March 2001

Co-Presidential Communications:


One of the most striking things I noticed when I first began attending gay community events was how few women seemed to be present. Always the researcher, I remember taking a headcount at one event and finding that 95% of attendees were men and only 5% were women. That’s a highly statistically significant finding, to say the least! But, it got me wondering: why is that? And where are the women?

The fact that L/B/T women have made substantial contributions to our community is beyond question. Women have been on the front lines helping those with AIDS, youth, and advocating for improved health care for us all. Sadly, women’s health concerns – such as breast cancer – have frequently not received the support of both the men and women in our community which they deserve and desperately need. This is certainly an issue we in GAPHR – both as individuals and as an organization – all need to be very concerned about.

But how can we in GAPHR better address women’s health concerns? For a start, let’s all make a concerted effort to invite as many women to each and every meeting as we can. I’m sure being the 5% in attendance gets old and we all are indebted to the dedicated women in our organization whose contributions far outweigh their numbers. But they could use some company. We all could. And the growth of GAPHR as an organization depends upon it.

So think how much better an organization GAPHR could be with more women in attendance. But in order to sustain a more diverse membership, we have to make a real commitment to growth. There are a number of possible ways to start.

First, let’s expand our interaction with women’s health organizations in Atlanta. The Feminist Women’s Health Center provides a wide array of services to the women in our community and could be of great assistance in GAPHR’s efforts to expand the involvement of women. Similarly, the Atlanta Lesbian Cancer Initiative (ALCI) provides vital resources of support to women dealing with cancer. We have collaborated in the past with ALCI on the L/G/B- Friendly Physician Referral Guide. Undoubtedly, there are other issues on which we can work together and pool resources.

Second, GAPHR needs to continue its commitment to offering programming and outreach efforts of interest to both men and women in our community. While, undoubtedly, no single program will instantly bring us to 50-50 status, continued effort sends an important message that GAPHR values – and needs – the participation of women.

And, finally, let’s each of us bolster our own "outreach" effort. Are there women you know who might have an interest in GAPHR or a particular meeting topic? Please invite them to attend. Remember, they’re more than welcome. They’re essential.



Health Fair Group Needs You

Plans are underway for GAPHR to hold a health fair at Ansley Mall shortly before Pride.

This is one of GAPHR’s most ambitious undertakings – and we need your help. David Scott is chairing a committee to help with the Health Fair. Please contact David at (404) 688-6207 to be a part of this most important outreach activity.


Literary Pearls

Brownworth VA (ed.). Coming out of cancer: Writings from the lesbian cancer epidemic.  Seattle, WA: Seal Press; 2000.

The statistics on breast cancer are harrowing. An estimated 1 out of every 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, with 46,000 dying from it each year. Moreover, the incidence rate of breast cancer is steadily increasing. With overwhelming statistics such as these, it’s easy to get lost in a morass of numbers and lose sight that each and every woman with cancer is an individual, a spirit, interwoven with a community around her.

Coming out of cancer is a poignant reminder of the personal impact of this disease.  A rich tapestry of poetry, personal narratives, and a few didactic pieces, Coming out of cancer succeeds masterfully in engaging the reader in the personal trials and triumphs of lesbians with cancer and those affected by it.

The book also provides some unique insights for physicians, as well. In "A scar I did not want to hide," Jerilyn Goodman describes an unexpected choice offered by her surgeon when removing the drainage fluids from her mastectomy site:

"My surgeon, in customary manner, breezes into the room...[and says] ‘I can take the drains out and leave the bandage on...Or I can take the bandage off and replace it with something smaller – you don’t have to look...You don’t have to look at it now.  I have one patient who hasn’t looked at herself in twenty years’" (pp. 138-139).

Sagely, Goodman notes "the road to this doctor’s clinic had not been an easy one"(p. 139), and describes the dismissiveness with which some doctors greeted her alarm about a gradual thickening of breast tissue. Once diagnosed, Goodman found her desire to consult several doctors unacceptable to some. "I was rejected by the oncologist who refused to make an appointment with me when told I would also be meeting with another doctor in his office" (p. 140).

Coming out of cancer is rich in remembrances of women whose cancer proved terminal, but whose memory breathes life, thought, and expression into others. In "A woman dead in her forties" author Adrienne Rich reflects:

"Your breasts/ sliced-off. The scars dimmed as they would have to be years later. All the women...sitting half-naked on rocks in sun we look at each other and are not ashamed and you too have taken off your show your scarred, deleted torso I barely glance at you as if my look could scald you though I’m the one who loved you" (pp. 166-167).

Movingly written and capturing different voices, Coming out of cancer is a must read for all concerned with cancer among the women in our lives and community.

L/G/B/T Medical Watch

Strauss RP, Sengupta S, Kegeles S, et al. Willingness to volunteer in future preventive HIV vaccine trials: Issues and perspectives from three U.S. communities. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2001;26:63-71.

Used qualitative interview methods to examine the perceived risks, benefits, and desired information associated with willingness to volunteer in preventive HIV vaccine trials. Purposive sampling was used to select 90 participants among three U.S. communities: IV drug users in Philadelphia, gay men in San Francisco, and black residents of Durham, N.C. Structured qualitative interviews elicited perceived benefits, risks, and desired information relating to trial participation. Themes were developed from transcribed texts and from lists elicited from participants. Stated willingness to volunteer in a preventive HIV vaccine trial was similar across the three communities. Eight perceived benefits were reported, including self-benefit, altruism, and stopping the spread of AIDS. Potential side effects, vaccine safety, contracting HIV from the vaccine, and social stigmatization were among the seven perceived risks reported. Participants desired eight types of information concerning confidentiality of research records, health complications and later provision of assistance, and vaccine trial methodology.

Fobair P, O’Hanlan K, Koopman C, et al. Comparison of lesbian and heterosexual women’s response to newly diagnosed breast cancer. Psychooncology 2001;10:40-51.

Compared data assessing a variety of psychosocial issues among 29 lesbians and 246 heterosexual women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Relative to heterosexual women, lesbians reported a poorer perception of the medical care system, but fewer problems with body image. There were no significant differences between these two groups of women in mood, sexual activity, or relational issues.

Brogan D, Frank E, Elon L (of Emory University), O’Hanlan KA. Methodologic concerns in defining lesbian for health research. Epidemiol 2001;12:109-113.

This study addresses one methodologic topic identified in the Institute of Medicine Lesbian Health Report: the definition and assessment of sexual orientation of women. Data were obtained from the Women Physicians’ Health Study, a questionnaire-based U.S. probability sample survey (N=4,501). Two items on sexual orientation (current self-identity and current sexual behavior) had a 96% response rate and cross-tabulation of responses revealed several combinations of identify and behavior. Three distinct definitions of "lesbian" are compared on the basis of identity only, sexual behavior only, and both identity and behavior.