My first priority is giving my patients not only the best care possible, but the respect and compassion that women need and deserve. I reach out to my LGBT community because they are in the minority, the underdogs in receiving medical care and gainful employment.
The National Survey of American Growth suggests that 1.6 percent of Americans identify themselves as lesbian, and 3.5 percent of women identify as bisexual. Historically, lesbian and bisexual women have felt afraid and apprehensive about getting healthcare because of confidentiality and disclosure, discriminatory attitudes and treatment, uncertainty about their health care needs and risks, and because of limited access to insurance.
Know your rights. The bottom line is that all healthcare providers must provide the same complete medical care to lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual women.
Healthcare providers are often uncomfortable asking questions directly related to sexual orientation, but these specific questions are important and necessary in providing proper preventative care and treatment. When you’re having your medical and sexual history taken by your healthcare provider, they may overlook your sexual orientation.
A “yes” to the question of “Are you sexually active?” needs to be followed up with, “Are you sexually active with a male or female?” A lesbian may not offer that information unless she is asked directly, and if there’s no exchange of this vital information, there is no real communication between patient and healthcare provider.
I believe the medical community needs to take the lead and learn the appropriate and sensitive way of asking the potentially uncomfortable medical questions necessary to bridge the gap in a doctor-patient relationship, especially concerning lesbian and bisexual patients.
It’s also essential that a lesbian or bisexual woman find a healthcare provider with whom she feels completely comfortable. And that comfort needs to extend to a welcoming and receptive office staff as well.
Studies in the past have found that lesbians and bisexual women have higher health risks than heterosexual women and a greater incidence obesity, tobacco use, drug and alcohol use, Type 2 Adult Onset Diabetes, lung cancer, cardiac disease and heart attacks. Whatever the factors in these health concerns (perhaps depression caused by alienation or discrimination?), it is important for lesbians to be aware of their increased health risks and even more important for them to disclose their sexual orientation to their healthcare provider so that they may provide the appropriate medical screenings.
Since same-sex marriage is now legal, employment rights and benefits now include lesbians, gay couples, and domestic partnership. That said, some health providers will not provide fertility services to women who identify themselves as lesbian. These providers seem to think that the families in the LGBT community must be guided by different rules and guidelines than heterosexual couples. But sexual orientation should never be a barrier to receiving fertility treatments — The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists backs me up on this one.
Same-sex couples are getting married, planning families, and trying to live their American Dream, but the truth is that for the LGBT community, the dream is more complicated than for most Americans. Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual vaginas all have the same gynecological health and medical needs.
Demand respect from your healthcare providers, and, more to the point, give your body, your soul, and your vagina the respect they deserve. Claim the person you are and love them for life!