Unconscious bias plays a big role in health care disparities, and it can greatly impact patients needing care. However, the LGBTQ community suffers the most when it comes to unconscious bias affecting health care. The most surprising thing I learned from this week’s lecture is that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) actually used to categorize homosexuality as a mental disease. It shocks me to think that a person’s sexual orientation could be thought of as an indication of or a type of mental disease just because the concept did not fit with what may have been the majority mindset or opinion at the time. I was also shocked to learn that there were even forms of therapy available meant to “treat” homosexuality, including electric shock therapy, meant to make the patient feel pain whenever they thought of homosexual desires. Conversion therapy even still exists and is legal today in the United states.
People in the LGBTQ community already face discrimination and prejudice on an everyday basis from people who think their sexual orientation is “wrong.” Unconscious bias furthermore makes their lives more difficult by causing disparities when it comes to LGBTQ receiving health care. Many are forced to wait longer than their heterosexual counterparts and receive lower quality care because their concerns are often dismissed or mistreated by healthcare professionals.
So what causes these unconscious biases? I think answering this question would be the first step in finding ways to reduce unconscious biases and disparities in LGBTQ healthcare. I also think that because this question has still remained unanswered, it has been extremely difficult to improve LGBTQ health care. What can be done to make sure that all people receive equal, fair, high quality health care?