This years’ LGBT+ history month focused on “Medicine - #UnderTheScope”, but what connection is there and what progress has been and is yet to be made in regards to the LGBTQIA+ community and healthcare? Guest blogger Jade Cohen investigates.

What is LGBT+ History Month?

We've taken huge strides over the past few decades in terms of society accepting and embracing the LGBTQIA+ community, however, more recently we've also started to see a huge rise in hate crimes. The observation of LGBT+ History Month each February acts to shine a spotlight on the struggles, triumphs, and contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other marginalized identities. In this blog post, we will explore why LGBT+ History Month is essential, the history it seeks to commemorate, and its ongoing significance in promoting equality and understanding.

A brief bit of history…

The roots of LGBT+ History Month can be traced back to the activism and advocacy efforts of the LGBT+ community itself. The Stonewall riots of 1969 in the United States marked a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBT+ rights, galvanizing a movement that would eventually make its way to the UK. As awareness grew, so did the need to commemorate the struggles faced by the community and recognize the individuals who paved the way for progress.

Looking at the prehistory of LGBT+ activism, there is evidence of LGBTQIA+ communities in multiple cultures, from Ancient Greece to Native America. Criminal codes against same-sex behaviours were introduced during the age of European exploration. Further gender-conforming rules made their way into cultures around the world, particularly in the West where clothing and dress were used as a way to identify gender and associated expectations.

Over time, certain professions enabled a safer environment than others, including the arts, theatre, and we can’t forget the influence of New York’s underworld on the modern-day drag scene. The turning point for liberation came during the Stonewall riots in 1969, when patrons of the popular Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village fought back against ongoing police raids of their neighbourhood bar.

The AIDS epidemic meant the community suffered a terrible setback, particularly for gay men, during the 1980’s. This is also a significant point on the theme of medical care, and what it means for the LGBT+ community, as part of the 2024 theme for this year’s history month.

What about healthcare?

Historically, research on LGBT+ health issues has been limited. This lack of data has made it challenging to address specific healthcare needs adequately. Comprehensive research is crucial to understanding the unique health disparities within the community. Transgender people, in particular, have faced challenges accessing gender-affirming healthcare. Issues include a lack of knowledgeable healthcare providers, difficulties accessing hormone therapy or gender-confirming surgeries, not to mention insurance barriers.

These challenges in healthcare are often exacerbated when intersecting with other identities, such as race, socioeconomic status, and disability. This became all too clear when looking at the repercussions of COVID-19 when the intersecting nature of these factors meant treatment and/or follow-up care wasn’t always tailored appropriately. This intersectionality highlights the need for a more comprehensive understanding of healthcare disparities.

There are so many wonderful and talented members of the healthcare community operating across the UK, and appropriate levels of resourcing are constraining our ability to best support the population (both LGBT+ community and otherwise). That being said, there have been several advancements in healthcare provision for the LGBT+ community in recent years. These changes reflect a growing awareness of the unique healthcare needs of this community and a commitment to promoting inclusivity. Some of these include:

  • Recognition of Gender Identity: The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has taken steps to recognize and address the healthcare needs of transgender individuals. Gender identity clinics have been established, providing specialized care, including gender-affirming treatments such as hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgeries.
  • Access to HIV Prevention and Treatment: The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. The availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been expanded, providing an additional tool for preventing HIV transmission.
  • Integration of LGBT+ Health in Medical Education: Efforts have been made to integrate education about LGBT+ health into medical training curricula. This ensures that healthcare professionals are better equipped to provide culturally competent and sensitive care to LGBT+ individuals.
  • Online Resources and Support: The availability of online resources and support networks has expanded, offering information, counselling, and communities for LGBT+ individuals. These resources contribute to increased awareness and accessibility of healthcare information.

While these advancements represent positive steps, challenges persist, and there is ongoing work to further improve healthcare provision for the LGBT+ community. Continued efforts to eliminate discrimination, enhance cultural competency, and address health disparities are essential to ensuring equitable and inclusive healthcare for all.

This is a time to reflect on the advancements made to date and to consider what more is needed to improve.

Summary thoughts:

LGBT+ History Month is not only for the community it directly represents but for everyone who believes in equity and justice. Allies play a crucial role in amplifying the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community and advocating for their rights. The month serves as an invitation for individuals outside the community to educate themselves, challenge their own biases, and actively contribute to a more inclusive society. Through awareness, education, and allyship, we can continue to build a world where every individual is free to embrace their authentic selves without fear or prejudice.

If there is one takeaway from this blog, make it to research one topic (e.g. HIV/AIDS) and to understand the latest status and research, to combat outdated beliefs and fears which might still prevail in society. Increasing our own awareness will help us in both personal and professional lives, and start to dispel the stigma associated with our healthcare differences.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

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Jade Cohen

Jade Cohen is the Co-Founder and CPO of Qualis Flow, a construction tech company committed to reducing carbon in construction. After spending time on site on two of Europe's largest infrastructure projects - Jade created Qualis Flow alongside industry peer Brittany Harris, bridging the AI, software and civil engineering worlds. As part of her commitment to this cause, she sits on several advisory panels including for ZERO Construct and UKGBC, alongside mentorship of other impact-focused founders.


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