FRA evidence has shown how in some Member States, doctors still view homosexuality as a disease and transsexuality as a mental disorder. Such views in society, and among professional groups and policy makers, hampers efforts to counter the discrimination and prejudices that many LGBTI people experience in their daily lives, as FRA's EU LGBT survey also revealed. This points to the need for more positive EU and national awareness-raising campaigns, such as in the EU’s list of actions to improve respect for LGBTI people.
Healthcare in particular is an area that needs addressing. This is an area FRA sought to explore further when it convened a workshop of healthcare experts earlier this year. Representatives of associations of health practitioners, international organisations (European Commission, WHO, UN Development Programme), national health policy makers as well as academia and civil society organisations discussed the particular barriers LGBTI people face when it comes to healthcare. For example:
- There is a low level of awareness and knowledge about LGBT people’s needs among some healthcare professionals, as FRA research found. In some cases, homosexuality is still considered as a disorder in medical training and training materials.
- Access to and legal recognition of gender reassignment remains a challenge in many Member States, affecting trans people in particular. Many still require trans people to be diagnosed with a gender identity ‘disorder’ to be legally recognised in their preferred gender, as FRA’s legal analysis revealed.
- Many EU Member States carry out ‘sex normalising’ medical treatments on intersex children without their free and informed consent. As non-medically essential surgery without consent is considered inhumane, cruel and degrading under international law, such treatments should be avoided, as the Agency’s Focus Paper on the rights of intersex people argued.
These examples illustrate that such recognition still needs to trickle down into the laws, policies and views in many countries. Without this, many LGBTI people will continue to face stigma and discrimination, excluded from society which in turn affects their well-being and mental health. High rates of suicide among LGBTI groups are not uncommon, especially among the young.
This calls for a change in how LGBTI people are viewed by society, by policy makers and by professional groups. Only then will LGBTI people be free to be themselves and will their well-being be adequately ensured. To support efforts to assist this, FRA has made the raw data from its EU LGBT survey publicly available for others to use and analyse.