Community tensions still a significant challenge for LGBTQ people of faith.
LGBTQ people of faith in Brighton and Hove face unique challenges when it comes to experiencing prejudice, isolation and lack of support, according to the findings of recent community engagement by local LGBTQ charity, Switchboard.
The project, commissioned by Brighton & Hove City Council and carried out by Switchboard’s Health and Inclusion Project, found that prejudice and even hate crime from both faith and LGBTQ communities mean that some LGBTQ people of faith are not comfortable being ‘out’ in either setting, contributing to stress, isolation and poor mental health.
“Personally, my faith is as an integral part of me as my gender identity,” a trans participant said. “Sometimes I have felt as though I must choose between the two which results in poor mental health.”
This also creates barriers to reporting or addressing prejudice and hate crime, the research found. Only 4-6% said they would feel comfortable reporting prejudice related to their faith or LGBTQ identity to the police, while some said they would not feel comfortable reaching out to anyone whatsoever for support.
This sense of isolation and division was also reflected in statistics showing that nearly a half found that LGBTQ prejudice kept them from engaging in their faith community either ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’, while more than one in ten said the same about faith prejudice keeping them from fully participating in their LGBTQ communities.
“To my Muslim family I hide my LGBTQ lifestyle and to my LGBTQ friends and to other social circles, I downplay my Muslim identity,” another participant said. “To the non-LGBTQ Muslims in Brighton, I completely hide my true nature.”
Among some of the more damaging forms of prejudice reported through the engagement was the practice of so-called ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapies. Nearly doubling figures released in 2018’s National LGBT Survey, the report found that nearly one in five survey respondents had been offered this, and around half of these had undergone it. Half of these incidents were faith-related, while the remainder came from health and psychological professionals.
“While the engagement revealed positive examples of LGBTQ people of faith leading happy, integrated lives in inclusive faith and LGBTQ communities, unfortunately prejudice and stigma still contribute to particular difficulties for many in this intersectional community,” Switchboard Engagement Officer, Sophie Barnes said. “This project was about uncovering those barriers and identifying positive steps to making Brighton and Hove a place where people can feel safe to be ‘out’ about their sexuality, gender and their faith or belief, and to know they can trust the services there to offer support when that isn’t happening.”
“Switchboard looks forward to continuing to work with the council and the local community sector to address the issues flagged up by this engagement and help improve inclusion of this vibrant and diverse but often-unheard group.”
Read the full report here.