Sexual Orientation and Reproductive Health

By Emilia Dunham

Program Associate, National LGBT Tobacco Control Network

Another presentation occurred at Fenway Health’s Population Center Conference in Boston was led by Charlotte Patterson, Ph.D, Department of Psychology at University of Virginia presented on “Sexual Orientation and Reproductive Health.”

Charlotte Patterson

Charlotte iterated that reproductive Health is mostly discussed within a heteronormative framework especially in reference to STD/HIV prevention of contraceptive practices, but as Patterson states, it should be the “ability to have or to not have children, at a time of one’s choosing, with partner of one’s choosing.”

Parenthood is universally valued and enjoyed, even in the gay and lesbian community as nearly as many gay and lesbians have children as straight people.

Today, gay men typically come out before adopting, and older gay men are likely to have children after coming out through a prior heterosexual relationship.  On the other hand, lesbian mothers mostly became parents through prior heterosexual relationship by all age groups.

During the presentation, there was a fabulous discussion on tobacco use in the LGBT community.  In the context of the topic, as we know, GLBT people have significantly higher smoking rates, which would negatively affect health of children.  One attendee offered a statistic that LGBT parents are more likely to smoke.

Two invited respondents, Steve Safren and Ruben Hopwood of Fenway Health, discussed their experiences as LGBT parents. They spoke about the importance of and risks to friends, community and quality of lifeas a result of raising children.  Transgender data is absent even in LGBT surveys, insurance coverage and service is nearly absent.

Ultimately, more work needs to be done in terms of access to healthcare, GLBT-inclusive policies and research on LGBT families.  However, like the earlier presentations, there are several fascinating points to consider.

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