Before 2010 lesbian and gay health was not on my radar. It was not an issue I had taken seriously. It was there, I’d heard about it, I’d seen a few posters here and there. I’d even seen a new Government-funded doctor’s office set up in town that had a giant rainbow painted on the window and in bright colours declare that they were a gay & lesbian health clinic. I’d scoffed at this as I would walk past, a waste of tax payer’s money. Why not use a standard doctor like the rest of us.
Let me declare up front; I’m not homophobic, I’m a hip and loving grandma of a lesbian grandchild. I just didn’t understand why there needed to be such a fuss made.
My only grandchild with whom I am very close came to visit me on Saturday as she usually did. This Saturday she looked distracted and troubled. Quite unusual for my carefree little bunny, she would normally be full of light and bounce around my home as I made her, her favourite sandwich and a nice hot cup of tea.
Grandma she said, I’m having some issues, and no one seems able to help me. I don’t know what to do. My darling girl had been suffering from some mental issues; depression, that her doctor had advised was due to “being a lesbian”. I was quite appalled that her doctor had said this to her, that if she wasn’t a lesbian she wouldn’t have depression.
I felt the outrage surge through my blood, how dare they. A light bulb went off in my head. As long as there is ignorance and misunderstanding, of course, there will be a need for specialist lesbian and gay health services. I decided to learn all I could about this issue to help my granddaughter receive quality care.
This is how I came up with Grandmas top 6 tips on lesbian and gay health issues!
- Body Image. As if being young and insecure isn’t enough, my grandchild then has to suffer comments from people on her “looking, or not looking, like a lesbian”. Body Image for the LGBTQ community is a huge issue. As body image can be for most people! Really! If you are unsure what to say, talk about the weather, there is no need to comment on someone’s look, regardless of what YOU think the look means.
- Trust in Specialists. Specialists are highly trained well-meaning, learned people. Because of this, their words can cut straight to the heart. It takes time for someone from the LGBTQ community to build a relationship with them and share what their issues are. Have patience.
- Coming Out. This follows on from trusting your specialist; it may take 1 or 2 visits to discuss minor issues before a someone from the LGBTQ community feels ready to “come out” to their specialist. This can be stressful and not to mention financially debilitating. I suggest you take a strong supporter with you, having someone there for support makes coming out quickly to a doctor, so much easier.
- This is a common issue in the LGBTQ community. If you feel marginalised, or spend years hiding who you truly are, you are surely going to suffer from some form of depression or anxiety. I urge other grandparents to listen to their young ones. Don’t speak, just listen, make a cup of tea and just be there. Your support is what will give your grandchild the courage to seek further professional help if needed.
- Smoking Drinking and other drug Use. Yes, it happens. It is very common in the LGBTQ community as these things can be used as a crutch to lean on. This can only lead to poor health physically and emotionally. Help your grandchild to find other things to lean on. People, animals, hobbies, acceptance. Be there.
- The big one. The one that all people MY age are terrified even to mention. HIV/Aids. You know by not speaking about it, you are not helping your young one to become self-safe. Approach this topic gently and carefully, talk about safe sex, I am sure you will be surprised at what your young one will already know, perhaps they can educate you!
That’s it, my top 6 tips. My education in LGBTQ health has been a real journey. And I want to say to that doctor who told my granddaughter that she is depressed because she is a lesbian, that no sir, she is depressed because there are ignorant people like you in the world. Get educated.