A Road Map to a New Day for LGBT Health

Published: April 7, 2011

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are as diverse as America itself. We are woven throughout the very fabric of our society — all ages, races and ethnicities, rich and poor, urban and rural. That may not be the image we see in the media much of the time, but we truly are the rainbow so often used as a symbol of our communities. The one thing, however, that does connect us is that we are rarely treated as equals by our society and by the law.

And in this regard, the health care system is no exception. What we see when we look at the treatment of LGBT populations in health care is similar to the broader picture for other minorities: vast disparities in the quality of care. Yet for far too long, the federal government has not substantively researched LGBT health care, as it has done for other minority populations including African-American and Hispanic communities. Most of what we know about LGBT health comes from non-government studies of lesser quality. This is because, with few exceptions, federal surveys have not included measures of sexual orientation and gender identity. And because sample numbers are small, LGBT people are often lumped together. Differences among groups cannot be detected, and other characteristics like race or ethnicity cannot be teased out.

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