The absence of LGBTQ content in nursing curricula is astounding. But the good news is that a number of faculty groups have recently come to realize that this exclusion is not acceptable, and within the coming academic year many students start to understand LGBTQ health in positive and affirming ways. This shift is re-enforced by the recent NIH designation of LGBT populations as a healthcare disparities group. The fact is that to ignore these populations marginalizes a significant proportion of people (including a number of students sitting in your classrooms). And to erase the healthcare needs of these populations, by exclusion, is a social injustice, and it is time for a change!
There are several factors that have sustained nursing faculty complicity in perpetrating the stigmas experienced by sexual and gender minorities, which could fill an entire book! In fact there is a book that addresses this topic quite well – LGBTQ Cultures: What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know about Sexual and Gender Diversity (2nd Edition). For now, I want to focus on the fact that most people in many (if not all) cultures are woefully mis-informed about gender and sexual identity. The recent social and cultural shifts that have addressed human rights for LGBTQ people has led to major advances in understanding sexual and gender identity for everyone!
A great place to start is to examine, contemplate and introduce students to the wide range of expression that is possible for both sexual and gender identities. Here is the Genderbread Person to explain how complex this is! The scales below the Genderbread person prompt you to consider the infinite possibilities for sexual and gender identity, expression and sexual behavior/attraction. Take some time to consider these illustrations, consider ways you can change how you approach sexual and gender identity in your teaching, and share your ideas here! (You can download a PDF file of these illustrations here, and if you scan the QR code below you will find more explanation!)