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Pride and Health: How Policy Change Promotes LGBTQI+ Well-Being

As the world commemorates Pride Month, Project HOPE recognizes the importance of policy change to ensure equal rights to health care for members of the LGBTQI+ community.

By Ariana Lopez, Jessica Bylander, Lesly Beatley

In June, the United States and countries around the globe commemorate Pride Month, an international celebration of the LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and more) community and culture, with marches, events, and memorials. In the U.S., June also commemorates the Stonewall Uprising by the Gay Liberation Movement, which took place in New York City in June 1969 and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. Though other nations celebrate Pride at different times of the year, whenever and however it is celebrated, Pride provides a time to show support, observe, listen, and learn.

The World Health Organization recognizes that health means more than just “the absence of disease or infirmity,” but also encompasses mental and social well-being. The expression of health is personal. In 2000, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Health Organization stated that the right to health includes the freedom to control one’s health and body and the “right to a system of health protection which provides equality of opportunity for everyone to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.”

This includes being able to receive support and trust medical decisions to the people that care, know, and love you most. It also includes being seen as you choose to be seen, being protected from discrimination in the workplace (which can provide access to health insurance, benefits, and social well-being), and being able to expand your family if you so choose.

One of the most consequential outcomes of the gay rights movement has been the enshrinement of LGBTQI+ rights into national law. Doing so ensures that the rights of the LGBTQI+ community are less vulnerable to changing political climates and leadership and stand the test of time. Here is how countries around the globe have promoted LGBTQI+ wellbeing through policy over the past decades.

Just this year alone, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced an end to the longstanding ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, which had been denounced as discriminatory; Mexico issued its first gender non-binary passport, codifying the right to self-identify; a district court in Japan joined other districts in ruling a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional; and Taiwan granted joint adoption rights to same-sex couples.

One of the most consequential outcomes of the gay rights movement has been the enshrinement of LGBTQI+ rights into national law. Doing so ensures that the rights of the LGBTQI+ community are less vulnerable to changing political climates and leadership and stand the test of time.

From 2012-2016, Argentina, Denmark, Malta, and Norway passed laws related to gender identity recognition, including allowing individuals to change their legal gender without medical or judicial intervention. In 2002, the United Kingdom allowed same-sex couples the same rights to adopt children as other couples; in 2009, Uruguay followed suit.

Some of the most consequential policy changes for the LGBTQI+ community came between 2001 and 2020, when countries including the Netherlands, Canada, Argentina, France, the United States, Germany, Costa Rica, and others legalized same-sex marriage, which in addition to the right to marry allowed individuals to trust medical decisions to those closest to them.

Anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQI+ community members date back to as early as the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, but also include laws passed in subsequent years by Brazil, South Africa, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and others that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, among other characteristics.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it highlights the international nature of these efforts to advance equity in LGBTQI+ rights. It is also evidence that actions throughout all corners of society and government, not just the health sector, can impact health and well-being. While these actions may not guarantee better health and well-being for all LGBTQI+ individuals, they are a step toward progress. As we commemorate Pride, we envision a more equitable world for all.

Within Project HOPE, we affirm our commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. Advancing diversity, inclusion, equity, and access is not only crucial to our team culture: it’s mission-critical. Everyone deserves access to the health care they need to reach their full potential.

Ariana Lopez, Jessica Bylander, and Lesly Beatley are members of Project HOPE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion council. Click here to learn more.

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