Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) communities

A large number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Australians live healthy and fulfilling lives. However, a disproportionate number experience worse health outcomes than their non-LGBT peers in a range of areas, including mental health and suicidality. Like everyone, LGBT people use alcohol for a variety of reasons. However LGBT people can face additional stressors in their lives which can influence alcohol use. These stressors can be related to negative reactions to LGBT people in the form of homophobia, discrimination or violence. diverse communities LGBT These stressors can include:
  • stress associated with belonging to an often despised minority
  • stress associated with managing a minority identity, such as needing to hide ones identity to keep a job or experiencing harassment/discrimination
  • stress associated with coming out to family, friends and work colleagues
  • confusion around sexual orientation or gender identity
  • the role of gay bars as a major (and sometime only) social outlet, leading to finding friends and partners in bar settings, thus increasing the likelihood of adopting a “heavy drinking”/using peer group
  • greater likelihood of loss of family and community support
  • non-acceptance of self or internalised homophobia: leading to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and feelings of guilt and paranoia.
There is a strong link between an LGBT individual’s drug and alcohol misuse and their experiences of discrimination and abuse.
Rates of LGBT alcohol use is difficult to establish due to a lack of reliable information on the size of the LGBT population and research studies are difficult to compare due to varying research methods. However, from research that has been conducted, it can be argued that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are at greater risk of experiencing alcohol use disorders and drinking at more harmful levels than the general population.
Lesbian, gay & bisexual peoples alcohol use
The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Report found that lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents were far more likely to consume alcohol in risky quantities than heterosexuals. (The survey did not capture information on people who were transgender). 28.8% of LGB people who completed the survey reported life time risky drinking compared to 18.5% for heterosexual respondent. And 42.1% of LGB respondents drank at single-occasion risky levels at least monthly, compared to 26.9% of heterosexual respondents.
 Transgender peoples alcohol use
Alcohol use in transgender people is difficult to determine given the lack of research. Transgender peoples’ alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders could exceed both the LGB and the general populations. A recent study suggests that:
  • Heavy episodic drinking is higher for transgender than non-transgender people.
  • Transgender people are at higher risk of sexual assault after drinking than non-transgender people.
  • Transgender people are at higher risk of suicidality after drinking than non-transgender people. (Coulter et al, 2015)
What works?  
LGBT people experience a range of stressors that can have a negative impact on their well-being. LGBT people also have higher levels of anxiety, depression and rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts than heterosexual people. Despite this, LGBT individuals experience substantial resilience. Some of the factors that build resilience in LGBT individuals and communities include:
  • Circle of intimate friendships: strength of social networks, the importance of friendships, support from friends especially during times of change and traumatic life events, using friends to positively ‘manage disclosure’ and friends becoming part of a ‘surrogate family’
  • Partners
  • LGBT communities themselves: communities provide a place for support and information, creating safe spaces, encouraging self-understanding and acceptance, social inclusion and community participation
  • Healthy lifestyle, exercise
  • Creative expression of LGBT identity 
Engaging with LGBT communities 
The LGBT “community” can be seen as several cultures which can intersect and overlap. These cultures are as diverse as all of its members. LGBT people differ from other minority groups in that LGBT persons do not come from a common geographic area or have certain physical characteristics in common. LGBT individuals from various backgrounds experience their communities differently, but can also share some things in common. In general, when engaging with any community it is worth recognising that not everyone is heterosexual, nor do all people identify with the gender they were assigned to at birth. It’s a good idea to avoid making assumptions about people’s sexuality or gender identity. If you are thinking about engaging with LGBT people and communities, it is important that you ensure confidentiality at all times, as some people don’t wish to be identified as LGBT because they may be concerned about discrimination and homophobia. Here are some tips for engaging with LGBT people and communities:
  • Link up with LGBT organisations and groups in your local area.
  • Explore ways of communicating with LGBT communities in your area including the gay press, LGBT businesses and social media.
  • Take a strengths-based approach that builds upon the skills and resilience of the community.
  • Not all LGBT people are the same. They may be old or young, from minority ethnic communities, or have a disability. Also be aware that some LGBT people might have had a difficult relationship with religion, while others may be religious.
  • Include positive messages about LGBT people in communications with all community groups.
  • If the opportunity arises to facilitate access to LGBT training to overcome negative attitudes to, or lack of awareness about, LGBT people, then pursue it! Your local LGBT organisation will be able to help with this.
  • Keep up to date with the issues and research affecting LGBT people.
  • Make sure that all activities take place in a LGBT-friendly environment. Meetings should be held in a safe place and at a safe time. LGBT young people, in particular, aren’t always safe in the same places as straight people.
Useful websites
TouchBase, is a new Alcohol and other Drugs online resource for Australians who identify as LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex). A joint initiative of the Victorian AIDS Council, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations and the Australian Drug Foundation, the website offers information, support and services. It is tailored specifically for LGBTI people and includes information on mental health, medication and sex in the relevant communities.
National LGBT organisations
National LGBTI Health Alliance The National LGBTI Health Alliance is the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services, and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and other sexuality and gender diverse (LGBTI) people and communities AFAO The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations is the national peak body of HIV and AIDS sexual health organisations. AFAO provides leadership, coordination and support to Australia’s policy, advocacy and health promotion response to HIV/AIDS. NAPWHA The National Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS is Australia’s peak non-government organisation representing community-based groups of people living with HIV (PLHIV). NAPWHA provides advocacy, policy, health promotion, effective representation, and outreach on a national level.
Queensland LGBT organisations
Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) The Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) is an independent community based health promotion charity. QuACs mission is to enable lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to increase control over and improve their health, as a resource for social, economic and personal development and an important dimension of quality of life. 2Spirits Program The 2 Spirits program aims to improve the sexual health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls in Queensland through a ‘Whole of Community Approach’ to education, prevention,health promotion and community development activities. Open Doors Youth Service Open Doors provides counselling and support services for LGBT young people aged 12-24 and their families who live in South East Queensland Queensland Positive People (QPP) Queensland Positive People (QPP) is a peer-based advocacy organisation which is committed to actively promoting self-determination and empowerment for all people living with HIV (PLHIV) throughout Queensland. PFLAG Brisbane A non-profit voluntary organisation and support network for parents and families of LGBTI people. The Australian Transgender Support Association of QLD (ATSAQ The Australian Transgender Support Association of QLD (ATSAQ) was formed in 1990, to help, advise and assist the transgender community in Queensland. It is run by transgender people for transgender people and provides emotional/moral support for people with Gender identity Disorder (formally known as Gender Dysphoria) their families and friends. Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Business Network Brisbane’s Gay and Lesbian Business Network hosts regular networking and social events. FTM Brisbane This group aims to connect trans* men in Brisbane, greater Queensland and Northern New South Wales areas
Regional LGBT groups and organisations
  Fraser Gays Supports LGBTIQ people in the Fraser Coast area (Maryborough – Hervey Bay – Fraser Island – Bundaberg – Gympie)
LGBT media organisations
Gay News Network (GNN) Gay News Network (GNN) offers a news website and masterheads including weekly and monthly news and lifestyle publications.
Star Observer The Star Observer offers a news website and monthly magazine on international, national and local LGBT news.

Our sources

Information in this section has been drawn and adapted from the following sources:
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014, National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013.
  • Bergmark, K, 1999, Drinking in the Swedish gay and lesbian community. Drug Alcohol Depend;56:133-143.
  • Cochran S, Ackerman D, Mays V, & Ross, M, 2004, Prevalence of non-medical drug use and dependence among homosexually active men and women in the US population. Addiction, vol. 99, no. 8, pp. 989–998. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00759.x Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190042/
  • Coulter R, Blosnich J, Bukowski L, Herrick A, Siconolfi D, & Stall R, 2015, Differences in alcohol use and alcohol-related problems between transgender- and non-transgender-identified young adults. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 154, pp. 251-259. Available from: http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/S0376-8716(15)00377-4/abstract
  • Hyde Z, Comfort J, Brown G, McManus A, & Howat P, 2007, The Health and Well-Being of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Western Australia. WA Centre for Health Promotion Research, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia. Available from: http://www.qahc.org.au/sites/default/files/docs/Les_WA.pdf)
  • Roxburgh A, Howard J, & Degenhardt L, 2010, Patterns of drug use among same sex attracted Australian from the general populations, Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 29, pp. 65 – 65.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2001, A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, USA. Available from: http://www.glhv.org.au/files/subst_abuse_tretmt_gudlins_usa.pdf