Something I have emphasized throughout my blogs up to this point is Houston’s diversity. Diversity to me means the acknowledgment of different characteristics in groups of people within a single space. The differences can be racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, cultural, sexual orientation, etc.
Previously, I have touched upon the topic of accessibility of healthcare facilities for the general Houston population while also going a bit more in-depth for what that means for the Hispanic and Black communities residing in Houston. I have mentioned how these communities tend to be uninsured at higher percentages but, a diverse population that I have not mentioned yet is the LGBTQ+ community and their disparities in healthcare. In this post, I will shine a light on some factors that may influence their access to healthcare resources and also link places that are LGBTQ+ friendly.
The University of Houston published an article in their school’s magazine that states that researchers and healthcare providers are focused on solving inequities that can be found in healthcare outcomes. When talking about the LGBTQ+ community, they noted that an assistant clinical professor at the College of Nursing found that “the group has higher rates of depression and suicide than the general population.” A 2019 article in the Texas Medical Association also stated that LGBTQ+ patients tend to face unique barriers that ultimately put them at greater risk for both mental and physical health problems. Issues can arise from a lack of family support, public prejudice, and also fear of the healthcare system. A new Texas Medical Association Physician Committee is attempting to improve awareness and understanding of these patients while the Texas Medical Association LGBTQ+ Health Workgroup seeks to also raise awareness in hopes of ensuring the patients get the care they need. They reported that all LGBTQ+ groups face high rates of mental illness, HIV, obesity, suicide, and even homelessness while also having the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.
There are issues with the healthcare system that are contributing to these scary facts. An example is that some electronic medical record systems don’t provide the option to record the patient’s desired sexual identity and gender preferences which, in turn, discourages the LGBTQ+ patients from seeking medical help in the first place. The same Texas Medical Association article also claims that many physicians would like to treat LGBTQ+ patients but hesitate because they fear they lack the training to do so. I understand where the physicians are coming from as they might fear calling a patient by the wrong pronouns, for example, but I don’t think physicians should be hesitant to the point they don’t treat a member of the LGBTQ+ community if they comprehend that LGBTQ+ people are just like any other patient they treat, human.
An article in The Texas Signal stated that this past May, the United Nations noted that worldwide, the LGBTQ+ community has been severely impacted by COVID-19, particularly HIV-positive and trans people. These people don’t just have to deal with the lack of access to healthcare or disruptions to medication and treatments, but, because of the pandemic, there have been more complications including an elevated risk of domestic and family violence, social isolation, increase anxiety, scapegoating, societal discrimination, and unfortunately, so much more. To make matters worse, there is no statewide protection. LGBTQ+ Texans are disproportionately threatened in housing, employment, and healthcare, but a positive thing that has risen from the pandemic is that some State Representatives are pushing for an anti-discrimination bill. This could make a significant difference in the red state if the Representatives continue to have the support that have now.
In 2015, The New York Times claimed that Houston was one of the largest metropolitan areas with the lowest rates on LGBT residents (3.3%). In 2018, Houston Public Media wrote that Houston lags behind other major Texas cities (e.i. Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin) as Houston was the only major city in Texas that didn’t get a perfect score on the annual Municipal Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign. It scored a 70 out of 100 in “LGBT- friendliness” largely because the city of Houston does not have citywide nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations since Houston did pass a law that protected LGBTQ+ people in 2014 but was repealed by voters a year and a half later.
Though I will admit that health disparities seem quite prevalent for the Houston LGBTQ+ community, there are many programs that give hope!
Legacy Community Health- LGBTQ+ Services
Legacy Community Health offers a large variety of LGBTQ+ services to Houstonians. They are a full-service, federally qualified health center that identifies the unmet needs and gaps in health-related services. They formed in 2005 as a result of a merging of two leading Houston area community organizations (Montrose and the Assistance Fund). Currently, they are a nationally recognized leader in HIV/AIDS primary care, prevention, and treatment as they treat LGBTQ+ patients with dignity, respect, and compassion. The LGBTQ+ services at Legacy Community Health include HIV/AIDS screening and prevention, HIV/AIDS treatment (which includes primary healthcare, case management, counseling, educational workshops, financial assistance, and wellness services), Transgender Specialty Care (which includes individual and family therapy psychiatric evaluations and care), vision tests, and social services that assist transgender patients in areas such as school advocacy, housing, financial, employment, and legal needs. They even have a body-positive wellness center! As a bonus, Legacy claims to provide care to anyone in the community regardless of their ability to pay as they are a safe, judgment-free, patient-centered environment. Great!
Aside from LGBTQ+ services, Legacy treats a variety of other patients with services such as chronic disease management, behavioral health, dental care, endocrinology, pediatrics, pharmacy, OB/GYN and maternity, and vaccines, etc. But guess what? It doesn’t stop there! Legacy has always tried to go above and beyond that even on the onset of the pandemic, Legacy clinics in Montrose, Fifth ward, and Southwest became the first three testing sites in all of Houston!
In Houston, I was able to find 4 Planned Parenthood locations that provide LGBTQ+ services. The first location is the Prevention Park Health Center that is currently only offering services through Telehealth. The second location is the Southwest Health Center who is also only offering services through Telehealth. The third location is Northville Health Center who is offering in-person services and lastly, the Northwest Health Center that currently only offers Telehealth. When clicking on the LGBTQ+ services, the first, second, and fourth locations offer services referral specifically for clients who identify as LGBTQ+ while the third location is the only location that offers gender-affirming hormone therapy. If one has already started hormone therapy, the center can be utilized for ongoing care and monitoring. I’m sure many people have heard of Planned Parenthood but, after exploring their entire site, it became even more evident to me that it is a program worth fighting for! #ProtectPlannedParenthood
The Montrose Center
Compared to the general population, LGBTQ+ people face greater health disparities so this center has embraced an integrated care model with one-stop access to a number of services. The MontroseCenter offers behavioral health and support services, adult primary care and psychiatry, and free wellness programs. Unlike Legacy and Planned Parenthood, the Montrose Center is completely dedicated to the care of the LGBTQ+ community. The center is viewed as “home” to dozens of LGBTQ+ -affirming social and civic organizations that many rent a space at the center to hold meetings and events. The Montrose Center has a variety of services that make them stand out. For example, WAY OUT Recovery. WAY OUT recovery is an affordable outpatient substance-use treatment tailored to the LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive communities. In other words, The Montrose Center is directly addressing the issue that I mentioned earlier. That issue is that there is a significantly higher percentage of LGBTQ+ people who engage in addictive drugs and alcoholism when compared to the general population. Another unique service is SPRY, also known as Seniors Preparing for Rainbow Years. SPRY is for adults in the LGBTQ+ community of ages 60+. They do community outreach, counseling, social and recreational activities, and more. Isn’t that exciting? I didn’t even know that was a thing!
The Montrose Center doesn’t stop there. There is an array of counseling services such as LIFE Counseling, HIV/AIDS Counseling, Group Therapy with specific themes, and EMBody Integrated Care which stands for Empowering Mind & Mody. For the Transgender community specifically, there are support services such as professional counseling and support groups (one for adults and one for the youth of ages 13 to 20). Aside from that, they even an anti-violence program serving LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking as well as survivors of hate crimes. Last but not least, the center has an AssistHers program which provides a network of support to the LGBTQ+ identified women and non-binary individual living with chronic illness or disability as well as advocating for necessary healthcare and social service resources. Isn’t this place just awesome?
Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston, Inc.
Although there are many more programs and clinics that provide services, I wanted to provide this last resource, the Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston (LHI). LHI is a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating barriers to healthcare while promoting health and wellness for LGBTQ+ identified women and transgender men through collaborative and integrated education access and advocacy programs. LHI is partnered with the Montrose center, especially when at capacity. They have an access program that provides funding and support for LGBTQ+ healthcare clients by delivering health insurance education and enrollment assistance. They also hold Health fairs with screening and education events held twice a year. Though it seems to me like their site hasn’t been updated in a while, I managed to find their Twitter handle where they seem to be posting daily, so if you have Twitter, make sure to give them a follow @LHIHouston.
Find a service near you!
As mentioned earlier, the resources I listed in this blog post are not the only places that provide LGBTQ+ friendly services so if you want to explore more on your own or if you do not live in the Houston area, here is a link to a provider directory where you can search for a primary care provider, specialist, therapist, dentist, and other health professionals. The directory is free and does not require registration. Personally, I prefer OutCare. The link I provided lets you select out of the 50 states so use it however you wish. OutCare has identified LGBTQ+ healthcare resources in all the states and you can find resources including primary care, mental health services, youth groups, shelters, support groups, STI testing, etc. They recognize doctors and healthcare providers that fulfill 5 criteria showing that they are culturally competent in care, treatment, and services of the LGBTQ+ population. The 5 criteria are, creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ person, facilitate disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity but aware that disclosure of coming out is an individual process, feel culturally competent to provide appropriate care for LGBTQ+ persons, avoid assumptions of sexual orientation and gender identity, and lastly, provide informatization and guidance for specific health issues facing LGBTQ+ person. For more resources already tailored to Houstonians, check this link.
I believe Houston still has a long way to go in terms of providing equitable healthcare to the LGBTQ+ community but, with more vocal generations emerging, I know people will continue to fight for justice and equality until needs are met!
Annear, Brent. “Texas Physicians Push to Improve Health Care for LGBTQ Patients.” Texmed, 3 Sept. 2019, www.texmed.org/Template.aspx?id=51425.
“Are You SPRY?” The Montrose Center, 24 Jan. 2020, www.montrosecenter.org/services/spry/.
“EMBody Integrated Care.” The Montrose Center, 19 July 2019, www.montrosecenter.org/services/behavioral-health/embody-integrated-care/.
“Find an LGBTQ+ Friendly Doctor or Healthcare Provider Near You.” OutCare, 17 Sept. 2020, www.outcarehealth.org/outlist/.
“GLMA Home Page.” GLMA- Provider Directory, www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage.
“Health Resources.” Pride Houston, Inc., pridehouston.org/outreach/health-resources/.
Hennie, Matt. “Two Houston Hospitals among Best for LGBT Care.” Project Q Atlanta, 22 Oct. 2014, www.projectq.us/two-houston-hospitals-among-best-for-lgbt-care/.
“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Center of Houston.” The Montrose Center, 8 July 2019, www.montrosecenter.org/.
“LGBT Services Houston TX: Specialty Care: Legacy.” Legacy Community Health, 21 July 2020, www.legacycommunityhealth.org/services/lgbt-services/.
“LGBTQ Services in Houston, TX – Gay, Lesbian and Bi Sexual Help.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/texas/houston/77081/southwest-health-center-2293-91652/lgbtq.
“LHI.” Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston, Inc., 2016, www.lhihouston.org/.
Martin, Florian. “Houston Lags Behind Other Major Texas Cities in LGBT-Friendliness.” Houston Public Media, 12 Oct. 2018, www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2018/10/12/307944/houston-lags-behind-other-major-texas-cities-in-lgbt-friendliness/.
Montoya Coggins, Jessica. “For LGBTQ Community, COVID-19 Exposes Health Disparities in Texas.” The Texas Signal, 8 June 2020, texassignal.com/for-lgbtq-community-covid-19-exposes-health-disparities-in-texas/.
“Northville Health Center of Houston, TX.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/texas/houston/77037/northville-health-center-2494-91652.
“Northwest Health Center of Houston, TX.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/texas/houston/77040/northwest-health-center-4042-91652.
“Prevention Park Health Center – Family Planning of Houston, TX.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/texas/houston/77023/prevention-park-health-center-family-planning-2291-91652.
“Southwest Health Center of Houston, TX.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/texas/houston/77081/southwest-health-center-2293-91652.
“WAY OUT Recovery.” The Montrose Center, 14 Feb. 2020, www.montrosecenter.org/services/addiction-recovery/way-out-recovery-program/.