On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the Student Health Awareness Initiative (SHAI) presented a lecture on LGBTQ+ and Trans Health.

The purpose of the events was “to provide students from all genders and sexual orientations information on health in relation to people who are LGBTQ+ and Transgender,” according to the event flyer.

Dr. Katie Mercer, from the College of Public Health, led the presentation.

“I think this event is important because we have all identities represented here on campus,” said Mercer in an email. “There are unique experiences that are had by some LGBTQ+ individuals that may contribute to poor health outcomes and health disparities when compared to the general population.”

She said that in terms of clinical medicine, it is beneficial for health practitioners to have an understanding of what the literature says about the epidemiology of certain conditions that are prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community. This will allow health care providers to have the best practices for these patients in terms of the provision of care.

“From a public health standpoint, becoming more equipped with the knowledge of poor health outcomes that befall this population, health promotion professionals will be more prepared to create additional inclusive, and perhaps more focused, health prevention programming,” said Mercer.

There were several key takeaways from the event.

LGBTQ+ individuals often have unique experiences that may contribute to poor health outcomes and health disparities when compared to the general population.

Mercer said that some LGBTQ+ individuals face barriers to receiving care. These barriers may include:

  • fear of judgment
  • past negative healthcare experiences
  • lack of health coverage (including lack of sufficient coverage for identity-related issues)
  • lack of culturally-competent practitioners
  • lack of affirming healthcare and public health spaces.

“Mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals is of particular concern,” said Mercer. “Fear, trauma and stress related to their LGBTQ+ identities can contribute to poor mental health outcomes, including high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.”

She also said that having to “come out” is a good example of an activity that can cause fear of judgement and violence. It may also cause trauma from reactions of family and/or friends.

There is also a lack of data in some areas regarding LGBTQ+ healthcare and experiences.

“More data needs to be collected on this population,” said Mercer. “Additionally, there needs to be work done to improve the language that represents complex identities, in order to collect data that will be useful. Intersectionality must be considered when creating data collection methodologies, in order to gain a true read of which identity may cause what problem(s), and what the relationships between an individual’s identities does to one’s health.”

Intersectionality is defined as “the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual,” according to Dictionary.com.

Mercer said that she thinks GS will see more events like this in the future.

“I am willing to be a part of creating awareness and change regarding this subject no matter the scale or stage,” she said.

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