Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (GLBTIQ) people in Australian society face unique challenges and issues in their everyday lives, based purely on their inherent sexuality and identity, and the lack of legal and social equality. Members of the GLBTIQ community live as part of a minority group of Australians. Therefore GLBTIQ people who in addition come from culturally diverse backgrounds could be described as being people who live as a further minority within a minority group.
The barriers that many culturally and linguistically diverse GLBTIQ people face are significant. They are often shunned by their own families and communities; only then to discover that racism and intolerance is often as rampant within the gay and lesbian community as it is within the broader community. Unfortunately there are very few avenues of support and understanding for people living these experiences. However, in Australia over the past decade or so, a number of culturally based GLBTIQ groups have formed of their own accord. In Victoria alone there are now at least 20 groups representing over 34 cultures. These groups have traditionally formed to provide social support to GLBTIQ people living with the often unique issues of coming from a diverse cultural background. These groups provide an important ongoing support and developmental role within the gay and lesbian community.
This is the published recommendations from the "Living and Loving in Diversity" Conference held in October 2004. The recommendations arose from the papers presented and the plenary sessions of the Conference, particularly the Final Plenary facilitated by Shanton Chang, and therefore represent the collective experience of the Conference participants within the wider community. The recommendations were then compiled and prepared by Shanton Chang for distribution and publication on the AGHMC website, and have been prepared for this journal by Demetry Apostle.
As you will see, the recommendations are understandably generic in parts. Further explorations with established and emerging multicultural GLBTIQ communities and allies along with the wider communities, government bodies, and the GLBTIQ lobbies are needed to further explore the issues and concepts discussed below.
Recommendations - General
* There is a need for a more in depth understanding of identities within the GLBTIQ community. In particular, to understand the intersections between issues of race, culture, religion, class, disabilities, spirituality, age, sexualities and genders.
* There is a need for BOTH the GLBTIQ and Ethnic communities to address issues on internalised homophobia AND racism and the intersection therein.
* There is a need to challenge the association of particular cultures and religions with inherent homophobia.
Intersectional discrimination is not a new concept. It represents the international human rights system as enshrined by the United Nations and has a long tradition of recognising one form of discrimination over another. Although aspects of our identities, such as our gender, our ethnicity, our race, our sexuality, are indivisible, historically, the human rights system has formally recognised discrimination on the basis of only one factor, rather than a combination of several factors1.
For members of the GLBTIQ community, it means that the way they experience life in Australia is affected by their sexuality, and other factors including race, gender, class, ethnicity, ability, age, language, religious beliefs, and political beliefs. As each of these factors commonly leads to discrimination in our society, persons who identify as GLBTIQ may experience a different style of discrimination due to one or more of these aspects of their identity both within the GLBTIQ community and in "mainstream" communities.
Discrimination on any one of these grounds can violate a person's human rights, but very often it is a combination of these factors that contribute to a human rights violation2.
The conference highlighted that for many within communities, discrimination and lack of understanding by service providers may arise from the lack of information about particular ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but also the way in which sexualities may be expressed within those backgrounds. There is also a need to challenge fundamentalist/outspoken religions that promote inherent homophobia.
* The need to work on the sense of separation and isolation that still exists within our communities. "Are there others like me?"
* Educators, the media and GLBTIQ community leaders have to take care not to use images that reinforce racial generalisations and stereotypes.
There is recognition by conference participants that for many young people, there is a lack of role models, thereby increasing their sense of isolation. This is particularly true amongst young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds where there is even less access to GLBTIQ mentors or role models in the media who are from their own backgrounds. This is important particularly in ethnic communities that revere and respect people who are in such prominent positions.
Additionally, images that are used by the media and educators may not assist if they only serve to reinforce existing stereotypes that are invalid, negative and held rigidly.
Further, health educators are generally guided by social marketing researchers in deciding what images may or may not be used. Social marketing is a complex area, provides a framework for health promotion and education campaigns. Therefore, more research has to be done in the area to better understand the issues set out by these recommendations.
Recommendations Government Bodies
Governments need to be proactive, in particular with hate crimes, and also re- examine their profiling activities that are racially based.
* There is a need for considerations to be given to the possibility of intersectional discrimination when setting up compliance standards; focus is required on multilingual, individual complaint processes in terms of access to services.
* A relationship of trust has to be established between government bodies, service providers and the multicultural community.
1. "The formal equality discourse in the human rights field tends to isolate racism from sexism and other forms of discrimination," Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Intersectionality of Race and Gender in the Asia-Pacific, paper prepared for the Asia Regional Preparatory Meeting, February 2001.
2. "Everyday Intersections of Gender and Race Discrimination: What do we mean by 'Intersectional Discrimination'?, Women's Rights Action Network Australia (WRANA), 2003.
The above recommendations refer to the way government bodies (e.g. Police, Customs, Human Services etc.) may profile various ethnic communities. The conference calls for more considered and sophisticated understanding by these bodies of the communities they seek to serve.
Additionally, government bodies need to consider the accessibility of their services and processes (including reporting and complaints) by individuals from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds, especially in light of the challenges that may arise due to intersections of identities.
There is a need to understand issues beyond the language barriers that may exist. The format in which the services are delivered may not be culturally appropriate. These are crucial considerations for establishing trust between the multicultural community and service providers. Service providers and government bodies can achieve this by engaging more closely with the ethnic communities and the multicultural GLBTIQ community. In addition, it is important that service providers and government bodies ensure that they themselves, within their constituencies/boards, mirror the communities they seek to serve.
* Commission ethnographic research on the relationship between migration and sexuality.
* Commission research to enhance understanding about the non-consensual surgical practices on newborn babies with respect to gender assignment.
An increase in research knowledge is crucial so as to enrich our understanding of the needs of the GLBTIQ community. Such ethnographic research should endeavour to engage the Multicultural GLBTIQ communities through the entire process (pre-during & post). The engaging process must involve the full participation of these communities in areas under study.
Research into both areas highlighted is needed because of the marked lack of understanding within the wider communities about the issues involved. Yet, the lack of information in these areas has huge impacts on the lives of particular members of the GLBTIQ communities. This is especially so when decisions are made without adequate research and information about implications, impacts and lifestyle choices.
Policy Recommendations Community Practitioners
* Push for increased funding for groups educating CALD communities about issues of sexualities. It is important that the groups who will/are educating are mirrors of those communities that they say they represent.
* Education may need to focus on behaviours and identities of individuals within communities.
* Diversity management competency of social workers needs to be increased.
* A Working Party on Diversity Competencies should be formed which includes practitioners, researchers and members of the multicultural GLBTIQ community.
There is a need for GLBTIQ service providers to reach out to CALD communities more widely and to engage in more depth about the issues that they are struggling with.
A network needs to be started to discuss the types of diversity and cultural competencies needed when working as service providers. There is an urgent need to provide infrastructure to support initiatives such as these within the GLBTIQ community. This network should have a mix of both academia and grass roots community groups - not just academia.
Recommendations - The GLBTIQ Lobby
* The lobby has to continue to challenge racism within the GLBTIQ community and beyond, in the mainstream. This can only happen through engagement with the multicultural GLBTIQ community. This includes coming to forums such as those held by the AGMC to understand the intersections better. This means that lobby groups and AIDS Councils MUST work beyond sending tokenistic gestures "You're multicultural, you can do it. The rest of us have more important things to do." The fact that an organisation can allot the Multicultural aspect to only one of its members indicates the failing of these organisations to understand and to mirror the communities they seek to serve. This can lead to disengagement from many parts of the ethnic communities within the GLBTIQ community.
* The continued need to monitor and oppose the religious fundamental right's propagation of hate.
* That GLBTIQ events such as Mardi Gras and Midsumma need to be culturally aware and responsive. There should be no imposition of colonial perspectives on what is queer and how queer one must be. An urgent need for the GLBTIQ community to understand what prevents ethnic members from entering the "mainstream" gay scene.
* A concerted effort needs to be made for parents/ relatives who have children who are GLBTIQ. Organisations such as PFLAG need to be proactive so that their outreach service is culturally appropriate.
* Education campaigns for the wider community - educational institutions, community councils and local councils.
* Academic and Research Networks to discuss research into sexualities and identities. There is a need to make such research accessible to communities.
The conference calls on GLBTIQ organisations that take public and leadership roles to sign a covenant that states:
* their total support in nurturing the diversity within the GLBTIQ community
* that they abhor discrimination in any form
* what they would do within their core structures to address these issues
The conference calls on the GLBTIQ organisations to avoid tokenistic gestures without actual and informed engagement with the multicultural community. For example, access and outreach does not mean just translating information. Whilst translations are a small step forward they are certainly not enough in reaching out to the multicultural community because the tone of the message, the cultural context of the message, and the symbolic meanings of the message may not be easily translated across cultures.
Recommendations - Ethnic Communities, Councils and Multicultural Organisations
* The need for education campaigns in multicultural organisations around sexuality.
* Ethnic Communities Councils/ Multicultural Organisations should work against discrimination against age, disability, a nd sexua I orientation. Sexua lities should be included in Constitutions/ Terms of Reference/ legal documents/ Mission Statements as an unacceptable basis for discrimination in all Ethnic Communities Councils/ Multicultural Organisations.
* Commission ethnographic research on the relationship between migration and sexuality.
* The need to work with ethnic media and to promote multicultural GLBTIQ activities
AGMC Inc and multicultural GLBTIQ groups acknowledge that it is still very difficult to come out within ethnic communities. There is an urgent need for Ethnic Communities Councils to acknowledge this difficulty as well and to put in place processes which can assist members of their communities
It is crucial that peak multicultural leaders create an environment whereby diverse individuals and communities who identify as GLBTIQ are treated with the same respect that is given to other members of their communities. Leaders within these organisations should not have to feel intimidated by other conservative board members when they demonstrate real leadership in GLBTIQ Multicultural issues.
Funding to GLBTIQ multicultural/ ethnic communities needs to be substantial. In the past there has been limited funding. Whilst recognising the competitive
nature of the funding grants, organisations that are responsible for giving out grants need to understand that these issues have not been resourced enough and are important.
Grants should be given on the basis of what they are trying to achieve in bringing about greater understanding and acceptance for its members, regardless of the issue. Federal/ State & Local Government Multicultural Representatives need to demonstrate true respect and harmony for all diversity "types'!
Dr Shanton Chang is a Senior Lecturer in Change Management and Information Systems at The University of Melbourne. His research areas include young people's online, information security, intercultural interaction and cross-cultural differences in management. He also initiated, produced and presented Orange Ribbon", JOY 94.9 FM's multicultural program for seven years.
Demetry joined the AGMC shortly after migrating with his partner to Australia from the United States four years ago. He is a Relationship Counsellor and Coordinator of LGBTI Programs for a community based organization in Melbourne. Additionally, he is completing is Ph.D. in Psychology; focusing on the effects of internalized homonegativity in same-sex relationships.…