I See You! Do You See Me?
In college I met a girl named Robin. From a young age people called her “Birdy”. She hated being called Birdy. It made her feel uncomfortable, and her name was not Birdy it was Robin. Yet through grade school, middle school, and high school people continued to yell, “Hey Birdy come here” or “Hey Birdy whatcha doin?” At 18, having moved out of her home and at college two states away, a professor called out “Robin what is your answer?” Robin began to cry and needed to be excused. It was the first time in almost 15 years that someone had called her by her true name. The acknowledgment that someone finally saw Robin for her not Birdy or any other name was profound. Someone saw her for who she was.
Often LGBTQ+ community members are kept from being who they are. Health systems, domestic violence, privileges, and phobias all play a part in the denial of rights for LGBTQ+ members. In the LGBTQ+ community many are still denied the name, body, emotion, expression to be who they have always been by society, family, and the culture around them. They are denied their “Robin” instead they are “Birdy”.
The LGBTQ+ community continues to be denied in health care. On April 9th, 2021, I attended UW-Madison’s LGBTQ+ Health Summit. Looking extensively to find continuous conversation on LGBTQ+ health and health rights, I found that UW-Madison has one of the only summits in the country focused on the health struggles of the LGBTQ+ community. At this conference it was made clear the unbalanced care that members of the LGBTQ+ community deal with. Over half of LGBT physicians have heard derogatory comments from other healthcare professionals. Also 1/3 of these physicians have witnessed discrimination of LGBT patients (AARP). Not only is physician care an issue, but more than a third of medical schools reported 0 hours of LGBT-specific content. This leads to patients feeling under served and unvalued as they try to receive treatment. On top of that physicians are not being given tools to treat all clientele in a respectful way. Many LGBT patients therefore feel most comfortable going to providers that are trained in LGBT patient needs (AARP 2018). However, most of these caregivers are not on every health insurance and often have high out of pocket expenses for the patient.
Along with health care concerns, LGBTQ+ members deal with domestic violence and sexual assault within their relationships. With COVID constricting abilities to leave home, couples have been left to deal with domestic violence situations alone. Violence in couples throughout this time has increased. The LGBTQ+ community sadly has high rates of DV and SA without a global pandemic. “Our isolated environment, as well as the numerous financial and additional stressors brought by COVID-19, creates an increased risk of intimate partner violence a risk which is that much higher for LGBTQ people,” says Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
Within the LGBTQ community, intimate partner violence occurs at a rate equal to or even higher than that of the heterosexual community. 20% of all the LGBTQ+ community will experience a form of physical violence. 31% of all LGBTQ+ members will experience some form of emotional abuse. This leaves the LGBTQ+ community in a situation of over 50% of the community experiencing a form of DV sometime in their life.
To say these last few years have been tough on many communities, is an understatement. One big topic that has been made a little clearer in these times is privilege. The fact that we have privileges that separate is an issue. For the LGBTQ+ community privileges are becoming an increasing challenge. As a white woman I have white privilege. As a white bi-sexual woman I have less privilege, but it is different. I may not have the privilege to visit a female partner in the hospital, however I have the privilege of being a white woman and getting better pay then my Latinx, Asian American and African American/Black sisters. The LGBTQ+ community experiences less privileges than the heterosexual community. For example, there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination against someone’s sex or sexuality in public places like restaurants or theatres. It is a state choice to create these laws and as of right now only 26 states have laws regarding this discrimination.
As times have progressed certain equal rights have come through for our community, however there is a long way to go. For example, it was only April 7th this year that in Ireland a same sex couple was legally able to put the same gender down as parents to a child. Adoption is also a privilege that heterosexual couples have the advantage. If you are single or in a same sex relationship you cannot adopt children from most other countries.
Change is not easy. Most people find it difficult to make changes and accept them. However, as we grow as an individual it is key to make change in our thoughts and lives to learn. If we stay within our comfort zone we never grow. To make changes that benefit positively to the LGBTQ+ community, an effort must be made to change and adapt thought processes. Use empathy in your thoughts on our community. If this was me or my child or my friend, how would I feel? If you are not familiar with the needs of the LGBTQ+ community do a little research. If you have never thought of the health needs and changes for the LGBTQ+ community, investigate the uneven ground that is present currently. Take time to ask questions respectfully. Look into webinars and trainings that could help you understand. www.hrc.org is a great website to look for trainings, as well as www.glsen.org and https://www.lgbthealtheducation.org/resources/type/webinar/
If you enjoy reading think about reading a book or two maybe non-fiction on LGBTQ+ stories like We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power and Pride by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown. Or perhaps They/Them/Their by Eris Young and The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care by Zena Sharman.
If you are interested in trainings, I am a registered Safe Zone facilitator and can train for free, staff, groups, students, and any other group interested in wanting to know more and be a safe space for LGBTQ+ community members. Feel free to reach out! email@example.com
Defy will also be going LIVE on our Facebook page with an LGBTQ+ panel on June 16th, 2020 @ 4pm to discuss these topics and much more. We would love to see you there!
Statistics taken from: https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/domestic-violence-and-the-lgbtq-community & AARP