On Thursday, December 9th, the largest survey of transgender people ever conducted was published by The National Center for Transgender Equality. The anonymous online survey had nearly 28,000 participants and found transgender people are twice as likely to live in poverty and three times more likely to be unemployed, according to an article in TIME Magazine. Other findings included that one-third of respondents reported issues in finding healthcare and 42% reported higher rates of mistreatment by health care providers.
Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director, Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D., lauded the recent national study highlighting the healthcare needs of transgender people in the United States. “More is needed on the health care experiences of transgender adolescents, especially their experiences with family physicians who often do not have the training to provide necessary gender affirming care,” she noted.
Fisher’s research with colleagues from Northwestern University, supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), has highlighted the critical need for physicians who are trained and open to providing gender minority youth with not only transitioning information, but also gender and sexual orientation specific sexual health information and services to prevent HIV and related STIs.
Earlier this month, the United States Surgeon General issued a report declaring substance use disorders, like addiction, the “most pressing public health crises of our time.” The report called the country to action to both help those struggling with the chronic illness of addiction and change how addiction in the U.S. is perceived as a “criminal justice problem” rather than the public health problem that it is.
“Many people still believe that addition is a moral failing or a sign of weakness, but decades of research as summarized in the surgeon general’s report support the notion that this is medical condition brought about by a number of factors, including genetics and environmental influences,” Bonar explained.
For bisexual female adolescents, proper sexual healthcare is difficult to obtain due to healthcare providers’ judgmental attitudes and assumptions of patient heterosexuality, and lack of opportunities for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing. Additionally, youth openness with healthcare providers is restricted due to stigma experienced within families of bisexual teen girls and concerns of confidentiality. These findings were published in LGBT Health, a Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publication.
In addition to attitudes and assumptions of healthcare providers and stigma within families, the findings also included limited school-based sexual health education as an important factor contributing to insufficient health care for bisexual adolescent girls.
“The findings from our study are consistent with the unfortunate fact that sexual health care of adolescent girls has largely been absent or focused primarily on birth control tools that do not prevent risk of HIV and other STI – especially if male partners refuse to use condoms,” notes Fisher, Director of Fordham Center for Ethics Education, “and this problem is exacerbated for bisexual girls who may be unprepared for sexual experiences with male partners or who engage in such experiences to avoid social stigma.”
The researchers concluded that practitioners must improve standard sexual health practices involving female youth by integrating nonjudgmental questions regarding bisexuality. According to Fisher, the study “underscores the need for additional training of family physicians and gynecologists to engage in patient centered discussions that help to overcome bisexual invisibility and fears of medical discrimination that are barriers to bisexual girls sexual health.” In a recent article about the study, William Byne, MD, PhD of LGBT Health, adds, “Knowledge of a patient’s sexuality is essential to the biopsychosocial model of clinical practice.”
According to the study, other forms of support of bisexual health among adolescent girls include addressing stigma, increasing sensitivity to privacy and expansion of school-based sexual health education.
Read more about this research in the News Medical Life Sciences article as well as in LGBT Health.
For LGBT resources, please visit: RELAY – Research and Education for LGBT and Allied Youth is a project of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education which looks to advance the conversation about health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially trans youth.
The minority stress theory suggests that health disparities experienced by gay and bisexual men (GBM) and other sexual minorities can be explained in terms of stigma-related stressors such as discrimination at work, school, religious institutions, communities and families. The unique stressors of an HIV-positive status experienced by GBM, however, has been overlooked within research on minority stress.
Dr. Rendina has been conducting HIV research with GBM for more than ten years. He explained the need to thoroughly test “the role of internalized stigma about sexual orientation, or internalized homophobia, and internalized HIV stigma within a unified model to see whether one or both have an impact on HIV-positive gay or bisexual men.” Although it is already established that GBM are negatively impacted by internalized sexual minority stigma, the purpose of this study was to further explore the impact of HIV-related stressors on the health of GBM.