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LGBTQ Health care

Most of the health concerns of Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexual women and men, and Transgender people are no different from those of anyone else. Some health concerns, however, are specific to the LGBT community. Vassar College Health Services is committed to helping all students, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

In general, LGBT people are less likely to seek routine health care because of the discomfort of coming out to health care providers and less access to health insurance. These routine doctor visits are often key in early diagnosis of many health problems that face everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. During your time at Vassar, please take advantage of our services so you can get in the habit of being proactive about your health.

LGB Myths and Legends

Myth: LGBT people are more likely to have alcohol problems than the general population.

Reality: Previous studies have led many to the conclusion that rates of alcoholism are higher among LGBT people than in the overall population. However, most of these studies were seriously flawed, drawing participants from gay bars and other locations in which people who drink are overrepresented. More recent and reliable studies have been conflicting, but there is some evidence that LGBT youth and possibly LGBT adults have more alcohol problems than the overall population.

Myth: Homosexuality is a mental illness.

Reality: “The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity. It is simply the way a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social, and vocational adaptiveness all show that gay men and lesbians function every bit as well as heterosexuals.” –American Psychological Association.

While we know that homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender identity are not mental illnesses, the stresses caused by society's negative messages, condemnation, and violence can sometimes result in depression and other types of emotional difficulties for LGBT persons. If you think you are experiencing any mental health problems – regardless of being associated with your sexual orientation or gender identity – please visit the Counseling Service for help.

Myth: Lesbians and Bisexual women are at greater risk for breast/cervical cancer.

Reality: Being a lesbian does not increase your risk for cancer, but having one or more of the risk factors below might. A lesbian or bisexual woman without these risk factors is at no greater risk than a heterosexual woman.

  • Lesbians are less likely to seek routine health care. With fewer doctor visits, lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to have mammograms, professional breast exams, Pap tests, and professional vaginal exams. Studies also show that lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to perform breast self-exam regularly. For these reasons, lesbians and bisexual women may be less likely to have cancers detected at earlier, more treatable, stages.
  • Lesbians are less likely to give birth by age 30 if at all, which increases risk of breast cancer.
  • Some studies indicate that lesbians and bisexuals may use alcohol more and have higher body weight than heterosexual women – both of which may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

Myth: Women can not receive STDs from other women.

Reality: Herpes, HPV (genital wart virus), and bacterial vaginosis are transmitted fairly easily between women during sex. HIV, hepatitis B, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are less likely to be transmitted--but it is still possible. It is also important to remember that many lesbians and bisexual women have (or have had) sex with men, and all STDs are easily transmitted from men to women during intercourse. Often STDs do not have symptoms, so it is possible for a woman to have become infected years ago and to still harbor the infection.

Myth: Dental Dams can be substituted by saran wrap.

Reality: True! If you don’t have a dental dam you can make one out a male or female condom, latex glove, or non-microwavable saran wrap. To make a dental dam out of a condom, simply cut off the tip and cut down one side. To make a dental dam out of a latex glove, cut off the finger and cut down one side. If using saran wrap, it is important that it be non-microwavable because the pores in microwaveable saran wrap are large enough to allow viruses and bacteria to pass through.

Myth: Gay men are more likely to use Crystal Meth than the general population.

Reality: Unfortunately, this myth is true. For some men, crystal meth is an integral part of gay culture and their personal, social, and sexual identities. Unfortunately, it also plays an undeniable role in the rise of HIV, STDs, and addiction in the gay community. If you, or anyone you know, uses Crystal Meth please seek help to quit as soon as possible!

For more information about LGBTQ on campus, go to http://www.vassarlgbtq.blogspot.com

Information compiled by Julie Silverstein, Assistant Director for Campus Life/LGBTQ Programs