Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender & Inter-sex clients: How do I provide support?

There are some important things we can do to increase the safety of people from LGBTI communities who are experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence.

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There are a number of things we can do to respond well to our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Inter-sex (LGBTI) clients. There are things that we can do at the level of the organisation to develop inclusive practices to ensure a safe environment for disclosure, things we can do around safety planning to recognise the diverse relationships in which violence occurs and things we can do to connect our clients with the support they want. For referral to specialist support services in your area see our Services & support map.

Good practice responses

Risk frameworks

Risk frameworks are a structured and systematic approach to understanding and assessing risk. A reisk framework incorporates screening and safety planning and should be used when violence is suspected or reported. Risk assessments form part of integrated family and domestic violence systems. These systems are largely focussed on violence against women and so we need to expand upon these practices in order to work inclusively. See our Risk Frameworks page to learn more and access the risk assessment tool.

The LGBTI community faces some increased risks when experiencing violence.

Things that can increase risk:

  • Our clients might not tell us immediately that they are experiencing violence in an LGBTI relationship
  • A lack of information that identifies violence or controlling behaviours in LGBTI relationships as sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Information often focusses on relationships between a man and a woman
  • Experiences of fear and shame: including the ways in which not being publicly ‘out’ about sexuality, gender, identity, HIV/health status could be used as control
  • The fear of being isolated from the LGBTI community, or blamed for violence 
  • Discrimination against non-offending parents when children are involved
  • Financial discrimination that makes accessing shared financial resources of an LGBTI couple more difficult or impossible
  • A well-founded fear of nowhere to go that is safe and culturally appropriate

Safety planning is a way to think about and develop a plan of action with someone experiencing domestic or family violence. Safety planning checklists help us talk about practical actions; however, our clients are the experts and they will have ideas about how to increase safety in their particular situation. Some things to consider when working with LGBTI clients are:

  • Safety planning that incorporates maintenance of culture: developing safety plans that allow people to stay connected to culture, attend events and be part of their community while putting in place strategies for increasing safety
  • When safety planning, it is important to keep in mind that LGBTI communities are small communities, so although it is important to stay connected to community it is sometimes necessary to stay away from particular places such as LGBTI bars, clubs, events and other meeting places and to stay off dating phone apps.  
  • The need to make sure your client takes a supply of Transgender related medications, HIV medications and other necessary meds. They will also need to take with them their script and even consider changing the location they collect their medications from, as these tend to be on a set/predictable roster.
  • Look into safe crisis accommodation options for men, intersex and transgendered clients that are safe and will not exclude them, as almost all DV refuges will only take cis-gendered women. Men may have to access homelessness or other crisis accommodation. For transgendered clients, some organisations may explicitly exclude them from accessing their service.
  • Safety planning checklist
  • Family violence safety planning checklist
  • Safety planning for women with disabilities

Inclusive service provision

There are many things we can do to develop inclusive practice.

Some people who identify as LGBTI have a well-founded fear of discrimination when approaching a mainstream service. The following are some examples of homophobic, transphobic and heterosexist responses.

Homophobia is discrimination against a person because they identify as lesbian gay or bi-sexual. This can include:

  • Denying access to services based on identity or sexuality – consider raising questions about your organisation’s policies on this and any exemptions your organisation has from the Anti-Discrimination Act
  • Providing inappropriate responses focussing on identity and sexuality rather than the situation, or
  • ignoring gender and sexuality and feeding into stereotypes, or making generalisations and assumptions
  • A failure to recognise violence in LGBTI relationships or calling it something else

Hetero-sexism refers to the practice of presuming a heterosexual identity. Heterosexist responses might include:

  • Using language that presumes a person’s partner is of the opposite sex
  • Using language that refuses to recognise a person’s stated identity
  • Fewer partner or parental rights at law
  • Presuming that an LGBTI person has the same rights at law
  • A failure to recognise and respond in ways that are respectful of culture and connection to community

Transphobia and other gender-based phobia is discrimination against a person whose gender identity is different to what was assumed at birth. Gender-based discrimination may include:

  • Not using a person’s preferred pronoun or not referring to their preferred gender
  • Making overt or subtle comments about how a person should look/act to conform to a particular gender
  • Assuming the sexuality of a transgendered/intersex person
  • Assuming the gender and/or sexuality of a person’s partner
  • Denying access to services based on gender or gender identity
  • Differentiating between pre and post-operative transgendered people
  • Restricting access to transgender medications

Checklist for improving inclusion

How to improve organisational practice:

  • Identifying and addressing homophobic, transphobic and heterosexist responses
  • Data collection – identifying the number of LGBTI people accessing your service and including on intake a gender option other than just ‘F’ and ‘M’
  • Good practice –  identifying which services are currently offered to and used by LGBTI communities including organisational capacity
  • Committing to, establishing and maintaining staff awareness and knowledge of responding to LGBTI communities
  • Developing meaningful and culturally appropriate collaborative partnerships with LGBTI services and organisations
  • Identifying and assessing appropriate opportunities, in collaboration with LGBTIQ user groups, regarding new and creative initiatives

Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria have produced this guide to inclusive practice. 

Useful resources

1800RESPECT provides counselling, information and support for people at risk of or experiencing the impacts of sexual assault, domestic and family violence. Call 1800 737 732. This service is open 24/7 and is free.

Police: To report sexual assault, domestic or family violence you can contact your local police office. Your police office may have a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex Liaison Officer (commonly known as GGLOs). They will most likely have a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer (DVLO). You can ask for these officers when contact the police station.

Another Closet – hard copies for services can be ordered from ACON 

For more information on specialists services in your local area download the Daisy App.

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