Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997 and we now arguably lead the nation in terms of LGBTIQ rights and law reform. However, new research from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change has found that LGBTIQ Tasmanians may experience poorer health, lower incomes, and housing insecurity at higher rates than the wider population.

Of the 2354 Tasmanians surveyed, 159 described themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer. Regardless of gender identity and/or sexual orientation, health, life satisfaction, and the environment are the most important things for Tasmanians’ wellbeing. Similarly, as we work to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, the most common concerns for all Tasmanians are health, income, environment, and jobs.

However, LGBTIQ respondents reported poorer health than the general population, with this decreasing further since COVID-19. In particular, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on LGBTIQ Tasmanians’ mental health, with 31% of LGBTIQ respondents noting this impact, compared with just 13% of non-LGBTIQ respondents. 

Concerningly, despite being younger on average than the rest of the survey respondents, 43% of LGBTIQ Tasmanians surveyed believed that they cannot do the things they want to do because of their health. This suggests that substantial barriers to LGBTIQ wellbeing persist in Tasmania and more targeted support for this group may be necessary. 

LGBTIQ respondents reported poorer health than the general population.

To understand why LGBTIQ Tasmanians report lower levels of wellbeing, we need to consider a range of social factors. We found that LGBTIQ respondents were highly represented in lower income brackets: 32% of LGBTIQ Tasmanians surveyed earned between $0-$18,500 a year, compared with just 15% of non-LGBTIQ respondents. LGBTIQ respondents were also more likely to be unemployed or employed in casual roles. Perhaps subsequently, COVID-19 had a more pronounced impact on LGBTIQ Tasmanians’ jobs. LGBTIQ respondents were more likely to lose hours or lose their jobs entirely during the pandemic. 

These results were likely influenced by the younger age demographic of LGBTIQ survey respondents compared with the rest of participants. However, these findings do show that LGBTIQ Tasmanians may face substantial economic barriers that prevent their equal access to health and social supports, as well as their ability to equally participate in Tasmanian civic life. 

As a marginalised group with possibly lower average incomes, LGBTIQ Tasmanians are especially vulnerable in the current housing crisis. Housing ranked highly for LGBTIQ survey respondents in its importance for wellbeing and as a concern for the future. Notably, LGBTIQ people surveyed expressed greater concern about housing than non-LGBTIQ respondents. LGBTIQ people were much less likely to own their own homes, with 29% renting compared with 14% of non-LGBTIQ respondents. 

Results confirm that LGBTIQ Tasmanians may be more likely to experience housing stress, as 30% of LGBTIQ people surveyed reported spending more than 30% of their income on housing, while just 21% of the wider sample did the same. While housing insecurity is a significant issue facing many Tasmanians in the current market, most non-LGBTIQ respondents felt that if they were ever in trouble, they had relatives or friends they could count on. In contrast, LGBTIQ people surveyed were much more likely to report having no such safety net. LGBTIQ respondents also felt substantially less safe at home than non-LGBTIQ people.

LGBTIQ Tasmanians are especially vulnerable in the current housing crisis.

While the systemic inequalities LGBTIQ people face are well-known, this research importantly confirms that LGBTIQ Tasmanians are especially impacted by broader social issues of poverty, ill-health, and housing stress, and may require specific support in these areas. This data importantly helps us to see the inequalities that LGBTIQ people may experience in Tasmania compared with non-LGBTIQ Tasmanians. Future policy, planning, and service provision addressing healthcare and housing in Tasmania must take the experiences of LGBTIQ people into account for these to be effective.

Read the full report here: https://blogs.utas.edu.au/isc/2021/05/25/what-wellbeing-means-for-lgbtiq-tasmanians/

Dr Ruby Grant is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Tasmania.This article first appeared in The Mercury.

About Dr Ruby Grant

Dr Ruby Grant is an Associate Lecturer and early career researcher in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences. Drawing on inter-sectional feminist philosophies and queer theory, Dr Grant’s research focuses on queer identity politics, sexual citizenship, and gender equity and diversity.

View Dr Ruby Grant's full researcher profile