LGBTQ populations and black populations are both disproportionately affected by certain health issues. Those at the intersection of these two populations are often susceptible to poor health associated with being a minority in two senses. The most obvious health issue that disproportionately affects black and LGBTQ populations is HIV/AIDS, although infection rates are reducing across most of the Western world (Mulé, 2015). This issue has been discussed at length throughout the literature and is not the focus of the current essay for this reasons. The focus here will be on the myriad other health conditions that are more prevalent in Black LGBTQ populations from a regional perspective.
Psychological health problems are associated with various stressors, such as poverty, poor social support networks, and discrimination (Mulé, 2015). These mental health problems are consistently more severe and more prevalent in populations that are disproportionately affected by these issues, including both black and LGBTQ individuals (Mulé, 2015). Those who identify as both black and LGBTQ can experience two (or in the cases of black lesbians, three) types of discrimination concurrently, and face twice the amount of stressors. It is no surprise that the rate of mental health problems in this population is higher than regional and national averages. Mulé, as part of a collection of essays on LGBT Health Inequalities, stated that whilst Canada is considered to be one of the most progressive countries in the world, LGBT populations are still lagging behind the population in terms of mental health (2015). Mulé also notes the issue whereby HIV/AIDS continues to be the focus of the discussions of LGBT health, which does not leave room for addressing the other issues (2015). Out of the list of seven specific types of health disparities experienced by Canadian LGBT, two are mental health related.
In a study by Ross et al. (2014), it was found that mental health problems (including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other conditions) were much higher in bisexual black men and women in Ontario than in their non-black or non-bisexual counterparts. The study also found that substance use was much higher in this group, and higher in bisexual young people in general. Illegal cannabis use was found to be at an all-time high amongst bisexual women in both Canada and Australia (Robinson, Sanches, & MacLeod, 2016). Ross et al. (2016) found that bisexuality, poverty, and poor mental health were intersectional and the former two issues combined were found in high numbers in those with poor mental health. Black populations are also more likely to live in poverty, compounding the issue. Prescription drug use was found to be highest in black transgender populations in Canada (Davidson, 2015). From a more positive perspective, however, children who are supported in their transgender identities by their families are able to escape this health disparity and have similar mental health to the population as a whole.
Mental health issues are not the only health disparity in black LGBTQ groups. The rates of cervical cancer, for example, are much higher in black lesbian, bisexual, and queer populations than in Canada as a whole (Agénor et al., 2015). It has been hypothesized that this is due to the larger number of sexual partners in these groups, which is associated with an increased risk of passing on the HPV virus responsible for the majority of cervical cancers. Corcoran (2016) also notes barriers to frequent cervical screening programs for these groups, which again causes a health disparity. Overall, black LGBTQ groups are vulnerable to various health disparities in Canada and globally, and this is something that needs to be addressed.
- Corcoran, N. “Promoting Health with Lesbian and Bisexual Women: It’s Not Just about Behaviour Change.” Journal of Clinical Nursing (2016): n. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
- Davidson, Travis William. “A Review of Transgender Health in Canada.” University of Ottawa Journal of Medicine 5.2 (2015): 40–45. Print.
- Mulé, Nick J. “Much to Be Desired: LGBT Health Inequalities and Inequities in Canada.” Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Health Inequalities: International Perspectives in Social Work (2015): 27. Print.
- Olson, Kristina R. et al. “Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities.” Pediatrics (2016): peds–2015. Print.
- Robinson, Margaret, Marcos Sanches, and Melissa A. MacLeod. “Prevalence and Mental Health Correlates of Illegal Cannabis Use Among Bisexual Women.” Journal of Bisexuality 16.2 (2016): 181–202. Print.
- Ross, Lori E., Laurel O’Gorman, et al. “Bisexuality, Poverty and Mental Health: A Mixed Methods Analysis.” Social Science & Medicine 156 (2016): 64–72. Print.
- Ross, Lori E., Greta R. Bauer, et al. “Mental Health and Substance Use among Bisexual Youth and Non-Youth in Ontario, Canada.” PLoS one 9.8 (2014): e101604. Print.