The most common LGBTQ-related Google searches reveal a major knowledge gap in common LGBT healthcare questions.
We’ve all been down the WebMD rabbit hole: a late night Chipotle binge leads to a stomach ache that quickly morphs from food poisoning to an ulcer to — you guessed it — cancer. Except that by the time you call your mom to say your goodbyes, the stomach ache is gone, the cancer miraculously healed. You just ate too much, too quickly. You’ll live.
When it comes to self-diagnosis, information on the internet can be far from authoritative — and often downright misleading. But despite the proliferation of questionable intel, 72 percent of Americans have turned to Google in the past year for health-related information. It’s efficient, it’s easy, and it makes it possible for patients to bypass the expensive — and for many people, uncomfortable — process of relaying particular symptoms to their doctor.
We recently looked at the most common LGBTQ healthcare-related Google searches in order to figure out just what, exactly, the queer community is hesitant about discussing with their doctors — and what knowledge gaps need filling.
These are the most common LGBTQ-health related searches in the U.S.:
1. Anal Sex
People have a lot of questions about anal sex. “Preparing for anal sex” is searched 9,900 times per month on average; “how to prepare for anal sex” is searched 1,300 times; and “how to prepare for gay anal sex” is searched 880 times.
To help answer your questions, we asked a doctor for input on how to safely prepare for and engage in anal sex. Read the comprehensive guide here.
2. Lesbian Sex
Whether it’s fetishization or genuine curiosity, Googlers are also desperate to understand how lesbian couples have sex. “How do lesbians have sex” is searched 1,600 times each month, with “how to have lesbian sex” searches climbing to 1,300 and variations of each coming in at over 6,000 monthly searches.
3. Strapping It On
Speaking of anal, Googlers are also curious about strap-ons. “How do strap-ons work” is searched 880 times each month, while “How to use a strap-on” and “What is a strap-on?” each rank at 590 monthly searches.
4. Transgender Sexuality
With advocates like Janet Mock, Aydian Dowling, and Laverne Cox sharing their stories, cisgendered people have finally come face-to-face with the compelling stories and unique struggles of the trans community. Perhaps because of this — and due to the general dearth of information about trans sex lives — there’s been an uptick in trans-related questions. “Sex with a trans man” is Googled 880 times per month on average; “How do trans people have sex” is Googled 720 times on average; and “How do trans men have sex” is Googled 480 times on average — numbers that indicate that many people still don’t quite understand trans anatomy (or the fact that there’s no one way to have sex as a transgender person).
5. Insurance Coverage
The complexities of health insurance coverage are difficult to navigate — even for people without specific or ongoing health concerns. For members of the queer community with unique mental health considerations, gay men in need of PrEP, trans patients in need of ongoing hormone replacement therapy, or queer couples looking to start a family, figuring out what is and isn’t covered can be even more confusing — not to mention many insurance companies still manage to deny queer married couples spousal benefits to which they are entitled.
The lack of clarity is evident in the search volume: “Transgender insurance” is Googled 590 times each month, while “transgender health insurance” is Googled 210 times each month, with procedure-specific variations ranking consistently in the 90s. Variations of “Is PrEP covered by insurance” are searched over 500 times each month, and “Truvada insurance” is searches 390 times monthly.
These numbers point to a significant information gap when it comes to just what is and is not covered for people of varying gender identities and queer sexual orientations.
What These LGBT Healthcare Questions Reveal About The Healthcare System
As the U.S. continues to debate the value of comprehensive, inclusive, and affirming sex education programs, these Google inquiries show how crucial it is for everyone to have access to unbiased, nonjudgmental information about sexual orientation, gender identity, and safe sex — no matter how you’re doing it or who you’re doing it with.
For the LGBTQ community in particular — comprised of groups that have long been excluded from mainstream sex education programs — it falls to healthcare providers and mental health professionals to make LGBTQ individuals feel comfortable asking any and all sex-related questions.
At Lighthouse, we’re committed to helping you find LGBTQ-affirming providers who can answer all your questions and address all your physical, sexual, and emotional needs. To find a knowledgeable and affirming provider near you, visit lighthouse.lgbt.