After Marriage Equality: Love Won, But When Will Wellness?
Advocacy Decades of stigma and discrimination have left wounds in the LGBTQ community that are still in the process of healing — but there is a way forward.
What a year to be queer. We celebrated the right to marry while, coast-to-coast, straight friends and family happily reposted the universal message: Love Wins!
It’s been wonderful, and yet marriage equality, while an important legal victory, did not make everything better overnight.
Who’s at risk and why?
LGBTQ communities continue to witness violence and serious health disparities that threaten our safety, our physical and mental health and even our lives.
Certain groups are especially vulnerable: youth, seniors, transgender people, people of color and others experience much higher rates of violence, sickness, disease and mental illness. Significant gaps in transgender medicine prevent access to care and increase health and mental health risks.
Stigma has also impacted medical research and training. Even those of us leading reasonably safe, healthy lives have probably encountered a doctor who made awkward assumptions, omitted important information or failed to take our sexual and gender identity into consideration.
A way forward
How many of us put off going to the doctor much longer than we should just to avoid another negative experience?
Given these challenges, let’s make a commitment to stay informed about our health and wellness needs, advocate for those who face the hardest challenges and make sure we are regularly accessing care. Here are some to-do’s as we head into 2016:
If you are able, find a doctor you can talk to comfortably. Local community centers and online social media resources can help identify providers (including low-cost and free services) with good reputations in the queer community.
Make appointments for your check-ups and screenings, including an annual screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you are sexually active. If you think you have been exposed to an STI, talk to a doctor or trained STI counselor as soon as possible. Get tested, get treated and learn what you can do to take care of yourself.
Don’t ignore your feelings. Your mental health matters. Many of us struggle with emotional and behavioral challenges, including addiction, depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. Get connected to the support that you deserve by reaching out to a local hotline, community group or LGBTQ-friendly counselor.
The well-being of every LGBTQ person matters. Here’s to our continued progress towards a stronger, healthier, more equitable world.