Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people run the risk of discrimination and harassment on a daily basis. This discrimination could be based on sexual orientation (who one is attracted to); gender identity (how one defines oneself, irrespective of biological sex), gender expression (how one dresses, styles hair or make-up), or sex characteristics (one's reproductive organs, genitals, chromosomes, or hormone levels.) (Anmensty International) Discrimination comes in many forms; from name-calling and bullying, to being denied a job or appropriate healthcare. The range of unequal treatment faced is extensive and damaging, and can also be life-threatening.
Prejudices and misconceptions about homosexuality and transgender people, usually stemming from fear, ignorance, or religious dogma, further fuel intolerant attitudes and behaviour towards this community.
Gender identity and sexual orientation continue to be used as justifications for serious human rights violations around the world. Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 72 countries, and is punished by death in 8 countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Some countries only criminalize sex between men but more and more countries have expanded their laws to include bisexual and lesbian women.
Although most western countries have decriminalized homosexuality between consenting adults, adhering to the UN Human Rights Council resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, many LGBTIQ individuals cannot be themselves in their daily lives. Many hide their identity and live in isolation or even fear. Others experience discrimination, and often violence when being themselves. In many instances the fear of coming out and being discriminated against leads to a myriad of mental health issues. LGBTIQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely to experience depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse. According to Amnesty International, in some nations where homosexuality has been decriminalized, LGBTIQ people can still face violence, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture.
Sometimes, hostility directed at LGBTIQ people comes from their own governments, i.e. the state-sponsored “gay purge” campaign in Chechnya that led to the abduction, torture, and killing of gay men; homophobic and violent rhetoric from politicians and clerics in Indonesia and many other countries; attacks on LGBTI campaigners and arrests of hundreds of consenting adults in raids on hotels and clubs; recent rollbacks on LGBTIQ rights in places like the U.S. under the administration of President Donald Trump; countless examples of police brutality in the LGBTIQ community throughout the world; the lack of justice from governments in regards to LGBTIQ victim’s families in places like Bangladesh; and the overall lack of protections in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Even where these restrictive laws are not actually enforced, the existence of them reinforces prejudice against LGBTIQ people, leaving them feeling like they have no protection against harassment, blackmail and violence.
There are varying statistics relating to discrimination against LGBTIQ communities in countries where it has been decriminalized.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission:
- 34% of LGBTI people hide their sexuality or gender identity when accessing services, 42% at social and community events and 39% at work. Young people aged 16 to 24 years are most likely to hide their sexuality or gender identity.
- 61% of LGBTI young people report experiencing verbal homophobic abuse, 18% physical homophobic abuse, and 9% other types of homophobia including cyberbullying, graffiti, social exclusion and humiliation.
- 80% of homophobic bullying involving LGBTI young people occurs at school and has a profound impact on their well-being and education.
- Transgender males and females experience significantly higher rates of non-physical and physical abuse compared with lesbians and gay men.
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are three times more likely to experience depression compared to the broader population.
- Around 61% of same-sex attracted and gender-questioning young people said they experienced verbal abuse because of their sexuality, while 18% reported experiencing physical abuse. Young men (70%) and gender-questioning young people (66%) were more likely than young women (53%) to experience verbal abuse.
And according to the Center for American Progress, among people who experienced sexual orientation- or gender-identity-based discrimination in the past year:
- 68.5% reported that discrimination at least somewhat negatively affected their psychological well-being.
- 43.7% reported that discrimination negatively impacted their physical well-being.
- 47.7% reported that discrimination negatively impacted their spiritual well-being.
- 38.5% reported discrimination negatively impacted their school environment.
- 52.8% reported that discrimination negatively impacted their work environment.
- 56.6% it negatively impacted their neighborhood and community environment.