Britain’s 400,000 black and minority ethnic people who are also lesbian, gay or bisexual are not having their needs met by public services.
That’s the main finding of a report by leading gay campaign organization Stonewall and the Runnymede Trust – released today (13 August).
Although based on just 50 in-depth interviews, it reveals a consistent picture that black or Asian people are assumed to be straight – and that results in poorer-quality public services, from healthcare to policing.
One interviewee, identified only as ‘Seiki’ aged 47, says in the report: ‘I think that I can either be gay or I can be South Asian, or I can be a Hindu. The fact that I can be all three becomes very difficult for people to comprehend.’
The survey also found particular problems in education. Black and minority ethnic gay pupils feel they can’t talk about their sexuality and even some gay parents are frightened to come out to their children’s teachers.
One example also highlighted a common problem where people only wanted to tackle ‘one minority at a time’.
‘Jack’, aged 40, says in the report: ‘I was invited into a school last month to give a talk. They said they needed black role models to come in, I thought ok but if I come in to talk about myself I’ve got to talk about my sexuality. They said: “Well, we’re not really sure we want to deal with that yet, so could you not talk about it?”’
The report also says that black and minority ethnic people are less likely to report anti-gay hate crime, even though they are more likely to be a victim of a physical attack.
Many in the report say police use stop and search powers disproportionately against ethnic minorities and that appears to reduce their trust in law enforcement.
And the study highlights the media as underrepresenting lesbian, gay and bisexual black and minority ethnic people.
In healthcare, staff tend to assume ethnic minority people are straight. Because of the poorly-directed services on offer, some back away from using them altogether, potentially damaging their health.
‘Chloe’, 36, said: ‘All the services they offered me were church based because I am black so religion was meant to help me. I wasn’t offered any help for my sexuality. They were trying to get rid of it.’
Meanwhile Stonewall has also released a briefing on the health of black and minority ethnic gay people in Britain today.
It reveals that black and minority ethnic lesbian, gay and bisexual people are far more likely to smoke, drink and take drugs than the general population.
And, shockingly, more than three-quarters of ethnic minority gay young people have thought about committing suicide.
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: ‘Gay black people contribute more than £4.5billion ($7billion €4.5billion) in taxes to fund public services, but are systematically failed by service providers.’