Medical professionals have participated in widespread discrimination against individuals who self-identify as gay or lesbian. A study of 278 nursing students found that 38 percent believed that lesbians try to seduce heterosexual women and provide a negative role model for children (11%) (Eliason, Donelan, and Randall). A survey of 100 nursing educators found that 24 percent believed that lesbian behavior is wrong, 23 percent believed that lesbianism is immoral, and 15 percent felt that lesbians are perverted (Randall). Heterosexist and homophobic attitudes also have been noted among social workers (Berkman and Zinberg) and physicians (Douglas, Kalman, and Kalman; Matthews et al.; Oriel et al.; Pauly and Goldstein). These attitudes have been found to affect the quality of the care provided (Schatz and O'Hanlan; Wise and Bowman) and may interfere with the ability of gay and lesbian parents to obtain pediatric care for their children (Perrin and Kulkin).
A number of professional organizations have attempted to dispel prejudice among their members. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, stated:
Teenagers, their parents, and community organizations with which they interact may look to the pediatrician for clarification of the medical and social issues involved when the question or fact of adolescent homosexual practices arises____ The
American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the physician's responsibility to provide healthcare for homosexual adolescents and for those young people struggling with the problems of sexual expression. (pp. 249-250)
Various other changes reflect an increasing acceptance of homosexuals, including the adoption of antidiscrimination provisions by many state and local governments, the availability of healthcare and other benefits to partners of gay and lesbian employees, and the ability of gay and lesbian couples to adopt children (Cain). However, there also has been an escalation in the number of hate crimes reported. National attention most recently was focused on antigay sentiment as a result of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming (Loffreda).
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