A New Era of LGBT Health Protections

Originally published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Over the past several months, advances in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health have ushered in a new era of change, thanks to the Obama Administration.

In Healthy People 2020, a blueprint for improving the health of the Nation over the next decade, the Administration acknowledged for the first time that LGBT people do experience disparities in health, compared to the general population. Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services proposed clarifying sex nondiscrimination protections (Section 1557) under the Affordable Care Act or Marketplace to include gender identity, and sex stereotyping protections.

These moves have been monumental in ensuring that transgender and gender non-conforming people have access to the basic care they need. As a result, LGBT people are further becoming visible in our health care system, and gaining protections that will be lifesaving.

In Missouri, discrimination against LGBT people continues to remain a problem. Research from the Missouri Foundation for Health suggests that due to the lack of protections, discrimination, and stigma faced by LGBT Missourians — my community experiences poorer health outcomes than our straight counterparts. In the same research, LGBT Missourians were found to be twice as likely to forgo medical care both in cases of emergency and for prevention treatment. Invisibility plays an important role in creating an environment in our health and social service sector, where the LGBT community experiences disparities. To tackle this invisibility, LGBT health advocates have worked across Missouri to create spaces that protect and welcome LGBT people in our health and social service facilities, but this is not enough.

Protecting LGBT Missourians from discrimination would make a lasting impact on tackling negative health outcomes. Unfortunately, the Missouri legislature continues to fail to address this issue by not passing the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), which would protect LGBT Missourians. In a new era of LGBT health protections, is Missouri falling behind?

Andrew Shaughnessy is manager of public policy for PROMO, Missouri’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization.

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