At some point in history, not too long ago, just being LGBT was a major health risk! Thank the goddess times have changed but we are still a long way from total equality in employment, housing, media, legislative representation and right to marry. LGBT folks are still discriminated against in strange and wondrous ways, beaten up and even killed. LGBT youth are routinely bullied, beaten up, killed and discriminated against in evil ways only an adolescent mind could conceive. The LGBT youth commit suicide at three to four times more often than the rate of straight youth. It ain’t a perfect world yet…
But, it is getting better. At the time this article was written 1% of Congress was openly gay (better than just Barney and Tammy) and the Supreme Court approved same sex marriage. In employment, LGBT partners can now enjoy full partner benefits in many companies. According to the Human Rights Campaign: “The majority of the largest employers (5,000+ employees) now provide benefits to same-sex partners and spouses of employees, and many of the Fortune 100 companies have removed discriminatory language from their health insurance plans to allow coverage for transgender-related medical treatment.”
And as far as a place to live, there is no US federal law prohibiting renting or selling property on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but by 2011 at least twenty-two states and many major cities have enacted laws prohibiting it. HUD’s anti-discrimination regulations were revised in 2012 and where covers everything else including sex discrimination but not same sex discrimination, it is pretty broad in its interpretation and most discrimination against same sex couples can be included under the law.
We now see ourselves in the media on a regular basis. There are openly gay news reporters, talk show host, programs that feature LGBT characters, (lesbian and gay men mostly, still lagging behind with bi-sexual and forget transsexuals). We still have a ways to go to see transsexuals portrayed as ordinary human beings instead of over-the-top entertainers.
So, in general, the atmosphere for LGBT folks has improved and is less stressful. But each of the L-G-B-T folks do have some particular (that’s particular not peculiar) health risks.
These risks were determined by medical research as all health risks are. We might question their assumptions and methods but until we do our own research we will have to put up with theirs. Most medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies so guess what? Most research “proves” that whatever particular pill they are testing works just fine for whatever “disease” they have concocted.
So the biggest actual threat to your health is aging, that is, until you die. Deepok Chopra wrote several books on aging well and then went overboard and predicted we could live forever. I not sure who would want to. Everything in this world, animate and inanimate, eventually dies, or in the case of mountains, wears away into dust. But we don’t talk about this very much. Aging is pretty much ignored or belittled or made the brunt of jokes. But everyone ages from the moment of conception until there is absolutely nothing left of your body after you die.
Medical research rarely addresses the Dalai Lama’s prediction that we will all get old, get sick and die and that we shouldn’t get too worked up about it. But, western medicine seems to think they can defy death and save us all from a fate worse than…death is just as natural as being born and yet we treat it like it will be the death of us…like that is the worst thing.
Most health risks increase with age. Women are protected from stress hormones which cause heart attacks until menopause. Gall bladder trouble usually hits after 40. Breast cancer rates increase with age as does the risk for prostate cancer. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, glaucoma, and cataracts all increase with age, and I might add increase weight which seems to pile on over the years while you are not looking.
Gay men’s culture (and probably the transsexual community as well, but as a community they are relatively new on the scene) values youth, thin youth, thin good looking youth and aging men are made to feel bad. I had a gay man friend who cried for a week when he turned 40, his life was over. So, you can’t expect much support from the gay men’s community as you age, except for small groups here and there who have realized that we all age. But, quite the opposite in some feminist lesbian communities. They embrace aging by organizing celebrations of their aging to claim their olderness, their wisdom, called cronings after they are post-menopausal.
And, finally about death itself. The AIDS epidemic taught our community a lot about death at an early age. We took care of our own and we celebrated their lives as no one had done before, like with the quilt. It has been years since I have attended a traditional funeral, they all seem to be memorial services now. I think we LGBTers did that, I think we changed the world a little.