Heterosexism: 21st Century Sexism

By Dr. Andrea Lee

“You can’t type what a lesbian is. We’re anything and everything…”

-Amanda Bearse, TV Actress & Out Lesbian

Lesbians are an extraordinary subset of the female gender that, like all minority groups, face unique healthcare challenges. And unique challenges require creative solutions. To adjust the current medical model to begin to address the diverse needs of this group of women, in a way that is consistent with their cultural beliefs, medical providers must have at least a basic understanding of lesbian healthcare needs. Developing culturally competent healthcare takes time and has been slow going in the medical world.

“Heterosexism” is one of the biggest hurdles in developing culturally competent healthcare. Heterosexism is the presumption that all persons are straight. This belief is perpetuated throughout medicine in everything from general and reproductive health assessment forms to direct patient care. The longstanding and well-ingrained practice of heterosexism in healthcare extends the veil of invisibility around the lesbian population and marginalizes lesbian healthcare needs. Befitting the current “Gayby Boom,” the vast majority of direct-marketed, specialized healthcare for lesbians is for assisted reproduction technology.

The fact remains that not all lesbians choose to reproduce so whether you are part of the “Gayby Boom” or not, being an advocate for your own health is paramount. A December 2002 study by Witick-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive indicated that over half of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans don’t reveal their sexual orientation to their doctors (1). Even the American Medical Association acquiesces that unrecognized homosexuality by the physician or the patient’s reluctance to report his or her sexual orientation could lead to failure to screen, diagnose, or treat important medical problems…(2)

Choosing the right doctor for you, one with whom you can be fully honest about your physical, mental, emotional, and sexual health; one who will be willing to have an open dialogue with you about your individual life and specific risk factors; and who will offer non-judgmental, sound medical advice based on those discussions can be a challenge- but one that is well worth the effort.

Dr. Andrea Lee is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing at Arizona Advanced Medicine in Scottsdale, where she treats a number of women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) among other conditions. As a member of Insulite Laboratories’ http://www.insulitelabs.com/ Medical & Advisory team, Dr. Lee provides guidance and coaching to individuals who contact the Insulite Support Network, including those using the various Insulite Systems. Prior to attending Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Lee worked as a senior research study associate and volunteered with a breast cancer support group in Oklahoma City, OK. Her Bachelor’s degree is from the University of Alaska where she studied Psychology and Exercise Science.(1) Many hide GLBT orientation from doctors, Randy Dotinga, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network

(2) American Medical Association

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