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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equalities – challenging assumptions

Research undertaken by the Centre for Research in the Social Sciences (CRISS) into the continuing marginalisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has addressed key issues concerning relationships between LGBT people and state institutions. Findings have helped to shape the development of practice in central government departments, local authorities, housing associations, healthcare and community organisations and voluntary sector associations. As a result there have been significant improvements to the social opportunities and attitudes experienced by LGBT people, as well as further understanding of the prejudice and social erasure issues they face.

Organisational change, resistance and democracy

The Centre ran a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in collaboration with Newcastle University (with Professor Diane Richardson from Newcastle University as Principal Investigator) to track the development and implementation of sexualities equality policies in four local authorities covering a wide range of political, social and cultural demographics. Semi-structured interviews were carried out through a range of community and policy-oriented interventions covering both statutory sector and voluntary/community sector agencies. By generating this detailed data the research provides original insights into the resistance LGBT people experienced from local authority services in addition to providing insightful analysis and new intersectional approaches.

Talking to communities face to face and online

Community and media interest in the project led to further cross-cultural work concerning bisexuality. This follow-on work featured interviews with bisexual and other non-heterosexual people, selected to represent a wide range of ages, ethnicities, class backgrounds, abilities and genders. Researchers also carried out in-depth analysis of relevant online platforms including blogs and websites. The findings showed that individuals who do not fit into heterosexual, gay or lesbian categories face particular challenges concerning identity construction, social marginalisation, community-building and political activism.

Challenging assumptions

The research carried out by the Centre has succeeded in challenging two common assumptions about LGBT communities: firstly, that LGBT people have secured all their rights; and secondly, that bisexual people do not have issues with which policymakers and practitioners should be concerned. By challenging these misconceptions the Centre’s research has influenced policymakers and practitioners throughout the UK and Europe, including the delivery of the keynote address at Against Homophobia in 2010.

Influencing policy and practice

In the UK, findings were drawn on in The Bisexuality Report (2015). Reaching over 20,000 downloads, the report has been disseminated to all central government departments. As a result, government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have invested in training workshops to explore and act upon relevant LGBT issues. These initial workshops led to the development of nationwide DWP training which focused on equality issues for bisexual DWP employees and service users via a combination of awareness sessions, management training and online resources.

This research has also fed into a project about the role of public officials in protecting LGBT people’s basic rights across 19 EU Member States, funded by the Fundamental Rights Agency. This timely project addresses how policy makers and practitioners are addressing the fundamental rights of LGBT people in a wide range of countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France and Greece. It focuses on key duty bearers including public officials, education professionals, law enforcement professionals and health professionals.

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