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Way Too Many Doctors in Europe Still Think Homosexuality Is a Disease

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The first-ever comparative survey of 19 European Union nations highlights the problems and stigma faced by LGBT people.

In some European nations, doctors still view homosexuality as a disease and transsexuality as a mental disorder, according to findings from a new report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

"Professionally Speaking: Challenges to Achieving Equality for LGBT People" is the first-ever comparative survey in which public officials, teachers, doctors, nurses, and law enforcement officers in 19 European Union member states shared their experiences and views on efforts to protect and promote the rights of LGBT people.

"LGBT people have the same rights to education, to healthcare and to be treated equally as everyone else. They too have the right to live their life in dignity, free from fear and discrimination," FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty said in a statement.

"FRA's latest findings reveal how some doctors still wrongly believe that homosexuality is a disease. They underscore the need for the EU and its Member States to empower public officials to act on their duty to deliver high quality service to help end the suffering many LGBT people experience."

For instance, in Romania, half of the professionals interviewed considered homosexuality a disease. According to a Romanian nurse:

"We consider that these illnesses are generated by the fact that these people had an unhappy incident during childhood and then they try somehow to respond to this need in a different way than the other people. [...] [Our doctors] treat them as people who have a disorder [...] not necessarily an illness. When [a homosexual] goes for the first time to a medical department [...] then it is for sure that that person is regarded by employees, starting with the bodyguard and ending I don't know where, as plague-stricken."

One's sexual orientation can also impact employability, as a Romanian teacher attests:

"If I would say I am bisexual, I would be accused of being mentally sick, especially as a teacher [...] Teachers would not be comfortable to tell, because parents would say 'am I taking my child there to have him raped?'"

Other key findings of the report include:

- Respondents see prevailing negative social attitudes and stereotypes as a major barrier to tackling discrimination and hate crime against LGBT persons. They also affect the actions of public officials.

- In most countries, respondents maintain that there is a lack of objective information about sexual orientation and gender identity in school curricula, which can affect social attitudes.

- Respondents contend that homosexuality is seen as a pathological problem by a large proportion of healthcare professionals in EU Member States including Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. In some cases, the pathologization of homosexuality is still present in medical training and training materials.

- Many health professionals are unaware of specific health issues LGB persons may face. This lack of awareness is often related to the discrimination LGB persons encounter in healthcare.

- Most healthcare professionals who specialize in providing healthcare to trans persons are aware of the discrimination these individuals face and are committed to supporting them.

-The majority of healthcare providers who are not specialists in trans healthcare lack awareness of trans rights issues and in some cases show open prejudice against them. They know little about the diversity of trans persons and other gender identities, often confusing transgender persons with transsexual persons

- A number of respondents consider homosexual orientation and trans identity to be 'foreign' and not in line with the prevailing notion of 'national identity.' Such prejudice can lead to shortcomings in public service provision and intolerant behavior that can prevent the implementation of legal and policy provisions promoting diversity.

You can read the full report here.

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