Sheffield researcher’s book explores the term LGBT community

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The phrase ‘LGBT community’ can be problematic and must be used with caution, according to research from Sheffield Hallam University.

The UK-wide study, which included responses from more than 600 participants, explored the use of the phrase commonly used to describe and group people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans.

The research, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, centred on questions around what the phrase ‘LGBT community’ means, with a number of the responses challenging the use of the word ‘community’.

Responses to the research revealed that many people felt excluded by the phrase ‘LGBT community’, as the language suggests that all LGBT people belong to one large homogenous group.

The results of the research have been used for the new book Exploring LGBT Spaces and Communities, by Eleanor Formby, senior research fellow at Sheffield Hallam’s Sheffield Institute of Education.

The book examines a number of ideas around LGBT identities including community ownership, difference, diversity, spaces, symbols, and consequences for wellbeing, whilst also exploring the experiences of LGBT people to offer a broad analysis of commonalities and differences.

Eleanor said: “How we understand and use the term ‘LGBT community’ has implications for the delivery of social policy and service provision, and ultimately LGBT people’s lives.

“The concept is important but when it is used in the singular, which it so often is, this is not helpful to many LGBT people, not least because not all feel, or wish to be, included within a singular uniform community.

“The word ‘community’ is rarely, if ever, used for people identified as part of ‘majority groups’, for example “white community, “able-bodied community” or “heterosexual community”, so why do we use it for so-called ‘minority groups’?.

“Whilst community can offer benefits to some, in terms of affirmation and the suggestion of safety, it also poses potential dangers through perpetuating misconceptions and stereotypes, and ultimately risks implying that LGBT people are all the same, which they are obviously not, although they may of course share some experiences in common.”