Each year the resident physicians at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital address an important topic in pediatrics. This year, the theme is called Access 4 Kids, and focuses on advocating for four vulnerable populations. Today we are going to focus on one of those groups, children and youth who identify as LGBTQ. Dr. Zach Spoehr-Labutta is a resident pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital who is helping to lead this year’s advocacy efforts along with Jasmine Reese, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic. They are going to share with us what challenges LGBTQ youth face and what families can do to help support people in their lives who identify as LGBTQ.
What groups of people do you think about when you say LGBTQ?
LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning. The acronym can be a little confusing because it encompasses a wide array of diversity. While lesbian, gay and bisexual refer to a sexual orientation, transgender refers to a person’s gender identity, which is distinct from whom they are attracted to. Questioning refers to those who are in the process of questioning some aspect of their gender or sexual identity.
What health problems do LGBTQ youth face?
LGBTQ children and teens face bullying at rates higher than their non-LGBTQ peers. This can often result in increased rates of substance abuse and can even lead to increased rates of depression and suicide. We also know that about 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBT, most commonly due to lack of family support, feeling forced out of the home, and running away from home. This also increases their risk of victimization, engaging in high risk behaviors and suffering from mental health illnesses.
What can families do to help support youth who are LGBTQ?
First and foremost, if you suspect that a youth you know is depressed or suicidal, advise them to speak with their doctor. When people want to be allies, many people often worry about using the right terms, or “knowing” if a person identifies as LGBTQ. Some options are to broadly say to the youth that “I care about you,” or “You are important to me.” If the person is someone you know more closely, you can ask them to tell you about their experience. This can be done by creating a safe space for the person. For example, you can reference current events that highlight LGBTQ individuals and their accomplishments, such as the recent achievements of LGBTQ Olympic athletes. You also can help by voting for laws that are pro-equality and protect the rights of all people, including LGBTQ people.
What are the resident physicians doing at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital?
For this year’s advocacy campaign, which focuses in part on LGBTQ youth, we would like to invite our community to two events. The first is a community conversation about the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming youth and adults, particularly as we strive to be culturally competent physicians. The conversation will take place from 5—6:30 p.m. March 5 at the LGBT Welcome Center on 2227 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. The second event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 17 at the Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Petersburg where we will be discussing the health care needs of multiple vulnerable populations and promoting equal Access 4 Kids.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.