Health at the margins: Professors talk health access in the LGBTQ+ community

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Professors from Drexel joined College of William and Mary faculty for a discussion on health outcomes in the LGBTQ community. KYRA SOLOMON / THE FLAT HAT

March 15, a combination of College of William and Mary professors and visiting professors from Drexel University led a Double>LGBTx<Takes talk in Tucker Hall, sponsored by the yearly endowment of the John Boswell Initiative on campus.

The talk was focused on giving students insight into how professors and academics across disciplines can approach complicated topics, such as the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles and difficulties. John Donahue, the dean for educational policy and organizer of this event, spoke on this topic.

“The goal was to have a pairing, so students could see how professors think and process information together,” Donahue said.

The talk matched each professor from the College with one from Drexel, with each pairing including scholars from different disciplines to discuss and attempt to understand three different facets of the LGBTQ+ experience. The three overarching topics addressed how members of the LGBTQ+ community experience conditions of living, discrimination, marginalization and access to health care.

The first topic discussed was discrimination and marginalization. Phillip Ayoub, a political science professor from Drexel, and Elyas Bakhtiari, a sociology professor from the College, led the discussion. Ayoub discussed his research on transnational LGBTQ+ activism and how organizations and personal experiences can be positive for the community.

“The reason why queer migrant activists are so good at this kind of activism is because they have a richer understanding of navigating different gender and sexual identities in a multitude of nations from their own personal experience,” Drexel professor David Ayoub said.

“The reason why queer migrant activists are so good at this kind of activism is because they have a richer understanding of navigating different gender and sexual identities in a multitude of nations from their own personal experience,” Ayoub said.

Bakhtiari spoke about his own research, which investigates the negative impact marginalization can have on health outcomes, including those among the LGBTQ+ community.

“The things that trigger our physical stress reactions today come from our social environment,” Bakhtiari said. “In both the short and long term these stressors affect our health outcomes.”

The next topic was conditions of living, led by sociology professor Kevin Moseby from Drexel and government professor Claire McKinney from the College. The pair attempted to address the topic holistically, providing context to a variety of different factors that impact the LGBTQ+ community’s living experience. Moseby elaborated on his own identity and personal experience and his difficulties with the visibility problems of the LGBTQ+ movement.

“I don’t identify with the label gay, but politically I will use it and recognize the contradictions and the irrationality of the matter and know that we live in a complicated space,” Moseby said. “Our actions are complicated and we have to find ways to recognize the complexity.”

McKinney discussed the problems posed by a lack of visibility and resources. Large-scale movements, she said, do not always advocate for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, instead prioritizing the mainstream.

“Our movements come out of our conditions of living, and nobody has a universal perspective, coming from our own resources and experiences,” McKinney said.

The last topic of the talk was access to health care, led by Drexel sociology professor Kelly Underman and the College’s kinesiology professor Alison Scott. The two academics addressed the topic of health care from distinct perspectives, with Underman coming from the field of medical education and Scott coming from the field of public health.

Her background in public health, Scott said, encouraged her to look at health comprehensively in her work.

“In public health, we are interested in what happens at the doctor’s office, but also all the things that bring people to the doorstep of the doctor,” professor Alison Scott said.

“In public health, we are interested in what happens at the doctor’s office, but also all the things that bring people to the doorstep of the doctor,” Scott said.

This event tackled the extensive complexities of the LGBTQ+ experience in a discussion-based manner, allowing for the audience to experience first-hand how academics from different disciplines choose to move forward in improving the lives of others from their fields.

Underman discussed the new initiatives she had been involved with in teaching medical students. According to Underman, the direction of the medical field is continuously moving toward a more humanistic approach to working with LGBTQ+ patients, rather than the often dehumanizing approach that has been prevalent in the profession in the past.

“I work on training medical students on how to work with trans people,” Underman said. “And just try and treat them like they are human.”