LGBTQ health, for the heterosexual world, is often synonymous with HIV/AIDS. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has HIV/AIDS prominently displayed on its landing page for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health. (This is not to suggest that HIV is not important; it is still a monumental health issue in our communities.)
But drill down a bit. There’s more to LGBTQ health. And it’s big, but it seems so simple: equity.
As we remind the city and state that we are here, as we listen to politicians and activists argue marriage equality, as we march to the beat of our many drums, Pride is a reminder that we are still fighting for equity. And in health care, equity is a big deal.
What does health care equity really mean? It means being able to be ‘out’ to all of your providers—being and feeling safe to tell them your sexual orientation, gender identity, or anything, for that matter. In a perfect world, it would mean your sexual orientation and gender identity were never assumed by (or even bear implications to) your providers.
It means having culturally-competent care. This means everyone from the front to the back of your provider’s office should treat you with the same respect as all patients—including calling you by your preferred name, pronoun, and gender.
It means your providers are aware of health concerns that are prominent in our communities. Men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, transgender individuals, and questioning individuals have differing health concerns that need to be recognized.
It means having access to health insurance, employment, housing, marriage, adoption, and retirement benefits—because each of these ‘benefits’ has a profound impact on our health.
It means safety for youth and adults to be open and honest in their communities without risking harm, bullying, or any other negative consequence.
No matter how we identify, who we are, or where we’re from, as one united LGBTQ community, we can affect health care equity. It starts with each of us being honest with our providers, being honest with our families, and being honest with our friends. All of this honesty comes with a big caveat: we must feel safe. If we do not, it means finding that safe space or helping others to get the stability they need to be open, honest, and to begin the dialogue with our providers about LGBTQ health care.
LGBTQ health equity is a priority of the National Coalition of LGBT Health, Human Rights Campaign, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, and many other organizations. To learn more about the issues in LGBTQ health, check out a great, simplified resource—HealthyPeople.gov, or visit ChaseBrexton.org. And, take a look at this column every month for more insight on the issues and concerns that affect LGBTQ health.