A new video launched by Advance Diversity Services offers insights into the struggles faced by LGBTIQA+ people of faith from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds as they try to reconcile their faith, culture and queer identity, and to find service providers that understand the complexity of their predicament.

The Pride in My Faith video is a vital educational resource for community and other service providers and was conceived and produced by ADS Manager for Settlement and Community Services, Anthony Scerri, and ADS LGBTI Officer, Mayna Hung.

‘We wanted to show LGBTIQA+ people of faith from CALD backgrounds who are struggling with these challenges that they are not alone,’ said Ms Hung. ‘Pride in My Faith offers candid testimony from three CALD LGBTIQA+ people of faith about how they bring their sexual diversity, faith and culture together.’

Mr Scerri said religion and culture are often entwined, which meant LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds can feel rejected by their religion or may cease practising a religion altogether due to its conflict with their sexual minority status.

‘The video demonstrates that there are LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds who have felt this rejection but ultimately found concord between their religion and their sexuality and are living their lives with spiritual purpose.’

Ms Hung said service providers needed to understand the complexity of the barriers to inclusion LGBTIQA+ people from CALD backgrounds face and also how to welcome them appropriately and refer them to groups and specialist services for support.

‘Through Pride in My Faith we highlight a range of LGBTIQA+ faith-based groups that LGBTIQA+ people can connect with. Some of these groups are outlined in the LGBTIQA+ Services Directory ADS has developed, and which can accessed here.’

The video was made by cinematographer Bebi Zekirovski and funded by the NSW Settlement Partnership – a consortium of community organisations, led by Settlement Services International.

The three people who shared their stories onscreen are: Ahmed a gay, cisgender (male) Muslim from a Pakistani background; Tina (pictured) a bisexual, cisgender (female) Buddhist from a Bengali and Afghan background, and Matthew a bisexual, cisgender (male) Roman Catholic from a Chinese Malaysian background.

Ahmed said that in the Muslim community there was now more visibility of queer Muslims who were talking about being accepted. ‘That being said,’ he added ‘a vast majority of people have homophobic views and that is something we have to overcome over time.’

Tina said it was important for people to know a little about how trauma works – to understand how to identify their own trauma and make an action plan to ensure it does not continue to have a negative impact.

Matthew said referring people to groups and service providers was ‘not always a bad idea’, and that connecting people to an organisation so they can see there ‘are people like them’ was really important.

Part of the funding from the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP) also included rolling out general LGBTIQA+ inclusive practice training to NSP organisations. ACON’s Pride Training team facilitated four, two-part webinars attended by 81 staff from across the partnership in October 2020.

At the end of the training participants were asked ‘What would be the next steps that on a personal level you are going to take towards inclusion and diversity?’

One respondent said, ‘You realise how people are being left out – from service promotion to intake to feedback – and that we need to review every aspect of our services delivery to ensure inclusive practice.’

Another said, ‘I will share my knowledge and understanding with my clients and other community members. I will also amend policy and procedure, develop new intake forms, and provide a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment.’

Mr Scerri said the Pride in My Faith video plus ACON’s eLearning and webinars would help service providers to better understand the communities they serve, and to be equipped to work with LGBTIQA+ people in ways that were supportive and empowering rather than damaging.

The Pride in My Faith video can be viewed here.