Finding suitable healthcare can be difficult for everyone, but those in the LGBTQ+ community have an extra hurdle to contend with: finding a healthcare practitioner who is not only supportive of LGBTQ+ folk but also experienced in treatments that are more likely to be required by members of the community.
Everyone deserves to be able to access healthcare that suits them, so why is this often so hard for LGBTQ+ people to find?
Seven out of ten LGBTQ patients report having negative experiences while accessing healthcare, and this is completely unsurprising when you consider the shortage of healthcare practitioners who are well-versed in issues that are overrepresented in, or even exclusive to, the LGBTQ+ community.
Hormone replacement therapy, experience treating intersex patients, gender affirmation surgery, and HIV treatment and prevention are only a handful of things that a professional working closely with members of the LGBTQ+community should be experienced in and comfortable with, but how many are?
Unless your healthcare practitioner takes a particular interest in these areas or has significant experience in dealing with them, it’s likely that they have only spent a measly five hours studying LGBTQ+ issues as part of their medical training. This can create an unfortunate catch-22 situation where doctors do not feel comfortable treating these conditions, leading to avoidance and lack of opportunity to build up their knowledge and real-world experience.
Under-representation Of LGBTQ People In The Medical Community
While more comprehensive training would go some way to increasing access to high-quality healthcare for LGBTQ people, studying can only go so far; those with lived experience of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community can offer insights and empathy that those outside the community cannot, despite their best efforts.
Stanford University conducted a study that found that 30 percent of medical students who were part of the LGBTQ+ community hid their sexual or gender identity. In addition, around 40 percent of medical students who self-identified as “not heterosexual” said that they were wary of facing discrimination. If we extrapolate this to healthcare professionals in the workplace, it’s not surprising that it can be hard for LGBTQ patients to find a practitioner who is also openly part of the community.
Encouraging more LGBTQ people to enter healthcare professions, and ensuring that those who are already working in healthcare feel able to embrace their sexuality or gender identity, are key to helping LGBTQ patients find healthcare that meets their needs.
Bias And Stereotypes
Whether intentional or subconscious, bias and harmful stereotypes are endemic throughout the medical community. “For example, from the moment you enter the waiting room and are handed paperwork asking your gender, with only male and female boxes available to tick, you can be made to feel unwelcome, misunderstood, and alienated,” explains Benita Martines, a journalist at OXEssays and Paperfellows.
Due to previous negative experiences, LGBTQ people can feel reluctant to offer information about their sexual orientation or gender to a healthcare provider. Equally, professionals can be wary of asking for this information in case it offends the patient. As this information can have a very real impact on medical decisions, it’s crucial that the medical community get comfortable with discussing these issues in a way that includes and empowers LGBTQ folk.
Lack of Transgender Care
“The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently conducted a survey which revealed that a shocking 19 percent of trans and gender non-conforming people have been refused medical care,” explains Mark Dobbins, writer at Boomessays and UKWritings.
In addition, transphobic terminology is rife in the medical community and is often used without consideration of how unwelcome it can make trans patients feel. Worryingly, the same survey found that half of the respondents have had to explain some transgender-specific medical terms to healthcare professionals.
Although the healthcare industry has a long way to go in becoming inclusive, accessible, and supportive to members of the LGBTQ+ community, progress is being made. For example, John Hopkins University School of Medicine has updated its curriculum to help its graduates care for a more diverse range of patients.
In the meantime, finding a healthcare provider who is understanding and supportive of your needs can feel like an impossible task, but don’t give up; everyone deserves good healthcare, and there are some excellent LGBTQ+-friendly practitioners out there.
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