Insights

How To Find an LGBTQ+ Friendly Doctor

Ashley Brooks02 Sep 2021

For healthcare providers to be LGBTQ+ friendly, they need to be aware of the health risks and potential adverse health outcomes the community faces. To create a safe and welcoming space, physicians must acquire the training and knowledge regarding special considerations for LGBTQ+. Many local and online resources exist to enable members of the LGBTQ+ community to find comprehensive care without fear of adverse consequences.

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Finding an LGBTQ+ Friendly Doctor Near You

Finding comprehensive care for LGBTQ+ is not just about finding someone to treat common illnesses and ailments but creating a space where patients feel comfortable honestly disclosing their medical history related to their identity. While strides have been made in challenging stigmas and conducting more research, some healthcare professionals prefer to refuse care to LGBTQ+ folk. Many online navigation tools exist to allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to find comprehensive care in a safe and welcoming environment.

We spoke with Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, Ph.D., ACS, LMFT, and Couples and Sex Therapist for ALL IN Therapy Clinic about the history of health care services and treatments for the LGBTQ+ community. He states, “there are certain medical needs that are more unique to LGBTQ+ patients, which should be intentionally employed if a healthcare setting wants to be LGBTQ+ affirming or cares about LGBTQ+ health. Hormone therapy, AIDS-related care, alternative reproduction methods, and an increased need for mental healthcare, particularly LGBTQ+ affirming mental healthcare, are all important considerations for any affirmative care facility.” 

“It's not that pneumonia, for example, affects an LGBTQ+ body differently than a heterosexual, cisgender person's body,” says Dr. Zrenchik. “Instead, it's the emotional and psychological climate of the HCP and the facility that makes the difference in whether LGBTQ+ get adequate care.”

History of LGBTQ+ Medicine 

According to Dr. Zrenchik, “historically, the medical profession has been hostile to LGBTQ+ folk. Initially, being LGBTQ+ was considered a pathology, and we were treated as such. Being LGBTQ+ was something to cure, or in the case of illnesses like AIDS, was an explanation for being ill.” 

Not only were patients marginalized for their identities and sexual preferences, but so were the doctors that treated such patients. Dr. Zrenchik highlights that being an LGBTQ+ friendly or openly LGBTQ+ doctor meant risking your credibility and entire professional career. Despite much improvement in those sentiments, this does not mean that LGBTQ+ folk can easily obtain affirmative care. 

Many doctors have taken the necessary steps to provide more inclusive services to the LGBTQ+ community, and organizations have made it their mission to direct patients to these providers. Below is a list of many only tools and directories to find comprehensive LGBTQ+ care.

How to Find an LGBTQ+ Friendly Doctor

Depending on where you live, finding comprehensive care for LGBTQ+ can be complicated yet imperative to the safety of many community members. Read on for resources to find LGBTQ+ friendly care.

Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)

The GLMA is the world’s largest and oldest association for LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals but was founded in 1981. The association has grown substantially with over 1,000 healthcare community members, including physicians, nurses, physician assistants, researchers, and many other health professionals. 

The site offers a patient portal and navigation system for finding a trusted LGBTQ+ provider. The service is free, and you do not need to register. The site also includes resources for unique health issues and fact sheets such as things you should discuss with your healthcare provider if you identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender.

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CenterLink LGBT Community Center Member Directory

CenterLink is a member-based coalition supporting the development of sustainable LGBTQ+ centers and improving service delivery. The coalition addresses social, cultural, health, and political advocacy for community members and serves over 270 LGBTQ+ centers across 45 states, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. 

The coalition offers an online directory to find your nearest LGBTQ+ community center without becoming a member. With a membership, you have access to free webinars and community-building workshops, as well as a CenterLink newsletter. Membership costs vary between $129.99 to $189.99.

World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)

WPATH is a nonprofit professional and educational organization for transgender health. The organization engages in clinical and academic research to develop comprehensive, evidence-based medicine to promote international quality care for transgender and gender-nonconforming identities. The site provides numerous resources on the LGBTQ+ legal rights for the United States and some European countries.

Through their research, WPATH has published the Standards of Care for Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender-nonconforming people in 18 different languages. Their online directory finds trans resources in your area, but you receive access to discounted conferences, training courses, networking opportunities, and more. with a membership 

Out2Enroll

Out2Enroll was launched in 2013 to provide LGBTQ+ members with health insurance coverage information under the Affordable Care Act. Through their online directory, they can help inquirers find comprehensive health coverage suitable for their needs. The site can help you with insurance enrollment, finding a doctor, estimating the cost of your care, and more. 

The FAQ page of Out2Enroll provides resources for financial assistance, transgender health, same-sex couples, HIV/AIDS, and young people. The organization also provides resources summarizing health care rights and health insurance policies for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN)

The NQTTCN was officially launched in 2015 to establish a network of mental health practitioners for queer and trans people of color. The Mental Health Fund provides financial assistance to queer and trans people of color seeking mental health support. The organization’s online directory finds mental health experts trained in providing people of color care for LGBTQ+ services.

The organization provides access to mental health resources, such as the Trans Lifeline, Blackline, Crisis Text Line, and more. Resources are also provided for individuals looking for Muslim, South Asian, and Latinx mental health practitioners. 

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood provides LGBTQ+ specific services, including education, support, and sexual and reproductive health services. Their site details their services, such as drop-ins, hormone therapy, support groups, and more. 

Do note that Planned Parenthood emphasizes that not all of their facilities offer the full range of services, and recommend reaching out to your local PP facility for more information. 

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for young people under 25 in the LGBTQ community. The organization also produces research regarding suicidal risk factors and social factors influencing suicidal ideation. Their 24/7 hotline connects you with a trained counselor in a judgment-free and safe space to talk. The hotline is 1-866-488-7386.

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The Trevor Project also provides training and a curriculum for teachers of middle and high school classrooms. These trainings provide counselors, educators, administrators, and other school workers with the tools to discuss LGBTQ-competent suicide prevention.

What to Expect For Your First Appointment

While you determine potential health care providers you may want to utilize in your area, you may want to call and ask additional questions to ensure you feel comfortable booking an appointment. Dr. Zrenchik suggests asking the following questions to get a better understanding of the experience and the services the health care facility provides:

  1. Are you LGBTQ+ affirming?
  2. Do you have specific training in working with LGBTQ+ populations?
  3. Have you ever refused to provide service to a member of the LGBTQ+ community because of their identity?

Once you have decided on the facility and provider, you may want to answer personal questions as you would with any facility. Dr. Zrenchik says you should expect to be treated professionally, respectfully, and with dignity at such a facility but will likely be asked many standard questions such as sex, marital status, name of spouse, sexual identity, and medical history. If you are not comfortable sharing that information until you have met the provider, you should insist that you do so to the practice manager.

How to Find an LGBTQ+ Friendly Doctor Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Dr. Zrenchik of ALL IN Therapy Clinic assisted us in answering some frequently asked questions when navigating LGBTQ+ friendly health care providers and facilities.

How can more health care providers become LGBTQ+ friendly?

According to Dr. Zrenchik, it’s important that an HCP not only identify as LGBTQ+ friendly but actually be competent in LGBTQ+ healthcare issues. Finding advanced training, medical education, or industry-specific certifications in LGBTQ+-related topics are all great ways to be both affirmative and knowledgeable. We have linked many training resources above for health care providers to get certified and become more inclusive. 

Also, feel free to reach out to a local LGBTQ+ organization and ask for an audit. Ask them to audit your website, space, and staff for potentially damaging or exclusionary messages says Dr. Zrenchik.

Does health insurance cover certain LGBTQ+ services or gender reassignment?

No mainstream health insurance company can discriminate against someone for their sexual identity or refuse to insure one because of their sexual identity. Trans-specific healthcare is a bit of a different story. Many states require insurance companies to cover trans-specific healthcare, including gender-affirming care. However, many states do not have this requirement. Thus, trans folk goes without despite overwhelming research to support the correlation between access to Trans healthcare and mental/physical health, says Dr. Zrenchik.

What do I do if I experience discrimination from my healthcare provider for my LGBTQ+ identity?

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ+ community is more likely to experience discrimination than non-LGBTQ identities. If you decide to submit a complaint, this can be done online, through the mail, fax, or even over the phone. While you may remain anonymous in your complaint, you will need to provide the date and description of the incident.

If your complaint happened at a hospital, information on how to appeal your care can be found on the Patient Bill of Rights or speak with the Patient Relations Department. The majority of U.S. hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission, which you may email or submit an online complaint. You may also seek legal intervention by contacting an LGBTQ-friendly attorney or law firm. 

Bottom Line

Finding a trusted health care provider trained in the medical needs of LGBTQ+ community members may be imperative to the patient's safety. Many online navigation tools provide patients the ability to find local comprehensive care. Health care providers can also obtain online educational resources on LGBTQ+ care guidelines, health insurance regulations, and training classes for better inclusion and competency. 

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