Pathologization of LGBTQ + identities remains a major problem that feeds the various forms of discrimination experienced by LGBTQ + people, particularly when concerning access to health services and the idea that they can be "cured" of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.
HIV and other STIs
Prejudice against homosexual people is not new and it is not easy to fight.
Anyone can pass an infection or disease to another person through sex. The risks depend on the sexual behavior and not on the sexual orientation of the person.
Policies that prevent gay men from donating blood with general guidelines (e.g. exclude all sex and do not differentiate between risky sex or safe sex) do not follow common sense: a man who has protected sex with another man is less risky than a heterosexual person who does not protect himself in his relations with his partners). In addition, these practices reinforce these prejudices by associating homosexual relations with the disease.
It was not until December 15, 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its reference manual. The decision can be seen in the DSM-III published in 1980.
On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) struck homosexuality off the list of mental illnesses. It is in honor of this day that the International Day Against Homophobia is held on May 17.
Finally, it was in 2018 that the WHO removed transidentity from its list of mental illnesses.
The fact that these decisions are so recent is worrying when you consider the number of healthcare professionals who have been trained to believe that homosexuality and transidentity are mental disorders.
Access to health care
LGBTQ + people shouldn't feel uncomfortable talking about their sexual orientation or gender identity with a health worker, but unfortunately it still is. This discomfort can compromise the quality of the relationship and the service provided, and can even be dangerous. Indeed, some LGBTQ + people are more reluctant to consult a doctor or reveal certain information to them, which can have harmful effects on their health.
In a 2008 study in Canada, almost one in ten participants admitted to having avoided seeking health care services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This proportion climbs to 30% among trans people.
It is important that LGBTQ + people do not feel obliged to hide themselves with the workers they encounter because various issues relating to quality of life as well as to physical and mental health may have a link with sexual orientation and gender identity and with the social oppression that accompanies them: the discovery of one's sexual orientation and one's body, suicide, assisted reproduction techniques and adoption, laws establishing the rules of filiation and other legal aspects such as incapacity mandate, safe sex practices, domestic violence, bullying, etc.
Did you know ?
In a 2015 study in New York State, 10.5% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having been subjected to conversion therapy. This proportion rises to 14.2% (1 in 7 people) for young trans people.
This practice, which aims to "cure" homosexuality or transidentity, is prohibited in very few countries. It can take several forms including psychoanalysis and aversion therapy (causing an unpleasant or painful sensation when the person has homosexual feelings). In addition to not producing the results it boasts, conversion therapy can cause anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation.
This practice, condemned by many organizations such as the Canadian Psychological Association, is hidden under other names such as "reparative therapy".
Asexual people are also affected by pathologization and the idea that they can be "cured" with therapy or hormones.
The idea that we can “cure” homosexuality, transidentity, or asexuality are based on the idea that these identities stem from a trauma or that they are some sort of mental disorder or addiction when this is not the case.
For more than half (54%) of Quebecers questioned, a heterosexual man would be rather uncomfortable undergoing a general examination by a doctor whom he knows to be homosexual.
Views of Canadians Regarding Sexual Orientation (2007):