LGBTQIA: How to Talk to your Doctor: “Coming Out”

If you are an LGBQTIA+ human, your doctors and medical care team should all be made aware. The conversation you will need to have can be brief and to the point, but if it is not had, you could be missing out on important and beneficial preventative care, treatments, or counseling you may qualify for. For some, their inclusive providers may already know your sexual orientation and gender identity, but for others with less understanding or accepting providers, you may need to use the exact verbiage and have it added in to your chart.

Get to the Point of the Matter

Patients should be with providers that are inclusive, open, and reach out to their patient when they “suspect” they may fall somewhere within the lifestyle. Many medical practices now state their inclusivity on their websites, paperwork, and elsewhere, making it easier to find an accepting medical provider when you need.

An “inclusive medical office” will have inclusive brochures and information in the waiting room, welcoming websites and advertising that speaks to the heart of their practice. Their staff is thoughtful when using correct pronouns, asking paperwork related questions, and listening to you with intent and respect.

Be matter of fact when answering questions they ask, and do not hesitate to respectfully correct them if they get a piece of information wrong. If the subject of your sexuality does not come up with your initial paperwork or questioning by the nurse as they take your vitals, mention that you need to have this conversation so you can ensure you are getting the medical care you need. If you’re feeling nervous about talking about it- say that! Tell them, “I need to tell you some private information that leaves me feeling very anxious and nervous. Please be patient with and respectful of me.”

Spilling the Tea

It is important that your medical care provider has an office environment that is open and understanding, which will make it easier for you to spill the news and keep them informed of your health and situations as the years progress. Questions about your sexual orientation and gender identity should feel “normal” once you’re out and become just another part of the intake form and your medical records- just like your age and ethnicity.

Many inclusive specialists and doctors coined the term, “do ask, do tell” to help spread the word on inclusion within the medical industry, hospitals, and private offices. There were posters and brochures created to explain to other medical professionals how being open not only improves their patient care, but thusly improves their patients’ quality of life and feeling secure with their medical care. These informational brochures also contain tips on how to help providers use correct terminology, pronouns, and resources for providers for more medical professionals in the LGBTQIA community.

Committed? Bring your Partner

Having someone by your side as you divulge private and personal information can help to ease your stress. If you have a partner or friend you trust and feel comfortable with, consider taking them along to the doctor with you. This is especially true if you are in need of major procedures or surgeries. Having a second set of ears there to support, take notes, and listen can also help to keep tensions and misunderstandings at bay. Plus, your doctor can then meet your partner, which helps to give a full picture of your life.

Questions? Speak up!

Depending on how you identify within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, you should create or find a list of questions for your doctor if you are unsure of where to begin. Risks are different for every sexual orientation, and your doctor may or may not be fully armed with this information. Once they are informed, they will educate themselves more on your orientation and the pertinent risks for you.

Many providers are still learning about the mental health aspects that come with the LGBTQIA+ community, and some are admittedly lacking in knowledge. This does not mean that they do not care, but that they will have some more learning to do. It is vital for you to speak up if you’re feeling off mentally, struggling with depression or anxiety, or any other mental health issue you are worried about. Other risks like substance abuse and tobacco use are more common in LGBTQIA+ people, so these are often the more known risk factors.

How do I begin the Conversation?

If your doctor is not aware of your sexual orientation, or you are a new patient at a new practice, these can be helpful conversation starters to help you broach the topic.

  • “There’s a conversation I need to have with you.”
  • “This is my partner.”
  • “I am (gay/bisexual/a lesbian/transgender/etc.).”
  • “I have a list of questions.”
  • “I’m interested in HIV testing.”
  • “How do you approach patient confidentiality?”
  • “I’ve taking these hormones as part of my transgender treatment.”
  • “Please refer to me as ‘he’ (or ‘she’)(or desired pronoun).”

Raise your Expectations.

It is understandable why some do not come out to people in their lives, or in work situations. It can be frustrating, overwhelming, and leave you feeling utterly disrespected in certain situations. That said, coming out to your medical care provider is a must. There is still a lot of work to do within the medical community in regard to LGBTQIA+ medical care, and with every person who responsibly comes out- this helps to raise the bar of expectations that fall upon medical staff.

For those LGBTQIA folks who have received insensitive, inadequate, or disrespectful medical care in the past- please remain open and try again to find a more inclusive and better doctor to help you get the care you need. The times are changing as inclusivity increases globally, but certain areas will take longer to “turn over” than others.

Remember, it is your medical care team’s job to understand, respect, and help you. They work for you. Be proud of who you are and be open and matter of fact with your information. Be confident with yourself and your lifestyle and expect that you will get great medical care and be treated as a human should.

Resources Used:

Reclaiming Intimacy

The Center

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