27/02/2012 8:37 am
The case for giving extra support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tenants is well established, but should providers go one step further and set up housing specifically for the group?
In Out of the shadows we look at the experiences of one tenants, and the case for specialist provision.
Stonewall Housing Association chief executive Bob Green then expands on his views in Breaking down barriers.
You'll find both articles and other related resources and links on this week's Focus page, where you can also track the discussion.
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27/02/2012 10:48 am
I've raised elsewhere the issue of 'this group' being made up of three sexualities and one gender so 'this group' is an appalling way to refer to individual people with individual needs. It is as poor as lumping all Black people in with persons with disabilities and then calling them 'this group'. It is offensive.
In response to the specific question, I'm not aware of a specific housing adaptation required to meet the needs of someone's sexuality, nor even gender, so am at a loss as to why the question is asked.
People need support for their individual needs - but this is a social matter not one of bricks and mortar - so yes, society should provide support for those who need it, and that support should be appropraite to people's needs.
27/02/2012 11:22 am
Stonewall Housing is also concerned about whether the Public Sector Equality Duty will achieve what it promises (eliminating discrimination, promoting equality and fostering good relations). The key will be enabling community groups to challenge the equality information and objectives set by public bodies and those carrying out functions on their behalf.
It is true that issues relating to gender identity and sexual orientation can be quite different, hence some organisations do focus on one or the other. However, because trans people have few organisations supporting them, trans people do welcome the support that LGBT organisations offer, and some organisations are clarifying the distinction by using the term LGB&T.
LGBT as a term could have an asterix with a footnote explaining that issues faced by lesbians, gay men and bisexual people can also be quite different and that there are others within the LGBT communities that also need mentioning, for example intersex, those who are questioning their sexual orientation and those who prefer the term Queer.
27/02/2012 4:10 pm
What the groups Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender have in common is that they all face sexual prejudice.
27/02/2012 4:59 pm
I've not come across 'sexual' prejudice before Paul - I recognise Gender prejudice and prejudice against sexuality though.
Words are significant, especially in terms of discrimination.
27/02/2012 5:26 pm
I agree that LGBT people can all face prejudice but terminology does need to be clear. A trans person may be heterosexual and the prejudice they face will be based on their gender identity, which is different from that assigned at birth, and not their sexual orientation.
27/02/2012 6:06 pm
Sorry to sound naive, but what is this case for giving extra support? LGBT people are just normal people. What they need is for people to accept them and, frankly, totally ignore the fact that they are gay, bisexual, transexual, whatever...
Do we have to have a specific type of housing and support package becuase of their sexuality or any other preference? Do we all have to have an interview to be able pigeonhole us into a group? Will 'leg or breast' be making it on to the equalities part of all forms from now on?
27/02/2012 10:13 pm
2/3 of people who contact Stonewall Housing do so because their housing problem is directly related to their sexual orientation or gender identity: because they have been subjected to domestic abuse, harassment or violence.
Ignoring sexual orientation or gender identity will lead to more ignorance rather than acceptance for LGBT people and therefore people will not have their needs met. Support planning is not deciding which pigeonhole to place people in, nor is it seeing everyone as the same, rather it is gaining an understanding of what issues are relevant to each individual.
Stonewall Housing believes that support plans should include reference to sexual orientation and gender identity because these may be a direct cause for people needing to access services. Also, some people may benefit from the development of LGBT-specific services, run by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
28/02/2012 10:58 am
Hi Bob, thanks for the response. This is really going to go anywhere productive, but I felt I should answer.
I still don't see a case there. If a person is a victim of domestic abuse, deal with that, likewise harassment or violence. I just can't see any particular need there; I can't imagine what service a transgender person would require that isn't available to everyone else too. Equally, and I admit to playing devil's advocate here, why have services run by and for LGBT people when there are not services run specifically by and for 'straight' people?
Surely highlighting the 'difference' is what creates the inequality? You're effectively talking about sexual/gender apartheid.
28/02/2012 11:06 am
Perhaps nay-sayers should hold their nays until they have had the opportunity to attend a Stonewall training course (excellent by the way so long as you can find an open mind and listening ear to go along with).
Sexuality prejudice is probably still the last great taboo (try getting people to collect data and you will immediately hear all the 'prejudice' against doing so.) Prejudice should not be seen as a 'dirty trait' but as an education need. Racists do not need abuse, they need educating - it is their views that need challenging. Likewise with those who really can not comprehend the situation for individuals who do not share their sexuality or gender.
Education combats prejudice which reduces fear and hate in response to fear. Well done Stonewall and I for one look forwards to the day when we can look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.
28/02/2012 12:07 pm
Thanks for the kind words Chris about the training. We do find it a challenge to get some agencies to start collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity (especially when the advice from some government departments is that such monitoring is intrusive and unnecessary). We recommend that any monitoring is only introduced following a concerted campaign explaining to staff and clients the reasons for such data collection.
Stonewall Housing believes that many services have been run by and for 'straight' people for too long. By not considering sexual orientation or gender identity many staff and clients can assume that everyone is heterosexual, leaving LGBT people open to discrimination.
LGBT people who experience domestic abuse or harassment have similar issues to others who experience such traumatic events but they also have specific issues that need consideration. For example, if services do not recognise that a young person has been the victim of abuse or leaves their family home because they have came out to their relatives the person may avoid services or services will avoid the issues that need addressed. The young person could become open to further exploitation or fail to develop self-confidence about their sexual orientation which could impact on their prospects for developing personal relationships, finding employment and sustaining a tenancy.
Stonewall Housing believes that it is only by learning about each other and recognising our differences that we will be able to ensure everyone has equality of opportunity and outcomes.
Inside Housing staff post
28/02/2012 12:28 pm
To whom it may concern: LGBT is an umbrella term that includes many people (or alternatively LGBTQQI, or TBGL, etc).
The acronyms have grown out, as I understand it, of a community/communities that have always historically included trans people, but that wasn't always recognised in the language people used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT
28/02/2012 12:34 pm
No problem Bob - I've always found that correctly approached people are happy to disclose, even if the answer is 'prefer not to say' which is totally acceptable.
On the other side, and not uniquely, the response from an 86 year old lady to being asked how she would describe her sexuality was simply 'retired'.
Keep up the good work Bob.
28/02/2012 4:40 pm
I do have to agree with you on the data collection aspect. I recall working for a Local Authority a few years ago whilst they were preparing some kind of mail-out with equality questions in it. They took the decision that they shouldn't ask such questions because there was somehow something potentially 'bad' that could happen by asking. They weren't happy when I suggested that the potential for any one answer to be considered 'bad' indicated a level of prejudice on their part already....
Bob, I concede the point. I think we (I, at least) are often so blasted with talk about Direct discrimination that we forget about the Indirect side of things.
28/02/2012 5:08 pm
I totally agree that 'prefer not to say' has got to be an option in any monitoring form. Only when staff and clients feel safe in any service will they disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity on a monitoring form. Therefore, a lot of work needs to be done persuading staff, clients and management boards about the importance of discovering who their clients and staff are, what their needs are and setting policies in place to make them feel safe.
I accept the point that trans people can feel discriminated against by the very community which they rely on for support. LGBT organisations, and the people within them, need to raise their own awareness and they need to truly reflect the communities they serve so that lesbians, gay men, bisexual people and trans people are all supported fully. As the Inside Housing staff pointed out, LGBT people are not one homogenous group: they are from different backgrounds, with different beliefs and experiences.
Inside Housing staff post
29/02/2012 3:04 pm
Welcome to our live Q&A with Bob Green! He's on hand to answer questions about LGBT housing.
I wanted to begin by bringing in a comment from Twitter by @MichaelNastari, who says:
"I worked I'm older care for 5 years and only met 1 out older LGBT person they were all hidden #LGBThousing"
This pretty much reflects what we found in our feature about supported housing, where Rowena McCarthy talks about going back into the closet when she moved into an Anchor sheltered home: http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenancies/out-of-the-shadows/6520609.article
Bob, have you got any advice for housing providers to make it easier for tenants who are in these examples older and going into supported housing to come out/stay out?
29/02/2012 3:11 pm
The number of older LGBT people approaching Stonewall Housing for advice has been increasing year on year and as the article in Inside Housing mentions, this is why Comic Relief have invested in our organisation to develop the OLder LGBT HOusing Group which we have set up with older LGBT people, housing providers and charities, such as Age UK.
The experience of our clients and those who attend the group has shown that many are fearful to come out in services because they fear a negative reaction from staff and other residents, or that agencies will not undertand their situation.
Organisations need to start by 'coming out' themselves to make their homes and workplaces LGBT-aware so that all feel safe. They need to develop policies to ensure a no-tolerance approach to harassment and incoroprate LGBT through out promotional material and strategies so that staff and clients feel confident that sexual orientation and gender identity is not something to be ashamed of, rather to be celebrated.
29/02/2012 3:18 pm
I'll add on to an earlier point if I may Bob.
I worked for a RSL that was very positive about housing staff asking for all diversity data, set targets and enforced them through 121's even. The Board and Execuctive had been trained (by Stonewall) and training had been rolled out across staff in the data collection context.
All so good so far.
Two questions I asked had no answer:
What are we going to do with all of this data, and why is there only one openly non-hetrosexual member of staff in this 2,500 strong company?
No plan was in place other than to point to the Audit Commission and say, look at all the data we have got. Staff were (justly in my opinion) hesitant to be open, even in staff surveys, about their sexuality for fear it would effect career development.
How common is this situation across the sector still (I'm thinking back some years, hence the 'Commission' reference) and what can be done to ensure good practice becomes embedded and meaningful working experience?
29/02/2012 3:23 pm
How we analyse the monitoring data we collect is just as important as collecting it. Organisations may not even have a strategy about how to analyse the ethnicity data they collect.
Monitoring has got to tell a story about an organisation: where it is at and where it is going to go. Monitoring should not be done for the sake of ticking a box.
One question that some organisations could dare to ask in the future is if LGBT people feel safe to be 'out' at work or where they live. That will give a true picture about how welcoming organisations are.
Inside Housing staff post
29/02/2012 3:29 pm
Ohh, another point from Michael, who's tweet I mentioned earlier:
"@bobwgreen what about people that say its segregation and we should be just be more inclusive less specific"
Is it a case of doing both at once? Particularly vulnerable people are still likely to appreciate specialist housing - but there's also a need to make sure social landlords aren't tolerating discrimination and abuse?
One thing raised in this report from Scotland a few years ago: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/safeandsecure.pdf Is that many tenants didn't feel safe in reporting harassment to their housing association. Then, as Chris reports above, it's very likely that there are lots of people working for associations who are in the closet at work themselves. That's an issue that goes beyond specialist provision, doesn't it?