How to Find an LGBTQ+ Friendly Therapist or Doctor
We know that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and poor mental health. According to Stonewall’s recent “LGBT in Britain: Health Report,” homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and discrimination may be direct causes of this. Unfortunately, they discovered that 1 in 7 LGBTQ+ people avoid getting a check-up because they are afraid of being discriminated against by medical staff.
Whatever your identity is, you deserve to be heard and understood by your medical professionals. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, making finding an LGBTQ+-inclusive doctor or therapist a difficult task.
“We live in a world that is run by cisgender, heterosexual people,” Chartered Counselling psychologist Dr. Michael Beattie tells. “That world is built for, and makes assumptions around, everyone being like that. If you don’t identify that way, then it can make many things more difficult, including access to health care.
“Research has also highlighted that some health care professionals don’t see the barriers that LGBTQ+ people face when accessing health care because of privilege – they don’t experience those problems themselves.”
Being misgendered, assumptions about pregnancy and STI status, and being given forms to fill out that do not include your gender identity as an option are all examples of these barriers.
Coming out to your doctors, advocating for your health, and seeking medical treatment can be exhausting when you’re already feeling ill.
According to Dr. Kecia Gaither, OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist, LGBTQ+ people face yet another unnecessary barrier. They may face “difficulty in finding health providers that are knowledgeable on the needs of LGBTQ+ patients. [In some countries,] providers may also refuse to care for LGBTQ+ patients, citing moral or religious rationales.”
This directly affects their physical and mental health: “LGBTQ+ patients delay care for concerns of being mistreated or discriminated against. There are also inequities in health insurance sectors and cost-related hurdles to medical care.”
In this guide, three medical professionals will outline how to handle difficult conversations and locate a LGBTQ+-inclusive doctor or therapist for you.
How to Find an LGBTQ+ Friendly Doctor or Therapist
First and foremost, there are some practical steps you can take to determine whether a doctor or medical practice is LGBTQ+-inclusive. Check their website to see if an LGBTQ+ health care area or initiative is listed as a starting point. UCLA Health, for example, has a program in which they share resources, patient testimonials, and advice for LGBTQ+ patients, their families, and doctors. Yale has a similar mental health initiative, and London Friend provides assistance in the United Kingdom.
In addition to checking their website, Dr. James Barrett, director of the Gender Identity Clinic, suggests going into the clinic to see if they have any LGBTQ+ flags on display as a demonstration of allyship. This could imply that the people working in the clinic are allies who are well-equipped to provide quality LGBTQ+ health care.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are also useful in this situation. Inquire with LGBTQ+ friends about health care professionals they know and trust, or seek advice online from advocacy platforms and allies. Dr. Beattie mentions that organizations such as cliniQ, the Terrence Higgins Trust, and the Gender Identity Clinic can point you in the direction of LGBTQ+-inclusive clinics in your area. In the United States, the GLMA (Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) maintains an online provider directory.
You may also want to connect with other LGBTQ+ people on websites such as Reddit and Trans Wiki, where health care resources and experiences are freely shared.
Should you come out to your doctor?
It’s a personal decision to come out to someone, and you should only do it if you feel safe and at ease. If you’re going to see a doctor because you have the flu or a broken arm, you might decide it’s not the best time. That’s OK . After all, according to Stonewall’s “LGBT in Britain: Health Report,” 13% of the LGBTQ+ community has encountered some kind of unequal treatment from health care staff because they’re LGBTQ+.
Dr. Barrett asserts that for very pragmatic reasons, it is frequently beneficial to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identity. He believes that your doctor should use open language with you, such as asking if you have a partner at home to ensure that you have someone to care of you if you have a procedure.
Dr. Gaither supports this view, explaining that it’s “very important for providers to be aware [that their patient is LGBTQ+]” and to devote the necessary time to learning in-depth details about what LGBTQ+-affirming care looks like. She claims that “LGBTQ+ patients are a growing segment presenting for care. These patients often suffer from chronic conditions and experience higher rates of sexual and physical violence.”
Dr. Beattie explains that if you’re unsure of how to approach the subject of coming out to your doctor, you can choose to access specialized health care from facilities like LGBTQ+ sexual health clinics or nonprofit groups. According to him, “for trans people, in particular, there’s a phenomenon of the ‘trans cold,’ where their gender identity is foregrounded and that becomes the focus,” he says. Seeing a medical expert who is familiar with trans issues can make all the difference.
If talking to your doctor about your gender identity or sexuality makes you feel at all uncomfortable, you can, if you’re able to, file an official complaint. You might also tell a friend what happened so they can be there for you.
Keep in mind to put yourself first
One of the most crucial things you can do for yourself when looking for LGBTQ+-inclusive health care is to practice self-compassion.
It can feel very isolating when you’re not getting the care you require. Advocating for your health, fighting for access, and feeling misunderstood are all draining. You have the right to good health care and patient rights, but you also have the right to take a break if you’re feeling worn down. Also keep in mind that when you’re not well, you often feel more vulnerable.
You can get assistance from advocacy organizations like Stonewall, the Gender Identity Clinic, the Trevor Project, and the LGBT Community Center. For support, advice, and resources, get in touch with them. Links have been added below.
As Dr. Beattie advises, “Be kind to yourself because ultimately the result of gender trauma, which is the root of most homophobia, is self-loathing, and that’s why many LGBTQ+ people are at risk of poorer health outcomes.” He continues, “Spend time with people and do things that make you happy.”
Resources to help in your search for an LGBTQ+-inclusive doctor or therapist
- Gay And Lesbian Medical Association
- The LGBT Community Center
- National LGBT Health Education Center
- World Professional Association for Transgender Health
- Care Dash
- National LGBT Chamber of Commerce
- Planned Parenthood
- One Medical
- The LGBT Community Center
- Terrence Higgins Trust
- Pink Therapy
- Gendered Intelligence
- Gender GP
- London Friend
- Mind Out
If you’ve been affected by anything in this piece or are struggling with your mental health and want to talk to someone, Flo has compiled a list of support services that may be of assistance. Please see this page for helplines in different countries.