Conference Paper

LGBT Health as a Tool for Social Justice

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Health is not just a personal issue: it reflects the structures that shape society and demographic factors such as race, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation that affect the ability of individuals to enjoy healthy lives. One of the core principles of a social justice approach to health is that everyone deserves care that effectively addresses all aspects of their lives, and in order to begin to pursue social justice in health, efforts to meet the needs of distinct populations, especially those with demonstrated health disparities, must be increased. One such population is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. As a result of factors like low rates of health insurance coverage, high rates of anti-LGBT violence, the stress of coping with systemic discrimination around sexual orientation and gender identity, and a lack of cultural competency in the health care system, this population suffers from significant health disparities. For LGBT people who are also members of other minority groups, these disparities are magnified, leaving these people vulnerable to cumulative negative health outcomes. This presentation identifies the health disparities that affect the LGBT community and explores the ways that sexual orientation and gender identity overlap with and exacerbate health disparities that are associated with other demographic characteristics, particularly race and ethnicity. Drawing on this discussion of current understandings of how LGBT health disparities interact with those impacting other minority populations, this presentation will analyze current policy and advocacy efforts aimed at achieving social justice in health by eliminating health disparities. Gaps in research that hinder these efforts will also be identified and discussed, and recommendations will be formulated for how policy and advocacy agendas can help channel resources into research strategies that are aimed at understanding intersectional disparities.

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