While most men who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives (according to Beyond Blue), many encounter challenges that can trigger serious mental health issues.
Studies have found non-heterosexual people face up to twice as much abuse or violence (including physical, mental, sexual or emotional) than their heterosexual counterparts.
Some patterns reported by Beyond Blue include:
In an Australian survey of LGBTI people, around 60 per cent of transgender males reported having depression.
Gay and bisexual men are more likely to experience depression and anxiety conditions, and younger men are at a higher risk of depression than older gay men.
Gay men living with HIV have lost relationships, social support networks and careers.
Bisexual men also reported higher rates of depression than same-sex attracted people.
Transgender and gender diverse people experienced a greater number of different types of discrimination.
Sources of psychological stress for intersex people included confusion about sexual identity and gender roles, as well as treatment issues such as “surgery at a young age, surgery without informed consent, and lack of disclosure from parents and health carers.”
The Australian Department of Health calls out bullying, discrimination from school, family, friends and workplaces, rejection and harassment as key areas adversely affecting LGBTI people.
Five years ago, the Australian Human Rights Commission said up to 11 in 100 Australians may have a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. 80% of homophobic bullying occurred at school and 47% of trans men experienced verbal abuse, double the figure for gay men.
John Hopkins Medicine lists gender specific health issues facing gay and bisexual men.
For example, intimate partner violence takes many forms (physical and emotional abuse) and, for men “includes threatening to “out” the victim to his family, friends and co-workers.”
Men may be reluctant to report abuse or seek help because they fear that revealing their sexual orientation to others will put them at greater risk.
Gay and bisexual men are more likely to drink more alcohol, self-medicate, use illicit drugs and smoke more heavily, often as a way of dealing with the stress of discrimination. Certain drugs like highly addictive crystal meth increases the risk of unsafe sex and HIV transmission.
Studies published in February 2019 reported that men who identified as gay, bisexual or ‘other’ faced a greater risk of being under weight, compared with heterosexual men.
Being underweight is linked to osteoporosis, a weakened immune system and a reduced life expectancy.
Young gay and bisexual men tend to see themselves as overweight, despite being healthy or underweight, and were more likely to use weight-control strategies, such as fasting and using laxatives, to lose weight than heterosexual men.
A 2019 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that gay fathers and their children continued to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma.
Gay men reported suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who had not chosen parenthood.
They also experienced barriers in adopting children and isolation in their role as parents. Those who had moved out of a heterosexual relationship were challenged by maintaining custody or obtaining legal parenting rights for a new spouse.
Diversity and inclusion: open for all
Many organisations shun discrimination of any sort in the workplace and schools are expected to monitor the health and wellbeing of all children under their care, tackling bullying, including online abuse, and other forms of harassment.
But what can you do to ensure people of diverse sexual orientation are made to feel welcome, safe and valued?
One dad, who happens to be a best-selling author, wrote and illustrated a children’s book that challenged gender stereotypes after his young son Colin returned home from childcare one day completely distraught because he had been bulled for having an Elsa doll.
Colin said he wanted to dress up as his Elsa doll to go to the cinema so father Scott Stuart joined him. The experience led to the book, My Shadow is Pink, about a young boy, born with a pink shadow that loves princess, dresses & "things not for boys". It is being made into a five-minute animated short film.
On October 2, eight peak Australian sporting bodies committed to landmark trans and gender diverse inclusion measures that support a greater level of inclusion for trans and gender diverse people in their sports.
The Pride in Sport initiative highlighted data from the National LGBTI Health Alliance, which stated that trans and gender diverse adults were nearly 11 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population, with 35% of trans and gender diverse adults having attempted suicide in their lifetime.
“International research concludes that trans and gender diverse people are much less likely to participate in sport due to fear of transphobic discrimination from other players, coaches and club officials.”
What types of challenges do males who are gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex face?
Take this question to your International Men’s Day get-togethers before, on or after International Men’s Day on November 19, 2020.
Let’s get Australia talking about men!