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Healthy Gay Black Men

By on June 9, 2013

The lives of Black gay, bisexual, and transgender (GBT) men matter.  Yet, in order to live healthier lives, Black GBT individuals must navigate a world that often is racially oppressive and homophobic. Men’s Health Awareness Month seems like a perfect time to underscore the need for health equity across race and sexual orientation categories.

The American health care system is imperfect.  Even after overcoming legal and economic barriers that can disproportionately impact a Black GBT person’s ability to maintain health care coverage, the Center for American Progress reports that same gender loving and transgender people of color often postpone or forgo medical treatment due to fear of discrimination.   A study by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce provides merit for this fear: 21% of Black transgender people reported being refused medical care due to bias.

No one should experience intimidation or discrimination when it comes to accessing good healthcare.  Here are 5 approaches for Black GBT men looking to find a primary care physician that is knowledgeable of GBT health and welcoming to all sexual orientations and gender identities:

  1. Determine what’s important to you: Create and prioritize a realistic checklist of what is key to your having your authentic self included as part of your medical appointments.  This may include the gender, training, and sensitivity of a physician. Is your physician a GBT-identified provider, an ally?
  2.  Tap into GBT resources: Ask GBT friends and relatives about their experience with their current physician.  Seek referrals from local GBT social service providers and clinics.  Check out online resources and search engines such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
  3. Look for GBT-inclusive language: Literature and imagery can reveal a great deal about how inclusive a practice is.  Are GBT welcoming stickers or signs posted?  Are patient forms inclusive of your gender and/or relationship status?  Do all employees use your preferred gender pronoun?
  4. Ask for confidentiality and anti-discrimination policies:   Look for confidentiality policies and anti-discrimination policies that include race, sexuality orientation, and gender identity.  If policies are not visibly posted, ask to see them in writing.  Discuss in advance the protocol for reporting violations of such policies. 
  5. Interview your doctor:  Arrange a meeting, or use your first appointment, to learn more about potential physicians.  Use the time to discuss the issues that are important to you while accessing how safe and welcoming the entire office feels. You could also use this time to discuss the physicians’ board certifications, professional history, and experience with GBT patients of color and their health needs.

Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” The process of finding a health provider that is aligned with your needs and life circumstances is not always easy and your ideal health setting may not even exist yet but be encouraged. After all, it will take healthy minds and bodies to remain resilient as a community and improve the health care experience for generations to come.


Mr. Corey Yarbrough is a co-founder of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC) and serves as the organization’s Executive Director. He serves as a Contributor for Healthyblackmen.org.

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