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LGBTQ+-affirming healthcare

Finding suitable healthcare can be difficult for everyone, but those in the LGBTQ+ community have an extra hurdle to contend with: finding a healthcare practitioner who is not only supportive of LGBTQ+ folk but also experienced in treatments that are more likely to be required by members of the community.

Everyone deserves to be able to access healthcare that suits them, so why is this often so hard for LGBTQ+ people to find?

Poor Training

Seven out of ten LGBTQ patients report having negative experiences while accessing healthcare, and this is completely unsurprising when you consider the shortage of healthcare practitioners who are well-versed in issues that are overrepresented in, or even exclusive to, the LGBTQ+ community.

Hormone replacement therapy, experience treating intersex patients, gender affirmation surgery, and HIV treatment and prevention are only a handful of things that a professional working closely with members of the LGBTQ+community should be experienced in and comfortable with, but how many are?

Unless your healthcare practitioner takes a particular interest in these areas or has significant experience in dealing with them, it’s likely that they have only spent a measly five hours studying LGBTQ+ issues as part of their medical training. This can create an unfortunate catch-22 situation where doctors do not feel comfortable treating these conditions, leading to avoidance and lack of opportunity to build up their knowledge and real-world experience.

Under-representation Of LGBTQ People In The Medical Community

While more comprehensive training would go some way to increasing access to high-quality healthcare for LGBTQ people, studying can only go so far; those with lived experience of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community can offer insights and empathy that those outside the community cannot, despite their best efforts.

Stanford University conducted a study that found that 30 percent of medical students who were part of the LGBTQ+ community hid their sexual or gender identity. In addition, around 40 percent of medical students who self-identified as “not heterosexual” said that they were wary of facing discrimination. If we extrapolate this to healthcare professionals in the workplace, it’s not surprising that it can be hard for LGBTQ patients to find a practitioner who is also openly part of the community.

Encouraging more LGBTQ people to enter healthcare professions, and ensuring that those who are already working in healthcare feel able to embrace their sexuality or gender identity, are key to helping LGBTQ patients find healthcare that meets their needs.

Bias And Stereotypes

Whether intentional or subconscious, bias and harmful stereotypes are endemic throughout the medical community. “For example, from the moment you enter the waiting room and are handed paperwork asking your gender, with only male and female boxes available to tick, you can be made to feel unwelcome, misunderstood, and alienated,” explains Benita Martines, a journalist at OXEssays and Paperfellows.

Due to previous negative experiences, LGBTQ people can feel reluctant to offer information about their sexual orientation or gender to a healthcare provider. Equally, professionals can be wary of asking for this information in case it offends the patient. As this information can have a very real impact on medical decisions, it’s crucial that the medical community get comfortable with discussing these issues in a way that includes and empowers LGBTQ folk.

Lack of Transgender Care

“The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently conducted a survey which revealed that a shocking 19 percent of trans and gender non-conforming people have been refused medical care,” explains Mark Dobbins, writer at Boomessays and UKWritings.

In addition, transphobic terminology is rife in the medical community and is often used without consideration of how unwelcome it can make trans patients feel. Worryingly, the same survey found that half of the respondents have had to explain some transgender-specific medical terms to healthcare professionals.

Although the healthcare industry has a long way to go in becoming inclusive, accessible, and supportive to members of the LGBTQ+ community, progress is being made. For example, John Hopkins University School of Medicine has updated its curriculum to help its graduates care for a more diverse range of patients.

In the meantime, finding a healthcare provider who is understanding and supportive of your needs can feel like an impossible task, but don’t give up; everyone deserves good healthcare, and there are some excellent LGBTQ+-friendly practitioners out there.

Madeline Miller is a writer at Academized, as well as a business development manager at Essay Services and State Of Writing.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.