LGBTQ Health Advocate
Columbus Public Health
As I continue into the second day of the LGBTI Health Research Conference at Baldwin Wallace University, it struck me as pretty powerful that the BW’s president Robert Helmer opened the first day of seminars with the words “this is the perfect time and the perfect place for this [conference].” (BW Provost, Dr. Stephen Stahl also reiterated this sentiment just after lunch with saying, “this conference is at the core of founding values.”) This stayed with me throughout the morning as we heard from such innovative speakers such as Dr. Eli Coleman who, just through all of the heralding stories he shared, showed his longstanding impact on changing the American perspective on LGBTI health research. Dr. Coleman, who is currently the director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, also left me with a new mantra: “Without rights we will not have [good] health.”
After Dr. Coleman’s keynote address, the morning continued at a rapid-fire pace, with a revolving door of one prestigious presenter after another. Here are a few brief notes on the presentations I thought most intriguing.
- During the “Translating Research into Policy and Heath Interventions” seminar track Kellan Baker, associate director of the LGBTI Research and Communications Project at Center for American Progress, gave a very interesting look at how political advocacy has led to inclusive research, highlighting the work of HIV/AIDS advocates during the 1980s. Baker went on to show that though there have been strides made concerning LGBTI political inclusion, there’s still so much more to be done. I found it interesting that between 2002 and 2010 there was absolutely no inclusion of LGBTI communities in any federal health research because of the change in presidential administration. This silence prompted the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association to create a sexual identity and gender identity specific companion report to the National Institutes of Health 2010 Healthy People report. Now in their 2020 Health People edition we see two LGBTI-focused reports because of such advocacy efforts.
- Vivek Anand, Executive Director of Humsafar Trust in Mumbai, India, also took the stage during the “policy and health interventions” track and wowed myself an the audience with the grassroots, community-based research he’s been conducting in India, despite the country still criminalizing homosexuality. “On-the-ground work and community-based research is still crucial…if we are not out in the community and visible we will not be counted,” he said. Humsafar has fund-raised thousands of dollars and build several LGBT organizations in India, providing countless services and research for a nearly invisible community.
A brief break led right into a seminar track on “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Intersex Data at Population and Clinical Levels,” which I personally found rather enthralling. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of evidence-based research that exists regarding adding sexual orientation and gender identity to medical forms and records.
- Joanne Keatley, briefly detailed research from the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at University of California-San Francisco that highlighted the groundbreaking work she was involved with to make the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention start collecting transgender data in 2011. She also stressed the importance of including transgender female-to-males in HIV research, as much of their studies showed that this is an affected demographic, despite current perceptions.
- Karen Walsh, an intersex activist, detailed the importance of intersex research and how to include intersex information collection in an accurate and affirming fashion. I learned so much on the intersex community that I was not aware of, including most who are intersex receive some sort of surgical interventions as children but surgery is often medically unnecessary.
- Dr. Jody Herman, of the Williams Institute at University of California-Los Angeles, and Harvey Makadon of Fenway Health’s National LGBT Health Education Center, also provided invaluable examples of specific language and formats that can be used on forms to capture sexual health and gender identity. If you are a healthcare provider that values inclusion I highly recommend visiting their organizations’ websites.
Stay tuned for more post-lunch recaps!