Inspired by scholastic advancements in the Humanities on matters related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) studies, whereby a distinct field of queer studies has been created, this project aspires to take the next step for the benefit of LGBTQI persons in the medical world by marrying queer scholarship with bioethics studies and medical policy. And while there have been general distinctions (methodological, terminological, and philosophical, to name a few) between the ways the fields of the Humanities and Bioethics have addressed health matters, ironically and significantly, the field of LGBTQI studies provides an ideal platform for both academic parties to share scholarship, create a common discourse, and make significant in-roads at the intellectual and ground levels for the benefit of LGBTQI persons and patients.

There are many pressing ethical issues that lie at the intersection of gender, sexuality and bioethics. Persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning or intersex (LGBTQI) face myriad bioethics-related challenges in their encounters within the medical system, including: access to healthcare; patients’ rights; recognition of LGBT patient surrogates; the dilemmas of gay youth studies; pediatric treatment and decision-making; hetero-biased sex education; access to mental health resources; stereotyping; the stigmatizing of gay representations and classifications; third-party payer access and coverage for treatments and services; health insurance access for domestic partners; blood donation standards for same-sex sexually-active individuals, and exclusion from in clinical trials. While ethical issues sometimes differ across LGBT groups, their health care providers, and their care-givers, there remains the common theme of the considerable impact of sexuality and gender identity issues in healthcare access and treatment.

While there has been substantial scholarship in the neighboring fields of sexuality studies and gender studies in recent years, such work has addressed only a handful of these important bioethical concerns. The Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity, therefore, seeks to redress this scholastic omission by: demarcating a sub-field within bioethics that focuses exclusively on this interrelated set of issues; creating more visibility for and access to the important work that has already been done in both medical humanities and bioethics; highlighting the issues in this area that need scholarly attention; and taking the steps necessary to move the dialogue forward in bioethics and medical humanities.

Lance Wahlert, Ph.D., Director