Sex, sexuality and gender diverse

Research indicates that gender identity and sexuality (also known as 'GLBTIQQ' - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning) may be a risk factor for suicide and self-harm. It should be noted that this research is limited (Department of Health: Research and evidence) and contains some methodological issues (e.g. treating 'GLBTIQQ' as one group in research on mental health and suicide risk).

People working with anyone from this population should understand that an individual’s sex, gender and sexuality identity can be complex. An individual may identify with a defined sexual orientation, but behave in a manner which contradicts that orientation. For example, someone who identifies as same-sex attracted may have intimate relationships with men and women. Additionally, it is important to remember that sex, gender and sexuality is only one aspect of anyone’s personality. This means that a wide range of other characteristics and experiences are influential risk and protective factors (Suicide Prevention Australia, 2009).

The Commonwealth response to The hidden toll: suicide in Australia report reiterates the LIFE Framework's recognition that sex, gender and sexuality diversity (SSGD) people are a risk group.

One reason for this risk may be that it is not uncommon for people who identify with SSGD to experience an acute sense of isolation, worthlessness and hopelessness (Johnson, Faulkner, Jones & Welsh, 2007) each of which have been identified as risk factors for suicide (Department of Health: Research and evidence).

Estimates regarding suicidality for those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender (GLBT) vary considerably; ranging from 2.5 (King and colleagues, 2008)  to 6.3 times (LGBT Advisory Committee, 2011) greater risk than those who identify as heterosexual. Recent research (Friedrikson-Goldsen and colleagues, 2010Moon, Fornilli, O’Briant, 2007; Steele and colleagues, 2009) suggests that people who are bisexual are at considerably greater risk than those who are lesbian or gay.

Additionally, risk exists outside of people who have clearly defined their sexuality as non-heterosexual. A study (Espelage, Aragon, Birkett & Koenig, 2008) that surveyed 14, 000 students in US secondary schools found that those who were questioning their sexual orientation and experienced homophobic teasing were at even greater risk than their peers who identified as GLBT.

Services that target this group are encouraged to apply to for the funding through the Community Prevention activities for high risk groups component of the Mental Health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package.

There are a range of programs that seek to prevent suicide and promote emotional and social wellbeing for SSGD, you can view these on our links page. You will also find further information on the issues for SSGD and suicide in our library (using search terms such as 'bisexual', 'gay', etc).

Key organisations

The following are some organisations that represent sex, sexuality and gender diversity.

ACON
ACON is the largest community-based sex, sexuality and gender diverse organisation within Australia. Based in NSW, they promote the health and wellbeing of the SSGD community, including those affected by HIV.  

Gay and Lesbian Counselling and Community Services of Australia
The Gay and Lesbian Counselling and Community Services of Australia represents the state and territory based Gay and Lesbian Counselling Services. Information about some of the services within each state and territory can be accessed via this service.

Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby are an advocacy group that represent the rights and interests of same sex attracted men and women.

National LGBTI Health Alliance
The National LGBTI Health Alliance was formed by a number of organisations across Australia that provide services and information (including research) that target sex, sexuality and gender diverse people. They work collaboratively to improve the health and wellbeing of people who identify as sex, sexuality and gender diverse.

Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Australia is a community-based support group for family and friends of people who identfy as same sex attracted. Local groups run around Australia, visit this site to find out about locations..

Same Sex Attracted Youth
The Same Sex Attracted Youth website is for same sex attracted and transgender young people, their friends and families as well as those who work with young people who identify as sex, sexuality and gender diverse. As such a wealth of resources can be found there for both the general public and professionals.