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The meaning and impact of discrimination

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 2977 words Published: 11th Apr 2017

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One has constructed this essay in a manner in which the reader will be able to appreciate the motives of discrimination and inequality and when they could take place; as well as the meaning and the impact they have, not only on the LGBT community but on the society as a whole. Throughout this essay one will attempt to identify the manifestation of inequality in the modern society, which in spite of everything is still occurring even after the Equality Act 2010 has come into practice and it introduced the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). This essay will focus on and around the inequality experienced by the LGBT community only, while keeping in mind of the fact that many other communities are suffering due to the injustice caused by being discriminated against.

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Supposedly, due to a recent period of advancement in law-making, the people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are benefiting from extraordinary privileges and safeguarding which were initiated in the light of the appalling experiences they had, as well as promoting diversity; these rights are protected by the legal system in the UK, but are they mere theories/ideologies whose application still remains of question? Many people have overlooked any existing inequalities post enforcement of the aforementioned laws, thinking that if the law exist it means that it will happen. This essay will critically appraise the actual application of these laws within public and private organizations as well as at an individual level.

The writer contemplates on commencing this essay with investigating the definitions of inequality and discrimination, for the reason that it will provide a solid foundation for the further understanding of the aforementioned terminology often described as a concern within the society; as well as providing reassurance that the reader is in agreement with the writer as far as the meaning of the words.

According to Collins’ dictionary, inequality is the disparity in social class, assets, health, and prospect between human beings or social classes. The inequalities may be experienced by everybody, especially those people who are part of minority groups. Inequality is often stemmed from the society’s discriminatory behaviour practiced by institutions, governmental chambers and individuals in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Wales and Northern Ireland (UK) towards the people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

Subsequently, one would like to define the term discrimination, similar words that relate are bigotry, bias, injustice, favouritism, unfairness, inequity, prejudice, and intolerance. In essence, it refers to certain individuals or groups of people behaving unfairly (discriminating), toward a person or a group of people they perceive to be different from themselves or the group of people they associate with.

Discrimination often stems from people’s evolutionary fear of the unknown, promoted by the lack of education and obliviousness towards phenomena that are regarded as out of the ordinary. Lorde, A talks about her opinion on the social division present in our society “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Lorde, A. (1995)

The society became indoctrinated overtime and the discriminatory practices have come to be accepted as culturally/societally and furthermore unswervingly tolerable. This of course, should have been subject to change in the modern society of the twenty first century. Regrettably, the society has learned nothing from history, and an abundant amount of discrimination is still present and it leads to societies morals being questioned. This is mainly due to argumentum ad populum[1] which leads people to have unthinkable preoccupations just to belong and feel accepted. The reader may be familiar with the concept of “othering” also known as “otherness”. Classified as a psychological approach, it is fundamental to sociological studies and it illustrates the imbalance within political power between the majority and the minority groups. It appears that from a sociological perspective the majority versus minority power balance leans towards the majority. Othering is a manner of obtaining one’s own definite individuality as a result of the defaming of an “other”. Bauman, Z claims that the notion of otherness is based on the fact that the human individualities are established as irreconcilable difference and he approves of the idea of otherness as an acceptable social concept. One would argue that this theory is defending the need for social classification based on the higher number of people which belong to a certain set of criteria which are more commonly found; furthermore making this theory very short sighted. One must aim for equality as a social norm, Goldwater, B explains that” Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism. “Goldwater, B (1964)

LGBT communities often live with “The sword of Damocles[2] hanging above their heads meaning that they live under constant real and perceive threat during their lives, having an impact on their relationships with friends and family, health status, mental health (there are higher risks of depression, suicide, anxiety and mental distress in the LGBT population), and financial deficits. These people feel the need to “come out” in front of their friends and family, and want to be accepted without the fear of rejection and guilt. Then again, why the notion of “coming out of the closet”? The society is building closets to hide what they want to avoid, i.e. skeletons in the closet. Do heterosexual people have to make their sexual orientation public and fear of disapproval, rejection, and discrimination? One of the reasons for all this unwanted attention towards people’s sexual orientation may be because focusing on the LGBT community and spending energy and time on discriminating (please see otherness) is a red herring[3] used to distract the society’s attention from more important problems such as poverty and recession. The aforementioned theory is a mere extrapolation, such trying to find reason in madness or a as Nietzsche portrays it “….there is also always some reason in madness” Nietzsche (1914) although some people do prefer to accept it as oppose to admitting that people can be so venal. Wilkinson et al believes that “although sexual orientation is only one component of an individual’s sexual identity there is a common misconception that the components of a person’s sexual identity operate in parallel. For example, when people are described as possessing cross-gender sex roles, they are more likely to be perceived as being gay or lesbian.” Wilkinson, Wayne and Roy, Andrew (2005)

One cannot avoid drawing attention to the standing of the Christian Church and its philosophies, and their impact on people’s way of life (at least from a historical perspective). Therefore, one of the reasons behind the inequality and discrimination people within the LGBT community are experiencing, it is due to the intransigent position of the Abrahamic religions[4] as far as sexual orientation. The Church is (was) profoundly engrossed within the social and cultural background, especially in the very religious population but not limited to; this has engendered fallacies emerged from pious puritanical dogmas regarding the individuals with non-heterosexual orientation. Therefore these individuals exposed to the aforesaid ideologies have grown up to think that it is unnatural and dehumanizing to have a non-heterosexual orientation. This may affect the individual as far as their own sexual orientation thus often causing them to deny who they are, keep it hidden and even practice suicidal behaviour (please see closet); or practice homophobic behaviour with a view in being accepted in their communities. On the other hand, many Christian denominations adopt newer and more open ideas about homosexuality, which allows more people to keep following their faith while being themselves. Many people/health professionals/social worker fail to understand that homosexuality is only a small aspect of a person’s individuality.

The reader may inquire about the impact of the inequality towards the LGBT community on today’s society and vice versa. It is causing a social problem, for the reason that the society ends up persecuting prolific members of the society who would be able to elicit much beneficial changes for the posterity. Unfortunately the lack of opportunities, the mental distress and disapproval they experience leads to them not being able to achieve their full potential and thus impedes the social growth and progress. On the other hand, the constant discrimination and harassment experienced by these individuals could evoke strengths of character in certain people, who would eventually become leaders of the resistance against inequality and discriminatory practices. They may devise strategies to further educate the masses by becoming transparent and open themselves up to sharing their private experiences with others. Ultimately, fighting for the rights to be heard and accepted as parents, as spouses, as teachers, as friends, colleagues, leaders, care providers and furthermore human beings as well as form closely knit groups which provide emotional support to one another. One of these people is Lorde, A, a well-known civil rights, feminist movements activist and writer emerged from the LGBT community as an advocate by voicing her view on the importance of community support; “The outsider, both strength and weakness. Yet without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression.” Audre Lorde (1996)

One could argue that there are many people within the society who are celebrating the differences in people and that in the ideal world people would accept the variety of sexual orientation as a norm and utilizing the knowledge regarding the aforementioned only when offering personalized support. One’s outlook about the necessary awareness of individual’s sexual orientation by the private and governmental institutions is further explained by Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights in his speech as it follows “Commission Data matters– because injustice that goes unseen goes uncorrected. How can we expect care homes to be sensitive to the needs of older LGB residents, or schools to the needs of the children being brought up by same-sex couples, if they don’t even acknowledge they’re there?”

Sadly, the society teaches their children that discrimination is a tolerable practice thus leading towards an impasse and further narrowing of the acceptance. The homophobic views of the parents get transferred onto their children, people may be able to see children from an early age i.e. in the kindergarten using terminology such as “gay” or “lesie” as insults among themselves and others, leading to a negative view of homosexuality from an early age. Should a modern society accept this sort of behaviour from the future generations?

The reader may think that the aforementioned statements could not be accurate, taking in consideration the Human Rights Act of 1989 as well as the Equality Act of 2010 and other laws and policies which support the equality of the individual at large. Well, in the light of such thoughts one feels the need to go even further and illustrate with examples these inequalities. Ellison et al explains that “Nearly four in ten lesbians and gay men reported that they had been bullied, felt frightened and had suffered from low self-esteem.” Ellison and Gunstone, 2009

Social workers will without a doubt come in contact with service users which identify themselves as LGBT. Therefore they must be able to communicate by using acceptable terms, be respectful and take in consideration the person as a whole, pertaining to their physical, emotional and financial needs. Disregarding a person’s sexual orientation, would be like ignoring somebody’s arm, it is part of them, a piece of the puzzle. One must carefully identify areas of inequality and discrimination, which the service users may be experiencing and make use of this information to further one’s understanding and awareness of the support needed. Spirituality, togetherness, health needs, age and other factors must be taken in consideration when evaluating a service user’s needs. The sad truth is that there is a tendency in the social and health professionals to assume heterosexuality in the elderly. This is inadvertently discriminative practice. On the other hand, the social worker must be able to reflect honestly on their own feelings and beliefs regarding other people’s various sexual orientation; being aware of any prejudices one may have would help to provide anti discriminative support to the service users.

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To be able to explain the seriousness of the issues discussed within this essay, one must quote Ellison et al for a second time, they claim that “55 per cent of gay men, 51 per cent of lesbians and 21 per cent of bisexual women and men said they would not live in certain places in Britain because of their sexual orientation.” Ellison and Gunstone, (2009). This is unacceptable by the moral and ethical standards expected from today’s society, therefore the social worker must be aware of the people who do live in those areas and empower and safeguard them as necessary. On the other hand Ellison et al also explains that “Seven in 10 lesbians (69 per cent) and gay men (70 per cent) felt they could be open about their sexual orientation in the workplace without fear of discrimination or prejudice. This contrasts sharply with only around two in 10 (23 per cent) bisexual men and three in 10 (30 per cent) bisexual women who felt the same.

83 per cent of respondents would be happy or felt neutral about having an openly LGB manager at work” Ellison and Gunstone, (2009). This provides proof that the society has grown to be more accepting of the LGBT community and that the laws and policies are being enforced within private and governmental organisations. It appears that education seems to make a big difference as far as being open and accepting of diversity.

There is evidence of bullying due to sexual orientation at school levels, were people get physically and emotionally abused. ‘People call me “gay” everyday, sometimes people kick me or push me, they shut me out of games during school gym and they steal my belongings.’ James, 17, secondary school (South West). Hunt and Jensen, (2007)

The social worker, needs to be able to act as an advocate for these people, they must be empowered and supported so they learn to accept themselves.

In summary, the society inclines to be critical of the people in the LGBT community due to different factors; these are religious, cultural, fuelled by fear of unknown, lack of education, upbringing, and avoidance behaviour(i.e. questioning own sexuality). Unfortunately, this translates into discrimination and inequality, which leads to many unwanted effects.

Due to the fact that this paper is a mere literature review, one could not offer more specific examples of actual cases, therefore this article talks more generally about inequality and where it may be present, it’s impact on the society and the individuals as well as the impact of the law on the changes that have taken place towards acceptance of the LGBT community.

As a future social worker, one finds that the knowledge acquired through the present paper will be of great aid to further one’s knowledge in understanding not only the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, but also other minority groups that more often than many people would expect suffer in silence.

After much research, one must admit that there is very little literature present about the ageing and LGBT population. As the population is getting older, many people in the aforementioned community are interested in their future, especially if their partners pass away. Many transgender population live in fear that if they lose their capacity, will they still be able to get their hormonal treatment to maintain their identity. Therefore, one would suggest further research in that area, in form of an empirical study.

[1] Latin for “appeal to the people”- deceptive claim that presumes an insinuation to be accurate for the reason that numerous people accept it to be true.

[2] The Sword of Damocles- in this context to be read living in constant fear please see Bibliography

[3] something that deceives or distracts from important issues

[4] This of course is the theoretical view of the Church, one must take in account that there are many religious people and organisations that are happy to accept and support the LGBT community such as YMCA.


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