Happy Pride Month as we Involve LGBTQIA Data in Health Research

As we are in the middle of pride month, we must take a second and pay homage to the role of black and brown women who have had a contribution to promoting the rights of LGBTQIA women in society, business, and the workplace.

Many of the defining moments in pushing for gay rights such as the stonewall riots in 1969 in New York were a result of a black transgender female who boldly challenged the oppressive systems that didn’t respect the rights of members of the queer community. At the time, it is reported that New York City didn’t offer licenses to bars that served gay drinkers. And the police stormed stonewall, a gay bar in New York to arrest gay clients in the bar.

The move of a black transgender woman Marsha Johnson to start a riot led to a series of demonstrations and push for the place of LGBTQIA people in our society. The black woman thus can make a change in our society if they act in a time of pressing need.

Many a time, the conversation for inclusion has been focused on racial and ethnic diversity, but other aspects of inclusion that are significant in clinical research such as gender and sexual orientation are not given enough attention because they don’t seem important.

The traditional research structures which determine how data is collected and give consent to use personal information are designed in such a manner they don’t address the specific needs of the LGBTQIA community and thus this demographic can easily be left out of clinical studies.

Information on gender and sexual orientation is very important to research because it has been proven by the existing data that;

  • Individuals who identify as lesbian or gay are more likely to use tobacco at a higher rate, 40 percent as compared to those who identify as straight. This is alarming because tobacco use is a risk factor for cancer
  • People who are gay, queer, or lesbians report a higher prevalence of mental and psychological illnesses such as depression and mood disorders when compared to straight people

Mental illnesses have been linked to discrimination and even harassment. It is thus very crucial to capture information on these unique demographics in clinical research because there might be other conditions that bring medical problems to this community that research is yet to exploit. Inclusive health research is thus paramount because it can be beneficial in informing medical care providers on how to handle members of the LGBTQIA community better.

A transgender man who was assigned the female sex at birth can still have “women’s diseases” and might need screening for breast cancer just like any man or female. A transgender woman who was assigned the male sex at birth might still need screening for prostate cancer. However, the lack of scientific data to show how often this community can be affected by these diseases can be a barrier to treatments. The public health systems might thus be forgoing useful information that can help close disparities that affect a unique population in our society and also provide person-centered care.

It is reported that the unique healthcare experience of lesbian and bisexual women is overshadowed by research that heavily focuses on heterosexual women and even the existing research on the health of lesbians is majorly about white, middle-class women and indicates that they face certain health disparities.

Research on black lesbian and bisexual women is thus very rare to come by.

Lesbian and bisexual women are also noted to be less likely to receive simple preventive healthcare such as Pap tests because the medical environment doesn’t encourage the disclosure of sexual orientation of the LGBTQIA women. Both the medical environment and the research society can thus greatly benefit from being supportive of the women in the LGBTQIA community by finding more information from them.

As we celebrate pride month and the milestones achieved in including the LGBTQIA community in other areas of our lives, we can also find ways of pushing for the inclusion of the queer community in clinical research.

The healthcare environment can be changed to efficiently address the needs of the LGBTQIA members because more data is needed on the unique experiences of this marginalized population that is related to their identities.

Happy Pride Month.

BWICR team!


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