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LGBT Health: People with Disabilities

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-07-01 (Rev. 2017-06-25) - Significant associations exist between sexual orientation and covariates of disability. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C. Weiss at Disabled World.

Definition: LGBT

LGBTQ: The acronym LGBTQ is a reflection of sexual diversity within society.

L is for lesbian. Lesbian refers a female person whose primary sexual attraction is toward females.

G is for Gay. Gay refers to a male person whose primary sexual attraction is toward males.

B is for Bisexual. Bisexual refers to a male or female person who is sexually attracted to both males and females.

T is for Transgender and/or Transsexual. Transgender refers to a person whose gender identity is neither exclusively female nor male. Transsexual refers to a person whose gender identity is the opposite of their biological sex.

Q is for Queer or Questioning. Some non-heterosexual people refer to themselves as Queer because they are uncomfortable labeling themselves according to the more traditional categories of gay, lesbian, or bisexual. A person who is Questioning is in the process of arriving at a clearer sense of what their sexual orientation is.

GLBQT, LGBQT, LGBTQ, GLBTIQ - Acronym formed from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender. Variants include:

LGBQT - (Lesbian preceding Gay)

LGBTQ - (Queer coming last)

GLBTIQ - (Intersex included)

GLBTTIQQ - (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning Community/ies)

* Definitions Courtesy of SexualDiversity.org

Main Document

"The odds of gay and bisexual men experiencing a form of disability are notably higher than for heterosexual men when sociodemographic characteristics are considered."

While America celebrates the national granting of the right to marry to members of the LGBT community, one of the issues that appears to be ignored is the fact that many people who are gay also experience forms of disabilities. The old perspective of failing to include People with Disabilities remains pervasive. When a population such as the LGBT community is fighting for its rights, it is easy to forget that we, as People with Disabilities, are very much a part of the discussion.

Great silences exist surrounding disability, to include within LGBT communities. Similarly, non-heterosexual sexualities are many times left out of the discussion entirely within disability rights organizations and elsewhere in the disabled community. 'Disability,' is a term that encompasses a wide range of sensory, physical, cognitive and psychological abilities and affects many people, both visibly and invisibly.

Disability and Facts Concerning Those who are LGBT

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults showed a higher prevalence of disability than did their heterosexual counterparts. Approximately 25% of heterosexual women, 36% of bisexual women and 36% of lesbians experience a form of disability as well. Both lesbians and bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to have a disability. Around 22% of heterosexual men, 40% of bisexual men and 26% of gay men experience a form of disability.

The likelihood of experiencing a disability for gay men and bisexual men are notably higher than for heterosexual men, even after considering their age. Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30% of men and 36% of women have a disability. The result of age-adjusted logistic regression indicated that women were significantly more likely to experience a form of disability than men.

Chart showing disability in relation to sexual orientation
Chart showing disability in relation to sexual orientation
Significant associations exist between sexual orientation and covariates of disability. The age-adjusted likelihoods of current smoking, frequent mental distress and arthritis for both lesbians and women who are bisexual are notably higher than for heterosexual women. Lesbians are more likely to experience obesity than heterosexual women. Bisexual women are more likely to report lifetime asthma and poor physical health. Age-adjusted analysis also indicate that - when compared with heterosexual men, both gay and bisexual men are more likely to be current smokers and to experience frequent poor physical health and mental distress. Gay men are less likely to be obese than heterosexual men.

Among women, the odds of lesbians and bisexual women experiencing a disability are around 1.9-2.7 times higher than were those of heterosexual women. Health conditions such as arthritis, obesity and asthma, along with risky behaviors such as smoking or a lack of exercise, as well as frequent poor physical health and mental distress significantly increased the odds of disability. Sexual orientation; however, remains a significant indicator or disability.

The odds of gay and bisexual men experiencing a form of disability are notably higher than for heterosexual men when sociodemographic characteristics are considered. Researchers added covariates of disability to their consideration. While the covariates are notably associated with disability as observed in women, the adjusted odds ratio for gay men versus heterosexual men dropped to insignificance. The adjusted odds of bisexual men having a disability are around 2.8 times higher than for heterosexual men. The adjusted odds ratio for bisexual men versus heterosexual men was only reduced to 2.7 when covariates of disability were added to the researchers model. In addition, the adjusted odds of disability for bisexual women and men were relatively higher than for lesbians and gay men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified disparities related to sexual orientation and disability as the two main gaps in current health disparities research. While prior studies have discovered that sexual minorities experience disparities in both physical and mental health, existing research has not comprehensively looked at disability prevalence among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and disability has not been identified as a priority health issue for them.

Findings reported indicate that the prevalence of disability is notably higher among LGB populations. In addition, for lesbians and bisexual women and men, the disparity remains significant - even after being controlled for:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Health behaviors
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Sociodemographic characteristics

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults demonstrated increased odds of experiencing a disability than heterosexual counterparts of comparable age, even among people who are fairly young, suggesting the age of onset of disability might be lower in these populations.

Understanding the mechanisms by which lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have an increased risk of disability is important to gaining the ability to target prevention efforts. Studies suggest that disparities in chronic health conditions, poor physical and mental health, as well as health risk behaviors among LGB adults might contribute to an increased prevalence of disability. Consistent with prior studies, increased rates of chronic diseases such as arthritis, obesity and asthma are a major concern, particularly among lesbian and bisexual women. Increased mental distress among all of the groups involved, as well as higher poor physical health among bisexual women and gay men are also significant indicators of disability.

As the population continues to age and the prevalence of disability increases, the public health care costs associated with disability will continue to increase. In response to this growing public health challenge, it is important to identify populations at risk for disparities in disability and other secondary conditions. Disability prevalence rates among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults is notably higher than for heterosexual persons. More work and research is clearly needed.

The LGBT community as a whole needs to approach this subject. The community's input is vital; it tells us more about the overall health of LGBT people while offering the chance to not only understand the health issues presented, but to recognize that disability is very much a part of the LGBT experience in many ways. Large populations such as the LGBT community have, perhaps unsurprisingly, subcultures within their population. Bear in mind the fact that the parts make up the whole, even in human communities. Many people with disabilities are very much a part of the LGBT community.

Awareness: Gay Pride

Rainbow awareness ribbonThe rainbow awareness ribbon is a symbol of gay pride as well as support for the LGBT community and their quest for equal rights.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

LGBT History Month (October) is also celebrated with annual month-long observances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, along with the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. National Coming Out Day (October 11th), as well as the first March on Washington in 1979, are commemorated in the LGBT community during LGBT History Month.

Learn More About Gay and Disabled

  • Being homosexual and disabled - sciencenordic.com/being-homosexual-and-disabled
  • The second closet: LGBTs with disabilities - www.myhandicap.com/gay-lesbian-disability.html
  • Homosexuality in Residential Facilities for People with Cognitive Disabilities - dsq-sds.org/article/view/698/875


Related:

  1. Focuses on Aging and End-of-Life Challenges in the LGBT Community - Hospice Foundation of America - (2011-02-09)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/medical/palliative/lgbt-community.php
  2. Push for Honorable Discharge Status for Military Gays - The Law Offices of Goodson & Piemonte, P.C. - (2011-07-02)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/editorials/political/military-gay.php
  3. Disability Hate Crime Definition and Information - Ian Langtree - (2010-05-11)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/legal/disability-hate-crime.php



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