• Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Populations

    The acronym LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.  Used since the early 1990s this acronym was amended from LGB.  It replaced the word gay to refer to the LGBTQ community (late 1980s) when community representatives believed it did not fully represent those to whom it intended to include.

    LGBT (without the Q) is a more commonly agreed upon designation; used by sexuality and gender identity-based providers, community centers and social series organizations, in research about LGBTQ , and among the media.  It is intended to emphasize diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures and communities.  It’s used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

    Since the late 1990s, the letter “Q” is sometimes included for those who identify as queer or are questioning their sexual identity.  The term “queer” may be derogatory to some, while affirming to others.  How LGBTQ individuals and communities identify depends on several factors, including the local political environment, personal comfort, available support systems and institutions, and if they live in a life-affirming setting.


    MDPH Commitment to GLBTQ Health Equity

    LGBTQ individuals and communities are diverse and represent different races, ethnicities, ages, education levels, socioeconomic backgrounds, country of origin, and identities.  LGBTQ communities share experiences of stigma and discrimination and the challenges of living at the crossroads of many cultural backgrounds.  With respect to health care across the life-course, LGBTQ individuals and communities experience forms of discrimination and lack of access to culturally responsive services. Discrimination correlates to high rates of behavioral health challenges such as depression, substance use and abuse, and suicide.  Physical, sexual, and intimate partner violence, bullying, and other forms of victimization remain all too frequent for LGBTQ individuals.  These experiences have long-lasting effects on the individual, the quality of his/her relationships, ability to self-actualize, and on their families and communities.  Family, social, and self-acceptance along with culturally responsive care positively affects opportunities for a life with a fulfilling future.

    Reducing LGBTQ health disparities and promoting health equity for LGBTQ populations is a key priority for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH).  In fiscal year 2017, MDPH will release sexual orientation and gender identity (SO/GI) data collection standards for MDPH-supported public health services.  These data will improve our understanding of services provided and needs of LGBTQ communities.  Coupled with promoting responsive access to care, LGBTQ individuals, families, and communities will benefit from opportunities to optimize health outcomes.  These include increased quality of life and longevity, behavioral health, physical health and well-being, reduction of disease transmission/progression, and lower health care costs associated with poor health outcomes.  Future health issue briefs will focus on disparities in health impacting these populations and what providers and other stakeholders can do with action steps to address disparities. 


    MDPH is committed to accomplishing the following priorities in fiscal year 2017:

    1. Host Community Engagements with LGBTQ populations and providers of direct service to inform and improve responses
    2. Finalize and release LGBTQ data collection standards for MDPH-supported programming
    3. Strengthen coordination across MDPH programs serving LGBTQ populations



    Barry P. Callis
    LGBTQ Liaison
    Director of Behavioral Health and Infectious Disease Prevention
    Bureau of Infectious Disease, Office of HIV/AIDS
    Massachusetts Department of Public Health
    250 Washington Street, 3rd floor
    Boston, MA  02108
    (617) 624-5316 (work)
    (617) 624-5399 (fax)


    This information is provided by the Office of Health Equity within the Department of Public Health