Health equity at the intersections: Latino/a and LGBT health

This blog post is jointly written by Veronica Bayetti, policy research specialist at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; and Patrick Paschall, Esq., policy advocate at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This post is part of the Blog Carnival “Health Equity Can’t Wait” taking place April 25-27, 2012.

As advocates committed to health equity, it is imperative that we always look at the whole picture because it is easy to work in our advocacy silos and only look at one aspect of a people’s lives: sexual orientation, or gender, or race. But as the brilliant late poet Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we don’t live single-issue lives.” We cannot fully fight for social justice unless we sit with this reality.

We will never fully understand the struggle of someone trying to access an abortion if we do not also know how being a transgender man of color has affected his experience. We cannot know an immigrant’s struggle to access culturally competent and affordable health care if we do not think about how being queer has affected where she feels safe. If we do not look at the intersections, we paint an incomplete picture and we fail to see the very real ways that multiple marginalized identities play out in people’s lives.

In the groundbreaking report Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality found that Latino/a transgender people experience far higher rates of discrimination than the general population or than either the Latino/a or transgender populations as a whole. For example, 23 percent of Latino/a transgender people reported being refused medical care due to bias, and 36 percent reported having postponed care when they were sick or injured due to fear of discrimination.

Additionally, nearly one in 10 Latino/a respondents were HIV-positive (8.44 percent) and an additional 10.23 percent reported that they did not know their status. This compares to rates of 2.64 percent for transgender respondents of all races, .50 percent for the general Latino/a population, and 0.60 percent of the general U.S. population. This means that Latino/a transgender people are nearly four times more likely than the transgender population and over 16 times more likely than the general Latino/a population to be HIV-positive.

But the story doesn’t end there: one of the most striking statistics is that a staggering 47 percent of Latino and Latina transgender people reported having attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. That makes Latino and Latina transgender people 29 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

These statistics make it clear that it is not enough to focus on one group of people – whether it be Latin@s, LGBTQ folks, or any other group – without recognizing that there are many communities within them, each with their own struggles, their own celebrations, their own priorities. We cannot in good faith advocate for an end to cervical cancer, or advocate for safer immigration detention standards, if we don’t include LGBTQ people.

We cannot fight for LGBTQ liberation if we do not stand in support of immigrant’s rights, or reproductive justice. These issues must be as inextricably linked in our advocacy as they are in people’s lived realities. Anything less will stop short of health equity.