PLEASE NOTE: This article does NOT infer LGBT is a disability.
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.
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 can also experience forms of disabilities.
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.
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)
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:
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.
From National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
Findings indicated that the prevalence of disability is higher among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults compared with their heterosexual counterparts; lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults with disabilities are significantly younger than heterosexual adults with disabilities. Higher disability prevalence among lesbians and among bisexual women and men remained significant after we controlled for covariates of disability - Disability Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults: Disparities in Prevalence and Risk.
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.