June is Pride Month in the United States: an important time to honor LGBTQ+ history and to celebrate diversity in its many forms. This is an opportunity to reflect on the Stonewall Riots and impacts throughout the preceding decades, and today, we can learn more about lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community across the spectrums of gender identities and sexual orientations.
Even with periods of positive momentum over the years, a somber truth remains: LGBTQ+ patients still face challenges in the present-day healthcare realm. Johns Hopkins Medicine shares, “There continues to be great concern in the LGBTQ+ community that the hard-won advances in civil rights will be negated. Harkening back to days of the Stonewall Riots, the current environment is a reminder that PRIDE is both a time of celebration and a renewal of commitment to continue to fight for civil rights and greater acceptance and inclusion of all LGBTQ+ people in our world.”
In addition to Pride Month, June is also recognized as Men’s Health Month and Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, and it is important to recognize the health disparities that exist among LGBTQ+ patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “For all men, heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death. However, compared to other men, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are additionally affected by higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), tobacco and drug use, and depression.”
Consider this: a patient experiences pain in his groin area, but he does not feel comfortable sharing his sexual identity or history with a physician. He believes he may be judged or discriminated against for having intercourse with other men, although his pain may not be associated with his sexual history at all. That concern may cause him to avoid seeking treatment, which could have saved his life if they caught his fatal blood clot early on.
There are actions we can take — as practitioners, as patients, as allies, or all of the above — to help remove barriers and ultimately improve outcomes.
Take PRIDE in Health
Using the letters in PRIDE, below are some suggestions to be a well-being champion and support system for others:
P: Practice active listening.
If a family member, friend, or colleague opens up to you and shares, “I haven’t been feeling well lately,” listen up! Maybe he/she/they experienced physical pain or managed some difficult emotions lately; instead of assuming everything is OK, show genuine concern and ask questions. You may learn that the “not feeling well” issue is more significant than expressed.
R: Respond with care.
Create a safe space for this individual to be his/her/their authentic self, and respond to their concerns without judgment. You could also help validate and acknowledge their feelings, for example, “That sounds like a painful experience and I’m so sorry you’re going through this. How can I help support you?”
I: Instill confidence.
Take PRIDE in making healthy choices! We can help others find their confidence in taking positive steps and complete ownership of their physical, mental, spiritual, emotional health.
D: Designate helpers.
You may not be a practitioner yourself, but there are a multitude of wellness and support resources available to help LGBTQ+ patients, as outlined by this Johns Hopkins Medicine guide.
Organizations like Dina Proto International provide cultural competence education and training to practitioners and organizations alike .
Remember to take PRIDE in your health — and the health of others — throughout June and every month!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). For Your Health: For Your Health: Recommendations for A Healthier You.Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/for-your-health.htm
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022). LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/diversity/_documents/lgbtq_pride_heritage_guide.pdf?fbclid=IwAR17uDgKunY_aEuYr1OoKcdssHVRlXYzlCrxoQpic0QZ5Bt-F65v6P7-wj0
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