How LGBTQ+ Youth Can Overcome Healthcare Disparities

LGBTQ+ youth face more mental health struggle than do their cishet counterparts, and yet they are significantly less likely to obtain the help necessary to deal with it.

Over 50% of transgender boys, 30% of transgender girls, and 42% of nonbinary children have attempted suicide. LGBTQ+ youth face more trauma, more mental and physical health struggle than do their cishet counterparts, and yet they are significantly less likely to obtain the help necessary to deal with it due to social stigmatization, discrimination, and neglect at the hands of their peers, families, and even physicians. This denial of basic civil and human rights creates a barrier to healthcare resources for these individuals, causing them to delay seeking care or to avoid it altogether. However, it is imperative that this change. It is imperative that these communities of children, of teenagers, connect with those who have the right information and resources to allow LGBTQ+ youth to access the care they not only need but also deserve to the utmost. This will empower all members of the LGBTQ+ community to live longer, healthier lives.

Despite recent years bringing some progress toward healthcare equality, the LGBTQ+ community continues to face significant barriers to proper care. In addition to small-scale discrimination, the Trump-Pence administration has implemented a ruling that grants medical providers the right to deny potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ+ individuals based on their religious beliefs. Such rulings have shifted power into the hands of healthcare providers, fostered a hostile divide between public health professionals and the LGBTQ+ community, and deterred many from seeking the care they need.

Though these rulings are demoralizing, though they have already negatively impacted many lives, have opened doors to rampant discrimination, and have compromised the safety and well being of millions of innocents in America, we do not need to take such homophobia and transphobia without a fight. A number of actions can be taken by healthcare providers, LGBTQ+ youth, and allies to help overcome such disparities.

Clinicians themselves must play a more active role in assisting their patients with self-acceptance. This means understanding and addressing the unique healthcare disparities that LGBTQ+ individuals face, such as a higher prevalence of HIV and STIs, higher rates of alcoholism, substance abuse, and suicide (often tied with social stigma and neglect), legal discrimination in access to insurance, education, and more, and an appalling lack of educational programs around LGBTQ+ healthcare. Additionally, it is imperative that doctors and healthcare professionals ask non-judgemental questions and foster an affirming and supportive environment where honest dialogue can occur. Often times, healthcare providers serve as LGBTQ+ youth’s only accurate and reliable source of information, so they must commit themselves to ongoing learning by participating in webinars and training programson how to provide optimal health care to LGBTQ+ youth and encouraging their colleagues to do the same.

Moreover, allies can play an integral role in the fight for equality. As a student, you also have the power to make a difference. In support of equality, you can join advocacy groups that take an intersectional approach to fighting for equal access to healthcare and proper resources. This could include raising funding for research around LGBTQ+ health care topics, fighting for more accessible reproductive healthcare for all, supporting LGBTQ+-Inclusive shelters and clinics, and working to end of employment inequality. You can also show your support and spark conversation by joining or starting your school’s Redefy chapter or by visiting your institution’s LGBTQ+ resource center. By keeping the conversation going and serving as an ally, you have the ability to help bridge the healthcare gap for LGBTQ+ youth.

Finally, if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important for you to know your legal rights and seek out allied resources. There are inclusive resources available, either online or in your local community, that help to bridge the healthcare gap and provide vital information to LGBTQ+ youth, including Supportive healthcare resources for LGBT Youth, LGBTQ-friendly clinics by Region, and LGBTQ Youth Resources by State. For more information on LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare resources, keep up with hers’ Twitter page.

Change takes time, determination, and the efforts of many individuals. There’s certainly still work to be done, but together, we can work toward an equitable and more inclusive healthcare landscape.

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