The Birmingham Pride festival will be held over the weekend of Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th September 2021 to recognise and celebrate LGBTQ+ life. Will any Carers who belong to the LGBTQ+ community be going along?
Sadly, LGBT Carers can be overlooked. Pride festivals and celebrations are a helpful reminder to challenge perceptions and assumptions all around us, both in how public services can become more inclusive but also in the way we engage with each other in the LGBTQ+ community.
What’s it like to be a LGBTQ+ Carer? Isn’t it just the same as for other Carers?
Research indicates that Carers who identify as LGBT often worry that the public services that they have to engage with may not be LGBT+ friendly. They may also feel uncomfortable about ‘coming out’ and telling professionals about their relationship.
The Carers Trust found that:
- 83% of young adult LGBT+ carers experienced bullying at school/college
- 88% experience mental health problems
- 31% feel that they are treated differently because of their sexual identity
“I am a carer for both my elderly parents and so is my sister. Believe me when I say she does a remarkable job assisting my parents with day-to-day caring tasks, on top of her care worker and parental roles. However, there is an expectation that I will do this on the part of my parents as I am gay and do not have the same commitments as my sister, i.e. children, despite the fact that I am married to my husband, have a mortgage and two animals so I have financial commitments like anyone else.
LGBT+ people, historically, have had an expectation upon them to assume the caring role due to their perceived freer lives and in some cases an idea of different, “less important” lives. There’s also sometimes a perception of being a “natural carer” (another assumption), and having fewer responsibilities. This last can be an assumption on the part of siblings; I have heard it said that, “I have children and a job, and you don’t have children so you are better for the caring role.
I have discussed these assumptions with LGBT+ carers over the years and many have commented that they have experienced a bias towards assuming they are better at caring due to their sexuality. This assumption is often unfair, but I want to highlight that in many cases like any other carer we do it for love and family connection.”
Tony said that another issue that often comes up within the community is acceptance and understanding if a person needs to reside in a care home.
“LGBT+ people have sometimes faced discrimination when dealing with care homes – either from the home not being inclusive enough, or through hostility from individual workers disapproving of someone due to their sexuality or gender identification.”
Another Carer Ruth said,
“Professionals can make inaccurate or inappropriate judgements about our relationship. Sometimes hospital staff assume that I am Sonia’s care worker and not her wife so I have to make it clear.”
“I do feel there is a difference when caring for someone within the LGBT+ community. Of course, a carer is a carer, no matter who you are or where you fit into society, and as I have always championed carers are the backbone of this country.
But LGBT+ people do it slightly differently, due to external factors that other people do not experience. Some of us have had to develop our own families and support networks because our birth families pushed us away, sometimes because we are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, blood families assume we have a less complicated life and should therefore take on the caring role, no questions asked or very little debate or negotiation. Opportunities for care and support, housing or supported care can be fewer and daunting due to prejudices and a lack of understanding.
Despite these challenges, we carers share so much. Being a carer for anyone is a huge commitment, amazing but tiring, rewarding but difficult and the people we look after just need care and love, and that’s something that we all have in common.”
Birmingham LGBT can support individuals or groups of LGBT people as part of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme. Birmingham LGBT runs the Ageing Better LGBT Hub, which can provide practical support, access to finance and promotion of LGBT groups and activities, so that 50+ LGBT people can have a wider range of options for socialising and making new friends.