Home' LOTL : February 2005 Contents 12
JACKIE BRAW CHECKS UP ON THE
STATE OF LESBIAN HEALTH SERVICES.
Coming out as a lesbian, I was a regular
user of women's health services, especially
Leichhardt Women's Health. I felt
comfortable there, perhaps because it was
staffed by lots of dykes.
But this was the 80s and early 90s. Many
dykes have moved on, funding for women's
health is tighter and there seems to be a bit
of a backlash against catering to the specific
needs of lesbians in the women's health
movement. And I now expect a particular
standard of service appropriate for me as a
lesbian which may or may not be delivered
by a general women's health service.
Lesbian Health: is it an issue?
Most of my friends appear bemused when I
talk about lesbian health. "What's lesbian
health?" My most diehard political dyke
buddies remain unconvinced about the
concept. But Dr Ruth McNair, from the
Australian Lesbian Medical Association,
suggests "being part of a minority sexuality
group influences patterns of health and
illness and requires specific enquiry within
most consultations. She has noted many
lesbian health issues that result from
discrimination, homophobia and
heterosexism in our health care system:
avoidance of routine check-ups and
screening, less disclosure of sexuality within
consultations and specific healthcare needs
such as sexual and cervical health,
reproductive health and parenting, mental
health, substance use and ageing.
The problem, suggests Kate Connors,
ACON Vice President carrying the portfolio
for lesbian health, is that "lesbians
themselves aren't sure how lesbian health is
different to women's health or other health
issues...we don't have enough research so
it's very hard to say what the gaps are, what
the needs are, even though anecdotally we
know they exist. I think also lesbians are a
really diverse group and it's hard to reach
out to them sometimes -- to find them!"
ACON: Not just for the boys
There are many other challenges facing a
lesbian health service -- securing adequate
resources is probably the biggest. "ACON
doesn't receive a lot of funding that we can
direct to lesbian health and we rely a lot on
our fundraising efforts to do the lesbian
health work that we undertake." Most
government support for ACON's work is
IN THE PINK
Most of my friends
appear bemused when I
talk about lesbian health.
"What's lesbian health?"
My most diehard
political dyke buddies
about the concept.
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