The impact of being Indigenous and LGBTIQ+

A new study from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has laid bare the damaging impact of racism, queerphobia and social exclusion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ+ people.

The study, led by Braden Hill, a Noongar (Wardandi) man and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of ECU’s Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre for Indigenous Education and Research, incorporated data from a survey of 63 Indigenous LGBTIQ+ community members, 206 healthcare professionals and 49 focus group sessions.

Key findings

  • More than 73% of Indigenous LGBTIQ+ participants experienced discrimination
  • Almost 13% experienced housing insecurity or homelessness
  • A third felt ‘invisible’ within their communities
  • 45.2% felt a sense of belonging to a wider LGBTIQ+ community
  • 1.9% did not disclose they were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander when using dating apps due to fear of discrimination
  • 60% of participants identified GPs and psychologists as major supports

What were the major issues?

Hill says that while many participants felt a sense of pride in their identities, they often felt invisible or marginalised within the LGBTIQ+ community, Indigenous communities and society more broadly.

“More than 73 per cent of participants reported experiencing discrimination either sometimes, half the time or every day, including being ignored, teased, maliciously ‘outed’, followed in public or becoming victims of physical violence or other crimes,” he says.

1. Professor braden hill
Braden Hill is Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Edith Cowan University’s Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre for Indigenous Education and Research. Image credit: Julia Turner

“While people experienced both forms of discrimination, racism was most frequently observed as more problematic because sexuality or gender identity could be hidden, whereas one’s skin colour cannot.”

Participants reported discomfort when using public transport, going to the gym, visiting government offices and attending sporting events.

Another major issue reported by a third of participants was a feeling of invisibility within their Indigenous communities.

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“Some people chose to hide who they are and were concerned about not being accepted by Elders and community leaders in their communities,” Hill says.

In addition, many reported feeling a lack of inclusion within the LGBTIQ+ community: “Participants said they had to endure micro-aggressions from non-Indigenous queer people, particularly stereotyping and ‘casual’ racism such as being told they don’t look Aboriginal or feeling like a ‘token’ inclusion.”

How can the system improve?

A key focus area of the research was access to – and experiences within – a range of health, education and social services.

Hill says participants emphasised the central importance of a supportive network, both professional and personal, including LGBTIQ+ friends, family, GPs, psychologists and counsellors.

“Both community members and health care/support professionals identified the importance of employing and retaining Indigenous/LGBTIQ+ staff, using inclusive language, visible signs of inclusion, specialist staff training and courageous conversations with boards and executives as being critical to improving health care for Indigenous/Queer people,” Hill says.

The report makes key recommendations, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander/LGBTIQ+ leadership on all related matters
  • Inclusive health and support services that welcome Indigenous LGBTIQ+ people proactively as clients and staff
  • Better national and state-level data collection
  • Ongoing professional development and training for healthcare and support staff
  • Greater representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ+ people in social media campaigns, parenting resources, media and leadership positions
  • Anti-racism strategies within organisations
  • Greater awareness of trans issues and safe referral pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trans people.

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