Access to healthcare, quality and experience are not equal.
We still live in a world where providers refuse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and question people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Our young people are more likely to be victims of bullying, isolation and rejection. Our elders fear that by losing their freedom of action, they will lose the rights for which they fought so hard.
We are more likely to suffer from major depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. We are at a higher risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, sexually transmitted diseases and obesity compared to the general population. Unfortunately, we are also more likely to die by suicide.
Despite these risks, we often experience stigma, lack of awareness, and provider callousness when receiving care. We fear, for legitimate reasons, that our pronouns will not be respected, that our decisions and directives will be ignored, and that we will not be able to visit our partners and our children when we need them most.
The traditional access points of the health care system have historically served us poorly. Even in the Atlanta area, our major healthcare entities haven’t done enough.
As I write these lines, healthcare is undergoing a paradigm shift. Healthcare companies backed by patient experience-focused companies are already springing up to meet the needs of consumers overlooked by traditional providers, including those in the LGBTQ community.
These direct-to-consumer startups now offer hard-to-find LGBTQ-focused health services that are traditionally not covered by insurance and / or that the medical establishment has ignored. They are often run by queer or trans staff. They follow a digitally accessible model, and they give traditional vendors a run for their money. I offer the following examples:
Feather (getplume.co), a business-led trans and queer telehealth startup, directly and remotely connects patients from 11 states (including Georgia) with providers. You can use your phone to order gender-affirming hormone therapy confidentially through this site.
Folx (folxhealth.com) covers doctor’s visits,
lab work and some hormonal drugs
for consumers in 12 states. Their slogan? “No ignorance, no judgment, no hassle.” Although they are not yet serving Georgia, it looks like they are growing.
Health included (www.includedhealth.com), a concierge platform, highlights their expertise in LGBTQ + health. They can walk you through gender affirming surgery, find you an LGBTQ + therapist, and even walk you through the process of getting out to work.
And while we certainly have room to improve here in Georgia, there are still some rays of light. Queermed.com (queermed.com), based in Decatur, offers respectful and assertive care to transgender people. Isabel Lowell, MD, began this practice after failing to receive the necessary financial investments and internal support for the transgender care clinic she created at the Emory Clinic. We also based in Atlanta Primary care in town (intownprimarycare.com), which offers hormone replacement therapy and HIV treatment, among other services, in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Our community, in Georgia and beyond, is growing and strengthening every day. A recent poll (news.gallup.com/poll/329708/lgbt-identification-rises-latest-estimate.aspx) shows that 5.6% of the general US population identifies as LGBTQ +, up from 4.5% in 2017. Society is changing, and so is our collective purchasing power. Investors are finally seeing the enormity of our unmet needs and our growing economic power.
This is just the start of a paradigm shift in healthcare. If we are treated badly, we can take care of our care needs and our affairs elsewhere.