A new study of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the West of Ireland has found that nearly 70% of them have suffered some form of discrimination.
90% felt isolated at times because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The report was commissioned by LGBT West – a consortium of statutory and voluntary service providers in counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, including county councils, rural and city partnership companies and lesbian and gay groups.
50% of those who had experienced discrimination were verbally abused and 20% had been physically attacked.
“The extent and nature of discrimination reported by respondents is of extreme concern,” the report said.
“The impacts of discrimination can range from isolation and social exclusion to psychological distress, unemployment, poverty and a poor quality of life.”
Half of respondents said their health care provider assumed they are heterosexuals.
Levels of drug and alcohol use appear to be higher than the general population – 43% had taken cannabis, 39% ecstasy and 34% cocaine.
The report was launched in Galway yesterday by Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
“Many LGBT people feel isolated and socially excluded,” he said.
“Isolation and social exclusion are linked to poorer health, lower educational attainments, lower economic success and lower degrees of happiness and fulfilment.
“Conversely, embracing diversity is known to have proven effects on the individual and larger community.
“This very important piece of research contains evidence of the realities faced by LGBT people in the region.
“It is my hope that this will result in a more inclusive society here in the West of Ireland, where being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender will no longer result in experiencing discrimination or isolation.
“LGBT people are an important part of our community and it is appropriate that we look at ways of improving their greater participation in our society.”
The report said “the importance of legislating for same sex partners and LGBT families was highlighted by both focus group participants and online respondents.
“The equal recognition of same sex couples with heterosexual couples was seen as an important social change in order to achieve a greater equality for all LGBT people in Ireland.”
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The Irish government published a draft civil partnerships bill in April.
“The report documents the realities faced by LGBT people in the region,” said Ciaran McKinney of LGBT West.
“It provides an evidence-base for policy makers and planners in the region, to ensure that services in health, education and community development are inclusive of lesbian and gay people living in the West of Ireland.
“There has been much progress for lesbian and gay people in Ireland in the past decade.
“This report seeks to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the west of Ireland continue to share in this progress and have the freedom to be visible without fear of harassment or discrimination and where differences in sexual orientation or gender identity are unremarkable.”
The report stated that further research is needed to identify the specific needs of transgender people in the
Information on support services to transgender people and basic information on transgender issues for service providers were also identified as critically needed.
A mix of qualitative and quantitative methods were used including focus groups, an online survey, a written survey of service providers and an analysis of written submissions from two community groups and one individual.
One hundred and thirty-two eligible respondents completed the online survey. Thirty-one people participated in the focus groups. Twenty-nine out of forty‑three services returned completed questionnaires.