Ethnic minority members of LGBT+ communities are being left behind by government policy and wider society, with a long-term effect on their wellbeing, according to a groundbreaking new report.
The study, led jointly by researchers from King’s College London and University College London, is the UK’s first major piece of research to analyse the experiences of people living in the intersection of these minority identities.
Experts said their interviews suggested ministers may need to expand the work of their existing LGBT+ task force. The work also follows studies that found Black LGBT+ people felt less safe at school than their white classmates, and that the group had been hit harder than others by the Covid-19 mental health crisis.
Individuals spoke about experiencing racism in LGBT+ spaces and on dating apps, as well as issues around coming out to families and ethnic minority communities. Some spoke about turning to religion for support while others discussed being asked to leave places of worship due to their sexuality and barriers to accessing medical care.
Dr Amal R Khanolkar, of King’s College London, who was lead author of the report, said: “This project highlights several diverse issues, some with long-term effects on health and wellbeing, that arise from the intersectionality of living with multiple minority identities.
“This is despite considerable progress in sexual minority rights and acceptance that has not necessarily benefitted all equally. Importantly, it shows that despite rhetoric on addressing ethnic- and sexuality-based inequalities, individuals with more than one minority identity tend to be left behind by government policy and wider society.
“Nonetheless, our report shows that a lot can be done to address issues raised by our participants, from increasing awareness in wider society and more visibility to improving access to healthcare.’’
Concerns were also raised around the lack of representation of sexual and ethnic minorities in UK media, with one person saying: “I think that society just refuses to accept that we exist.”
Twenty-two of the 29 participants mentioned an explicit experience of racism from within the LGBT+ community as well as wider society, with many recounting experiences of stereotyping.
One, who identified as a Chinese bisexual man, said: “I do notice a lot of dating preferences, like racial preferences. Quite a lot of gay guys will say explicitly that they don’t want anything to do with Asians.”
A Pakistani gay man described how beauty standards for queer men were rooted in whiteness. He added: “I don’t think ethnic minorities are as desirable in that community, in terms of seeking out romantic or sexual relationships.”
Moreover, some participants felt being marginalised in the LGBT+ community, largely due to the dominance of white gay men but also due to the lack of ethnic minority and LGBT+ specific groups.
Many participants spoke about not being able to access appropriate support or finding their therapists unable to understand the nuances of their multi-faceted identity.
One said: “A lot of black queer people are really depressed. It makes it worse that there are no services. Because it’s just dealing with a lot of factions of your life that are very traumatic and just always having to juggle your norm, being those identities. A lot of black queer people I know are basically just surviving.”
Dr Victoria Redclift, of University College London, said: ‘’People from minority ethnic groups in the UK experience racism which has been shown to have significant health implications.
“Sexual minority individuals in the UK also experience discrimination which is thought to worsen health outcomes in comparison to heterosexuals. Yet, until now, no study in the UK has comprehensively examined health and wellbeing in ethnic and sexual/gender minority individuals.
“More research in this area is vital if we are to better understand the experiences of ethnic and sexual/gender minority young people and the severity of risk in regard to mental health and wellbeing.”
Researchers noted that the fate of the government’s comprehensive 2018 LGBT Action Plan remains uncertain with some confusion. While the current government has suggested it will set-up a new LGBT panel, but there is an opportunity for an updated agenda to specifically address ethnic minority related issues.
The government has been approached for comment.