significant number of LGBT people, most particularly younger LGBT people, had to cope with  stigmatization, discrimination and harassment without support. Many also faced additional stress from experiences such as very high levels of homophobic bullying in schools and physical and verbal attacks.

Most likely due to violence, social rejection, and isolation, the LGBT community experiences higher rates of anxiety, mood and substance use disorders, and suicidal thoughts among people ages 15-54

Experiences that could negatively impact mental health of a LGBTI person:

  • Hostility from or rejection by loved ones or religious groups
  • Bullying at school, harassment by neighbors, danger of violence in public places
  • Casual homophobic comments on everyday basis
  • Prejudice/embarrassed response from professionals
  • No protection against discrimination at work, housing, pensions, etc.
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Verbal harassment, greater fear of physical violence and discrimination.

LBGTI & Addiction

LGBT people are more likely to use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs than the general population, are less likely to abstain, report higher rates of substance abuse problems, and are more likely to continue heavy drinking into later life.

Reliance on bars for socialization, stress caused by discrimination, and targeted advertising by tobacco and alcohol businesses in gay and lesbian publications are all believed to contribute to  increased pressures on LGBT individuals to engage in substance abuse. Internalized homophobia is a form of selflimiting, self-loathing— an important concept to understand in developing substance abuse services for this population.

Which risk factors could contribute to substance abuse?

  • Sense of self as worthless or bad.
  • Lack of connectedness to supportive adults and peers.
  • Lack of alternative ways to view ?”differentness”
  • Lack of access to role models.
  • Lack of opportunities to socialize with other gays/lesbians except bars.
  • The risk of contracting HIV.

How to support the LGBTI individual via communities

Support the most marginalized of the LGBT community by promoting awareness of the needs and experiences of LGBT people and in campaigning for equality, including LGBTI people of color, low-income, young, elderly and transgender people.

Schools and teacher education programmes are crucial sites where LGBT issues and concerns need to be addressed. To help promote health and safety among LGBT youth, schools can implement the following policies and practices:

  • Encourage respect for all students and prohibit bullying, harassment, and violence against all students.
  • Identify ?safe spaces, such as counselors‘ offices, designated classrooms, or student organizations, where
  • LGBTQ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, or other school staff.
  • Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment (e.g., gay-straight alliances, which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations).
  • Ensure that health curricula or educational materials include HIV, other STD, or pregnancy prevention information that is relevant to LGBTQ youth; such as, ensuring that curricula or materials use inclusive language or terminology.
  • Encourage school district and school staff to develop and publicize training on how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and encourage staff to attend these training sessions.

Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling, to LGBTQ youth.

Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience in providing social and psychological services to LGBTQ youth.

To change societal attitude media has to play a responsible role by reporting on LGBT issues and promoting a culture of tolerance and freedom for minorities.

Training needs to be conducted for health professionals to increase their understanding of LGBT identity as potential risk factor for self-harm suicidal behavior and depression. Respective authorities should ensure that health, mental health and social care services are provided in a way that is accessible and appropriate to LGBT people.

National as well as state government should develop initiatives to support employers in making workplace and workplace culture more supportive and inclusive of LGBT people.

To check the violence that is perpetrated in the home as well as in the public sphere, the domestic violence law has to be expanded to include non-spousal and parental violence as well.

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For more information, you can do a self test quiz on homosexuality.

Homosexuality Quiz

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