While performing on stage in drag in front of a crowd, Mutha Chucka feels confident and comfortable.
Seeing a doctor in private, however, hasn’t always been as welcoming.
“The world wasn’t always as lovely as it today," said Chucka, a professional drag queen. “I’ve absolutely experienced overt discrimination.”
Chucka, also known as Chuck Gutro, is one of the many people in the LGBTQ+ community who claim they’ve faced discrimination in professional medical settings.
“I’ve experienced doctors who, when you’re honest with them, they have visceral reactions to things that an LGBTQ+ person would understand innately,” he said.
According to the American Heart Association, 56% of LGBTQ+ adults report experiencing discrimination from a health care professional, which medical experts say could lead to serious health issues.
“If we think about it from a clinical perspective, we certainly see that LGBTQ people are more likely to avoid seeking care," said Billy Caceres, Ph.D., RN, an assistant professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing.
He says avoiding health care, even for a short time, could have permanent consequences.
“People might go with longer periods of time having diabetes without actually knowing that they have diabetes or having high blood pressure without knowing it because they’re avoiding seeking care,” he said.
To improve this issue, Caceres believes more LGBTQ+ content should be taught in medical school, extra training should be required for established clinical practices and new policies should be put in place to help health care providers better understand LGBTQ+ health disparities.
“As somebody who’s taking care of thousands of patients, I think that everybody deserves the right to seek health care without fear that they are going to be treated differently,” he said.
While Chucka is confident getting on stage and speaking out, he understands everyone isn’t as confident.
When it comes to health, however, he says LGBTQ+ people can’t afford to be quiet.
“You have got to stand up for yourself,” Chuck said. “And if you can’t, bring someone that can.”