Diabetes: Recognising the LGBTQIA+ experience – by Edwin Pascoe

Edwin is a registered nurse and credentialed diabetes educator who is focusing on diabetes care in LGBTQIA+ communities. In this Global Postcards, he shares where the passion for this topic came about and why research into this area is so important.

I don’t have diabetes but describe myself as a person running away from type 2 diabetes. There was the constant struggle to lost weight, for my health and to fit in with the community as a gay man. Not only was I rejected by the wider community in the 80s and 90s for being gay, but that my worth as a person was calculated by the way I looked; creating a sense of loneliness. 

In 2014 I decided to start a PhD looking at the experiences of gay men and type 2 diabetes management. We know that up to 50% of the impact on diabetes care is related to what occurs in the psychosocial space. Yet, there has only been one study that has looked at this very question. Type 1 and 2 are very different, and so too are the experiences of each group within the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Traditionally, our community has had a focus on sexually transmitted diseases and mental health rather than chronic conditions. Evidence suggests that members of the LGBTQIA+ community disengage from healthcare due to discomfort around what was said, poor knowledge and outright homophobia. This has also been reflected in my research where gay men were found to use multidisciplinary teams up to 50% less, resulting in higher diabetes-related complication rates.

This year, I participated in the 2020 Pride March to help share my research findings and also to make diabetes visible to the LGBTQIA+ community. The crowd response was mixed: there were the cheers, smirks, surprised looks, and people showing us their diabetes devices. I believe that it is important there is continued research to refine knowledge in this space and to raise awareness around diabetes within the LGBTQIA+ community.