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Learning disability and sexual health
I’m Christian Buchan - Health and Social care professional and founder and Project Lead of 2buWakefield - a monthly social group for adults with a learning disability who identify as LGTBQ+ in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
2buWakefield has just held its fifth monthly session and recently attended its first Community Pride event: a goal previously set by members during the groups launch in April this year.
Most people want the same thing: a good life and friendship and relationships. Why would this be different for an adult with a learning disability? Further still, why would it be different for an adult with a learning disability who identifies as LGBTQ+?
- In comparison to their non-disabled peers, adults with a learning disability have a limited understanding of sexual health issues. This increases significantly if an adult with a learning disability identifies as LGBTQ+.
- Supporters and carers support the right for sexual expression, but service provider policy and procedures can be unclear and outdated.
- Supporters and carers can also be scared of the risks associated with sexual expression – ‘scared of not doing the right thing’- the push and pull of pleasure vs Risk.
A sexual relationship can bring happiness, fulfilment, companionship and a greater sense of choice and control to the lives of people with a learning disability and as such, people should be supported to explore relationships. Further still, service providers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to provide equality of opportunity to individuals with protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
Fact: Exploring sexual identity and sexual feelings can be more difficult for people with learning disabilities who might be struggling to understand and communicate their emotions and their body.
The concept of creating 2buWakefiled was to provide a space for people that would challenge these barriers, a space that supports people to develop a healthy understanding of their sexual orientation and well-being. 2buWakefield was born of an inspired thought process with a heady mix of frustration due to a lack of a learning disability LGBTQ+ services locally in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
Was there a demand for this sort of service locally? What would adults with a learning disability want from a service like 2buWakefield? Research was limited and repetitive. What did exist suggested the barriers were huge, particularly the conflict cycle of disability challenges vs LGBTQ+ challenges.
2bu aims to be a member-led service: we provide a regular safe place to meet, chat, laugh, form friendships, offer sexual health advice, confidence building skills and encourage goal setting.
Reflective Practice the million-dollar skill!
Did I know back in April that we’d be supporting members to attend their first Pride events in August? I couldn’t possibly have.
Did I know that by August this year, eight individual members would have walked through 2bu’s door, alongside the regular attendance of health and social care professionals? No, never!
Did I know we’d be providing a space for people to talk openly and confidently about sex, sexual health, relationships, safe sex and consent alongside regular activities and runway shows? I could only have hoped!
If only ever one person with a learning disability who identified as LGBTQ+ walked through the door to our group I’d be happy. If they couldn’t walk through 2buWakefield’s door, would there even be another door for them to walk through?
The ethos of the group is simple really: we offer a safe place for adults with a learning disability who identify as LGBTQ+ to meet share, learn, build relationships confidently and support member to express themselves for who they are!
2buWakefields Top Recommendations
- Good accessible Training and Educational opportunities around sexual health, and sex and relationships for adults with learning disabilities
- Training and Educational opportunities around sexual health, sex and relationships for care/vocational providers/care support staff
- Find your workplace sexuality policy. Check is it regularly reviewed- what does it say about LGBTQ+ identities?
- Ask yourself does your organisation Provide training to enable support staff to support and advise adults about sexual health and sex and relationships with a learning disability safely?