Dr. Kaiyti Duffy, medical director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Audre Lorde Health Program, wants LBTQ women to not be afraid to take control of their health.
“We’ve all known for a long time that LBTQ women face significant barriers when accessing health care,” Duffy points out. “There’s a lot of fear and anxiety about having to disclose our sexual identity to a provider who may not be affirming, or worse, might be outright disdainful.”
Duffy made her remarks during Reclaim and Reconnect: LBTQ Women’s Health and Healing in 2021, a virtual panel discussion about health in the aftermath of the Trump presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lesbians, bisexual women, non-binary and gender-fluid people are far less likely to visit the doctor or access health services, according to Duffy. And when they do, they feel they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“You need a body-affirming and sex-positive provider who outwardly assures your safety during the visit and affirms who you are,” Duffy explains.
The Audre Lorde Health Program welcomes anyone who has identified as a woman or girl at any point in their journey. Its services include GYN/pelvic care, fertility, hormone balancing, and a well-woman care approach addressing the whole person, including the causes of stress manifesting physical symptoms. Patients who finish a medical exam may be referred to other Center departments for additional services, such as legal support, mental health care, and affordable housing.
“You can do a lot of it with us at the Center. We don’t have to send you out to specialists,” Duffy says. “We’re hoping to grow more and more services in the safety of this affirming space.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Duffy says health care in the U.S. “changed in an instant,” and people stopped getting their necessary screenings, such as mammograms and pap smears, as well as STD testings, IUD placements, and other forms of contraception.
“This community of ours that was already facing disproportionate issues was further set back by the pandemic. Even the most motivated of patients—those without any barriers or issues in accessing care—would not see a doctor or health care provider,” she says. “For those already suffering from depression, anxiety, or substance abuse, the pandemic exacerbated their symptoms and, for some, caused symptoms.”
The Center plans to expand many of the Audre Lorde Health Program’s services as well as create new ones, such as an alternative insemination program and working with formerly incarcerated women.
“LBTQ women coming out of the criminal justice system are part of a population that’s been ignored for a very long time,” Duffy explains. “They are part of us. They need services from us.
For more information about the Center’s Audre Lorde Health Program, visit lalgbtcenter.org/ALHP
The Center accepts most insurance plans and can help people who are uninsured or underinsured qualify for assistance programs. Visit lalgbtcenter.org/insurance_plans for more information.