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Title: Them two things are what collide together : understanding the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans people labelled with intellectual disability
Author: Dinwoodie, R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6057 8285
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2014
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The voices of people labelled with intellectual disabilities (ID) who are non-heterosexual are often unheard in both clinical practice and the research literature. Much of their lives are therefore hidden (Abbott & Howarth, 2005). Previous research has been over narrated by family, carers and professionals, with little input from people labelled with ID. Findings of previous studies have been inconsistent and suggested: that some people who engage in same-sex sexual behaviour identify as heterosexual (Thompson, D., 1994), that sexual identity has a context dependent fluidity where people may continuously change the labels they use (Thompson, S.A., 2002), or that people routinely use labels such as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (Abbott & Howarth, 2005). Studies involving people labelled with ID talking about their experiences tend to be ten or more years old, with some being much older. The socio-cultural and political climate has evolved over this time period, with more legally protected equality for minority groups than ever before. Little is known about how people currently experience their identities, however, and whether they have felt any benefits of cultural and legislative changes. Understanding what people think and feel about their sexual identities has clinical implications for therapists and for informing psychologically supportive systems of care. The best available evidence on which policies and guidance are based might not accurately reflect people’s current experiences and their clinical need. The general aim of this project is therefore to foreground the voices of people labelled with ID who are non-heterosexual, in order to add to new understandings to the existing research evidence base. Interest in the broad research topic of sexual identity developed as a result of the researcher’s personal reflections on his own experiences of coming out as gay. The narrower focus of the project is on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or trans (LGBT) identities in people labelled with intellectual disabilities (ID). This focus evolved through a combination of factors: wider reading of the psychological literature for identified yet currently underexplored issues in sexuality research; growing awareness of challenges faced by people labelled with ID, through conversations with potential research supervisors and clinical teaching units; and a personal interest in issues of equality and rights to freedom of expression, which are also clinically relevant issues for people labelled with ID. The overall aim of the project is an exploration of the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans (LGBT) people labelled with intellectual disabilities (ID). The project is reported in two chapters. Chapter one is a report of a systematic review of qualitative research literature exploring first-person accounts of sexual identities in lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans (LGBT) people labelled with intellectual disabilities (ID). Compared with service user voices, staff and family views were often over represented in the literature, however, a sufficient number of retrieved studies were eligible for inclusion in the review. Included studies dated from the previous twenty years with few recently published studies. Results were reported in a narrative summary. More interpretative syntheses would have been inappropriate given the limitations of the data. Key findings suggested that people labelled with ID who had same-sex attractions had mixed experiences of sexual identities. Further qualitative research was suggested to explore how people might experience their sexual identities in the current socio-political climate. Chapter two reports on an original empirical study conducted with a sample of LGBT-identified people labelled with ID. The main research question followed the theme of chapter one: how do people labelled with ID who are LGBT experience their sexual identities? IPA methodology was felt to be the most appropriate approach for this study as IPA privileges an individual’s unique experiences through in-depth analysis. The position and effect of the researcher is considered an important aspect of IPA research, which felt significant given the researcher’s own sexual identity experiences. Participants were recruited via a support group for people labelled with ID who are LGBT. Participants therefore had access to LGBT-specific support, which offered a unique opportunity for the researcher to explore their experiences of sexual identities and coming out process in the context of an LGBT-affirmative environment. Key findings from data analysis suggested that participants had well established ideas about their identities and disclosed LGBT labels (or ‘come out’) to some people. In abusive environments some people made active decisions about what information felt safe to share, resulting in not coming out to everyone. A key clinical implication of the study is participants’ need for holistic services to support them with their ID and LGBT needs simultaneously. Qualitative research is suggested which included further exploring the clinical implications of the coming out processes described by participants.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral