To develop insight into the experiences of lesbian and bisexual women accessing sexual health services and an understanding of their needs within the New Zealand context.
Lesbian and bisexual women are typically invisible in healthcare settings due to heteronormative assumptions. As lesbian and bisexual women are reluctant to come out to clinicians, opportunities for targeted opportunistic health education are often missed. Lesbian and bisexual women have different needs from both heterosexual women and gay men when seeking healthcare. There has been little exploration of the experiences of lesbian and bisexual women accessing healthcare in the New Zealand context.
Qualitative descriptive design.
Participants (n = 6) were recruited via advertisements and snowball sampling. Those recruited lived in a provincial city in New Zealand; self-identified as lesbian or bisexual; and met the inclusion criteria. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were used to obtain narrative data about participants being recipients of healthcare.
Five themes were identified within the data set: Heteronormativity; The conundrum of safer sex; Implied and overt homophobia; Engagement with health promotion; and Resilience.
This study highlighted the difficulties that lesbian and bisexual women face when seeking sexual healthcare, primarily due to clinicians' heteronormative assumptions. Lesbian and bisexual women have found ways of navigating the health system that make them feel safe(r) despite experiencing many adversities such as homophobia.
This study's findings can be used to guide further research to identify ways to optimise clinicians' engagement with lesbian and bisexual women. Recognition of diversity and skilful communication are essential to rectify inequities and effectively target health information.