Female Doctor

Everyone deserves good health care from providers who respect them and their whole identity. Yet gay, transgender, and queer people often have a hard time finding LGBTQ-friendly doctors. A doctor who is an LGBTQ ally should offer more than basic acceptance of all their patients.

Doctors need to understand the issues facing LGBTQ people and not assume a patient’s sexuality or identity. They should treat LGBTQ patients with respect and know how to listen to them. If the doctor says or does something offensive or insensitive, they should listen when the patient corrects them.

Here’s how to find a doctor who takes your health needs seriously.

Why It’s Important to Find LGBTQ-Friendly Doctors

LGBTQ people often have different health needs from people who aren’t queer. Yet they may feel less comfortable seeking care because of past experiences with discrimination, hate, and stigma.

LGBTQ people living in areas with lots of anti-gay prejudice live about 12 years shorter than those in more accepting areas. LGBTQ people also may have specific mental health challenges that an understanding doctor can help with. Many also face a higher risk for certain conditions, such as heart disease, depression, substance use, and HIV.

This means it’s very important for LGBTQ people to find a doctor they can trust and who understands their needs.

Questions to Ask About the Office

Before you make an appointment with a doctor, call the office to ask several questions. These questions can help you learn whether the doctors, nurses, and other staff welcome LGBTQ patients.

  • Does the office or clinic have an inclusion or diversity policy? Does it include trans and gender-diverse people as well as people of all sexual orientations? If so, it shows they’re thinking about truly including everyone.
  • Do they have a policy that states that they provide gender-affirming health care? If they do, they have experience in helping people medically affirm their gender or go through transition.
  • Do all staff members receive training on being inclusive of all genders and sexualities? Is there ongoing training to address new issues or sharpen their knowledge and skills?
  • Does the staff ask for your pronouns or volunteer their own pronouns? It’s important that staff ask and use your correct pronouns, including “they” or “them” if those are yours.
  • Do they have trans, gay, queer, or other LGBTQ patients?
  • Do they have a policy of trying to hire diverse staff from LGBTQ communities?

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Questions to Ask About Medical Records

LGBTQ-friendly doctors should make sure that their medical forms and computer systems can record your identity correctly.

  • Does their paperwork include options besides “male” and “female,” such as “nonbinary”?
  • Is it possible to change your gender in your medical records?
  • Is it possible to note your pronouns, including “they” and “them,” in your medical record for all providers to see?

Questions After You Arrive

Once you arrive at the office, you can confirm that the clinic is LGBTQ-friendly by looking for other clues. You can also ask the doctor some of these questions if they relate to your care.

  • Are there brochures, pamphlets, posters, and other information for LGBTQ people and services?
  • Does the doctor need an approval letter from a psychiatrist to prescribe gender-affirming therapy?
  • What services does the doctor offer that specifically address the needs of LGBTQ people?
  • If you correct the doctor or a staff member when they make a mistake, do they apologize and listen to you?
  • Does the doctor avoid making assumptions about your sexual activity or identity? For example, do they ask who you have sex with instead of assuming they know?
  • Does the doctor avoid making assumptions about the reason for your visit? For example, do they assume you want testing for sexually transmitted diseases, or do they ask why you came?
  • When you ask questions related to your gender or sexual identity, does the doctor listen with respect?
  • If you ask something they don’t know, do they admit that they don’t have the answer or offer to find out?

Resources for LGBTQ-Friendly Health Care

Sources

10 trans questions to ask a doctor. Trans Hub Australia. ACON. Link

Coordination of Sexual and Gender Minority Mental Health Research at NIMH. National Institute of Mental Health. Link

Director's Message. National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. October 6, 2016. Link

HIV. Gay and Bisexual Men. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link

Mark L Hatzenbuehler, Anna Bellatorre, Yeonjin Lee , Brian K Finch, Peter Muennig, Kevin Fiscella. Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations. Social Science and Medicine. Feb. 2014. Link

Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information & Resource Kit. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2012. Link

When Health Care Isn't Caring: Lambda Legal's Survey on Discrimination Against LGBT People and People Living with HIV. Lambda Legal. 2010 Link

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