Global LGBTQ Health: Celebrating Pride and promoting equality

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Wed Jun 19 2024

Author: Guest contributor

The LGBTQ community still suffers from inequality throughout the world. UN Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities calls for inclusion and non-discrimination, but the road is still long until this is reached, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community.

What does the research landscape of LGBTQ issues look like, and which topics are still unexplored? In honour of Pride Month, Sel J. Hwahng, PhD, ScM, editor of a new book series on global LGBTQ health, share their experience working on LGBTQ health issues.

June is Pride Month. It honours both the achievements and the ongoing struggle for equality of the LGBTQ community. But even as we observe Pride Month throughout the world, discrimination persists against LGBTQ individuals. It manifests in legal, social, and economic forms, and leads to widespread inequalities and challenges. 

Advocating for LGBTQ rights aligns wholly with UN Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. Inequality is a major obstacle to sustainable development. Pride Month promotes LGBTQ rights and highlights the demand for equal treatment and non-discrimination, fundamental parts of SDG 10.

Researching from cells to society 

My research focuses on women of colour and LGBTQ nutritional, cardiometabolic, and other health disparities, based on my training in epidemiological, social, and behavioural science. I apply the Cells to Society research approach in my work, which emphasises understanding human behaviour and development by integrating knowledge from various levels of analysis, from genetics and cellular biology (cells) to social environments and cultural contexts (society). 

In line with this approach, I am most interested in how socio-politico-cultural contexts intersect with behavioural mechanisms. My interest in the Cells to Society approach and why it guides my work is not limited to my research, but also to advancing LGBTQ acceptance and equity. Like Cells to Society in terms of coverage, this will include the structural, interpersonal, and biobehavioural levels. I posit that the interface of the macropolitical (structural level) and micropolitical (interpersonal, intrapsychic and biobehavioural levels) can provide the most sustainable access for acceptance and equity.

The importance of exploring the full LGBTQ life span

In the landscape where my work on LGBTQ health issues and disparities is set, I would like to see more of a focus on the entire life course of the LGBTQ population. Currently, research is heavily skewed towards youth and young people. It is indeed important to focus on these earlier stages in life, but the lacuna in research on middle-aged and older LGBTQ people renders LGBTQ health research highly unbalanced. I sometimes facetiously consider writing an op-ed entitled “Are there any LGBTQ people over 40 years old?”. Of course there are, and research should include their needs and conditions. 

The lack of focus on the latter stages of the life course is an obstacle to effective long-term movement-building. Because if you think about it, the most sustainable social and political movements are founded on generational transmission of skills and knowledge, in which older adults are venerated, guide the overall movements, and often mentor the younger generations. Thus, if the health of middle-aged and older LGBTQ people is neglected and initiatives/interventions are not being implemented to support the health of the older generation, then this kind of multi-generational social/political capital-building cannot occur very robustly or at all.

“Pride Month is an opportunity to revisit and celebrate LGBTQ history, politics, and liberation with fresh and unique perspectives.”

Global LGBTQ Health: Books addressing a research lacuna

In the past decades there is growing awareness of the importance of recognising and identifying LGBTQ health issues and disparities. There is, however, a dearth of research that examines LGBTQ health through global and comparative perspectives. 

To address this, I have taken the task of editing a Springer Nature book series titled Global LGBTQ Health to fill this gap by examining LGBTQ health cross-culturally and comparatively across regional and country contexts. Volumes in the series will focus either on global level analyses, or on comparative analyses within a specific region.

The first book in this series is edited by me together with Michelle R. Kaufman, and titled Global LGBTQ Health: Research, Policy, Practice, and Pathways. This edited volume – published open access for maximum impact – brings together studies from various countries on the development of new research, policies, interventions, and programs. It delineates health challenges and resiliencies specific to the LGBTQ community, and thus creates a new field at the intersection of global health and LGBTQ health. 

Discrimination in health issues monumentally influences the daily lives and well-being of LGBTQ community members. Promoting LGBTQ equality requires inclusive healthcare policies and practices that recognise and address the disparities the community still faces. The Global LGBTQ Health series is an important step towards closing the gaps in research on LGBTQ heath.

Pride Month is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ community’s successes, but it is important to recognise and evaluate the challenges and identify where more progress needs to happen. I believe that advancing LGBTQ acceptance and equity can elevate the quality of life for all people no matter their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. Taking this approach could be effective in creating coalitions and alliances across various social and political issues and movements.

Discover a curated selection of impactful publications on LGBTQ issues in honour of Pride Month and in support of SDG 10 on Springer Nature’s LGBTQ Pride page.

About the author
Sel_Hwahng © Springer Nature

Sel J. Hwahng, PhD, ScM, is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, Health, and Sexuality at Towson University, Maryland, USA. Dr Hwahng has received numerous grants, awards, and fellowships from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institutes of Health, the American Public Health Association, the International AIDS Society, the Association for Women in Psychology, the American Heart Association, and others.


Author: Guest contributor

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