LGBT Health Care Strategies

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LGBT Health Care Strategies

There are myriad of barriers to accessing health care: lack of insurance, long waits to get an appointment, or finding time in your busy schedule to hop up on an exam table and have a stranger poke and swab you.   Fear of discrimination or stigma from your doctor should not keep you from getting that cough checked out.  Yet there are a whole bunch of us who are avoiding the folks in white coats because of our identities and/or bodies.  LGBT people and fat people are more likely to report stigmatization and less likely to access care.  We have a right to feel safe and comfortable in our provider’s office, so here are some strategies for getting the health care you deserve:

  •   Shop around!  Make no mistakes, health care is a business and you are a consumer.  Ask your friends for referrals.  Ask your local LGBT Center or Advocacy organization if they have a provider list.  The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association keeps a provider list that you can search for LGBT friendly providers in your area.  
  • Screen potential providers!  Call these folks up and ask questions like:
    • Do you see other LGBT Clients?
    • Can my partner come into the exam room with me?
    • Have you prescribed hormones for Trans Patients before?  What are your policies around Trans* Care?  Do you operate under the Informed Consent Model?
    • You can also screen for access, if you are a person of size!  Ask questions like: Do you have plus size gowns?  A blood pressure cuff that fits expanded sizes? What size are the chairs in your waiting room?

After you find a provider that seems like they are going to work for you, your job isn’t done.  You are going to need to be your own advocate to get the best possible information and experience from your medical visit. This can be intimidating, but there are some things you can do before your appointment to keep you organized and feeling in control:

  • Log your symptoms! How long have you been noticing them?  How are they affecting your eating/sleeping patterns or your daily routine?
  • Bring a list of all of the medicines you take regularly, including supplements or herbal medicines.
  • Write down a list of issues or questions you would like to talk to about with your provider.  Your doctor most likely has limited time to spend with you, if you can’t get to all of the questions during your visit, ask if you can get answers by phone, email, or talking with someone else in the office.

So now you’re sitting in the waiting room (which is hopefully full of LGBT-inclusive materials and free of fat-shaming health magazines). During your visit you have a right to:

  • Be called by name you want!  Your provider is going to need to know the legal name and gender marker on your ID or insurance card, but they should take note of your preferred name and pronouns.
  • Have support: bring a friend or partner to hold your hand or take notes during your visit.
  • Feel comfortable during weighing procedures.  This can be uncomfortable for fat patients – if you don’t feel comfortable being weighed, ask if it is necessary. 
  • If your provider is giving you more information than you can take in, ask if there are printed materials you can take home, or if they can refer you to a good place online to get the same information.
  • Ask your provider to use the names you use for different parts of your body.

 

Here’s the bottom line:  health care is big business and you are the consumer.  If you received a poorly cooked meal at a restaurant, you would send it back, right?  Well, we’re not talking pork chops here friends, we’re talking your life and wellness.  Advocate for yourself, ask questions and above all else take the steps you need to be in control of your health/mental care.  There a tons of great health care providers out there just waiting for you!

Good luck!