Key messages

  • Aboriginal LGBTI can experience discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status in addition to racial discrimination. 
  • For some Aboriginal LGBTI people the experience of multiple levels of discrimination who are LGBTI, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status may can exacerbate the effects of racism and heterosexism , which can lead to increased isolation from Aboriginal, LGBTI and/or mainstream communities. 
  • Aboriginal LGBTI people may experience multiple levels of discrimination and may require specially tailored information and services.
  • Loss of community can have a significant negative effect on their health and wellbeing.
  • Confidentiality is critical and can be difficult to maintain in smaller communities.
  • Services can implement strategies, partnerships and campaigns, and offer treatment, care and support that are inclusive and address the needs of Aboriginal people who are LGBTI.

Some Aboriginal people who are LGBTI may be subject to the combined effects of racism and heterosexism, which can increase their risk of isolation from Aboriginal, LGBTI and/or mainstream communities. Aboriginal peoples generally place a high regard on family and community connections, including the wisdom and authority of Elders. The loss of a sense of community and belonging for Aboriginal people who are LGBTI, in particular for those who move from rural and remote communities to regional and metropolitan settings, can have a significant negative effect on their health and wellbeing.

Access to responsive LGBTI services is often easier in regional and urban centres; however moving to these centres may lead to social isolation from family and culture. Those staying with their communities may have different experiences of expressing their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. While some people who are LGBTI may experience social isolation, discrimination or marginalisation from their communities, many experience acceptance and are well supported. For example, the term ‘Sistergirl’ is used by some Aboriginal people who, broadly, identify as transgender and/or same-sex attracted. In some communities, people who describe themselves as Sistergirls are accepted and welcomed. However, this is not the case for all Aboriginal people who are LGBTI, and some may experience the need to repress their sexual identity in order to stay within their communities.

Confidentiality is critical but can be difficult to maintain in smaller communities. Given the relatively small Aboriginal population in Victoria, confidentiality may also be difficult to maintain in large urban centres. Aboriginal people who are LGBTI may not disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status to service providers for fear of being ostracised and/or being rejected by their family and community. In order to address the needs of Aboriginal people who are LGBTI, both mainstream and Aboriginal specific services can implement strategies, partnerships and campaigns and offer treatment, care and support that is inclusive.

Aboriginal LGBTI, sistergirl and brotherboy people to access specialised support services and advocacy groups, for example:

  • Sisters & Brothers NT - Advocacy group for gender and sexuality diverse Aboriginal people in Northern Territory
  • IndigiLez - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lesbians and same-sex attracted women advocacy group
  • Gar'ban'djee'lum Network Community - Indigenous lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, sistergirl and brotherboy Facebook social network group
  • Moolagoo Mob - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group which offers a social support network for those who identify as gay, lesbian or sistergirl.

References

Mann, R., Horsley, P., Saunders, M., Briggs, V. & Mitchell, A., 2006, Swimming upstream: Making places welcoming. A report on the needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in ‘hard to reach’ groups, Melbourne.

Queensland Government, 2012, Engaging Queenslanders: a guide to working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. Department of Communities, Brisbane.

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