Think back to your first date. Was it at the movies, at a sporting event, or at a smoke-filled bar? Did your friends and family share the excitement (or the heartbreak) with you? Did your school or church teach you how to practice safer sex? Did you fill up on a pile of french fries or a plate of fresh fruit? Did you know how to communicate your concerns, fears and joys? Were you ashamed of who you were and who you loved, or were you unabashedly proud?
All of these seemingly insignificant details are, in fact, the building blocks of a much larger picture that come down to two words: public health.
April 7–13 is National Public Health Week. With the theme “Public Health: Start Here,” it highlights the fact that health starts where we live, learn, work, play and pray. Our opportunities to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat fresh foods, walk instead of drive, communicate with our partners, practice safer sex, earn a living wage and feel free to be our true selves without fear of violence or discrimination — all of these impact our ability to live healthy and happy lives.
At Diverse and Resilient, we envision a world where LGBT people in Wisconsin thrive, living healthy, satisfying lives in safe, supportive communities. We know that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in Wisconsin are much more likely to try alcohol, tobacco, drugs and have sex at a younger age. They are less likely than their straight peers to feel they belong at school or are loved by their families. What’s more, we know that these differences in health and well-being don’t stop in adolescence. Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in Wisconsin report lower rates of insurance coverage, income and education, along with higher rates of tobacco use and intimate partner violence than heterosexual adults. HIV continues to be a major health concern for gay and bisexual men and transgender women.
There is much work to be done to improve the health and well-being of LGBT Wisconsinites, and that work starts with each and every one of us.
In order to thrive, we need to both practice healthy behaviors and advocate for safety, respect and opportunities to practice good health.
We encourage you to practice safer sex through our 414ALL condom campaign (414ALLMKE.org), to learn strategies for having a healthy relationship through our Safe Dates and rm2bsafe programs (rm2bsafe.org) and to learn the effects of alcohol abuse through our Thinking Under the Influence program.
In addition, our Imagine More program encourages you to demand respect and acceptance and to speak up when you encounter discrimination — getting the message across that “We live and breathe the same. We love the same. Being an LGBT person is not a lifestyle — it’s our life.”
Together, we can lift each other up, lead healthy lives and thrive!
Learn more at diverseandresilient.org
Laura Maker is director of development and communication at Diverse and Resilient.