How to Find Your LGBTQ+ Ally in Health

May 10, 2021   Preventative Care, Wellness

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What if you routinely gave your healthcare provider half truths about your problems, or just avoided getting care altogether?

For LGBTQ+ patients, a simple wellness visit can be stressful and oftentimes unhelpful. A lack of understanding on the part of the provider when it comes to gender identities and sexual orientations, and the unique health risks and issues that go along with them, can make for a negative experience — and at times, a dangerous one. It is imperative for all patients to find a provider they can trust, who gives care that is inclusive and of the highest quality. Here are ways to ensure you’re finding a true ally who aligns with your needs.

Start with your network

Asking friends who they trust and see regularly for gynecologic care is a great first step. However, if you’d prefer to search outside of your friends’ networks, an article in Healthline encourages readers to utilize online community resources. By searching “queer exchange [name of your city]” on Facebook, you should be prompted to request access to the private group in your area. Here, you can ask local community members for recommendations on LGBTQ+-friendly doctors. Additionally, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) has a directory that lists LGBTQ+-friendly providers who have affirmed their commitment to fostering a welcoming environment for all patients.

If you’ve already been seeing a trusted provider, but are in need of a new doctor or specialist, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral — they likely have a network of providers they’d be happy to recommend.

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Find a provider who speaks your language

A provider who is an ally will respect and use your pronouns. Before your appointment, they will likely confirm:

  • "May I ask what pronouns you use?"
  • "When I refer to you, what pronouns should I use?"
  • "Are you comfortable sharing your pronouns?"

They should also assume the responsibility for correcting other members of staff who may address you incorrectly, even if you’re not present.

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Don't be afraid to ask questions

When selecting your provider, don’t hesitate to ask the following important questions prior to scheduling an appointment:

  • Do you have a documented nondiscrimination policy? This is an indication that a provider practices what they preach by implementing an anti-discrimination policy to protect staff members.
  • Does Doctor XYZ regularly work with [XYZ identity marker(s)], or would I be one of the first patients? The desired answer is up to your comfort level, but the question is useful for determining if their experience will meet your needs.
  • Do you have gender-neutral bathrooms? The way the staff member responds will be a helpful indication if they’ve had any training. Also, if you’re in need of the bathroom during your appointment and are curious about how the restrooms are designed, it will be helpful to know the answer before you arrive.
  • Can my partner attend the appointment with me? As COVID-19 protocols continue to be in place, it would be helpful to know the spectrum of relationships the companion policies take into consideration.
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Be forthcoming with your history

Once you've established a relationship with your doctor, it is important to share the history of your past and current gender-related use of hormones and surgical interventions. Knowing your current anatomy is important for your provider to recommend appropriate — and safe — screening and treatment. If you’re a trans man and have not yet undergone genital surgery, for example, you should see your trusted provider once a year for a holistic check-up. They will review your history and ask questions about your health based on your life cycle. During the appointment, a physical exam will be performed which will include a breast and pelvic exam, as well as a pap test.

Know that regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status, you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health. It’s vital to see a provider who empowers and celebrates the wonderful individual that you are. They are out there — don’t wait to find them!

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Elizabeth Chase, MD

I feel honored to be entrusted to meet the health care needs of LGBTQ patients. Every encounter is an opportunity to understand another human being a little bit better, and it always enriches my life.

— Elizabeth Chase, MD, FPMRS (she/her)

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