Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations

June 21, 2013

Attendee-DC-Capital-Pride-Festival-2013-in-Washington-DCLast Saturday night, I was riding the metro, and my train car was completely full of revelers from the Capital Pride Parade. Most of parade-goers had festooned themselves in rainbow-colored beads, crayon boxes and feathers. It’s hard to imagine such an out-there event happening when I was a kid. It’s equally hard to imagine the Federal government producing this document twenty years ago. But both the parade and the book are events worthy of some bead-slinging revels.

Image: Reveler at the 2013 Capital Pride Parade in Washington, DC. Credit: Flickr photo by dctim1, used under a Creative Commons license.

An LGBT Primer for Health Professionals

According to Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information & Resource Kit, depression and suicide related to coming out (or not coming out) is still grimly common among all LGBT groups. Thank goodness times have changed. In forty-four years, American society has moved from the June 28, 1969, police raids on the gay community at the Stonewall Inn in New York City and subsequent violent demonstrations to today, where the issuance of this video series and the publication of this book by the Federal Government can now be considered commonplace. Things could and should get better—reading the probable causes of those health risks proves that—but acceptance of LGBT persons has definitely increased over the last few decades in the United States.

tophealthissuesLGBTTop Health Issues for LGBT Populations makes health information related to lesbian, gay, bi-and transgender (LGBT) people free and publicly available. Covering the high-level bullet points of the issues is the main purpose of the volume, which provides a good resource to health professionals who need a beginner’s awareness. Although the intended audience for this volume is health professionals, the general public, health teachers, and health students will also benefit from reading this volume to achieve a beginner’s awareness. Since the book uses the vernacular rather than technical health terms, and the writers intended it for newcomers to the topic, it is easily accessible to anyone with an interest.

Understanding Gender Identity

It’s difficult to know where to begin such a primer; this volume opens with the issue of gender identity. It is critical for health professionals to have an understanding of the differences between the groups, which have some related concerns, but also separate ones. As the authors write, “It wasn’t until the 1950s that the concepts and theories about gender, gender roles, and gender identity were introduced and defined in the [psychological] literature.” But ultimately, the authors conclude that health professionals will provide the best care to patients when they work from the position that “gender is not exclusively determined by an assigned sex at birth, but determined by a person’s sense, belief, and ultimate expression of self.”

Glossary of LGBT Terms and Definitions

Following the definition of gender identity is a glossary of terms and definitions related to gender identity, gender expression, sexual identity and sexual expression. If you are unclear as to what MTF, two-spirit, queer, drag king and WSW means, you can find answers here. The section entitled “Gender vs. Sex: a Fundamental Shift from an Exclusive Binary Paradigm” sets the tone for the book, as the authors seek to explore the full rainbow of sexual and gender expression and identity as opposed to the less nuanced hues of the “binary paradigm”. The section titled “Gender Identity Disorder: a Medical Perspective” is now rendered obsolete due to the recent replacement of the more pejorative “Gender Identity Disorder” term with the phrase “gender dysphoria” that is commonly used by the healthcare community today. The authors of this book demonstrated that they were definitely ahead of their time while writing this since they had originally noted the difficulties with the use of the “Gender Identity Disorder” term.

Specific Health Concerns for Different LGBT Groups

The majority of the book is devoted to discussing the varying health issues of the different groups. All of the LGBT groups have some similar concerns: staying in the closet and coming out of the closet create high levels of distress. Sadly, a higher proportion of the LGBT population has experienced physical abuse, either from an intimate partner or a family member. In relation to specific groups, lesbians have a higher risk for breast cancer as compared to straight women due to lower birth incidence among lesbians. Lesbian women are less likely to see a doctor for routine screenings, putting them at higher risk for breast, cervical and other cancers. Bisexual women report more hazardous drinking than either straight or lesbian women. Gay men have an increased risk for testicular, prostate and colon cancers than straight men, and are more likely to have body image problems and use tobacco than straight men. Each section cites the list of risk factors and the probable causes, as well as a list of bibliographic and Web resources.

How Can I Obtain a Copy of this Publication?

Celebrate LGBT Pride month by checking out the Federal Government’s latest support publication for medical, mental health, and other professionals working with LGBT persons as well as LGBT individual, family and community members.

Buy a Print Copy:

  • Shop Online: You can purchase your own copy of Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information & Resource Kit through the GPO U.S. Government Online Bookstore.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Find it in a Library:

About the author(s): Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). (Article was adapted by Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, from an original  post on the FDLP Community site blog by Ms. Davis.)

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