More than ticking a box: LGBTIQA+ people with disability talking about their lives
Centring the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people with disability in inclusive reforms will focus the development of inclusive practices that benefit more LGBTIQA+ people, and people with disability as well.
The purpose of the ‘Understanding experiences in healthcare and community to improve services for all’ project was to explore the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people with disability in Victoria, especially in relation to accessing health and social services and connecting with LGBTIQA+ and disability identities and communities. In doing so, the project aimed to identify and propose recommendations for improvements to ensure services are more inclusive and responsive to the contemporary needs of LGBTIQA+ people with disability.
The Deakin University team committed to an additional goal for the project: to include LGBTIQA+ people in meaningful ways and, from this, to grow their capacity to engage with, and produce, research about the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ people and people with disability.
To this end, Deakin employed four LGBTIQA+ people with disability as peer researchers who were engaged to assist in recruitment, data collection, analysis and dissemination.
People with disability are more likely to have poorer overall physical and mental health than people without disability (Dispenza et al., 2016), while people with intellectual disability have lower life expectancy and higher rates of avoidable deaths at over twice the rate of the general population (Reppermund et al., 2020; Trollor et al., 2017). Studies have also shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual people have increased likelihood of disability, poor mental health, and substance use than their counterparts (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2013).
Research on LGBTI ageing demonstrates the cumulative effects of this marginalisation over the life course, as older LGBTI people have higher rates of disability, depression, anxiety and loneliness than the general community, as well as less social support (Crameri et al., 2015).
The overwhelming finding of this research is that there is a clear and urgent need for disability services to better understand the needs of LGBTIQA+ people, and for LGBTIQA+ services to better understand the needs of people with disability. Accordingly, centring the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people with disability in inclusive reforms will focus the development of inclusive practices that benefit more LGBTIQA+ people and people with disability as well.
The acronym LGBTIQA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer, asexual, or other terms (such as non-binary or pansexual) that people use to describe or express their sexual and gender identities. Sexual and gender identities are complex, dynamic and constantly evolving and, as we address in this report, situationally particular in response to external factors (e.g., see Latham, 2017b). There is no one preferred term used by all sexually and gender diverse people; people often have multiple, overlapping identities, and many people and communities also have unique ways of describing their identities, histories and experiences (National LGBTI Health Alliance, 2016).
This project was funded by a consortium of interested parties led by Pride Foundation Australia, which also includes Snow Foundation, Broadtree Foundation and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, and the Equality Branch of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet. It was led by Dr Amie O’Shea, with Dr J. R. Latham from the Alfred Deakin Institute, peer researchers Sherrie Beaver, Jake Lewis, Ruby Mountford, and Mellem Rose, and contributions from Dr Anita Trezona and Associate Professor Patsie Frawley.