Recognizing the needs of LGBTQ+ IBD patients during Pride Month
Published: June 9, 2022
June is observed as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning/Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. Pride Month has meant a great deal to me ever since as a member of the community I attended my first New York City Pride Parade over 30 years ago. It was heartening and inspiring and helped me feel that I was part of a huge community working toward greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. Having experienced my fair share of discrimination over the years and often feeling marginalized from mainstream society, the pride parade and the sense of belonging that it engendered was not just uplifting but life-altering.
The pride movement has grown tremendously in the 53 years since the Stonewall Uprising. We’ve seen major victories – like the legalization of gay marriage, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, election of many openly gay political figures, and so much more. Three U.S. Presidents have officially declared June as Pride Month - Bill Clinton (1999 & 2000), Barack Obama (2009-2016), and Joe Biden (2021 & 2022).
While we have seen many victories for gay rights over the years, there are still challenges that LGBTQ+ persons face, including health disparities. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ persons has been associated with high rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide.
LGBTQ+ IBD patients face unique challenges – both in their healthcare treatment as well as with “coming out” with their disease. In fact, many patients compare sharing the news that they have Crohn’s or colitis to the experience of coming out as LGBTQ+. Patients are also often not provided with information about how to navigate their sexuality with their disease and may feel uncomfortable asking questions about sex and intimacy.
If you are a member of the community living with IBD, I encourage you to consider joining our private Facebook support groups for gay and bisexual men and lesbian and bisexual women. Additionally, we are working to add gender neutral restrooms to our restroom access app – so if you know of any, I encourage you to add them to the app! Our We Can’t Wait app is available on both iOS and Google Play.
To those of you who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, I wish you a happy pride!
Michael Osso is President & CEO of the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.