A Different Set of Needs
The fundamental ability to access healthcare services can be a challenge for many LGBTQ+ individuals. “Many LGBT people have difficulty finding providers who are knowledgeable about their needs, encounter discrimination from insurers or providers, or delay or forego care because of concerns about how they will be treated,” reports Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit organization that investigates and reports on human rights abuses. A study conducted by Lambda Legal in 2014 found that more than half of lesbian, gay or bisexual survey respondents and 70% of transgender people had experienced discrimination while seeking healthcare.
Another obstacle related to accessing healthcare services many in the LGBTQ+ community face is higher unemployment rates as the result of employment and education discrimination. This can have a compound effect from a healthcare perspective:
Being uninsured for healthcare coverage. According to a March 2017 report, overall, LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as non-LGBT people: 15% of LGBT respondents are uninsured, compared to 7% of non-LGBT respondents. Uninsurance is highest among transgender individuals: 25% of transgender respondents are uninsured, compared to 8% of cisgender respondents. (Source).
- Engaging in high-risk work as a means of survival. The most recent Transgender Discrimination Survey (transgender individuals have some of the highest unemployment rates in the LGBTQ+ community) found that 11% of respondents report having done sex work. Broken down by race, the study found that 33% of Latinx respondents and 40% of Black respondents reported participation in sex work. Additionally, homeless LGBTQ+ youth are seven times more likely than heterosexual-identified peers to trade sex for a place to stay.
When individuals access the healthcare system, they often present with a different set of needs than those who are not LGBTQ+. The unique needs of the LGBTQ+ are often the result of misinformation, marginalization, and other forms of discrimination.
Mental health/suicide: LGBTQ+ individuals, especially youth, experience higher rates of mental health struggles and suicide.
Illicit drugs: An estimated 20%-30% of the LGBTQ+ community abuse substances, compared to 9% of the non-LGBTQ+ population. Many in the LGBTQ+ community face unique daily challenges related to their self-identity including discrimination or stigmatization based on LGBTQ+ identity, hate crimes, emotional abuse, threats, public humiliation, rejection or shame from family or friends after coming out, and loss of employment. (Source).
- STDs and HIV: Some LGBTQ+ groups experience higher rates of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV than the general population.
Consider: Are there connections between experiences with oppression that can lead LGBTQ+ youth and adults down paths of decision-making and survival that non-LGBTQ+ are less likely to head down?