Reversing the Healthcare Disparities of LGBTQ+ Youth

via Louisville Magazine

Over 42% of non-binary youth, 50% of transgender boys, 30% of transgender girls have attempted suicide. LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13-19 face more trauma, more mental and physical health struggle, and more violence than do their cishet counterparts. However, they remain significantly less likely to obtain the help necessary to deal with it. 

This is chiefly due to stigmatization, discrimination, and neglect at the hands of their peers, families, and even physicians. 

This denial of fundamental 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. Something must be done to redeem the youth of these marginalized communities- to allow them to connect with those with the information and resources necessary for their survival. Only then will LGBTQ+ youth offered the care they not only need but deserve on the most rudimentary level. Only then will society empower 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 granting medical providers the right to deny potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ+ individuals based on their religious beliefs. Such judgments have fostered a hostile divide between public health professionals and the LGBTQ+ community, shifted power into the hands of healthcare providers, and prevented many from seeking help.

These rulings are demoralizing and have come to negatively impact several lives around the country. They have opened doors to rampant discrimination and have compromised the safety and well-being of millions of innocents in America. However, several actions must be made 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. This includes 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, doctors and healthcare professionals must ask non-judgemental questions and foster an affirming and supportive environment where honest dialogue can occur. Often, healthcare providers serve as LGBTQ+ youth’s only accurate and reliable source of information. In turn, they must commit themselves to ongoing learning by participating in webinars and training programs on how to provide optimal health care to LGBTQ+ youth and encouraging colleagues to do the same. 

Moreover, allies can play an integral role in the fight for equality. Even if you are a student, you also have the power to make a difference. You can show your support and spark conversation by joining or starting a Gay-Straight Alliance club at your school or by visiting your institution’s LGBTQ+ resource center. By keeping the conversation going and serving as an ally, you can help bridge the healthcare gap for LGBTQ+ youth.

As for the general populous in support of equality, you can join advocacy groups that take an intersectional approach to healthcare awareness. This could include fighting for more accessible and inclusive reproductive healthcare, raising funding for research around LGBTQ+ health care topics, supporting LGBTQ+-Inclusive shelters and clinics, and working to end of employment inequality. 

Finally, if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you need to know your legal rights and seek out allied resources. There are comprehensive resources available, either online or in your local community, that help to bridge the healthcare gap and provide vital information to LGBTQ+ youth. A few notable examples include Supportive healthcare resources for LGBT Youth, LGBTQ-friendly clinics by Region, and LGBTQ Youth Resources by State. Additionally, hers’ Twitter page offers excellent information on LGBTQ+-friendly healthcare resources.

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