It is with great pleasure that I am able to introduce the first of many blogs from our Associate Alan Henry. Alan’s work is all about understanding and developing resilience and wellbeing with the LGBT+ community. His knowledge and expertise are invaluable in helping us all to work collaboratively and compassionately together. There will be more from Alan in the coming months as we shape and deliver a co-produced programme with the LGBT+ family.
LGBT+ Pride and Wellbeing: The Bond of Self, Health and Happiness.
As a Gay man who was born in the 60’s, I believe that the Sexual Offences Act (1967) marked a turning point in LGBT+ history and began a modern chronology, against which the effect on the health and happiness of our community can be mapped to further legislation and societal reforms. In reality our validation comes from the benevolence of a social order that bestows an agenda loaded acceptance, one that often disregards our own yearning for equality. Despite there being a consensus among the British public that the LGBT+ community is experiencing greater acceptance, there is evidence of a growing trend in hate crime towards the community. Indeed, we know the number of recorded hate crimes and incidents in the United Kingdom, around sexual orientation, have risen by 70% in the period 2013/17. Viewed against this backdrop, it looks like our yearning is a futile one, so it is timely to consider, are the triumphs for LGBT+ beginning to outweigh the defeats?
As a child at the beginning of this timeline, my experience of gender roles and sexuality is defined by the societal norms of the 1960’s. A seven year old today is a product of reforms which recognise that the wellbeing of children relies crucially on the, “…strength of the supportive bond between parent and child…” (* 1), regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. In the same way, these changes and reforms can influence the qualitative existence of the entire LGBT+ population, especially the elderly, whose needs may be greater than those of their heterosexual counterparts as individual agency is diminished (*2).
“Older LGB adults contend with stigmatization of aging that may be felt as early as middle age, particularly for gay and bisexual men, and have been stereotyped as being lonely, sexless, or sexual in an age-inappropriate manner” (* 3 )
Although ethnographic study of LGBT+ has expanded, research on the resilience and the broader salutogenic processes that could be developed within the community have fallen behind, and there are still areas we do not understand in terms of sustaining a collective long term happiness and sense of wellbeing. As an historically marginalised group, LGBT+ develop coping strategies not only around the general stresses of everyday life, but the more insidious tension of discrimination, internalised homophobia and transphobia, and an expectation of rejection within established relationships. As sexual and gender identities are becoming more fluid, the grey areas in-between the most common categorisations could be understood, by identifying examples of the specific phenomenon that affect the distinct areas of LGBT+ (* 4 ). Perhaps the vehicle for this lies in recognising our own resilience, discovering where it comes from, and finding out what constitutes a meaningful sense of wellbeing across the broad spectrum of human sexual and gender identities. LGBT+ do not embody a homogenous group, nevertheless it is the division and cohesion, and the disparities and the commonalities within the unified struggle, which ultimately unite us.
Our current situation within the LGBT+ community is far from secure, and our new freedoms are fragile and subject to the whims of religious zealots and an international political shift to Right-Wing Conservatism. LGBT+ resilience is tested constantly, and the wellbeing of the universal family will, over the coming months and years, be my primary concern and the focus of the developing research and programme development with grays.
* 1 Books, C.I., Church, M.A. 2013 p.35.
*2 Dickman Potz, J. Retrum, J.H. Wright, L.A. et al, 2014.
* 3 Kertzner et al, 2014, p. 4.
* 4 Wadsworth, L. Hayes-Skelton, S. 2015.