The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service hosts Pizza & Politics every Wednesday at noon to discuss a current political topic. Leavitt Center student employees research the topic and moderate the conversation. These discussions expose students to a variety of important issues and encourages them to share their own perspectives while learning all sides of an issue. Free pizza is provided for all who attend.
At the beginning of the semester, students voted on topics they wanted to see discussed during Pizza & Politics. LGBTQ+ Reproductive Rights received the top number of votes. The students spoke and the Leavitt Center listened.
The Leavitt Center Executive Council members Serena Woodhouse and Cynthia Hawk moderated the discussion. Serena is a senior Economics and Anthropology major from West Valley City, Utah. Cynthia is a junior Political Science major from St. George, Utah.
The discussion started with specific facts and data regarding the unique needs that LGBTQ+ people face related to their sexual orientation and gender identity. These include:
- Same sex couples seeking fertility specialists
- HIV-related care
- Preventive care (PrEP daily pill to lower risk of HIV infection)
- Puberty blockers
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
- Gender affirming surgeries for transitions
3.5% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and 0.3% of adults are transgender, according to a Williams Institute & Gallup poll. These numbers amount to approximately 9 million individuals.
LGBTQ+ health requires specific attention from health care and public health professionals to address a number of disparities, including:
- Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer
- Gay and bisexual men comprise more than half of new HIV infections in the U.S. each year and HIV prevalence among transgender women exceeds 25% nationwide
- Transgender people are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals
- Elderly LGBTQ+ individuals face additional barriers to health because of isolation and lack of social services and culturally competent providers
The first question posed to the audience asked which factors contribute to the health disparities in the LGBTQ+ community. Several students blamed a lack of education and a feeling of belonging. Many doctors do not know how to specifically treat LGBTQ+ patients. This does not mean physically as much as it means mentally. LGBTQ+ people are constantly worried about who might expose their sexuality, wondering who they can trust.
The answers from the first question related directly to the next, which asked if all medical schools should require LGBTQ+ training. In 2012, a survey of U.S. medical schools discovered that only 16% of respondent institutions had comprehensive LGBTQ+ competency training while 52% had none.
The audience agreed there should be a speciality for LGBTQ+ surgeries, such as gender reassignment surgery. Many thought this plan also solved the problem of doctors who do not feel comfortable performing specific surgeries. If there was a specialty, patients would know they could trust those doctors.
In 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed that prevents any level of government from burdening a person’s exercise of religion. The Equality Act of 2010 contained explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including housing, employment, credit, education, public spaces and services, and federally funded programs. The Do Not Harm Act of 2017 renders the RFRA inapplicable to federal laws that provide access to any health care item or service and denials of a person’s full and equal enjoyment of government-provided goods, services, benefits, and accommodations.
As mentioned before, the audience was concerned about accommodating for both religious freedom and LGBTQ+ rights in health care. The speciality for LGBTQ+ health care would be a path that LGBTQ+ individuals could trust while keeping doctors with conflicting religious beliefs in other disciplines. A good section of the audience did say that a person’s life is more important than a person feeling comfortable, specifically in emergency situations. If an LGBTQ+ patient comes into the emergency room, doctors cannot but also should not discriminate and should perform the necessary procedures.
Overall, this topic spurred an enlightening and productive discussion by the audience. There were multiple angles brought up by a variety of students. The discussion was civil and educational, hopefully resulting in everyone learning something new.