Home' LOTL : January 2006 Contents 41
By Dr Ann
REAL LIFE LESBIAN E.R.
ALMA (The Australian Lesbian Medical Association) provides support
for lesbian doctors, medical students and their partners, but you will be
delighted to learn that the recent ALMA conference also has made some
inroads for lesbian patients. That’s you!
In a historic home set in beautiful landscaped gardens over 50 lesbian
doctors, medical students and their partners converged to attend ALMA’s
7th annual conference. Support for each other, discussion of common
problems and goals (“Why is a medical career so much sexier on TV?”
comes to mind…) and strategies for improving the medical profession’s
understanding of lesbian health took the stage – a welcome relief from the
usual worries of “How can I fit more hours into my work day?”, “What did
I do with that indispensable journal article?” and “Why is hospital coffee
Not only was there debriefing, the ALMAs featured in the Pride March
through Adelaide as part of the Feast celebrations, making the group the
biggest Adelaide ALMA contingent ever. But through all the marching,
relaxing, talking and feasting came new developments which will
significantly improve the lot of lesbians throughout Australia.
ALMA has instituted a system of grants for education and research into
lesbian health. Joining forces with the AIDS Council of New South Wales,
ALMA has distributed grants of $5000 each to individual projects which
focus on the health of lesbian and bisexual women. Last year’s grant
winners Ea Mulligan and Mary Heath targeted wellbeing strategies and
they presented their often startling findings at the conference.
New grant winners include Peta Cox from ACT Family Planning who will
evaluate and improve a safe sex website for young women who have
sex with women, Jenny Kelly from Deakin University, Victoria, who has
recently published a book on her PhD research of lesbians’ experiences
of menopause and who will now explore lesbians’ experiences of public
maternity care, and Lavender who will investigate the knowledge levels of
lesbian health issues amongst rural health care providers.
These grants address areas which have the potential to affect significantly
the lives of all lesbians and bisexual women who access the health
system. The cultural blind spots of traditional medical thinking are often
noticed by us as consumers of health care, but the research that will
address these is only starting to flourish.
While the grants will impact directly on the local Australian lesbian and
bisexual population, ALMA has also set its sights on the international
stage. ALMA will be applying for United National membership as
a recognised Non Government Organisation. ALMA will be able to
advocate in an international forum for lesbian and bisexual women’s
health. Currently only one other Australian lesbian group (the Coalition of
Activist Lesbians) has membership, so this is a significant step for lesbian
and bisexual health in our region.
For those of you who may have been daydreaming about Kerry (and/or
the fire-fighter girlfriend) from ER instead of reading about our amazing
ALMAs – remember truth is often stranger than fiction! There are lesbian
doctors out there who really are taking on one of the most conservative
professions and who are making the system work for all women.
Now switch off that TV and start thinking how YOU can contribute to
a better understanding of lesbian and bisexual health. ALMA has put
its research grants in place; it’s now up to us to provide the feedback
needed to make that research true to life. If you see calls for research
volunteers or participants, be game, and help ALMA change lesbian
health for the better.
“For those of you daydreaming about
Kerry from ER … remember… There are
lesbian doctors out there who really are
taking on one of the most conservative
professions and who are making the
system work for all women.”
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