Wednesday Liz Margolies, director for the National LGBT Cancer Network, published an Op-Ed in The Advocate urging the LGBT community to rally in support for inclusive cancer prevention and care services for lesbian and bisexual, as well as transgender men.
I agree with her whole heartedly. I believe that the demands she made (listed below) are not only realistic, but possible with strong pushes for legislation and funding (something we know our community is capable of). More importantly, achieving them is necessary to our health and survival as a community.
That being said, along with her list of her demands, which focus on lesbian and bi women and transgender men, we also need to broaden these goals to include improved practices around the diagnosis and treatment of prostate, testicular and anal cancer in gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women. Service providers around these cancers, particularly in transgender women, are just as unprepared to deliver effective care to these members of our community.
So, how do we accomplish these important goals?
First, we need to come together as a community. Instead of only fighting to improve services group by group (e.g. for lesbians or bi men) or cancer by cancer, we need to find ways to broadly target the overall issue, the fact that cancer providers are not prepared to meet the needs of LGBT patients. One of the easiest ways to unite around this issue is to push for laws that require LGBT sensitivity training for healthcare providers at the state and federal levels. However, this will be a challenge as we saw this week in California.
Second, when legislation and programs specific to one group or cancer are created, as a wider community we need to support one another. As evidence by the significant unity across groups during the start of the HIV/AIDS crisis, only with unity will we create change.
1. Demand that all hospitals and all cancer registries collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity, so we can prove our rates are higher. Without this data, we will not get federal recognition and funding.
2. Demand that more research be funded on lesbian cancer risks. We need to know more and have studies with larger samples.
3. Demand that all health care facilities — including cancer screening and treatment services — make LGBT cultural competence training mandatory, making it safer for us to use these services in a timely way.
4. Demand that these services reserve budget money to reach out to our community, showing us it is safe for even gender-nonconforming lesbians and transgender guys to get respectfully screened for cervical cancer and breast cancer.
5. Demand that all oncologists learn about our sexuality so they can answer questions about our sexual practices post cancer treatment. Currently, they cannot.
6. Demand that all places that offer cancer support groups create one for LGBT survivors and caregivers, thereby improving the quality of life currently reported by lesbians and bisexual women after their cancer diagnosis.
7. Demand affordable health care for all, a system that does not require legal marriage to an employed partner to get coverage.
What are your thoughts on these demands? Are they realistic? If so, how do you see us accomplishing them?