DRINKING alcohol is a rite of passage for LGBT Scots who come out and peer pressure ensures it remains a dominant part of many individual’s social lives, research suggests.
The study by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) investigated the role of alcohol among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people living north of the border.
LGBT people still feel stigmatised and support services can feel intimidatingEric Carlin, SHAAP director
Interviewees suggested there were barriers preventing them from accessing alcohol support services as many felt they had a “macho” or an “intimidating” image.
One in six LGBT Scots have reported being discriminated against by public services, according to Stonewall Scotland, the LGBT rights charity.
A previous UK-wide survey found that 78 per cent of gay and bisexual men and 77 per cent of lesbian and bisexual women drunk alcohol in the last week compared to 68 per cent of men in general and 58 per cent of women in general.
The report found many Scots drank “heavily” while first attending gay bars or nightclubs to give them “confidence”.
Concerns were raised that the commercial gay scene relied too heavily on promoting the sale of alcohol.
One respondent said: “The amount of alcohol I’ve consumed this year is probably more than what I’ve consumed in the last four years, since coming out on the gay scene as an open gay man.”
The study was undertaken by a team of academics from Glasgow Caledonian University.
It interviewed 33 people from a “diverse” range of backgrounds.
Lead researcher Dr Carol Emslie said: “Drinking is central to the commercial gay scene and the alcohol industry is increasingly marketing their products directly to LGBT consumers.
“We need to make sure there are more places in Scotland where LGBT people can meet to socialise without alcohol, as well as working towards a culture where all groups in society find it acceptable to drink moderately, or indeed to choose not to drink at all.”
The report noted: “Our analysis of respondents’ accounts points to the centrality of alcohol on the commercial gay scene (which itself is situated within the heavy drinking culture of the west of Scotland), the habitual promotion of drinks such as alcopops, spirits and shots in gay venues, and the strong peer pressure to drink across the lifecourse.
“Respondents also described the necessity of drinking in order to venture onto the gay scene and to conform to what they perceived to be the drinking norms of the scene.”
The team’s findings are due to be presented at the Scottish Parliament this week.
Eric Carlin, SHAAP director, said: “LGBT people are as susceptible to getting into problems with alcohol as anyone else.
“However, this study shows that many LGBT people still feel stigmatised and support services can feel intimidating. Hopefully, this report will provide useful insights to reduce barriers to LGBT people accessing support.”
Catherine Somervile, campaigns manager at Stonewall Scotland, said the report chimed with its own research.
“From our own research and work with LGBT communities in Scotland we know that the impact of discrimination at school, in the community and in our workplaces can be devastating to LGBT people’s health and wellbeing, including the likelihood of them engaging in risk taking behaviours,” she added.
“We also know that one in six LGBT people in Scotland have experienced discrimination from a public service provider in the last three years, and many people therefore feel nervous about accessing the very services that should be supporting them.”