By Tiffany Baker, Program Clerk
There is a misconception among the farmworker community that there are little to no members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and transgender community. Despite this being untrue, farmworkers who are a part of this community often do not receive the health care attention they need. Frequently they are overlooked for many reasons, such as; culture, beliefs, and language barriers. Like much of the information surrounding the farmworker community, there is little to no data regarding the number of individuals that identify as LGBT.
Secondly, they are faced with cultural ideals and beliefs. The majority of these farmworkers come from cultures that reinforce the machismo ideals. These ideals dictate the way men and women should behave. Men should be tough, womanizing, and drink alcohol. While women should be submissive and homely. These ideals carry over into the way these farmworkers treat LGBT individuals. While working in the fields, it can be even harder for these individuals since they do not have the support of their communities.
Some members of this community do not consider themselves members. They come to this country to make a living for themselves and the families that they leave behind. They usually do not realize the hardships that they face until they get here. When loneliness strikes, they begin to find comfort in the people they are surrounded by, including members of the same sex. A few moments of weakness do not undo a lifetime of being straight. They continue to consider themselves straight and they return home to their wives and families, without thinking twice because they are men and they have to live up to the standards that their culture has set for them.
With these preconceived notions, it’s difficult for farmworkers who identify as “other” to come out and get the help that they need. They are at higher risk for stress related illnesses because of abuse or discrimination from the people around them. This includes suicidal ideations, substance abuse and depression. In addition, they are also at risk for sexual transmitted diseases like HIV and herpes.
In order to combat these issues, we need to have more health providers trained to treat and interact with the LGBT communities. We also need to work on ways to improve the relationship between the community and the agencies that are in place to protect them. These agencies need to become inviting and provide affirmative help to these individuals. This will leave to an openness in the community which will in turn lead to the needed dialogue on this subject. Through this, they can then come forward and receive the help that they need. They also need to raise awareness for these individuals by including the issues they face into literature and other forms of media that are distributed among farmworkers.
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Photo: Courtesy of www.splcenter.org