Since February, the federal government has been hearing from experts and witnesses on the state of LGBTQ2 health in Canada — all of which we’ve been following.
And while there have been some political and social wins in recent years, advocates are quick to point out that health outcomes for sexual and gender minorities are still lagging behind.
We need to reduce stigma in this country — it's killing us.
“Despite immense political and human rights gains, our health outcomes — the health outcomes of all queer people — continue to be some of the worst in the country,” said Jody Jollimore, Executive Director of the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) at the April 30 hearing.
As a gay man, Jollimore notes that he’s 131 times more likely to get HIV, 20 times more likely to develop an HPV-related anal cancer, and 4 times more likely to commit suicide.
Those stats won’t change, he says, as long as sexual minorities continue to face stigma and discrimination.
“We need to reduce stigma in this country — it's killing us. Shame and stigma prevent us from accessing the services we need, which results in high rates of HIV and STIs, substance use, depression, anxiety and suicide.”
For the federal government’s part, that means making LGBTQ2 health a priority, including funding for programs and research that will increase health care access within queer and trans communities.
“It’s difficult to obtain information to defend our rights. We feel that more money should be dedicated to research,” agreed Joël Xavier, Administrator for the Conseil québécois LGBT.
As a gay trans man, Xavier explained that up-to-date and tailored research is crucial to creating effective support programs, especially as the experiences within the community are so varied. For instance, 30 per cent of trans individuals don’t access medical services even in the case of an emergency because they fear discrimination — something that Xavier would not have learned without asking trans Canadians how they interact with health providers.
But improving the collection and use of data is just one priority for funding. While new research will impact the future of LGBTQ2 health, community groups are already doing the work to make lives better for queer people today.
“Community centres provide social connections for people who are isolated, education for those who hold on to divisive beliefs, and counselling and health care needed to improve mental health outcomes — which means reducing anxiety, depression and loneliness,” said Rachel Loewen Walker, Executive Director of OUTSaskatoon.
Although the federal government is funding some important initiatives for the LGBTQ2 community through groups like CBRC and OUTSaskatoon, Loewen Walker and Jollimore recommend creating a dedicated LGBTQ2 funding portfolio that would address research and program priorities, such as queer and trans community centres and networks.
This would add some stability to the work these groups do, as well as maintain the operating costs of programs or services rather than applying for one-off grants.
“There are many examples of dedicated funding for various populations,” continued Jollimore. “There’s the harm reduction fund for drug users, the mental health of black Canadians fund, which is fantastic — but we need similar funds for queer people.”
To hear the testimony of all presenters at the Meeting No. 140 HESA - Standing Committee on Health, review the evidence or read the minutes, visit the links below to the HESA webpage:
Centre de recherche de Montréal sur les inégalités sociales et les discriminations
• Gabriel Girard, Researcher, Sociologist
Community-Based Research Centre
Conseil québécois LGBT
• Joël Xavier, Administrator
• Rachel Loewen Walker, Executive Director
• Martha Smith-Norris, Board Chair