Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other Americans of gender and sexual minority status (collectively referred to as “LGBTQ+” or “queer” henceforth) have faced a rocky and imperfect road in their fight for equality. Where the 2010s were described as “a very LGBTQ decade” by a December 2019 NBC News article, the next decade may be somewhat more uncertain as various policies continue to be put into place, dismantling LGBTQ workplace protections and limiting LGBTQ+ access to health services, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Meanwhile, the LGBTQ+ community faces documented health disparities due to “societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights” both inside and outside health care settings, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Healthy People 2020 report. Dentistry has the potential to become a leader in inclusive and accessible health care for queer people. However, in its current state, the dental education complex is inadequate in counting its LGBTQ+ applicants, cultivating their scholarship or caring for them as patients.
Demographic data on gender and race/ethnicity of dental student applicants and enrollees has been collected nationally for at least 30 years, allowing organizations such as the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) to track trends and form national initiatives to increase diversity within the field. This is meaningful work for a profession that hasn’t completely reflected the diversity of its patients — especially as our nation continues to diversify racially/ethnically, per April 2019 Pew Research Center statistics — but there is virtually no nationwide data on LGBTQ+ student enrollment in dental programs.
Read the rest of this op-ed in the March 2020 issue of Contour magazine.