The Queer Female Medical Narratives Open Access

Peskopos, Riana (Spring 2020)

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Some of the first topics that come to mind when thinking of LGBT health include the sexual health of men who have sex with men (MSM), as well as transgender individuals’ experiences in obtaining the resources they need to transition. One topic within LGBT health that has been acknowledged, but not as thoroughly studied, is the experience of queer women in health care.

This study contributes to filling the gap in research of queer women within the U.S. healthcare system. Also, it proposes new methodological approaches that can potentially expand what we can conclude from large data sets. To explore queer women’s experiences in healthcare, semi-structured interviews were conducted, along with photo-elicitation, as opposed to the surveying methodology more common to research studies on this topic. Semi-structured interviews allowed data collection to resemble more of a conversation than a round of question-and-answer. Photo-elicitation, a process in which study subjects view an image and respond to what it makes them think of and/or feel, was a useful method for gathering experiences that are not easily asked forthright in an interview.

Atlanta serves as the primary study site for the experiences of queer women within the healthcare system. This study location offers a range of new insights, given that current research emphases are on the cities of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. While Atlanta is a major U.S. city as well, its place in the American South led to the collection of rich data from participants.

The initial questions of this study concerned patient interactions with OB/GYN physicians, but these quickly expanded into different fields of medicine. After just one interview, it became evident that focusing on only one field of medicine was barely scratching the surface of queer female health experiences. Subjects discussed their experiences as queer female patients in psychiatry, counseling, the emergency room, primary/general care, and even in oral surgery. Due to the wide scope of experiences expressed through subjects’ medical narratives, one can observe how heteronormativity and androcentrism influence all fields of medicine for queer female patients. 

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

A Note on Terminology 3

Introduction 5

Fieldsite 7

Concerns & Experiences of the Queer Female Patient: A Literature Review 13

Methodology 27

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Photo-Elicitation Results 39

Photo A: Therapy and the Facade of Comfort 41

Photo B: Restrainment, Invasion, and Gynecology 55

Photo C: Clinical Trauma and the Undertreatment of Female Pain 67

Photo D: Reproductive Health, Birth, and M(other)hood 76

Photo E: Clean Slate 87

Conclusion 97

Works Cited 100

Appendices 108

Appendix A: Semi-Structured Interview Question Guide 108

Appendix B: Recruitment Flyer 110

Appendix C: Clinical Reference Images 111

Appendix D: Photo-elicitation Images 112

Appendix E: Extra Interview Snippets 117

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