Healthcare for LGBTQ – Challenges and Solutions
MBBS 2019, BPKIHS
“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community where it really counts.” – Barbara Gittings, American activist for LGBTQ community.
Advancing to the 21st century, a lot of changes have been observed in terms of both, social awakening and political grounds. However, one of the major issues that require attention continues to be neglected- rights of the queers. Queers and other members of the LGBTQ community continue to be treated differently and have been victims to constant prejudices. Along with other major challenges faced by them including acceptance in the society, healthcare for them remains the capital, yet unaddressed issue.
The AIDS epidemic, which reached its peak in the 80’s and 90’s, was a vital moment for the queer community. Gay men were the most ravaged by the disease and the most feared and hated group because of it. The social prejudices prevailing in the society as well as the medical field stands as the greatest challenge in the healthcare of the queers. The homophobia prevalent among the medical professionals has lead to outright denial of essential services.
Looking closely as to what makes the people of this noble profession develop this mentality, we recognize that the problem starts with basic education. From the time we start learning biology, we are taught about two specific sexes only. Problem begins with lack of time, resources, willingness and ability of the faculty to teach LGBTQ related curricular content. This leads to lack of knowledge and understanding which in turn leads to denial of the existence of a possibility where a person belongs to the queer community. The lack of empathy shown by medical professionals forms the root cause of the challenges faced by queers.
Another major challenge is social acceptance. Gender dysphoria leads to denial of treatment. The past experiences as well as the kind of treatment given to people belonging to this community creates a sense of fear of rejection among them. A recent survey by the National Centre for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on Europeans revealed that 19 % of trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) people have been refused care because they were transgender or gender non-conforming. 28% of trans and GNC people have postponed medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect. More than 50% of LGBTQ people experience some form of health discrimination.
Absence of proper gender designation on medical intake forms or blatant refusal to provide basic and necessary services hamper their mental health as well. The social stigma and the prejudices often lead to patients not informing doctors of their sexual orientation. This, in turn, hampers the process of accurate treatment. The knowledge gap keeps many trans people from accessing trans specific medical procedures like hormone therapy or gender affirmation surgery.
These health care challenges are a hindrance to the basic right of the queers. Thus, these issues should be addressed. The solution would start by rectifying the root cause. Changing the education system in this regard has become the need of the hour. Proper resources are required. Training of the teachers should be conducted to incorporate this in the subject matter. Staff awareness and training is the key to solving healthcare challenges. A medical professional should keep one’s work ethics above all and should rise above the social prejudices prevailing. Treating patients without any discrimination should be the ultimate goal. Awareness among individuals of the society will also lead to better support and access to healthcare for the queers. Only knowledge can serve as the foundation for breaking the social stigmas.
Heterogeneity of queer people needs to be minimized for diverse care and requirements. There needs to be firm policies and legal edicts specifically for the LGBTQ people. A new federal rule in the United States of America eliminates healthcare protection for transgender people. This serves as a major blow to all the progress made in terms of providing basic health care needs to the community. This should be opposed firmly.
I would like to conclude by saying that a little compassion can do wonders. Queers and other members of the community are no less human than us. They deserve the right to live a healthy life. Any discrimination made by health professionals not only is a betrayal to this noble profession that exists to serve people, but is also the death of human nature residing within us. Hopefully, the current awareness among the citizens will help us all overcome the health challenges and provide the best of health care services to all without discrimination.