LGBT Health Issues
Minority groups have come a long way in their efforts towards being accorded equal rights as any other person. Members of the LGBT community fall into this category. With the legalization of same sex marriages in some states and general accord of equal rights, we have come far but have yet a ways to go. People from the LGBT community still have many challenges facing them and this includes discrimination especially from ignorant people who do not understand that everyone is different and is allowed to live life however they may choose, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others (Herek, G. M. 2016). These challenges do not just come from outside the community but some are unique to the members of this community. Health is one of such issues.
There is quite a significant disparity when it comes to healthcare access to healthcare. The main cause of this is that they feel they are discriminated against by healthcare workers. Discrimination is a commonplace occurrence. This spreads to the workplace and provision of health insurance by employers. The issue is further made worse by the fact that some healthcare workers are not well trained on how to handle issues concerning minority groups and may handle them in a way that is insensitive and discriminatory.
Family and social support will go a long way in helping young people identify with their sexual orientation. The fact that parents and guardians sometimes do not accept their children for who they are will lead to adverse effects. This lack of acceptance on coming out might exacerbate an already volatile situation and make the young people who are already fragile to sink even further and they may eve commit suicide. They might even be thrown out of their homes and this will leave them on the street and they can resort to other dangerous behavior such as prostitution. Lack of family support will make the young people feel hopeless, anxious, suicidal and depressive.
Some health issues include cancer, hepatitis, mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, drug and substance abuse as well as discrimination in the law and in access to healthcare. These healthcare issues stem from the fact that members of the LGBT community suffer from identity issues and hence find it difficult to seek care for whatever they may be suffering from. They usually feel discriminated against by healthcare providers and institutions and this homophobia or transphobia leads them to delay or even refrain from seeking treatment for any illnesses.
Research into health issues affecting LGBT members may be affected by biases such as heterosexism (Keuroghlian, A. S et al, 2017). There may not be much funding into research into health issues regarding LGBT members who are considered a minority. Mental illness is the first kind of health issue that plagues the LGBTs. They first begin to suffer from a lack of identity since they often feel that they do not fit into what the society considers to be normal. Sexual identity crisis usually begins at the teen years which are the formative years. At this time, teenagers often feel confused and wonder why they cannot be like their peers. Some of their different behavior may lead to them being ostracized by their friends and even family.
This leads to anxiety, depression and a general feeling of being lost. This situation will be made worse of the parents or guardians are not well versed in issues of gender identity and may feel that it is an anomaly of some kind that their child is suffering from. It is important during this time of confusing that young people be made to feel comfortable and to embrace who they truly are. Lack of acceptance and the feeling of being different may make the LGBTs to turn to drug and substance abuse to deal with discrimination and forget their problems for a while. Seeking help for this mental illness may prove quite difficult also because of perceived discriminatory practices among healthcare providers (Herek, G. M. 2016).
Mental illness among the LGBTs means that they are two to three times more likely to commit suicide that the general population. Depression and anxiety also affects them, with the young people sometimes opting to stay out school as they are bullied by their peers for appearing to be unusual. This feeling of being different starts early on in life and will remain with the LGBTs for a long time after. Mental illness stems mostly from the lack of validation by family, peers and the community as a while. On a personal level, the LGBTs struggle to come to terms with their own sexual identity and during this time it is important that they take part in activities that make them feel that they are a person like any other. This includes taking part in sport activities and other leisure activities so that they can focus on other areas in their lives apart from just their sexual orientation.
When HIV/AIDS was first discovered, it was considered to belong only to gay people. While this may not have been the case exactly, there are many factors that make the LGBT community uniquely predisposed to health issues that other members of the general population may not suffer from. There are conditions that are more prevalent in some groups within the LGBT community. When it comes to lesbians, they have a high rate of breast cancer which can be attributed to not doing regular screening for the condition. Anxiety and depression are also very common. Physical fitness is also a challenge among lesbians as the rarely exercise and some may be obese. Drug and other forms of substance abuse are more prevalent among lesbian women.
Gay men also have conditions that are unique to them such as anal cancer and a higher likelihood of HPV than women. Depression and anxiety that may lead to suicide are also very high among gay men, this is especially true if the men haven’t come out as gay yet and feel that they have to keep their sexual orientation to themselves. They may fear being judged and such feelings may overwhelm them and eventually lead to suicide especially in the more conservative settings. Anti gay violent threats are very real and life threatening and this is one of the factors that may keep gay men closeted and living a lie that conforms to other people’s opinions.
Eating disorders are also very common among LGBTs especially the gay men, they are highly likely to suffer from disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Sexually transmitted infections such as hepatitis mean that gay men should get vaccinated and practice safe sex to reduce the risk of contraction. Annual screening is highly recommended for other infections and diseases such as Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. HIV is a major area of concern for the LGBT considering the fact that gay men are about sixty times more likely to contract HIV than their straight peers.
Bisexual individuals are even more likely to commit suicide than gay men and lesbians. They are also more likely to take part in activities that may cause them harm when compared to lesbians and gays. Drug and substance abuse are common among bisexual women. Studies have been done mostly in the area of gay men and HIV than the same studies on lesbian women. Lesbian women who were pregnant are generally very open to discussing their lifestyle by tot is common practice that the forms to be filled out when seeking healthcare tend to mention fathers and mothers. This should definitely be changed as both are equal parents to the child. It may be a bit difficult for workers to come up with gender neutral language in order to make the whole practice as inclusive as possible.
Transgender people perhaps face the greatest hurdle of all when it comes to seeking healthcare. There are usually no insurance plans for gender reassignment surgery and many healthcare workers treat the Trans gender people with bias and discrimination that make the whole process of self identity incredibly painful for the patient. Transgender people have actually been denied healthcare by doctors and other medical practitioners after identifying themselves as transgender. They are less likely to be uninsured by their employers. When a transgender person did not have reproductive organs such as uterus and breast remain with the risk of cancers in those organs.
It is essential that the mental health of transgender people be closely watched as they have a high tendency for depression and anxiety especially before and after gender reassignment surgeries. They may have lost friends and family in the process so those treating them have to do so with the utmost levels of sensitivity. Eating disorders and self harm are still prevalent among the transgender population. When transitioning, transgender people have to use hormones that are specific to their new gender and these hormones have serious side effects such as dehydration, low or high blood sugar, blood clots, liver damage as well as significantly higher risk of heart disease.
Trans women may desire a certain physique and use silicone implants to achieve this. The process may be expensive and without a proper doctor to place the implants, it may lead to disfigurement and even death. Some silicone implants used are not medical grade and may cause serious complications. Trans people have to work as sex workers in order to earn a living and this should make the HIV prevalence very high but surprisingly, research has found that this is not the case. They have the lowest prevalence among the LGBT community. Drug abuse is still a major concern with smoking of marijuana being most likely in order to maintain weight loss. Other drugs that are misused include cocaine, heroin and crack. Research has shown disparity between LGBT Caucasians and those of color.
Members of the LGBT community may also find it quite difficult to get healthcare advice from social workers as they may feel discriminated against (Martos, A. J. et al, 2017). The forms that they may have to fill out when they visit healthcare facilities may not designed for inclusivity and this feeling of discrimination may make them feel like outsiders. They would therefore rather stay away from healthcare providers and self medicate, creating serious problems.
Use of drugs predisposes LGBT members to risky sexual behavior. When high on drugs, there tends to be diminished decision making capacity hence may lead to unprotected sex and other risky behavior that can lead to spread of infections and diseases. The problem of substance abuse has not been adequately tackled. This will give insight into the reasons as to why the rates of substance abuse are higher among the LGBT community, as compared to the general population. Funding for research into LGBT issues by the National Institute of Health makes up less than a half percent of all its funding (Cahill, S., & Makadon, H. 2014). The bulk of this funding mainly goes to sexual risk and HIV. Substance abuse therefore almost has no funding set aside, and this makes it quite difficult to get accurate statistics on the prevalence of the problem.
Intervention may be in the form of prevention measures as opposed to just reactionary treatment measures. Research has shown that tailored prevention programs achieve more success rates than just using a general program. However, this has to be done with care that the patients seeking treatments do not feel any more isolated than they already do. LGBT people living in rural areas are at a disadvantage as there may not be a gay-friendly center where they can seek the help they need.
Social workers that treat LGBT groups also have to be equipped with special know-how in dealing with these minority groups. Gay Affirmative Practices (GAP) provides guidelines to social workers on how to deal with LGBTs. Some of these practices include not assuming that all clients are heterosexual. It is common that if one is used to being around and treating heterosexual patients, dealing with LGBTs demands for a change in attitude and also ensuring that the language used in treatment facilities is friendly to them. Bias is a common factor in any situation that must be dealt with. Social workers must learn to recognize any biases that they might have before they commence treatment of gay people (Carabez, R. et al, 2015). If the patient can feel some kind of bias from the social worker, this can make them feel discriminated against and may put them off from seeking treatment.
In case the social worker has any kind of homophobia and heterosexual biases, this must also be addressed beforehand. The social worker should accept the individual as a positive outcome of the helping process among others. Identification and location of LGBTs who need treatment for substance abuse are particularly difficult. It is therefore important that social workers be trained so as to handle them in a way that is non- discriminatory and non-stigmatizing. Healthcare is a basic human right and no one should feel ostracized or discriminated against. Training and awareness will go a long way in ensuring that the general population is more accepting of the LGBT community and do what they can to support them. The families, friends and general community should offer support to LGBTs as they go through the motions of self identity.
Cahill, S., & Makadon, H. (2014). Sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in clinical settings and in electronic health records: A key to ending LGBT health disparities. LGBT health, 1(1), 34-41.
Carabez, R., Pellegrini, M., Mankovitz, A., Eliason, M., Ciano, M., & Scott, M. (2015).“Never in all my years…”: nurses’ education about LGBT health. Journal of Professional Nursing, 31(4), 323-329.
Herek, G. M. (2016). A nuanced view of stigma for understanding and addressing sexual and gender minority health disparities.Keuroghlian, A. S., Ard, K. L., & Makadon, H. J. (2017). Advancing health equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people through sexual health education and LGBT-affirming health care environments. Sexual health, 14(1), 119-122.
Martos, A. J., Wilson, P. A., & Meyer, I. H. (2017). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health services in the United States: Origins, evolution, and contemporary landscape. PloS one, 12(7), e0180544.