Women’s sexual health is often a topic that brings controversy wherever it goes. Be it due to the taboo nature it seems to be associated with, or because the topic might seem daunting to many people, it doesn’t get talked about enough. This is especially problematic for the LGBTTQ+ community. Not only do the women of this community have to deal with controversy over their sexual health, but they also have to deal with the lack of preparation society seems to have when it comes to how sexual health relates to them. Talk about exhausting!
As a woman of the community, I wanted to know the concerns my fellow ladies have. It is for this very reason that I teamed up with the UPRM’s very own SpectRUM, a student organization that strives to make the university a safe place for every member of the LGBTTQ+ community. SpectRUM’s directive and members were nice enough to sit down for a one-on-one talk and let all their concerns be known.
When asked what aspects of sexual health were important to her, Sarah, the social activity coordinator, answered the following:
“Being responsible with myself. That’s something one should not take lightly. Awareness is very important too.”
Another member of SpectRUM commented that the aspects of sexual health that are important to them are protection and constant STD checks with local clinics. SpectRUM co-founder and previous President, Frances, seemed to agree, pointing out that “protection and awareness on how to stay healthy” are important.
Another member of SpectRUM pointed out key questions to keep in mind such as “how healthy is my vagina? What is the proper treatment to clean my vagina?” She followed up by stating that “it is a subject that no one seems to talk about” and that “hygiene is an important part of sexual health.” For others, “proper medication and treatment” seemed to be the most important factor.
When faced with the question of the doubts they might have in regards to sexual health. Sarah mentioned that her “doubts are if the person I am spending time with is really being responsible too.” Sarah also mentioned that “not speaking about this is scary.”
One of the members voiced her concern towards “the doubts are that some people do not follow the standards of a healthy sexual life and keep having unprotected sex, exposing others to diseases. You never really know what your partner is truly saying, not to mention how awkward it would be to ask ‘Hey, did you do your STD checks a bit ago’ while in the heat of the moment, which is why people just go with the flow.”
Frances brought up questions like “what consequences do I face if I don’t protect myself? How can I protect myself to the best of my abilities?”
Our second member commented on how she has not read “an article that talks about how you can contract a sexually transmitted disease between two women. Although it may seem simple, your sexual health as a cisgender lesbian woman is something society does not seem to care for.” Others seemed to focus on “how the medical community treat cases concerning LGBTTQ community.”
An important sexual concern for one of the members was the fact that “there is not enough help for people who have sex, especially people who have sex for money; they are truly the ones in need of protection and constant STD checks.” Our speaker later added that she believes all sexually active people should test themselves for STIs frequently.
When asked what they would like society to know about LGBTTQ+ sexual health, our speakers had a variety of answers. Frances rightfully argued that “society doesn’t really know what LGBTTQ+ community goes through when it comes to sexual health. A lot of the time, the community doesn’t even have access to proper resources. This lack of resources oftentimes leads to the spread of STIs, which is easily avoidable when the proper resources are available.
One of the members pointed out that her biggest concern was “the knowledge doctors have on treating patients from the community. Especially for transgender people. My wish is for everyone to know how important it is to treat these cases with the same importance they treat others. Everyone needs to understand that health isn’t something to joke around with. Especially if it involves bringing proper medical attention with the right tools.”
While another person wanted “society to know that the LGBTTQ+ community is in need of education about sexual health.” She argued that “it’s not just about being clean and having no diseases, but also about taking care of your organs and your body.”
When asked about what they would like health care providers to know, Frances communicated that she wanted “healthcare providers to know that it’s their job to treat people and instruct them properly, regardless of any ailment they might have.” She also chimed in by saying “they should be willing to provide the community with adequate resources that promote a safe and healthy sexual health. These issues aren’t just LGBTTQ+ issues; they are human issues.”
One member added that “like every other thing with working systems, our bodies need maintenance and not all of us are aware of it. Healthcare should open up clinics that are for (or even by) the LGBTTQ+ community for the LGBTTQ+ community. If we are getting sick, most of the time it is because we are not taken into consideration by society. This community could use clinics that have everything from physical, to hormonal and mental areas for our general well being. My biggest concern is without a doubt the level of uneducated teens or young adults. Sexual health is very important for everyone, but mostly for those who society puts aside because it’s not ‘common’ or ‘natural’ to them.”
Our other speaker indicted that to her “healthcare providers must become more vigilant and learn about the needs these cases require.”
All in all, this brief exploration of the concerns of the women of the LGBTTQ+ community shows the world that sexual health might be complicated, but it needs to be a prominent and important part of our lives. Moreover, the sexual health of the women in this community is not something that can be glossed over or forgotten.