“And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.” Audre Lorde
We are proud to support and recognize the month of June as Pride month. Writing about the health of the community is not easy because the community is not a monolith; there are wide ranges of experiences. When looking at the health discrepancies in some LGBTQ communities it is important to remember that the discrepancies represent social stigma and victimization rather than something that is inherently “wrong” with community members.
There are some areas of concern that need to be recognized to ensure people are supported. Self-identified lesbians are less likely to have health insurance than other women are. Rates of cancer screening are also lower among lesbians (HealthyPeople2020, 2019). This could be caused by lack of insurance, fear of discrimination/disclosure, or negative experiences in the past. More businesses are offering same-sex spousal coverage, which will hopefully decrease the number of people who are uninsured.
The support of a person’s family affects the health of LGBTQ young people. Findings in the Family Acceptance Project associate family rejection during teen years with higher rates of attempted suicide, higher reported levels of depression, and a higher likelihood to use illegal drugs and have unprotected sex. Family support and acceptance is protective against all of these behaviors.
Our transgender community members experience more extremes in health discrepancies. The 2015 US Transgender Survey of 28,000 transgender people in the US found that the rate of poverty in the transgender community is twice that of the general population (29 % compared to 14%). Transgender people who seek medical care and screening may face discrimination during intake if identification does not match their presentation. Alternatively, providers may be unfamiliar with the needs of transgender patients such as cancer screening and cardiovascular screening for those people on hormone replacement therapy.
In spite of these health disparities, a survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation in 2015 found 63% of lesbians reported being in good/excellent health as did 70% of gay men. Perhaps this is due to something overlooked when discussing the health of the LGBTQ community, which is resiliency. Resilience, the capacity to recover from difficult situations, is at the center of LGBTQ history. Members of the community have gathered strength during and after tragedy to rebuild. The paintings of David Hockney, the writings of Audre Lorde and the art of so many others embody a resilient nature. Happy Pride Month, we are glad to celebrate with you!