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Recap of “Facing Hard Numbers and Hard Conversations: Disparities in Healthcare Access for the LGBTQ

This week we hosted our third, 2020–2021 panel series based on our blog series, “Listening and Learning: Systemic Racism, Racial and Sexual Disparities in Women’s Health.” In this event recap, we want to share with you a few key quotes and moments from the event. We also encourage you to watch the full discussion on our YouTube channel.


Our first panelist was Simone Nabors, a Duke University undergraduate student, and author of our blog that inspired this event, “One Size Does NOT Fit All.” Below are some of the impactful quotes and moments Simone shared during the event.

“Many of us were taught, but many of us have also forgotten: Words Matter.”

Simone shared with us how the terms cervical health and women’s health are not synonymous. She reminded us that not all women have a cervix and not all people who have a cervix are women.

“Sometimes we all need a push to be challenged to consider the true impact of our words.”

“We sometimes have an idea that by including more words we are somehow being more inclusive; but this is not always what is happening.”

“I want to challenge you to keep having the conversations that you are having, have more of them, have them differently. Continue to challenge yourself and the way that you are thinking. And don’t be afraid to speak up if you notice that the impact of someone’s words didn’t quite match the intention of the words behind them.”

Simone shared some advice for medical professionals: treat everyone with respect and kindness. Respect pronouns, name, and presentation. Be aware of your own biases that you might bring to the table. Even if your biases aren’t inherently negative, by putting someone into a box based on what you think their situation might be, you can actually end up harming someone. Avoid assumptions. Maybe add something to show that you are affirming; it could be something as small a sticker on your id, a headband, a clip, anything that might make people who identify as LGBTQ+ feel more comfortable.


Our second panelist was Hunter, the program coordinator at the LGBTQ Center of Durham. They shared both broad information, from their background in public policy, as well as lived experience.

“I want people to be accomplices and not just always an ally. The definition of ally is someone who is commiserating or someone who is empathizing. But especially in the healthcare field, we need a lot more people who are accomplices and willing to take those risks.”

Hunter listed 3 primary reasons of not having access to care: cost, employer, and immigration status.

“Trans people of color are one of the most discriminated against groups in our society, especially within the healthcare industry. We need to be aware of this and we need to be pushing forward to change issues within the healthcare industries.”

Hunter shared about their personal experience with an autoimmune illness and being “tossed around and treated poorly.” They shared some of the questions that they consider when thinking about seeking healthcare, “Am I going to be discriminated against because I’m black? Because I’m queer? Because I’m non-binary? Because I’m Femme? Because I’m fat?”

“Not only do you not want to be there, you are also afraid to face individuals who might have a bias towards you or may not want to treat you because of the way that you present yourself.”

“If you’re entering the healthcare industry… healthcare is a basic human right. It shouldn’t be a form of elitism.”

“You’ll have to do the work. You can’t always ask someone ‘what do you need.” Sometimes we don’t know how to articulate what we need, because we have’t been treated with that dignity.”

Hunter shared some advice for future providers: We need to be able to meet people where they are. Do the homework, look at community health assessments, look up the data and information to help yourself understand you can better help people.


Our third and final panelist was Dr. Whicker, the Director of Gender and Sexual Diversity Initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Duke School of Medicine. Dr. Whicker works in the Department of Psychiatry and has been working closely with patients throughout the pandemic. He shared about the way that he has noticed COVID-19 impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s important to think about the fact that health disparities to the LGBTQ+ community already existed before the pandemic.”

“There are some topics that are not being discussed that need to be discussed. One example is since the beginning of COVID, more and more people are having to get hormone replacement therapy from someone who is not a physician. Hopefully it’s coming from a nurse, but oftentimes it may not be.”

“In regards to the pandemic being a virus and the LGBTQ+ community being disproportionally impacted by HIV, access to retro-vials was reduced and left some people left without medication. There has been a disproportionate lack of access to care, stemming from being unhoused, having a lack of resources and lack of testing.”

“A lot of these health risks have come up alongside the pandemic and are really problematic.”

Dr. Whicker challenged our audience to think about how to make lasting change and spoke about the importance of community care as we are working towards change.

“I was feeling frustrated that I was just working with patients, so a lot of what I’m working on now is aimed at making lasting change in the institution and really engaging community members.”

“The pandemic has increased the demand for mental health care across the board. There is less access to mental health care now overall, and a lot of LGBTQ+ community are in need of community. Community is needed to deal with collective discrimination. Community is needed to provide the reminder that, ‘You’re not the problem, it’s the person who is discriminating against you who is the problem.’”

Dr. Whicker shared advice for future healthcare providers: mis-gendering is a plague that keeps people from wanting to come back because it is an invalidation of who they are. He reminded us: “We can do better when we listen to the voices that we have around us.”


We are thankful for all of our panelists and everyone that attended our panel live or has watched it on YouTube. We would like to invite you to our next discussion on Thursday January 14th! The (In)visible Organ, GWHT’s storytelling initiative, will be kicking off Cervical Cancer Awareness month with a release of a 50-min documentary film. Check out the trailer:

RSVP here for the documentary screening!



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