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It is important to understand what gender identity and sexual identity are.
Your gender identity involves whether you feel like a man or a woman. Some people do not feel like they are a man or a woman. This is OK.
Your sexual identity involves who you like and want to have sex with. For example, a person may identify as being heterosexual or as LGBTQ+.
A heterosexual person is a woman who is attracted to men, or a man who is attracted to women. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning.
- Lesbian means women who are attracted to women.
- Gay means men who are attracted to men.
- Bisexual means people who are attracted to both men and women.
- Transgender refers to people who are now a different gender to the one that they were given when they were born.
- Questioning is if you feel that you might not be heterosexual but you are not sure.
Gender identity and sexual identity are a part of who you are. It is OK if you do not know what your gender or sexual identity is.
Health workers and support networks are not always good at talking to people about their gender or sexual identity. This means that people with intellectual disability might not get to learn about sex and what a healthy sexual relationship is. They may not be supported to learn about their sexual identity.
This can cause stress and mental health problems.
Because health workers may not talk to people with intellectual disability about
- sexual identity and
people with intellectual disability may not know it is OK to talk about these things. They may not know that they can ask for help if they are confused about their gender or sexual identity, or if a relationship is making them stressed.
It is OK to communicate about your gender identity, sexual identity and relationships.
You can learn more about healthy relationships and different LGBTQ+ terms in Family Planning NSW’s All About Sex factsheets. These factsheets were written for people with intellectual disability, but you may want to read these factsheets with someone who supports you so that you can talk about them together. CHANGE also has Easy Read information about being LGBTQ+.
Concerns you may have when getting help for your mental health and what you can do
You do not know how to communicate with a mental health worker about your gender or sexual identity
Questions about your gender, sexual identity, and relationships may be causing you stress or to have poor mental health. You could communicate to someone you trust such as a carer, family member, friend, support worker or doctor about it.
You may want to communicate to your mental health worker that questions about your gender or sexual identity are causing you stress. You may not know how to communicate this. You may not know what words to use.
- You can read Family Planning NSW’s All About Sex factsheets or CHANGE’s Easy Read guide to learn more about the ideas that you may want to communicate with your mental health worker about your gender or sexual identity.
- You could also ask the mental health worker to read through the factsheets with you so that you can discuss them together. This can help to start the conversation about your gender or sexual identity.
The mental health worker does not want to help me because I am LGBTQ+
In the past, other people may not have included you or even bullied you because you are LGBTQ+.
You may be worried that the mental health worker does not want to help you because of your gender or sexual identity. It is not OK for a mental health worker to deny you help because of your gender or sexual identity.
- You can communicate with your GP about this. Your GP can give you more than one option of mental health worker who you can see.
- If your mental health worker treats you badly, you have the right to complain. For more information visit Your rights.
- You can communicate with someone you trust about your concerns. If you feel comfortable, you can communicate your concerns with the mental health worker first. It is OK if you do not feel comfortable or do not want to communicate with them. You can ask to discuss the problem with their boss.
If you are not happy with what they say, you can complain to other people like the Health Care Complaints Commission. You can find more information about how to make a complaint in the I am not happy with the service section.
I am worried that my mental health worker does not understand me or my mental health concerns because they are not LGBTQ+
It is normal to feel like someone might not understand you and your concerns because they do not share the same experience as you. It can still be helpful for you to talk to your mental health worker about these concerns even if they are not LGBTQ+.
- You can ask your GP if they know any mental health workers who work with LGBTQ+ people with intellectual disability or are allies.
- An LGBTQ+ ally is someone who supports LGBTQ+ people and speaks up for them. They are like an advocate.
- You could join a program like Family Planning NSW’s Sexuality and Disability Service. The program helps to support the sexuality needs of people with intellectual disability. If you have a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, the sessions are included in your plan and will not cost you any extra money.
- If you want to communicate with other LGBTQ+ people and share your experiences, you can join community or support groups like the Sydney Queer and Disability Community (SQuAD). You can also ask your mental health worker or GP if they know any other groups you can join.
Services and supports
- Family Planning NSW’s Sexuality and Disability Service is for people with intellectual disability and helps to support their sexuality needs. For people with an NDIS plan, the sessions are included in the person’s NDIS plan.
- Family Planning NSW also has a group of Easy Read factsheets called All About Sex, which covers many topics, including relationships, sexual health, and sexual identity.
- CHANGE has an Easy Read guide on being LGBTQ+. They are an organisation that is in the UK.
- Twenty10 provides counselling, mental health support and social support services to people in NSW between 12 and 25 years old who identify as LGBTQ+. The services are for everyone, not just people with intellectual disability.
- QLife is a chatline that provides free LGBTQ+ peer support and referrals. You can call them on the phone on 1800 184 527 or chat to them online. They are available between 3pm and midnight every day.
- Relationships & Private Stuff has counselling and workshops about relationships for people with disability. For people with an NDIS plan, there are some workshops about relationships that can be included in your plan.
- Sydney Queer and Disability Community (SQuAD) is a community group on Facebook that raises awareness for LGBTQ+ people with disabilities.
- Rainbow Rights and Advocacy is a self-advocacy group. It is run by and for LGBTQ+ people with intellectual disability.