You want the best for your LGBT child, not only for his mental health, but also for his physical health as well. Your family physician is usually the prime care provider for LGBT youth from the ages of 15 to 24.
Lesbian Health Issues
Aside from family acceptance being a protective factor against depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation and attempts, these physical issues are more prevalent for lesbians and should be discussed with their healthcare provider.
- Breast Cancer. Lesbians are more likely to have risk factors for breast cancer yet less likely to get screening exams.
- Greater depression and anxiety that take their toll on their bodies and result from the chronic stress from discrimination.
- Gynecological Cancer. Compared to heterosexuals, lesbians have higher risks for certain types of gynecological cancers such as ovarian cancer. They need to be screened for STDs. They can get the same sexually transmitted drugs as heterosexual women. Your daughter needs regular pelvic exams, including pap tests, and the HPVvaccine for women up to age 26.
- Obesity or Overweight. Lesbians are more apt to be overweight or obese leading to Diabetes and heart disease. Generally, they have a higher BMI (Body Mass Index).
- Tobacco Use. More often than heterosexuals, lesbians smoke more often and may drink more.
- Drug Usage. Lesbians may use drugs more often than heterosexual women. They need to be taught how to find healthy ways to cope.
Gay Health Issues
- If you child is gay, have him tell his doctor if he is being sexual and if he has been exposed to an HIV positive person.
- Hepatitis Immunization and Screening. Gays are at increased risk of sexually transmitted infection with the viruses that cause the serious condition of the liver, hepatitis. There are immunizations for Hepatitis A and B Virus. Safe sex can be effective at reducing the risk of viral hepatitis and is currently the only means of prevention for Hepatitis C.
- HPV is a virus that causes genital warts and can lead to anal cancer. Some health professionals now recommend routine screening with anal Pap smears.
- STDs are tricky. You can have one without symptoms but still give it to others. Sexually transmitted diseases occur in sexually active gay men at a high rate.
- Eating Disorders: “Do I Look Fat?” Body image can be more common among gay men. They are more likely to have eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa. Obesity can affect many gay men and lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Substance Abuse. Gay men use substances at a higher rate than the general population. Club drugs such as Ecstasy, amphetamines, marijuana, and amyl nitrate (“poppers”) are common among gay users.
- Greater depression and anxiety found in gay men, particularly if they are in the closet and do not have adequate social support, so the conditions worsen.
- Tobacco Usage. Several studies show that gay men use tobacco at higher rates, by as much as 50%.
GLMA for GLBT Health Care Professionals
Few physicians are trained to address the sexual orientation of their LGBT patients. Added to this complication is the fact that LGBT kids may be shy about disclosing their sexual orientation for fear of disapproval or embarrassment.
If your child is reluctant to disclose his/her sexual orientation, perhaps you should find a physician from GLMA, Gay Lesbian Medical Association, an organization of more than 1,000 GLBT health care professionals. Your child should be able to tell the health care provider that she is LGBT. After this contact, the clinician should ask the patient specific questions and offer appropriate testing.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.