Friday, April 5, 2013

Healthcare in the Queer/Trans* Communities

As I think about my participation in the fight against cancer (I am a part of LIVESTRONG Texas 4000 for Cancer), I can’t help but think about the access to healthcare for the queer/trans* communities. What does it mean if a cancer patient is queer/trans*? What implication does that have for their cancer treatment?

I decided to do some research on the matter. Apparently there is no mass study that has been done surrounding cancer amongst LGBTQ folks. Fortunately, I stumbled upon the National LGBT Cancer Network online, which does work to educate, train, and advocate for LGBT cancer patients/survivors. The results that I encountered on this website were shocking. Since there has never been a national survey or study done in terms of LGBT cancer patients, they estimate that one million LGBT people are cancer survivors. Here is also a small snippet of what the website gathered:

“Health disparities in the LGBT community are caused by multiple factors. There are no biological or physiological differences between LGBT people and our heterosexual counterparts. Rather, the disparities are caused by a combination of social/economic factors and behaviors, many of which can be traced to the stress of living as a sexual/gender minority in this country.”

This is very much true for most marginalized communities when it comes to health disparities. Communities of color have higher risks of cancer. Cancer is attributed to be the number cause of death among Latin@ and Asian/AsianAmerican/Desi/Pacific Islander folks. Black people have the highest rate of mortality of any race/ethnicity for all cancers. Native American/AmericanIndian/Alaska Natives experience higher rates of lung and colorectal cancers.

For the queer/trans* community, I feel like this is an extremely urgent facet to place attention to. When thinking about the ways in which queer rights are fought for, we need to keep in mind the matters at hand – healthcare and healthcare access. Trans* folks particularly have a difficult time receiving healthcare due to the rampant transphobia in the healthcare community. Queer people have to deal with heterosexism and get treated differently in that they are prohibited from seeing their partners and/or are completely turned away for their sexual orientation. The fact that access to healthcare is even an issue for queer/trans* folk is what breaks my heart. It makes me want to build awareness of the fact that cancer does NOT discriminate on any basis and affects anyone and everyone regardless of their class, race/ethnicity, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, ability status, etc. So the resources being allocated for cancer patients/survivors/caretakers should NOT be limited to the privileged folks. 

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