Sexual Minorities

by Michael_Koger

Sexual minorities require a unique method of medical care which will meet their needs.

Sexual minorities include those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB)--and in the view of most health care providers--transgender individuals as well. In the United States there are approximately 700,000 adults who are transgender and 9 million who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. They come from all racial/ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and geographic locations of the globe [1, 2].

The medical needs of all people can be quite complex; however, those who are LGBT have certain predispositions to physical illness which may occur at different rates in heterosexual clients. For example, the occurrence of sexually transmitted infections are especially high in those who engage in same-sex relationships [1, 2].

Mental Health and Mental Illness

Psychiatric problems may be disproportionate in these individuals as well.  The presence of supportive family members will alleviate some of this.  Moreover, adolescents who are LGBT will benefit from a school system where bullying, teasing, harassment, and physical violence are under good control and management.  In any event, suicide rates tend to be higher in sexual minorities than heterosexuals [1, 2].

In transgender persons, the risk of self-harm is much higher than it is in lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients.  Also, the presence of poverty, unemployment, and low levels of education will contribute to these situations [1, 2].

Lesbian and bisexual women tend to smoke more than heterosexual women do, and this naturally will create a predisposition for nicotine addiction as well as physical ailments that may surface later in life [2].

Health Inequities

There is good evidence that access to health care is a major issue for these patients as well.  For example, survey research suggests that many cannot obtain evaluation and treatment for their illnesses because doctors refuse to see them [2]. 

Furthermore, the titles of some clinics may include words such as “men” or “women,” and this gives the impression that only one gender can obtain care there.  The recommendation is that medical offices remove these signs so that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can come for a visit [2].

The use of gender-neutral bathrooms is also important in hospitals.  The elimination of signs which indicate that bathrooms are for men or women will make these clients more comfortable when they go to a clinic [2].


Sexual minorities everywhere have specific health care needs, and practitioners of all specialties must become aware of the new guidelines.


  1. Centers for Disease Control.  (2014).  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health.  Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  2. McNamara, M. and Ng, H.  (2016).  Best practices in LGBT care:  A guide for primary care physicians.  Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 83, 531-541.
  3. The photo is of a library at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and is reprinted with permission from that organization.


 The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 07/30/2016, Michael_Koger
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