Finding an LGBTQ friendly doctor isn’t easy. Here are some tips to help you find the right doctor as an LGBTQ person and prepare for that first appointment.

According to the Exploring the Needs and Assets of the LGBTQ Community in Upstate, SC study one-third of participants had to teach their doctor about care related to their sexual orientation and / or gender identity.

Your doctor should ask you the right questions and be educated on issues facing you as a queer person. Sadly, this won’t always be the case.

Odds are, your doctor means well. They probably come from a place of privilege, and that privilege has allowed them to practice in ignorance. Over and over I’ve heard docs say “Oh, I’ll treat anyone.” When they are actually confronted with a person that doesn’t fit into their hetero-gender-conforming idea of a patient, they panic. Often, the fab queer person in the office has to be their own advocate and educate the doctor on issues specific to them.

This isn’t our responsibility, but it is unfortunately our burden. So, here are some tips in navigating the healthcare arena as an LGBTQ+ person.

Finding your doc and preparing for your appointment

  1. Get referrals. If possible, find a doctor that a fellow queer-identifying-human has already seen and is comfortable with. This isn’t always possible. I know. Bonus if you can find a QUEER DOCTOR.
  2. Call ahead. Ask if the practice is LGBTQ+ affirming and welcoming when making the appointment.
  3. Get familiar with your insurance. If you have insurance, call to ask what it covers. They’ll often have an online booklet you can flip through. This can save a TON of headaches, especially if you’re asking for something the doc doesn’t see a lot of.
  4. Decide how you want to be addressed. Unfortunately, the importance of pronouns hasn’t been embraced in every single office. If they won’t use your words, they aren’t the doc for you. Be prepared to address it the first time you call the office. Give them the opportunity to prepare.
  5. Make a list. Whether it’s PreP, STIs or discussing hormone therapy, write down whatever you want to talk about. It’s super easy to forget something important to you while being stared at by a person in a white coat.
  6. Research what you want to talk about. For instance, if you are interested in starting PreP you might be surprised that there are several tests that have to be done before giving you the prescription. Whatever it is, do the research. You can find a lot of local info and resources here!
  7. Be proud of yourself. Going to the doctor can be a traumatic, trying, and frustrating experience. If you’ve had a negative experience, on behalf of all healthcare providers: I apologize. I am so sorry that something so intimate and important as your health has the potential to be distressing. Even if the doc SUCKS, you are amazing for taking action to better your health and well-being.

At your appointment

  1. Bring your list. Your doc might not be able to effectively manage your entire list in one visit. They may want you to come back to address some of your issues. Most docs are allotted 15 minutes or less per patient.
  2. Be specific. While the term “transition” is specific in our queer community, it isn’t in the larger medical community. Instead, try “male to female transition.” Same goes for using words like “partner.” It might be medically relevant that you’re seeing a woman who is transgender, or a dude seeing another dude.
  3. Talk to your doc! Don’t let them talk the whole time. Let your voice be heard. Make it clear what you want out of your encounter. If they are unsure of something, they may want to do their own research and have you back for a follow-up appointment. Having an uninformed doc that is willing to do the research is better than one just saying no. It will help that doctor’s NEXT patient as well.
  4. Resist referrals. Primary care docs are 100% capable of treating you effectively. If they’re repeatedly saying they want to refer you, get a new doc. In many cases it’s expensive and unnecessary.
  5. Be prepared for questions that you don’t think are relevant. Sometimes we need to know if it’s possible you might be pregnant even if there’s “OMG, NO WAY” you could be. Sometimes the doc may need to know exactly what anatomy you have. Don’t be offended. There are corporate overlords in medicine, and we have to work within their confines.
  6. Be open about your boundaries and triggers. 99% of visits to the doctor involve a physical exam. At the very least, the doctor will listen to your heart and lungs or do an abdominal exam. Doctors are used to being in their patient’s personal space. If you are uncomfortable with any sort of closeness or touch from your doc, let them know ahead of time. Sometimes this involves removing or reaching underneath clothing. If you’re wearing a restrictive garment like a binder let them know! If you’re a victim of abuse or trauma, let them know! Give them a chance to make the visit more comfortable for both of you.
  7. Be prepared to talk about your weight. If you happen to be beautifully curvaceous (aka knockout gorgeous) chances are your doctor is going to mention it. I am as body positive as ANYONE, and as much as I love curvy bodies, they impact health in a lot of ways. If it’s a doc’s first encounter with you, they don’t know that in your lived experience your curves don’t impact your blood pressure or diabetes or depression. We have to ask. Remember, if your doc is a prick about it you can get a new, compassionate doc.
  8. Bring a friend. If going to the doc causes you anxiety and you’re comfortable sharing your medical history and experience with a friend, BRING THEM. There’s no rule saying you can’t. If the doc says anything, just say that you consent to discussing your health in front of your bud. Bonus points if you’ve gone over your problem list/goals for the visit with them.

You are worthy of your doctor’s time and complete attention. Not only are you paying for both, but your doctor has taken oaths to serve you. You deserve compassionate, informed care. Demand it.

If you are an Upstate healthcare provider who is LGBTQ+ welcoming or specializes in LGBTQ+ care, please contact us to be included on our resources page.