The medical profession is built on principles of equal care and support to all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the LGBTQ community continues to face discrimination and marginalization throughout the United States, including through the implementation of anti-LGBTQ legislation. This year alone, legislators have introduced 45 anti-LGBTQ+ laws oppressing and limiting the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ persons (hrc.org). This article delves into the statistics and examines the detrimental consequences of such legislation on practicing LGBTQ physicians.
Disproportionate Rates of Mental Health Issues
Anti-LGBTQ legislation contributes to increased rates of mental health issues among LGBTQ physicians. Studies have shown that individuals facing discrimination and prejudice are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress. Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and civil and human rights denial. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide (Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion). LGBTQ physicians affected by such legislation are at a higher risk of experiencing these challenges, directly impacting their overall well-being and ability to provide quality care.
Reduced Job Satisfaction and Career Advancement:
Anti-LGBTQ legislation can impede the job satisfaction and career advancement of LGBTQ physicians. Discriminatory laws and policies create hostile work environments, increasing stress levels and decreasing job satisfaction. This combination can lead to LGBTQ physicians feeling undervalued and unsupported, impacting their motivation and willingness to remain in the medical field. Furthermore, these barriers hinder their opportunities for career advancement, limiting their professional growth and potential contributions to the healthcare sector.
Limited Access to Healthcare Services:
Legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ individuals can also have an adverse impact on access to healthcare services for LGBTQ physicians. Research indicates that individuals who face discrimination are more likely to delay or avoid seeking medical care due to fear of mistreatment or judgment. This can result in delayed diagnoses, inadequate treatment, and worsened health outcomes. LGBTQ physicians who encounter discrimination in their practice may also find it challenging to provide inclusive care to their LGBTQ patients, perpetuating health disparities within the community. A 2018 NIH study concluded, “lower explicit bias against gay men and lesbian women was associated with more favorable contact with LGBTQ+ faculty, residents, students, and patients, and perceived skill and preparedness for providing care to LGBTQ patients.”
Increased Stigma and Social Isolation:
Anti-LGBTQ legislation reinforces stigmatization and social isolation experienced by LGBTQ physicians. Discriminatory laws contribute to a culture of prejudice and intolerance, which can lead to increased feelings of isolation and exclusion. This isolation can affect the mental health and professional relationships of LGBTQ physicians, hindering their ability to find support within their workplaces and professional networks.
Negative Impact on Patient-Physician Relationships:
The presence of anti-LGBTQ legislation can strain patient-physician relationships within the LGBTQ community. When LGBTQ physicians face discrimination or are unable to be open about their identities, it can create a barrier to trust and communication with their patients. LGBTQ individuals may hesitate to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, fearing mistreatment or judgment. This lack of openness can compromise the quality of care and lead to suboptimal health outcomes for LGBTQ patients.
At LAS, medical coaches and staff have the privilege of working with students and residents from the LGBTQ community, and what the team witnesses firsthand is this:
- Anti-LGBTQ legislation has far-reaching consequences for practicing LGBTQ physicians. This legislation impacts mental health, job satisfaction, career advancement, access to healthcare services, and patient-physician relationships.
- Society and policymakers must recognize the importance of creating inclusive environments that support LGBTQ physicians in providing equitable care to all patients. It’s also essential for medical school curriculums to evolve to include issues affecting the LGBQT+ community.
- By dismantling discriminatory legislation and curriculums and promoting diversity and acceptance, we can foster a healthcare system that upholds providers’ and patients’ rights and well-being, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-health
- Phelan SM, Burke SE, Hardeman RR, White RO, Przedworski J, Dovidio JF, Perry SP, Plankey M, A Cunningham B, Finstad D, W Yeazel M, van Ryn M. Medical School Factors Associated with Changes in Implicit and Explicit Bias Against Gay and Lesbian People among 3492 Graduating Medical Students. J Gen Intern Med. 2017 Nov;32(11):1193-1201. doi: 10.1007/s11606-017-4127-6. Epub 2017 Aug 1. Erratum in: J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Apr 17;: PMID: 28766125; PMCID: PMC5653554.