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Feature Article

Lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s health: a guide for GPs

RUTH MCNAIR
OPEN ACCESS

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© PEKIC/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
© PEKIC/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Abstract

GPs can offer inclusive primary health care for lesbian, bisexual and queer women through affirming their sexual identity and understanding their specific biological and socially determined health issues, and by providing targeted referrals.

Key Points

  • GPs can provide effective primary health care to lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women related to their biological needs, including sexual health, contraception and achieving pregnancy.
  • Negative social attitudes towards LBQ women can result in discrimination, abuse, violence and marginalisation.
  • GPs should recognise discrimination as a risk factor for high levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance use among LBQ women.
  • Disability, ethnic minority and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status can exacerbate existing health inequalities in LBQ women.
  • Roles for GPs include referral to LBQ-inclusive services and peer support, and advocacy.

Lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women have specific health issues that require informed and sensitive care. These health issues can be categorised as either biologically determined or socially determined (Box 1). Biologically determined issues arise from health needs for women who partner or have sex with women, or gender diverse individuals. Socially determined issues arise in the face of negative attitudes. These do not differ from those of heterosexual women in the absence of marginalisation, discrimination or abuse. There are also intersectional issues where LBQ women have other minority or marginalised identities such as disability, ethnic minority or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status. Each of these specific issues may need appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes that are affirming and aware of the intersectionality.

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© PEKIC/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
© PEKIC/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
Dr McNair is Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of General Practice at The University of Melbourne, Melbourne; and Director at Northside Clinic, Melbourne, Vic.