Robbins Gottlock, MD, founder of the LGBTQIA+ Health Center of Excellence in Sleepy Hollow, doesn’t mind explaining the meaning of the initials in the center’s name. “I always appreciate people’s interest and am glad for an opportunity to talk about the healthcare disparities experienced by people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual,” he says. “And the plus sign in our name acknowledges people who choose to use various other terms to indicate all of the other sexualities, sexes, and genders represented in the human population.”
What Dr. Gottlock does mind are the stark health disparities faced by LGBTQIA+ people as a result of discrimination, social stigma, and denial of their civil and human rights. The connections between oppression and health often go unrecognized, but they matter greatly. Even today, for example, there remains legal discrimination in access to health insurance and housing. Laws against school bullying are mostly nonexistent. The U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear three pivotal cases this fall that question whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
All of these stressors have health consequences. Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer. LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely to be homeless and two to three times more likely to attempt suicide. Transgender individuals have a high prevalence of victimization, mental health issues, and suicide. Gay men are at higher risk of sexually transmitted infections. Elderly LGBTQIA+ people face additional barriers to health because of isolation and a lack of social services. For LGBTQIA+ people of color, the disparities are even worse.
Exacerbating these problems is a shortage of health care providers who are knowledgeable and culturally competent in LGBTQIA+ health. This is why Dr. Gottlock, medical director of Northwell Health Physician Partners and vice president of Phelps Hospital, advocated for a dedicated center focused on LGBTQIA+ healthcare at Phelps. His efforts paid off. Last year Phelps Hospital was designated a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organization.
The Phelps Center is an outpatient office specializing in primary care services to the LGBTQIA+ community, with special competence in transgender care. It is the only advertised service of its kind in the Westchester area. To earn Leader designation, the hospital was required to satisfy a multi-layered set of protocols. These included anti-discrimination and staff training, patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, patient and community engagement, inclusive marketing and support for LGBTQIA+ events.
“Being truly inclusive and competent, especially in transgender care, is a process not an arrival,” said Dr. Gottlock. “We continuously strive to become better at what we do, not just during Pride Month in June, but every day throughout every year.”
This June is World Pride Month, marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in NYC, a seminal event in the movement to secure full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Much has transpired in 50 years, and for most of his life Dr. Robbins Gottlock has been in the thick of it.
You are invited to join Dr. Gottlock for a panel discussion following a screening of the documentary film, TransMilitary, the story of four individuals defending our country’s freedom while fighting for their own. This official Pride Westchester event takes place on Thursday, June 6, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Ossining Public Library, 53 Croton Avenue. Click for more information.
Dr. Gottlock, his husband, and their four children live in Sleepy Hollow.