Finding an inclusive provider can make all the difference in your healthcare experience. Unfortunately, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, agender, asexual, aromantic, two-spirit, and gender non-conforming (LGBTQIA+) community, accessing affirming healthcare has long proven a challenge. This year, many states have introduced anti-LGBT and anti-trans legislation, solidifying the need to continue fighting for fundamental human rights and protection across multiple arenas, including healthcare.
Unfortunately, in healthcare, LGBTQIA+ discrimination is pervasive. In a 2017 meta-analysis of changes in LGBTQIA+ healthcare published in Patient Education and Counseling, the research underscores that although, in some ways, we’ve made progress, competency gaps for the LGBTQIA+ community in healthcare are still ubiquitous. For example, in a survey of LGBTQIA+ physicians, 65% of participants experienced hearing derogatory comments from healthcare professionals about patients who are LGBTQIA+, and 34% had witnessed discriminatory care of an LGBTQIA+ patient.
The effects of receiving healthcare from someone not acting in allyship can be detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing. Namely, a patient might delay care or neglect to seek healthcare in the future. For example, the meta-analysis notes a study where lesbian patients who received derogatory care from a provider sought their future health information online rather than going to a professional.
One meta-analysis finding purports that failing to discuss a patient’s identity was like failing to screen or diagnose someone. The research stated, “When physicians do not address sexual orientation openly with patients, they neglect their role in providing appropriate and effective patient education on wellness and disease prevention and decreasing the likelihood of adverse health outcomes.”
How do you create a safe environment where someone can disclose their gender or sexual orientation? By acting in allyship, of course. The meta-analysis concludes that patient satisfaction increases when patients are met with affirming and sensitive care.
What Does It Mean to Be an LGBTQIA+ Ally?
Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, anyone can be an ally. Being an LGBTQIA+ ally means being informed and aware of the challenges LGBTQIA+ members face and defending members when you see discriminatory behavior. Allyship is more than sticking a rainbow flag in the window during pride month—though that can be a helpful marker of inclusive spaces.
As a healthcare provider, being an LGBTQIA+ ally involves nonjudgemental acceptance when patients disclose their orientation. But that’s not all. Allied providers offer support and patient-centered care. They also receive some training on LGBTQIA+ healthcare needs and have worked on unpacking implicit bias. Unpacking implicit bias includes not assuming someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or pronouns and providing a safe space for them to disclose. At a fundamental level, an allied provider understands the unique needs that LGBTQIA+ healthcare may encompass.
How to Find an LGBTQIA+ Ally Provider
Thankfully, there are a few resources to connect LGBTQIA+ patients with providers who offer affirming care. When in doubt, it’s worth calling a provider’s office ahead of time to ask a few questions such as the following:
- Does your office have experience regularly treating LGBTQIA+ (or mention a specific identity marker) patients?
- Does your practice have a nondiscrimination policy?
Before your appointment, feel free to ask pertinent questions or clarify critical information, such as your pronouns or that your chosen name might be different from the one on your medical files.
This free directory allows patients to search for LGBTQIA+-friendly providers by their zip code.
WPATH’s free international provider directory allows you to screen for doctors of varying specialties who offer affirming trans and gender-nonconforming healthcare.
Out2enroll helps connect LGBTQIA+ patients to health insurance options that work for their healthcare needs and budgets.
Outcare Health’s provider directory helps connect LGBTQIA+ individuals to inclusive providers of varying specialties.
- Your local LGBT center
Your local LGBT center will likely have resources to help connect you with an affirming provider. Not sure where your local LGBT center is? LGBT Center Directory can help you locate it.
- Word of mouth
When unsure where to go, asking trusted friends and family members in the LGBTQIA+ community can help.
This pride month, it’s worth celebrating the advancements in the LGBTQIA+ community while also realizing there is work to be done regarding cultural competency. In addition, finding an LGBTQIA+ affirming provider can make all the difference for mental and physical health and how likely someone is to seek care in the future.
This pride, as reproductive rights are under attack alongside LGBTQIA+ rights, we are reminding you that people all across gender and sexuality spectrums seek abortions. Abortion is for everyone. Now, more than ever, we must fight against attacks on reproductive rights and LGBTQIA+ rights. As Alliance for Justice states, LGBTQIA+ rights and reproductive rights share a common quest for autonomy and dignity.