Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison and Board President Toni Preckwinkle were joined by advocates from three local organizations for a conversation about LGBTQ health inequities on June 25.
LGBTQ Americans have long faced numerous challenges in dealing with healthcare professionals, many of whom are not adept at understanding and addressing the nuances needed in their treatment. Indeed, Morrison opened the session by discussing his own difficulties in finding culturally competent healthcare as a gay man.
But all panelists noted that those complications are exacerbated even further if a patient is transgender and/or belongs to one or more additional marginalized communities. Furthermore, the coronavirus has made already-existing problems even more difficult to tackle.
"The pandemic is following the disparities that we see for every other condition," said David Munar, CEO and president of Howard Brown Health. He noted that, in Chicago, people in wealthier Chicago zip codes have life-expectancies that are decades longer than residents of poorer ones.
"We're seeing this play out in a dramatic way in the pandemic," Munar added.
The pandemic "has stripped bare the inequities we see across the county," noted Preckwinkle.
Aisha Davis, director of policy for AIDS Foundation of Chicago, placed the health-inequities crisis within the context of racial inequities gaining wider attention in the weeks following the killing of George Floyd.
She said that healthcare inequity is "not a new situation for Black and Latinx communities," and that, while society might say that solutions are unobtainable, the problems arise thanks to systemic disinvestment in communities of color.
"We have to acknowledge that, for a long time, Black folks, Latinx folks and indigenous folks were not thought of as human," Davis added … [That] hasn't come out of medical profession completely."
Brave Space Alliance Executive Director LaSaia Wade noted that, beyond the complications the other panelists had already discussed, "Trans people face a different type of narrative and pushback" in healthcare settings Wade's organization primarily uplifts Black and Brown trans Chicagoans and connects them with resources.
Wade's partner, who is also transgender, is expecting a child, and she detailed difficulties they had in accessing competent care. "People are not wanting to touch him."
Davis said that it was important for advocates and public officials to let community members have a say in how community resources are allocated.
When proposing healthcare and community resource interventions, she added, "Don't just bring a finished product to the tablehave an idea of what their needs are."