Why Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Public Health?


LGBTQIA + Health

American Journal of Public Health:

Why Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Public Health? by Ilan H. Meyer (2001)

During the past few years public health has begun to address the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. This special issue of the Journal, the first issue dedicated to this subject in the Journal’s 91-year history, is preceded by an American Public Health Association resolution on the need for research on the relationship between disease and gender identity and sexual orientation an Institute of Medicine report on lesbian health, and the inclusion of gays and lesbians among groups targeted for reducing disparities in health outcomes in the US government’s 10-year blueprint for public

But do LGBT populations present a viable topic for public health investigation and intervention? What makes their concerns a distinctive health topic? Finally, addressing social issues through a public health prism holds both promise and peril—might public health attention to LGBT populations harm LGBT people?

LGBT persons vary in sociodemographic characteristics such as cultural, ethnic, or racial identity; age; education; income; and place of residence. They are also diverse in the degree to which their LGBT identities are central to their self-definition, their level of affiliation with other LGBT people, and their rejection or acceptance of societal stereotypes and prejudice. By using the plural “LGBT populations,”
I also aim to stress that, like the people they comprise, these populations or communities are diverse.
There are various gay male, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender populations: urban and rural, White and Black, poor and wealthy, and so forth. We refer to all of these as LGBT communities, but in doing so we risk glossing over important differences. White gay men in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood share
little with transgender sex workers just a few blocks away in Greenwich Village; with gay men developing a gay liberation movement in Guadalajara, Mexico; with lesbians in Northhampton, Mass; or with bisexual married women on Long Island, NY. “Transgender” refers to such a variety of individuals, from intersexed newborns to heterosexually identified transvestite men, that any discussion of transgender people as a group would distort the group’s diversity.5 Moreover, LGBT people may have more in common with their non-LGBT communities than with LGBT communities. For example, African American gay and bisexual men who belong to a church in Chicago’s South Side may share more attitudes, beliefs, and norms with fellow African American church members than with lesbians or gay men in Chicago’s White gay community.

Finally, public health research in the context of the AIDS epidemic has brought the recognition that not all men and women who have sex with people of the same gender share a gay or lesbian identity. The terms “men who have sex with men” and “women who have sex with women” are commonplace in public
health discourse. But these terms should be used with caution; although they are respectful of the variety of sexualities, they erase important self-definitions and identities of gay men, lesbians, or bisexuals. It is particularly worrisome when these terms are applied universally to people of color, betraying an often
erroneous assumption that owning a gay identity is the privilege of only White men and women.This assumption goes against both the historical record and current research that demonstrates the existence of thriving gay cultures among various ethnic groups in the United States and abroad. (…)

Keep reading this interesting article by Ilan H. Meyer here.

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