In an online survey conducted by LGBTQ+ youth organisations Inter-Uni LGBTQ Network (IULN) and Young OUT Here (YOH), only 8 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth in Singapore feel comfortable sharing about their sexual orientation and gender identities with their parents.
In stark contrast, 84 per cent of youth surveyed feel comfortable sharing about their sexual orientations and gender identities with their close friends who identify as LGBTQ+ and 45 per cent felt the same with their online communities.
Their comfort level to share about their identity falls dramatically towards people in school, at 13 per cent, and towards their religious communities, at 3 per cent.
The online survey, a first of its kind on LGBTQ+ youth in Singapore to focus on the intersection between their identity and support systems, was conducted over three weeks that ended in July 2020.
As part of IULN and YOH’s ‘Our Queer Conversations’ initiative, the survey gathered a total of 492 respondents, ranging from ages 13 to 25, spanning a cross-spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities, education levels, and backgrounds.
It sought answers on LGBTQ+ youth’s current support networks, their definitions of ‘safe spaces’ and the issues that affect them the most.
“The results from the online survey are critical because it reinforces the importance of safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ youth to be themselves, especially when most of them do not feel comfortable enough to share their identity with their own family members. Currently, most homes, schools and religious communities are not safe or welcoming for them,” said Benjamin Xue, co-founder of Young Out Here.
The online survey also revealed a key issue that directly links the lack of affirming spaces that LGBTQ+ youth have with the issue that they care about the most – mental health. Over 70 per cent of survey respondents indicated it is an issue that they would like to be addressed.
“As most LGBTQ+ youths were in their respective homes during the circuit breaker with some homes being downright hostile towards them, it adds pressure on their emotional and psychological health. Thus, it’s no surprise that ‘mental health’ became the top issue that affects them the most.
“Though there has been an encouraging number of ground-up, both off and online, initiatives for youth mental health, there is much more that can be done for the LGBTQ+ community. More investment into targeted community mental health services should be the way forward,” added Mr Xue.
Going forward, IULN and YOH will incorporate the survey results to frame their upcoming peer-led support group sessions for LGBTQ+ youth.
Slated to start at the beginning of phase three of Singapore’s reopening, ‘Our Queer Conversations’ will provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to find their support and talk about issues that concern them such as coming out, stigma and discrimination, relationships, navigation of the LGBTQ+ community, and family.
“Through our various interactions with online support channels, we know that circuit breaker due to COVID-19 has been detrimental to the mental well-being of LGBTQ+ youths. As such, initiatives such as ‘Our Queer Conversations’ is important for us to connect and support each other during these difficult times,” said Charmaine Kok, co-executive director for IULN.
“This online survey is just the start. Down the line, we also hope to gather more LGBTQ+ youth voices, their experiences and thoughts on issues that affect them through more community initiatives, and hopefully, together with other community stakeholders, we can advocate for better support and bridge the gaps for all LGBTQ+ youth in Singapore,” she added.