Howard Brown Health Center on June 2 convened another in its series of town hall meetings engaging community members in dialogue about health topics, with this session centering on gay, bisexual and queer men's health.
Dr. Alfred Torrence, a staff physician at HBHC, and Serette B. King, HBHC's manager of Outreach Services, ran the session.
Facilitators stressed that participants would determine the direction of the session, held at Brown Elephant Resale Shop, 3651 N. Halsted St., and this particular section centered largely on matters of healthcare for bisexual men.
An audience member named Matt said that, since coming out as bisexual, he has endured discrimination from both straights and gays. When trying to access mental health services at HBHC, he saw there was plenty of room for improving the organization's cultural competencies about the bi community and that when he brought up the possibility of being intersex, his provider seemed ill-informed about Klinefelter's Syndrome.
Chris Pierce, bisexual programs volunteer liaison at Center on Halsted, said that HBHC had "one of the best intake forms" amongst service providers and would do well performing outreach to straight-focused medical practices and health organizations.
"There's a severe lack of information among health care professionals," Pierce said, adding that that was even a problem with mental health providers, who often can send out signals that they are judging a patient.
"We're always wondering if our mental health professional really thinks that we're gay," he further noted.
Torrance admitted that finding culturally competent providers for bisexual or gay men is difficult because medical schools still pay so little attention to it. "There need to be retrainings to deal with that," he added, mentioning that many of HBHC's referrals come from physicians who are uneducated or uninterested in matters of LGBT health.
"Doctors are often not interested in re-education," Torrance added, after being asked whether HBHC could provide LGBT health trainings for physicians. "I'd love to do thatI'm just not sure who would show up."
The facilitators said they would be interested in discussing with Pierce his suggestions for improving HBHC's engagement with its bisexual patients. Other audience suggestions centered on programs encouraging healthy living and lifestyles as well as the availability of HBHC services in other parts of the city.
"I think that our new CEO is interested in spreading Howard Brown out," said Torrance. "We know what communities need our services. The issue is money. All that stuff is very expensive to do."
HBHC's next town hall session, focusing on LGBT youth health issues, will be June 16 at Brown Elephant Resale Shop, 3651 N. Halsted St., from 6-7:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1o3lk6w.