Pride Month is a national celebration that brings awareness to the impact gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and plus (including pansexual, asexual, and omnisexual) individuals have on our society. Beginning with Pride Week, the last week of June, San Diego Pride Month spills into July, with parades, 5K runs, and other events and celebrations, all virtual this year.
The History of Pride Month
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pride Month traditions. The first pride march was held on June 28, 1970, in New York City, one year after the Stonewall Uprising. That day in 1969, a time when homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a predominantly gay bar in Manhattan. It was not uncommon for police to raid bars frequented by gays and lesbians at the time, but this incursion got out of hand when police became violent and a revolt ensued. People within the Greenwich Village neighborhood soon organized, demonstrating for days against centuries of abuse in hopes of establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexuality without fear of arrest. The following year pride marches sprang up around the world, and now pride parades and events are an annual tradition.
Although progress has been made in advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ people, including the right to marry, inequities in health care still exist for people within the LGBTQ+ community.
Health Disparity Facts
Research reveals that LGBTQ+ individuals face health inequities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and civil and human rights violations. For instance, the LGBTQ+ community exhibits higher rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
According to U.S. government statistics, as compared to non-LGBTQ+ people:
- LGBTQ+ youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to think about and attempt suicide
- LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience homelessness
- Lesbians and bisexual women are less likely to seek preventive services for cancer, including mammograms
- Lesbians and bisexual women are at greater risk for obesity, increased alcohol use, and smoking, all of which can lead to cancer
- Lesbians and bisexual women are at higher risk for BV (bacterial vaginosis)
- Bisexual women are at greater risk of experiencing rape, physical violence, and stalking
- Gay men, especially those of color, are at higher risk of contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which leads to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
- Gay men are at higher risk of acquiring STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Gay men have higher rates of HPV (human papillomavirus)
- LGBTQ+ adults are less likely to seek medical care and prescription medication when ill
- LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to receive health care services in emergency rooms or delay care
- LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and use drugs
- Transgender people have a higher rate of HIV and AIDS, victimization, mental health issues, suicide, and a lack of health insurance
Improving LGBTQ+ Health Outcomes
There are ways the medical community can help improve health outcomes for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. They include:
- Identifying LGBTQ+ disparities in health by collecting SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) data`
- Ensuring confidentiality for those seeking health care
- Providing medical students with proper training to understand cultural disparities
- Advocating for anti-bullying policies in schools and workplaces
- Providing social services support to reduce youth suicide and homelessness
- Supporting increased funding to investigate LGBTQ+ health disparities
How the Population as a Whole Can Help
Anyone concerned with human rights can speak out and vote for representatives who will act on the behalf of vulnerable populations, such as those in the LGBTQ+ community. Being aware of current events is the basis for making informed decisions. As an example, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010 and prohibiting health-care discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, creed, age, or national origin, has faced recent challenges. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the current administration has proposed a final rule change that removes protections against discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity, which could greatly impact transgender people. On June 22, 2020, the GLMA (formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association) joined a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal challenging the rule change, which is set to go into effect in August 2020. For more information, visit the GLMA website.
People also can show support for the LGBTQ+ community by joining in pride events and lending financial support by becoming a Pride Ambassador.
What Can LGBTQ+ People Do to Improve Health Outcomes?
On an individual level, LGBTQ+ people should seek medical care for the same health issues that affect the general population. Additional screening should include the following tests:
- HIV (at least once annually)
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Pap tests for lesbians and bisexual women
- Mammograms for lesbians and bisexual women
Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and B (there is no vaccine for Hep C) and HPV. PrEP and PEP regimens also are available for HIV-negative individuals. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a prescription prevention method for people who are HIV-negative but at high risk of HIV exposure through sexual contact or injection drug use. PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) refers to antiretroviral drugs for HIV-negative people who have a single high-risk exposure. PEP drugs can prevent HIV if taken within 72 hours of possible exposure and continued for four weeks.
Because LGBTQ+ individuals are apt to delay health-care needs, finding a health-care provider they are comfortable with is important. Locally, the LGBTQ Services page of Family Health Centers of San Diego, a private, nonprofit community health center, provides a list of resources for LGBTQ+ people seeking medical help. Call (619) 515-2300 to schedule an appointment with a provider. Telemedicine appointments are available as well as an urgent care facility. Everything from mental health services to STD screening and treatment to transgender health services is offered. Family Health Centers also provides benefits enrollment help.
A list of LGBTQ health clinics by state is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website by clicking here. Included are hotlines and referral services.
Community-wide resources, including coronavirus information and lists of LGBTQ-friendly providers, can be located through links on the San Diego LGBT Community Center website.
For information on virtual events for Pride 2020 in San Diego, including a virtual Pride 5K Run/Walk in July, visit San Diego LGBT Pride.
Sources: APA Public Interest Government Relations Office, LGBT Health Disparities, https://www.apa.org/advocacy/health-disparities/lgbt-health.pdf; CDC, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/clinicians/prevention/prep-and-pep.html; CDC, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health, https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/health-services.htm; Health Affairs, “HHS Strips Gender Identity, Sex Stereotyping, Language Access Protections from ACA Anti-Discrimination Rule,” https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200613.671888/full/; GLMA, http://www.glma.org/; Library of Congress, LGBT Pride Month, https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about /; Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health,” https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, Lesbian and Bisexual Health, https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/documents/fact-sheet-lesbian-bisexual-health.pdf
Graphics: https://publications.america.gov/publication/pride-2020-the-universal-declaration-of-human-rights/; https://www.lbcc.edu/post/lgbtq-students; https://sdpride.org/