What psychologists should know about the global climate for LGBT people and improvements in public policy.

A Mixed Context Globally

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their concerns have become increasingly visible around the world. As awareness grows, and as more people come out by choice or are outed by others, reactions to these populations play out in ways both favorable and appalling.

Among the favorable developments, including an uptick in affirming LGBT- related public policy in some countries, is the increase in the past few years of international, national and regional psychological organizations formally adopting LGBT affirmative policies and using scientific knowledge to inform their statements against discrimination and sexual orientation change effort, and for affirmative practices with clients.

As the United Nations and other international human rights and health bodies have moved toward a conceptualization of LGBT people being entitled to human rights and health and have made formal statements (PDF, 706KB) against having human rights dismissed or violated because of LGBT status, there has been significant pushback from some nations insisting "traditional values" that have long suppressed women and sexual and gender minorities should be the legitimate basis for what are recognized as human rights.


It is in this mixed context that other social and political crises play out that may affect entire populations and where LGBT people may face heightened vulnerability for scapegoating and persecution. It is also in this context that LGBT discrimination and criminalization may be state policy. These conditions for any combination of reasons may lead to forced migrations, to people enduring torture or being murdered because of their LGBT status (whether real or perceived), and to people fleeing homes, communities and countries to save their own lives.

Role of Psychology

In response to the human impact of all of this there is a growing literature on how to work with and protect the individuals affected. There is also increasing attention to training for graduate students, forensic psychologists and other scientists, and clinicians, on working with displaced, escaping or physically and psychologically victimized LGBT people.

This page represents an effort to highlight the literature and opportunities for training, practice, and research pertinent to psychologists in particular. It also represents an effort to help educate professionals already involved in other arenas of this work, as well as a more general public, to recognize and better understand psychology's role.

Asylum Seekers
International Protection for Refugees
Region-specific Communities
Gender Identity
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
  • Born Free and Equal 
    United Nations Human Rights Office publication on sexual orientation and gender identity in international human rights law.
    September 2012

  • Forced Migration Review 
    Special Edition: Sexual orientation and gender identity and the protection of forced migrants
    April 2013
    Around the world, people face abuse, arbitrary arrest, extortion, violence, severe discrimination and lack of official protection because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This latest issue of FMR includes 26 articles on the abuse of rights of forced migrants who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Authors discuss both the challenges faced and examples of good practice in securing protection for LGBTI forced migrants.

  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
    A compendium of documents related to sexual orientation and gender identity, including legal, policy and background information.

Mental Health
Mental Health Challenges
  • Mental health challenges of LGBT forced migrants
    Ariel Shidlo and Joanne Ahola 
    Many LGBT forced migrants have significant and sometimes incapacitating psychological scars. Mental health providers can assist in documenting the psychological impact of anti-LGBT persecution and its impact on the ability to secure refugee status.

Torture and Treatment of Prisoners