5 Reasons Health Care for Lesbians in Lebanon is at Stake

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lesbian_healthAnd 6 Easy Steps to Counteract Them

Lesbians and bisexual women are alienated from the health care system in Lebanon. Barriers to medical care that lesbians face can cause poorer mental and physical health. Here’s why:

  1. Heterosexism and homophobia are endemic in Lebanon. “Coming Out” to your physician, even though essential, might be challenging. Lesbians worry about negative reactions from health care providers if they disclose their sexual orientation. They also worry that their care might be compromised.
  2. Lack of a much-needed comprehensive and publicly available database that enlists all LGBT-aware or LGBT-tolerant physicians practicing in Lebanon.
  3. Homosexuality is looked at as a sin in Lebanon by the two major religious groups, Christianity and Islam. The Druze religion has no clear or publicly known position on the topic. Atheism is a growing group but still a minority; being an atheist can sometimes need a “coming out” process by itself in Lebanon as atheism might not be easily accepted by many religious people.
  4. Lack of any adequate training of health care providers about lesbian health issues. The absence of formal education about homosexuality in medical school and residency training leads to an alarming lack of understanding of health issues relevant to homosexuals. Misconceptions and dogmas about homosexuality are prevalent in Lebanon. Few examples:
    • Some physicians still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder even 15 years after the World Health Organization has removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
    • Some physicians might consider “reparative therapy” for homosexuals; years after all those therapies were proven to be ineffective and sometimes harmful.
    • Many physicians have the wrong perception that lesbians have a low risk for certain sexually transmitted diseases and some types of cancer when they are not sexually active with men.
  5. Lack of financial independence would prevent lesbian women (and similarly unmarried women) from seeking medical care as many will have to justify the reason to their financial supporter (parents, siblings, relatives, husband, or other). Health insurance in Lebanon cannot be extended to domestic partners.

The 6 DOs and DON’Ts;

  • DO find an LGBT-friendly physician. Helem and Meem can help you find one.
  • DO Consider “coming out” to your LGBT-tolerant/LGBT-aware physician.
  • DO educate yourself about lesbian health issues. Feel free to contact the author for resources.
  • DO NOT avoid routine health exams when healthy.
  • DO NOT delay seeking medical care when sick.
  • DO NOT forget to follow up as instructed after your first visit.

Article contributed by Dr. Hasan Abdessamad, OBGYN. You can email him on hasan.abdessamad[at]gmail.com

Hasan Abdessamad, MD Obstetrician & Gynecologist AUB alumni (BS ’99, MD ’03) University Hospitals Case Medical Center Email: hasan.abdessamad[at]gmail.com

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