As a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer person, do you ever feel like no one has your back when it comes to healthcare? Do you feel like you are not getting the best care possible because of your sexual orientation? Do you not feel comfortable disclosing your sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status to your primary doctor for fear of discrimination? If this sounds like you, and you feel like that everyone in the healthcare system is against the LGBTQ community, then I have some good news for you. Some of you may have heard of The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), but if you are like me and had no idea that it existed, it is a great resource for the LGBT community to be aware of and utilize.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association was founded in 1981 with the mission to “ensure equality in healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and healthcare providers”1. In all 50 U.S. states and in 12 countries all over the world, GLMA works to combat homophobia not only in the medical profession, but in society as a whole; to promote quality health care for LGBT and HIV-positive individuals; to foster a safe and professional environment where the many diverse members can work to their maximum potential; and to support and aid members that have faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity2.
Originally, GLMA was only open to physicians, residents, and medical students; however, in 2002, GLMA opened its doors to LGBT health professionals of all kinds, including: nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, researchers and academics, behavioral health specialists, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians, health profession students, etc. In addition to expanding membership to everyone in the health professional community, LGBT patients and families and they welcome anyone who supports their mission to ensure equality in healthcare1.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association plays a critical role in bridging medicine and the LGBT movement. For example, GLMA partnered with the Human Rights Campaign on the Healthcare Equality Index, a quality indicator for LGBT healthcare related to hospital policy, measuring issues like patient non-discrimination, patient decision making, visitation, and cultural competency1. GLMA is a major force in the effort to ensure health and well-being of LGBT people and their families because of the strong collaborations that they have with other LGBT civil rights organizations, health associations, and policy makers. The organization has made huge strides for LGBT healthcare equality, including: healthcare reform, hospital discrimination, electronic health records’ inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, marriage equality, patient education and referrals, HIV status discrimination, cultural competence, health profession advocacy, health profession education, continuing education for health professionals, and promoting LGBT research1.
If you find yourself feeling discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or gender identity or you simply do not think that you are getting the quality medical care that you should receive, I encourage you to take a look at the GLMA website. As a LGBT patient, you can find a free provider directory of about 2000 LGBT-friendly providers from all over the U.S. and Canada that can help you and your LGBT friends and family find a welcoming provider that has affirmed their commitment to the health of LGBT people. Even if you are happy with your provider, it is still worthwhile to peruse the site and check out their resources that will help you to take control of your health. For example, they created very helpful factsheets like their series of Top Ten Issues to Discuss with Your Healthcare Provider:
These fact sheets identify and explain the top ten health issues that are most common within each of the demographics listed. They are great aids because they allow you, the patient, to discuss and communicate more efficiently and effectively with your provider about health issues that are of applicable to you as a sexual minority.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is a great organization that has the LGBT community’s best interests in mind. So whether you are a provider, student, patient, family member, or just an interested individual, I encourage you to browse the website and absorb the wealth of important information that it offers.
1. Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s Impact. Gay and Lesbian Medical Association Web site. Available at: http://www.glma.org/_data/n_0001/resources/live/Our%20Impact.pdf. Accessed July 14, 2014.
2. Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. The Body: the complete HIV/AIDS resource. Available at: http://www.thebody.com/content/art13665.html. Accessed July 14, 2014.
Tags: Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, GLMA, LGBT, Queer, health disparities, sexual health, patients, providers, healthcare, resources, sexual minorities, sexual orientation, gender identity, health issues, Advocacy, Policy, Human Rights Campaign, Healthcare Equality Index.