During LGBT Pride Month in June, Robert Kertzner, MD—a researcher in the Division of Gender, Sexuality and Health, who has witnessed the evolution of LGBT issues over a 40-year span—joined his colleague Ray Smith, MD, in a discussion on LGBT-related issues. In addition to exploring health and well-being across the lifespan, they addressed some common misconceptions about individuals who identify as LGBT.
Sexual orientation—being LGBT—is only about sex.
For heterosexual persons—and lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons—sexual orientation is about to whom you are attracted, with whom you desire emotional and physical intimacy, and—yes —with whom you have sexual relations. These are all components of the human condition, straight or gay.
All LGBT people are alike in terms of politics, appearance, income, and where they live.
Although people’s awareness of LGBT diversity is much greater than it used to be, if you don’t know many LGBT people and your images come from the media, it’s easy to miss the fact that LGBT people are from all walks of life:
- Many LGBT people are parents; some LGBT people are poor and some are wealthy; there are LGBT people of every race and ethnicity.
- Many older LGBT adults have served in the military: A recent community survey found that 41 percent of transgender people, 41 percent of bisexual men, 34 percent of gay men, and 6 percent of lesbian and bisexual women had served in the military.
Being LGBT is by definition a psychological problem.
For the past forty years, we have recognized that homosexual and bisexual orientations are normal variants of human sexuality, that there is nothing inherently pathological about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Most LGBT people, like most heterosexual people, do not have psychiatric diagnoses.
Actual or perceived discrimination has little effect on LGBT health.
A recent study found that LGBT people living in states that had restrictions against same-sex marriage were more likely to have depression and anxiety than LGBT people living in states where this was not the case. Many older LGBT people do not disclose their identity to health-care providers for fear of receiving inferior care—or of not being offered care at all, which in itself may contribute to further stress and, in turn, exacerbate existing health problems.
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