the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity

Discrimination and impact on general health care needs

It is sometimes assumed by health care professionals, policy makers, and patients that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people do not have unique health needs as a consequence of their sexual orientation.

This position is justified on the belief that it is perceived that being gay is something that a person “does” rather than what a person “is”. It is assumed that sexual health is the only unique health care need of a gay person, and, if that is the case, women do not have any unique health needs at all.

This, however, is not the case. Research suggests that LGB people have very specific concerns that are not necessarily met by service providers. Research has demonstrated that LGB people can experience broad social inequalities. Discrimination and homophobia can have a significant impact on LGB people’s engagement with society and infrastructures in society. It also has a significant impact on how they are treated by some health care providers.

LGB people may experience social exclusion at a variety of stages in their lives. They may leave school early as a result of homophobic bullying, may not participate fully in their communities, may be asked to leave their family home, and may find it difficult to find employment as a result. Young LGB people may seek support and a community in adult environments, and participate in high risk-taking behaviour. LGB adults may continue to face discrimination in their adult life, as they seek work, enter relationships, and as they take steps to start a family. Older LGB people may experience illness or poverty, and require sensitive state support and intervention.

Throughout LGB people’s lives, LGB people may also continue to disclose their sexual orientation in new environments and situations, and respond to incidents of discrimination and homophobia. They may experience discrimination and discriminatory practices from service providers, and the public sector. They may, for example, be reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation to their GP, because they anticipate discrimination, but then fail to receive appropriate health care. This perpetuates the health inequalities. A variety of trigger points throughout a person’s life can therefore lead to social exclusion.

LGB people also experience social exclusion as a consequence of the fact that they often belong to other minority groups that also experience discrimination. For example, LGB people can also be BME and therefore experience the same incidents of exclusion as other BME people. LGB people can also be disabled. Lesbians can experience poverty, in common with women in general. Two women in a relationship may experience a higher degree of poverty than a man and a woman. LGB people therefore do not exist in isolation as a separate, distinct community, but experience the same trigger points for social inequalities as other people. LGB people, however, may not benefit from preventative steps put in place to reduce exclusion of other groups, because they experience homophobia, and the health sector does not always take proactive steps to tackle discrimination.

It is therefore likely that if a group of people experience discrimination and social exclusion, they are also likely to experience health inequalities. Research suggests that LGB people have very specific health concerns (see below) and that the health sector needs to deliver targeted appropriate care to patients on the grounds of their sexual orientation. LGB people feel that this is not always the case in health care delivery.

Evidence

  • Speaking Out! Experiences of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people in Newham and issues for public sector service providers.  P Barlow (2003)
  • Count Me In: Brighton & Hove Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Strategy 2001 – 2006 J Beveridge, G Doyle, M Iorwerth, Law, A, Martin, P, Nicholson, S, Pointing, L, Spero, K, Thoday, N, Thomas, P
  • First Out: Report on the Findings of the Beyond Barriers survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland (2002)
  • Twenty Years of Public Health Research: Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Populations Boehmer (2002)
  • Working with Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Communities in NSW Braw (2000)
  • Towards a Healthier LGBT Scotland Inclusion Project (2003)
  • Fair for All – The Wider Challenge Good LGBT Practice in the NHS Inclusion Project (2004)
  • The Impact of Coming out on Health and Health Care Access: The Experiences of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Two-Spirit People S Brotman, B Ryan, Y Jalbert,Rowe, B (2002)
  • The GLBT Health Access Project: a state-funded effort to improve access to care  M Clark , S Landers , R Linde , Sperber, J (2001)
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health: findings and concerns  L Dean , I Meyer , KRobinson , Sell, R, Sember, R, Silenzio, V, Bowen, D, Bradford, J, Rothblum, E, White, J, Dunn, P (2000)
  • Speak Out: Report on the Findings of the Assessment of the Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People Living in Tayside
    Diversitay LGBT Group (2004)
  • Information needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered health care professionals: results of an Internet survey  C Farquhar, L Keith (2004)
  • LGBT Youth & Social Inclusion: A Review of Existing Research
    B Forsyth (2000)
  • Healthy People 2010: Companion document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Health  Gay and Lesbian Medical Association , LGBT Health Experts USA (2001)
  • Needs Assesment for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered Community in the North West of Ireland Health Promotion Department , Westcare Foyle Friend (2001)
  • Opening closed doors: improving access to quality health services for LGBT populations  I Jillson (2002)
  • Mapping LGBT Scotland: Report of Beyond Barriers survey of Scotland's LGBT sector  N Laird , N Bell , L Morgan (2003)
  • Are They There? Report of Research into Health Issues relating to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham B Cant (2003)
  • Something to Tell You: A Health Needs Assessment of Young Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People in Glasgow N Coia , S John , F Dobbie , Bruce, S, McGranachan, M, Simons, L (2002)
  • Social Exclusion - Homophobia and health inequalities: A review of health inequalities and social exclusion experienced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people  S Douglas Scott , A Pringle , C Lumsdaine (2004)
  • What Can We Do For LGBQ Youth in North Yorkshire? An Assessment of Service Needs and Provision in the Sub-Region A Richards , I Rivers (2003)
  • An evaluation of the Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Services (GLYSS) in Halton and Warrington. C Perry (2001).
  • Caring for lesbian and gay people: a clinical guide. A Peterkin. (2003)
  • Sexualities in health and social care: a textbook. T Wilton. (2000)
  • Who Cares? Institutional Barriers to Health Care for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Persons. M J. Eliason. (1998)
  • Aspects in the nursing care of lesbians. Royal College of Nursing. (1997)
  • Caring for lesbian and gay people: a clinical guide. A Peterkin. (2005)

 


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