13 Aug Seeking Safer Spaces
SEEKING SAFER SEXUAL SPACES: QUEER AND TRANS YOUNG PEOPLE LABELLED WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES AND THE PARADOXICAL RISKS OF RESTRICTION
WHY THIS RESEARCH IS IMPORTANT
Understanding sexual experiences, knowledge and needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth labelled with intellectual disability is a new area of research. The authors of the article found a need to understand how social and environmental factors influence the sexual health and well-being of these youth.
The term “labelled with intellectual disability” is used because people are given the label by another person and may not see themselves as intellectual disabled.
Two common myths that are challenged in this research about people labelled with intellectual disability are that:
- They don’t have sexual needs and desires.
- They don’t identify as LGBT.
1 RULES AND RESTRICTIONS LIMIT THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE SEXUAL DESIRES
Like everyone else, LGBT youth labelled with intellectual disability crave sexual and romantic relationships. However, their living arrangements typically have rules and routines to follow. These rules are set by parents and service providers assisting in the youths’ residence. So, the youth have limited personal space and time to explore their sexual desires alone or with a partner.
2 RULES AND RESTRICTIONS CAN LEAD TO FEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR SAFE SEX
LGBT youth labelled with intellectual disability felt most comfortable and safest having sex in their or their partner’s place of residence. However, the rules typically do not allow for this. Instead, the youth were having sex in bathhouses, streets, parks, and a variety of public spaces. Enforcing restrictions can contribute to risky sexual behaviours. Leading to less physical safety during sex, limited opportunity to make healthy decisions, less privacy, and less opportunity for safe sex behaviours.
3 RULES AND RESTRICTIONS WON’T STOP SEX AND SEXUAL DESIRES
Despite the restrictions on their sexual desires, the LGBT youth labelled with intellectual disability stated they will continue to have sex and explore their sexual identities. The restrictions that are meant to protect and guide the youth seem to be having the opposite effect.
Supporting LGBT youth labelled with intellectual disability to take control over their lives is a key message. Focusing on sex-positive messages and being respectful of the youth and their relationship choices could lead to safer sex behaviors in safer environments. Improving training and resource material for support workers, social workers, and residential group home staff could improve sexual health behaviors and outcomes for LGBT youth labelled with intellectual disability.
McClelland, A., Flicker, S., Nepveux, D., Nixon, S., Vo, T., Wilson, C., Marshall, Z., Travers, R., & Proudfoot., D. (2012). Seeking safer sexual spaces: Queer and trans young people labeled with intellectual disabilities and the paradoxical risks of restriction. Journal of Homosexuality, 59 (6), 808-819.