As medical professionals, you are accustomed to working with patients with a diversity of backgrounds, expressions, and identities. One of the fundamental principles of medicine is primum non nocere — “do no harm” — and respecting people’s social identities is paramount in upholding this oath.
When it comes to LGBTQIA+ patients, however, there are many nuances that sometimes make it difficult to provide affirming medical care. LGBTQIA+ patients have markedly less access to adequate healthcare than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts and experience additional health risks. For example, the stress that results from homophobia and transphobia has multiplicitous, deleterious effects on LGBTQIA+ folks, making them more susceptible to both physical and psychological chronic health conditions. Further, some LGBTQIA+ individuals will avoid seeking routine or emergency medical care — even if they have the financial access — because of the lack of inclusivity or even outright discrimination that they have experienced from healthcare providers. These healthcare disparities are even more pronounced for queer and trans people of color (QTPOC), who experience homophobia and transphobia at the intersection of racism, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia.
Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ inclusivity is often not discussed in-depth in medical training, nor is it emphasized in on-going professional development. This guide seeks to address some fundamental ways in which providers can make their practice more LGBTQIA+ inclusive, improving the level of trust that they have with their patients. It is not exhaustive but rather provides a foundation to continually be improved upon.