New report shows women with diverse gender and sexual identities at risk

APN Two WomenA ground-breaking report that surveyed LGBTI women and other people of diverse gender identities and sexualities has painted a concerning picture of their mental and physical health.

The Rainbow Women and Help Seeking Research Report, conducted by Melbourne University and funded by beyondblue, found respondents with marginalised gender identities and marginalised sexualities are more distressed and unhealthy than those with better understood identities, highlighting the affect stigma has on highly marginalised people.

Trans males, for example, were the most distressed of any respondents with an average score on the K10 psychological scale of 34, indicating very high distress. This was followed by intersex respondents with an average score of 33 while respondents identifying as female scored 24, which still indicates a high level of distress and is far higher than the national average of 14.5.

Intersex people and trans males also had the poorest general health of all gender identities and sexes while females had the best, indicating a clear link between mental and physical health.

“Trans, intersex and people of other diverse gender identities and sexualities are highly distressed because of the discrimination they still regularly face,” said beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman. “Some progress is starting to be made in reducing this discrimination and the distress it brings, which in turn can lead to depression and anxiety, but this report shows there’s still a long way to go.

“The report also shows that distress is not limited to the most marginalised identities, with all categories of respondents, including lesbian and bisexual women, far more distressed than the national average. It also highlights the positive role of peer support in the lives of respondents, with around 75 percent of women seeking support from friends and family and a general practitioner.”

“The findings of this report, which will be used to inform our future work, show why discrimination must end in order to allow people of all gender identities, sex and sexualities to lead happy and productive lives,” added Harman.

While respondents to the survey, which can be downloaded here, were mostly women, it included trans males and other people not identifying as female because of their previous experience of living as female.

The survey also found that respondents connecting to environment/animal welfare subgroups or parenting/family/school subgroups were the least distressed, while those connected to disability or religion/spiritual subgroups were the most distressed. This suggests that people with multiple marginalised identities or those who are marginalised within their own communities are the most distressed.

Regarding attitudes towards help-seeking among respondents, the report found that while they were positive many barriers still exist, with discrimination and judgement listed as the major reasons people don’t seek help.

Report author, Associate Professor Ruth McNair said: “Other important findings include that respondents were less resilient than the general community, the most common enabler for help-seeking was a trustworthy GP and that there is strong support for health promotion and wellbeing messages that include referral information for LGBTI services and stories that reflect the diversity of LGBTI women. This shows there is an onus on service providers to become more aware and knowledgeable of the important mental health inequalities among these subgroups.”

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