Health, education and social services nonprofit LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County will host its fifth-annual Chester County LGBT+ Health Fair on Nov 9.
Taking place at West Chester University, the event is expected to draw a few hundred members of the region’s LGBTQ community — both students at the college and other area residents. The fair aims to inform attendees about physical, mental and social health issues affecting the queer population, said Maureen McCarthy, youth and family committee chair at the LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County and an out lesbian.
“I’m hoping that folks in the LGBTQ+ community will hopefully become a little bit more aware of resources that are local or regional that serve our community in a culturally-appropriate way. Also, that they’ll become aware of or increase their awareness of some of the health issues that affect our community, maybe a little disproportionately,” McCarthy said.
Nationwide, HIV disproportionately affects segments of the LGBTQ population such as gay and bisexual men and trans folks, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Discrimination and bias from health care professionals, along with inequitable access to services, fuel Infection rates, the organization says.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also states that LGB adults are more than twice as likely as straight people to experience a mental health condition. Meanwhile, 48 percent of trans adults report having considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 4 percent of the general United States population.
Area organizations including Mainline Fertility, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Sanctuary Counseling and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Pride Employee Resource Group are sponsoring the Chester County LGBT+ Health Fair. Representatives from the groups will distribute health information at the event and answer wellness questions.
Seeing so many organizations collaborate on the event is “encouraging,” McCarthy said, and shows “there are resources that are working toward providing the best possible care and services to our community.”
A panel featuring experts from local health-related organizations discussing health concerns affecting the LGBTQ community will close out the fair. Audience members are encouraged to ask health and wellness questions.
Educational events like this aren’t foreign to the LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County, which regularly trains local organizations on how to provide “culturally-appropriate services and care” to LGBTQ people, McCarthy said. The importance of the West Chester University event, however, is its potential to connect with young members of the queer community as they come into their identities.
“Accurate, culturally-appropriate information about health-related issues is particularly important for youth as they establish patterns of behavior and so forth that they’ll have for their whole lives,” McCarthy added. “We also know that our youth in our community, and that includes college students, are vulnerable because of societal heterosexism, heteronormativity, cisgender normativity. All that sort of thing results in our kids maybe being at greater risk for things like depression or anxiety or even behaviors that might put them at risk.”