EBB: What are the goals of the LGBTQ Health Interest Group?
IG: We believe that it is within the scope of general internal medicine providers to meet the specific health needs of the LGBTQ population. The LGBTQ Health Interest Group has four main goals: 1) prepare educational content on LGBTQ health issues for SGIM’s national and regional meetings; 2) facilitate communication among members about clinical, research, and educational issues related to LGBTQ health; 3) respond collectively to events and policies affecting LGBTQ health and well-being; and 4) provide mentorship and networking opportunities for clinicians and trainees from all regions of the country.
EBB: What did the Interest Group do to bring more attention to LGBTQ health issues at SGIM’s 2022 Annual Meeting?
IG: At the Annual Meeting, we partnered with the Health Equity Commission (coordinated by Marshall Fleurant) and the Health Policy Committee (chaired by Elizabeth Jacobs) to collectively respond to laws causing direct harm to LGBTQ youth and communities, notably Florida’s HB1557 “Don’t Say Gay” bill.1 This law targets LGBTQ youth by restricting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity and eliminating the opportunity for youth to seek support in schools related to sexual orientation or gender identity. We shared how this and similar laws, such as legislation opposing critical race theory, are designed to further marginalize people. We also emphasized that physicians have a responsibility to advocate against any law that infringes on anyone’s ability to thrive in their own identity. We identified information about local LGBTQ health resources to post on SGIM’s web site and used social media to stimulate conversations about LGBTQ health issues and policies affecting the well-being of LGBTQ persons and communities. Our collective action garnered the attention of local news stations in Orlando, bringing attention to the fact that physicians do not support policies that harm the well-being of their patients. We greatly appreciated the support of SGIM leadership in promoting the event and were pleased to see more than 200 SGIM members join the photo rally. Together, we raised our voices in support of LGBTQ rights, chanting: “We say Gay! We say Trans!”
EBB: What do you advise SGIM members to do in response to legislation like Florida’s bill that prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary school?
IG: We advise physicians to respond to such laws that affect their patients’ well-being. Although the bill recently enacted by Florida does not specifically target physicians, we believe it violates SGIM’s core values and vision of a just system of care in which all people can achieve optimal health. We encourage members to voice their concerns about similar local, state, or federal policies that impose restrictions on free speech and evidence-based education about LGBTQ health. As physicians, we should be vigilant in objecting to policies that interfere with the patient-physician relationship, especially when it further marginalizes minoritized communities. We support SGIM’s recent endorsement of statements by the American College of Physicians and Council of Medical Subspecialties objecting to policies that interfere with the patient-physician relationship.2-3 We also believe that it is important to find ways to support our colleagues and their patients who live in places directly impacted by laws that violate our vision for a just system of care. To support such advocacy, we are preparing a template for writing a personalized Op-Ed article for a local audience. SGIM members can learn about further actions and opportunities to stay involved in LGBTQ health research, clinical care, education, and advocacy by going to GIM Connect and joining the LGBTQ Interest Group.