A recent survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has shown that in Italy one non-heterosexual person out of five thinks that their sexual orientation has caused hostile behavior in their workplace, and in general the worsening of their living conditions at cause of preconceptions and aversion towards the LGBT+ community. Stereotypes and misunderstandings that, one imagines, remain outside the door when one enters a place where unconditional support should be at home, i.e. the psychotherapist’s office. But is it really always like this? A research, recently presented at the University of Catania, sheds light on this delicate issue in Sicily.
This is the intent of the working group “LGBT+ psychology: promotion of an affirmative approach to sexual identities” of the Order of Psychologists of the Sicilian Region, which recently published a report entitled “The attitudes of Sicilian psychologists towards homosexuality”. Among the indications that emerged, the research highlighted how little is still known on the subject, especially by mental health specialists: the majority of the sample that participated in the study – 721 Sicilian psychologists compared to the 9324 members of the Order – declare little or insufficiently prepared on the various issues concerning homosexuality, despite the numerous steps forward made in terms of awareness and openness on the subject. The research, therefore, has laid the foundations for the necessary opening of greater spaces of awareness, training and information.
The professionals involved in the survey were subjected to a questionnaire divided into three sections, which combined questions of a demographic and socio-cultural nature, relating above all to deepening the theoretical approach held by psychologists on the relationship between homosexuality and pathology. At the end of the questionnaire, there was also a section of open questions aimed at obtaining the professional’s direct and personal opinion. The sample consisted mostly of women (86%) born between 1980 and 1999, of which 52.6% were married. The majority of the sample declared to be heterosexual, to belong to an intermediate socio-economic bracket and to have received a Catholic religious education.
The results? Surprisingly positive and not very far from what was found by similar research in other Italian regions: the majority believes that homosexuality is not a consequence of pathological family dynamics, that it is not caused by a trauma and that homosexual couples are as stable as heterosexual couples. «Having these results has been a comfort – explains Elisabeth Julie Vargo, member of the working group – we Sicilians always have the impression of being more backward than the rest of Italy, and despite our initial idea of receiving more negative feedback we we are found at the same level as the other Italian regions, or even at a slightly higher level». However, there remains a minority percentage of the sample that expresses attitudes of less openness towards homosexuality. In this regard, the research has identified a correlation with the political orientation of the interviewees, generally right-wing, and with a strong religious sentiment.
How can we try to break down these ideological barriers? «The working group has set a goal: to make a difference. And we hope that this can happen with information and training, trying not to force a different attitude but making sure that professionals are aware that they have prejudices that can affect their work with a patient from the LGBT+ community”. The research also highlighted that knowing people belonging to the LGBT+ community allows you to have a more positive opinion on the topics covered. One of the proposals, in fact, is to bring people into contact and create situations where professionals can meet people from the LGBT+ community, to break down their barriers and set aside their prejudices to make room for greater open-mindedness and to respect a code of ethics that allows everyone to receive the same assistance in terms of mental health.
Finally, a part of the questionnaire was also dedicated to the Zan DDL, a subject still debated today: «We were surprised by the last part of the questionnaire – concludes Vargo – on the open answers concerning the Zan DDL. We noticed that part of the sample does not believe there is any discrimination against the LGBT+ community. We have found a kind of insistence that all of this is a fantasy, despite the fact that there is a great deal of scientific evidence that teaches us otherwise. It surprises us, because it is as if there is a sort of historical amnesia that scholars don’t expect. This is why training and information are, now more than ever, fundamental».
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LGBT+ issues: between lights and shadows, for Sicilian psychologists they are no longer a taboo – Sicilian Post