LGBTQIA+ Health Care

The month of June is Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community and aims to raise awareness of its history. Though strides toward equality for the LGBTQIA+ community have been made, there is still prejudice and discrimination that permeates through all parts of life, from their careers to everyday living, family life, and even in their health care.

Discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community when it comes to health care has been associated with higher rates of substance abuse, mental illness, and suicide. This discrimination can come in many forms, whether it be financial barriers, a lack of social programs for LGBTQIA+ people of all ages, having few providers that are knowledgeable and culturally competent in LGBTQIA+ health, and prejudices from providers.

There are still many people who either do not understand the LGBTQIA+ community or hold deeply stereotypical and harmful beliefs about them. Even though every person–and every provider–does not have these beliefs, one negative experience with a provider that does can deter members of the LGBTQIA+ community from ever returning for care.

In 2018, a data survey was taken of members of the LGBTQIA+ community about the types of discrimination that they have faced when visiting a doctor or other health care provider within the last year.

Responses to the survey from those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer were as follows:

  • 8% said that a provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
  • 6% said that they were refused health care related to their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
  • 7% said that a provider refused to recognize their family, including a child or a same-sex spouse or partner.
  • 9% said that harsh or abusive language was used by the provider when treating them.
  • 7% said that they experienced unwanted physical contact from a provider (such as fondling or sexual assault).

The following information was determined based on transgender individuals’ responses to the same survey:

  • 29% said a provider refused to see them because of their actual or perceived gender identity.
  • 12% said a provider refused to give them health care related to gender transition.
  • 23% said that they were intentionally misgendered or the wrong name was used.
  • 21% said a provider used harsh or abusive language during treatment.
  • 29% said they experienced unwanted physical contact from a provider (such as fondling or sexual assault).

Even though these numbers are not extremely high, they mean that there are likely several fewer people seeking health care. These experiences may then be shared with friends, again leading to fewer health care visits. No matter what, every person deserves a comprehensive and safe health care experience.

LGBTQIA+ health care is also cross-cultural; each person comes from varying racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. This requires cultural competency, which includes understanding terms used throughout the community, understanding the challenges that they face in everyday life as well as in the health care setting, and knowing how to provide compassionate, high-quality, trauma-informed care.

Understanding the unique health concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community will lead to positive outcomes for not only the patient, but the provider as well. 

This blog was written by STM Learning’s editorial staff for educational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific medical or legal advice. For expert information on the discussed subjects, please refer to STM Learning’s publications


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