Who is “Women’s Health” for? LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care

Who is “Women’s Health” for? LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care
By Evan England, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, University of New Hampshire
 
Many cross-sectional and community-based studies in the U.S. have verified the high rates of health care discrimination that LGBTQ+ minorities face, which also vary by rural or urban location (Healthy People 2020). Additionally, much of the existing research tends to focus on the general health care setting with little attention to the inclusiveness of sexual and reproductive health services. This is alarming given the increasing need for these services by LGBTQ+ individuals as they gain more and more visibility in society.
 
These services, under the widely accepted and celebrated term “women’s health”, have traditionally taken a cisgender women-centered approach. This approach alienates transgender, transmasculine, and non-binary individuals who do not identify as cis-women but are in equal need of life-saving screenings, treatments, and counseling services. Cisgender women who have other LGBTQ+ identities report similar concerns related to their access to affirming care. While it is vital that LGBTQ+ people are included in the development of health programs and clinic protocols, it is equally important that sexual and reproductive health care is delivered using culturally competent methods that are specific to LGBTQ-specific needs (APHA, CDC).
 
LGBTQ-competent sexual and reproductive health care must be available to all NH residents regardless of their location. Participation in health research is key to understanding the current state of care delivery, which will help to inform future directions. Health clinic staff, regardless of job position, are invited to participate in a University of New Hampshire research study (#IRB-FY2022-136) to share their thoughts on LGBTQ+ inclusive sexual and reproductive health care in NH. You can help by sharing this confidential survey with your networks to ensure your regions are represented: https://unh.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7NSvlL7i4FKg2oe. Contact Evan England at [email protected] with any questions.
 
Competent care includes many different elements and must be reflexive to individual patient needs. From gender neutral language in brochures and signs to the use of chosen names and correct pronouns by front desk personnel, clinical support, and providers, all clinic staff have a stake in developing a truly inclusive environment. By practicing inclusion, “women’s health” professionals have the capacity to become leaders who help to deconstruct gendered health norms that exclude LGBTQ+ people and limit quality care.
 
References
American Public Health Association. (2016) Promoting Transgender and Gender Minority Health through Inclusive Policies and Practices. Retrieved from: https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2017/01/26/promoting-transgender-and-gender-minority-health-through-inclusive-policies-and-practices 
 
Healthy People 2020. (2022) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. Retrieved from: https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-health#:~:text=Research%20suggests%20that%20LGBT%20individuals,%2C2%2C%203%20and%20suicide
 
Stroumsa, Daphna, and Justine P. Wu. (2018) “Welcoming Transgender and Nonbinary Patients: Expanding the Language of ‘Women’s Health’.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 219(6):585-589.
 
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014) About LGBT Health. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/about.htm
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