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Sexual minority women get indirectly discriminated because specific LGBT-related content isn’t educated to future doctors

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Poor Sexual Health Outcomes for Sexual Minority Women

While health policy regarding women’s health has certainly made great strides towards improvement in the past decade, there is one area of women’s health that remains relatively stagnant: that of sexual minority women. This paper aims to explain some of the causes and consequences of the growing health disparities between sexual minority women and the rest of the population. Various policies exclude sexual minorities, which, in turn works against them. Hetero-normative sexual education policy in the United States and the lack of time spent on educating future doctors for LGBT-related content cause sexual minority women to have poorer sexual health outcomes compared to straight women. These include riskier sexual behaviors and lack of health screenings and preventative care. This issue is important to discuss because it affects a significant population of sexual minority women and extends even beyond that to a larger population and can have effects on the economy.

Sex education is often the first and sometimes the only way for adolescents to receive information about sexual behaviors and desire. There is conversation about how the sex education policy has failed many adolescents in the United States but it especially fails the LGBT community for several reasons. “Abstinence Only Until Marriage” sex education is highly funded by the United States government, which causes a lot of schools to adopt those policies despite the fact that they have been proven to be ineffective (Fine 2007). Abstinence only sex education preaches that marriage is the safest arrangement for having sex. The problem with this is that it excludes sexual minorities since in many places they are still denied the right to marry. Abstinence only sex education also does not teach adolescents proper safe sex techniques such as condom use, which applies to all types of sexual behaviors, including those of sexual minorities. This gap in the education policy causes adolescents to not have a clear idea of what safe sex really is. While this negatively affects all adolescents, sexual minority adolescents are targets for this negativity since it is the first of many policies that will exclude them in their lifetime, breeding alienation. Another issue with sexual education for sexual minority female adolescents is that it may come too late for them. Tornello (2013) found that bisexual and lesbian young women reported being younger at sexual debut. The fact that they did not receive a comprehensive sexual education in time could be a reason behind their greater sexual and reproductive risks.

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Another policy issue that certainly affects the health outcomes of sexual minority women is the policy, or lack there-of in medical schools. Obedin-Maliver (2011) reports that the average time spent on LGBT related content in medical schools is only five hours, but there is significant variation with some schools spending no time on LGBT content. For a four-year educational path, five hours seems shockingly low. The lack of education that our doctors receive regarding LGBT content and treatment certainly affects the treatment of sexual minorities. Sexual minority women may also be discouraged from seeking medical care because many doctors may not be able to meet any special needs they have, even if it is just the ability to trust their own doctor enough to ask questions about their sexual health. The best solution to this would be to regulate medical school curriculum so that LGBT content would have to be covered for a certain period of time.

The lack of LGBT content taught in medical schools is a possible cause of the underutilization of reproductive health screenings by sexual minority women. As a group, sexual minority women are less likely to seek reproductive health screenings such as Pap smears and STI tests than their heterosexual counterparts (Charlton 2011). These screenings are critical for preventing further sequelae that comes from infections of reproductive organs such as infertility or chronic pain. The resulting sequelae can be costly for the health system and add to the immense medical costs in the United States. These disparities in screenings such as Pap smears are a women’s issue. This puts sexual minority women at a greater setback. Whether it is because they are unable to build rapport with health professionals or because they were inadequately educated about what is necessary to screen thanks to the incredibly flawed sexual education policies, this is problematic because sexual minority women are an already at-risk population for STIs, and the fact that they do not seek preventative care and testing leads to worse health outcomes for both the women and any sexual partners they have. Because lesbians and bisexual women report having a higher number of partners on average (Tornello 2013), this affects a larger proportion of the population because they may be unknowingly giving STIs to their partners. Therefore, it is in everybody’s best interest to improve the healthcare of sexual minority women.

Poor sexual health outcomes for sexual minority women affect a large proportion of the population. Current policies regarding sex education for adolescents and the medical of education of professionals in the United States have failed this group of women and desperately need to change in order to produce better health outcomes for everyone. The sexual education policies in the United States need to be overhauled to get rid of abstinence only policies, be more comprehensive, and start earlier in order to effectively service American students. Medical school curricula need to be regulated so that covering LGBT issues is required. It is important to keep in mind that these issues are not only a matter of women’s physical health but also that of women’s mental health because our system tends to alienate sexual minorities by intentionally excluding them from policy. These would be only the first steps in decreasing the disparities within women’s health, as there is still a long way to go.

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